Reply To: Brighouse Bay – Hac Noose

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John Shields

From David Devereux – 28 April 2020

Hello Alan

I hope this finds you well. Thank you again for your very interesting email and my apologies for the long delay in replying to it. I don’t know of any detailed studies of fish-traps around the Galloway coast, though the cruivies and yairs in the Luce and Cree estuaries, the Dee and at Tongland of course are mentioned in a variety of sources. I’m not aware of much particularly on stone fish-traps locally, but see the following notes.

I think you may be on to something at Brighouse Bay, although I’m seeing possible fish-traps in a slightly different location in the bay. The OSA for Borgue makes no mention of fishing here, but the NSA (1841) refers to a salmon fishery ‘off the South Park shore, at the entrance into Brighouse Bay’ which had just started operation in that year.  The account states that this was a bag-net arrangement at the mouth of the bay. Possibly related to this, Canmore describes the small building on Rockvale Quay as a fish-house, and the quay itself as late C18th (after John Hulme, and see attached aerial photo from Canmore). I’m not sure what evidence Hulme had to identify the building as a fish-house, rather than a general store. Having discussed this point with David Collin, the well-built quay is better described as a short breakwater or mole as its cambered sides would not permit a vessel to be tied up alongside it. There were landing quays proper behind it and a jetty (presumably wooden) projecting from it, but the latter now gone. These can be seen on the 1895 OS 25″map attached.

However the 1895 map may also show evidence of an earlier fishery in the form of a curving or hook-shape bank of stone a little further down the bay (marked with a yellow line on the map and aerial view). It may be significant that it matches the curve of the quay and former jetty, and a continuing northward line of stones (also marked). Although clearly depicted on the OS 1854 6″ and 1895 25″ maps, the feature is only just faintly visible today in the aerial view (below the yellow line), and may now be hidden by mud and sand; I’ll aim to visit to see it at low tide at the first opportunity. This form would appear to fit the ‘crescent’ type of stone fish trap as classified by Bannerman & Jones (1999)*;  see the illustration attached from Goodwick Beach, Fishguard (from p.20 Medieval and Early Post-Medieval Fish Traps – Dyfed Archaeological Trust, 2013). I note from this that these are called cored or gored (pl.goreddi) in Welsh. This type can occur in pairs, to allow for the variations in the height of the water at spring and neap tides.

Given its shape, could this be the ‘Hac-Noose’ as either the ‘fish-trap headland’ or ‘hooked headland’?

The only other possible stone fish-trap I know of in the Stewartry is ‘The Devil’s Thrashing Floor’ in the Dee a little upstream from Senwick. This is shown clearly on the OS 6″ 1854 map – see attached (my yellow line below it). This would appear to be a classic ‘V’ shape trap (Bannerman & Jones), generally much larger than the crescent-shape type, with the apex of the ‘V’ pointing downstream.  The Drumboy trap in the Lough Swilly report is a similar example and there’s another again at Goodwick, Fishguard  – see photo attached (from p.19 in the Dyfed report). Here the outer arm or leader is intact but only a short part of the inner leader on the shore side survives. The rest was lost when the railway track was laid along the shoreline.  The OS Name Book compiler for Borgue parish found no explanation for the unusual name he was given and stated as much. But I would guess this is a case where a large and  inexplicable topographical  feature was superstitiously linked to the Devil, and as the feature took the form of a flail, the area was assumed to be his threshing floor!  A fine example of another type of fish-trap lies just off Monreith beach (see photo). This type is described as an elongated crescent, constructed parallel to the shoreline, with either end turned slightly towards the shore.

I hope this of interest and would be pleased to hear whether you think the possible fish-traps might fit the ‘hac-noose’ field name. Thank you for directing my attention to Brighouse Bay in this way. The name ‘Brighouse’ here and elsewhere in Scotland also interests me – I don’t see many significant bridges near them, but that would be going off at a tangent!

best wishes