Reply To: Brighouse Bay – Hac Noose

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John Shields

From Alan James – 29 April 2020

Dear David

Many thanks for that most interesting and helpful, detailed reply. I’ll take the liberty of sharing it with others involved in the current place-name activity in Borgue, I’m sure they’ll be very interested and might have observations to add.

Concerning Brighouse, my idea of the history of the settlements here would go back to the Norse-speaking settlers in the 10th century, when, allowing for the drop in relative sea-level and formation of the dune system over the subsequent millennium, the bay would have been more of a ‘sandy creek’, *Sand-vík, gaelicised *Sandaig, Sannaig, anglicised Sannick, Senwick. The tide could have flowed almost half a mile further inland towards where Senwick House now stands. A route from Ross Bay via Senwick towards Borgue and further west would have crossed the head of the creek, and perhaps ran via Cairniehill, where the existing farm track looks to be a relic of an old way.

Fast-forward through the centuries, as the sea receded and the dunes formed, the route would have crossed marshy ground and the burn flowing down from Senwick, gradually changing course to take advantage of the drier land on the dunes. By the 18th century, it would have been close to the present-day line, and a bridge over the burn gave the adjacent farm its name (not sure exactly when first recorded: by mid 18th century, as it’s  on Roy’s map).

As to the putative fish-trap, indeed Mike Ansell and I thought that feature off Rockvale was the most ‘hook-like’ one on the 1854 map, and the aerial photo at least hints that there may have been some barrier, probably an adaptation of the natural rock formation, that would have formed a pool where fish could, perhaps with the aid of a net or wicker fence, have been trapped when the tide ebbed. The ‘C-trap’ at Fishguard is an interesting comparison: cored is well attested in GPC, from the Book of Llandaf onwards (also, as gored, in Breton); I think such features may have been pretty common in coves around the Irish Sea, largely unrecognised as they became barely distinguishable from natural rock formations. Part of any such trap at Rockvale might well have been destroyed when the landing-place was built c1800. However, it’s rather further from the field apparently called ‘Hac Ness’, which seems to be the one by the turning-place on the road; on the shore there, there is another tidal pool, smaller but clearly visible on the aerial photo, though there isn’t any such obvious ‘hook’.

What you say about Rockvale is interesting, and largely confirms what I suspected. I’d thought the ‘quay’ was probably c1800 and more of a protective wall than a landing place in itself. The possible fish-house is indeed tantalising. I’m a little perplexed that Adam Gray noted Rockvale as ‘a smithy holding’, if there was a blacksmith here, he would probably have been employed with ironware for boats rather than shoeing horses. But maybe the croft was associated with Senwick Smithy shown on the 1854 up near Senwick House.

Devil’s Threshing-Floor – in stormy conditions, the water here can look ferociously agitated, hurling seriously sizeable rocks about, even up onto the road, as you’ll recall happened a few years back – was it Feb 2015? The right-angled feature here is very striking on the 1854 map, as you say similar to the Fishguard one. And the one at Monreith Bay is a nice example, somewhere between the ‘C’ and ‘V’ styles, I think: I wonder if Sir Herbert ever mentioned it in his writings?

I trust you’re all keeping safe and well under lockdown. While the news is sad and troubling, so far as I’m affected, it’s made rather little difference to the way I usually live, I’d even confess to quite enjoying it!