July 19, 2020 at 11:34 am #1345
From Alan James – 27 March 2020
Hello everyone, hoping this finds you all in good spirits and well-guarded good health too.
I thought I’d share my note on the names we’ve got for the field alongside the road that just runs as far as Rockvale on the east side of Brighouse Bay,
I got quite excited thinking about them, especially the one that Adam Gray picked up:
2 The Kennel, Hac Noose
The large field alongside the shore-side road between Brighouse and Rockvale, divided into two by a straight dyke on the 1st ed. OS map. While it is possible there was (or even still is) a dog-house, the homophone kennel in Scots and early modern English means a drainage channel, and indeed a linear ditch is shown along the northern edge of this field, near the farm.
Adam Gray gives a very interesting alternative, ‘Hac Noose, head of the rocks’. I think this must refer to the rocks on the shore below the southern part of this field. Hackness in North Yorkshire, site of an early Anglo-Saxon nunnery, was Haconos in the 8th century Ecclesiastical History written by Bede, Old English haca-nōs ‘hook –nose, hook-shaped headland’; nōs in that name has been replaced by the variant form –ness, but if it had survived, it would have become ‘Hacknoose’. As noted above, the topography of the Bay has changed through the centuries with lowering sea-level and rising sand-dunes, but the tide-covered rocks below this field (and the lay-by/ turning place on the road) do indeed form a hook shape, strikingly visible on the 1st ed. OS map.
There is another, even more intriguing, possibility: ‘Hac’ might be a rare survival of a Scandinavian-influenced form ‘hack’ of Old English hæcc ‘hatch’, with the specific meaning ‘a fish-trap’; this word is evidenced in a Middle and early Modern English word for a fish-trap, ‘a hacking’. ‘Noose’ could still be ‘nose, headland’ as suggested, but it might refer metaphorically to a trap where fish were caught in an ever-tightening space, or be Scots noose from Old Norse knuse ‘crush, press’ (recorded in Scots as a variant of ‘nuzzle’), likewise suggesting fish trapped when crowded into a narrow channel, a method used at the Doachs of Tongland until late in the nineteenth century.
Whatever the exact etymology, the small area within the ‘hook’ of rock here could well have been turned to a fish-trap of a kind found at sites around the Irish Sea coast – a good example can be seen at Nendrum on Strangford Lough below the early monastic site there: fish would have swum in at high tide, then been trapped as the tide ebbed. And ‘Hac Noose’ does seem likely to be a precious relic of a nearly-lost name that may well go back to Northumbrian Old English, or to the Anglo-Scandinavian dialect of the later first millennium.
Thoughts, as ever, will be most welcome!
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.July 19, 2020 at 11:34 am #1348
From Michael Ansell – 27 March 2020
Good afternoon Alan
I can see you delivering a paper on ‘Fish traps in Galloway – the evidence of the names’ covering dabhaichean, caraidhean and now this potential OE one and comparing to Nendrum etc. Maybe another idea for the event we had been discussing for April?
Can I check where you mean in respect of the hook please, see attached?
MichaelJuly 19, 2020 at 11:35 am #1349
From Alan James – 27 March 2020
That’s a striking hook, for sure, but the fields are NE of Rockvale towards Brighouse, I think feature aka ‘head of the rocks’ would have been the larger rock-shelf to the NE.
As I say, it’s hard to judge how it would have looked 1000 years ago, it does have a parrot-beak shape, but the pool it encloses does look a natural site for a fish trap.July 19, 2020 at 11:35 am #1350
From Michael Ansell – 27 March 2020
It would be interesting to have a look to see if there are any traces of a weir though if there was such remaining I guess it would have shown up on the OS 1st edition 6’’ map.
MichaelJuly 19, 2020 at 11:36 am #1351
From Alan James – 27 March 2020
Comparing even the 1854 map with present ones, it’s clear the tide-line has receded, and sand has built up,
as much as a meter I’d guess, over the past 150 years or so, never mind 1000+.
Looking further at the map, the building of the quay and jetty and maybe excavation of the channel approaching it
could have modified the geography a bit, but the inlet near the field is where I see a possible fish-trap.
It happens to be a spot (not known to many) where I like to park my car and get down onto the sand.
I think the rounded inlet is still a noticeable feature, though much of it now above all but exceptional tides,
but it hadn’t occurred to me that it could have been a fish-trap until I thought about that mysterious name.July 19, 2020 at 11:37 am #1352
From MIchael Ansell – 27 March 2020
Sounds interesting Alan, I’ll take a look when (if?) this virus blows over. Take care by the way, my son contracted it in Austria and he says it is vicious. He is gradually getting better but it’s much worse than flu according to him.
PS your detective work on this name prompts the thought that there could be many more remains of such traps along the coast, after all you would expect landowners to exploit the resource if the topography allowed.July 19, 2020 at 11:37 am #1353
From Alan James – 28 March 2020
I’m sure there are, and the history and archaeology of fish-traps along our Galloway coast seems no to have been studies by anyone in much detail, though plenty of sources acknowledge their existence, and importance.
One very interesting recent article about fish-traps on Lough Swilly Co. Donegal includes this observation in the Conclusion, 136-7: The seventeenth century saw significant changes in the political and social culture of Ireland, and the shores of the Swilly were transformed from a Gaelic-dominated landscape to one shaped by settlers predominantly from south-western Scotland, with the Stewart and Cunningham families, from Ayrshire and Galloway respectively, particularly significant.The small communities of their countrymen that followed stood in contrast to the natives in the landscape to the extent of physical separation; as seen from the placenames Scots Aughnish and Irish Aughnish (PRONI D2358/5/1). The Scots arriving in Ulster were familiar with fish traps as a component of their maritime economy — with examples in stone on exposed coasts predominant in Ayrshire and Galloway.
The classic discussion of fish-traps in Scotland, still regularly cited, seems to be: Bathgate, Thomas D. (1949) ‘Ancient fish-traps or yairs in Scotland’. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 83, 98-102 – it’s a charmingly-written account, full of interesting detail. I attach the pdf. More detail on traps he mentions on Loch Broom and the inner Moray Firth can be found at:
Looking at the maps and photos in those various sources makes me think that ‘hook’ projecting from near the quay at Rockvale could well be a relic of a trap, though probably not a very ancient one – late medieval – early modern. But if ‘Hac Noose’ is < OE haca ‘hook’, I’d still think it referred to the rocks below the field; if it was *hæcc in the sense of a fish-trap, it is very likely that there were traps in this corner of the bay from prehistoric times – while the topography has changed over the centuries, it’s just the kind of spot where the natural rock formations and flow of the water round the bay would have made an ideal location for them.
I’m going to forward this conversation to David Devereux, I think he might find it interesting, and may know of studies that have been done of fish-traps around our coastline.
Sorry to hear of your son’s experience with The Virus, it does sound very nasty, one feels there is a certain English stoical restraint prevailing at the moment, just keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. What our leaders will learn from first-hand experience will shortly become apparent!July 19, 2020 at 11:39 am #1354
From David Devereux – 28 April 2020
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!
*Bannerman N, Jones C (1999) Fish-trap types: a component of the maritime cultural landscape. Int J Naut Archaeol 28:70–84July 19, 2020 at 11:40 am #1355
From Alan James – 29 April 2020
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!
AlanJuly 19, 2020 at 11:43 am #1356
From Nic Coombey – 1 May 2020
Hello Alan and David
a couple of observations:
There is an additional likely ancient stone fishtrap at Goatwell Bay which is marked on the early 1800s fishtrap map of Kirkcudbright Bay as ‘old stone yair’ (the same name given to the one at Devil’s Thrashing Floor) and can still be seen at low tide – see OS map attached.
I do not believe that sea levels have changed much over the last 2,000 years in Brighouse Bay although the sand within the bay changes with every storm event. Shell middens revealed in the sand dunes at Brighouse Bay by construction of gas pipeline were dated as 2,000 years old, (an iron spear head and mould for a counterfeit Roman coin). Mostly periwinkle shells in the middens and no fish bones were found / identified. See archaeology report; http://www.dgnhas.org.uk/tdgnhas/3069.pdf
NicJuly 19, 2020 at 11:44 am #1357
From Alan James – 1 May 2020
For sea level changes along the Solway coast, see Peter Friend, Scotland, Collins New Naturalist 2012, 87-9. The sea-level curve at fig. 56 shows a drop of nearly 4 metres in the past 2000 years, quite sufficient to make a marked difference to the geography of the bays and estuaries. Add sand-dune formation (ibid. 91) and sedimentary deposits, the appearance of the Bay would have been very different when the Vikings arrived 1000 years back. Remember there was still a creek in Kirkcudbright as far in as the Soaperie Gardens where high tides probably reached as recently as the 17th century.July 19, 2020 at 11:45 am #1358
From David Devereux – 1 May 2020
Thanks for your email.
You are quite right about the additional possible fish trap at Goatwell Bay and thanks for pointing it out; I’m looking forward to looking at it when we are allowed out again! On plan it seems to comprise a single arm or leader from the shore, the same form as may be indicated by the feature S of the quay on the 1895 OS 25″ plan of Brighouse Bay. Or maybe there’s a hint of W arm and an apex butting against the N end of that shortish rock platform shown on the map?
DavidJuly 19, 2020 at 11:46 am #1359
From Alan James – 1 May 2020
Indeed, that feature at Goat Well Bay (not apparent on the 1854 6″ map) does look like another very possible fish-trap.
And evidently that’s what the surveyors were told it was – a ‘yair’ being
‘A structure erected on the bank of a river or inlet of the sea and extending out into the water,
where fish can be trapped and caught in nets; a fish-trap. ‘ DOST
Thanks for the link to the TDGNHAS 1994 report, I haven’t got that volume. It evidently agrees with and confirms the reduction in relative sea-levels over the past 6000 years or so. The superficial deposits along the line of the pipeline reflect a complicated history, with deeper deposits of sand and peat going back to before the last glaciation. More recent events are well explained, the main observation that is relevant to my hypothesis into question being on pp. 20-1:
Third Period of Wind Blown Sand
The soil that formed over the Roman shell middens was covered by an episode of besanding that gave the dune system at Brighouse its present appearance. It is probably this episode of besanding that placed material in the small valley which drains into Brighouse Bay. Here the sand blanketed a peaty mire with up 0.5 metre of material. The sand also partially covered an area of peat 200 metres to the north west from which column 1 was taken.The soil horizon was covered by to 0.5 metre of sand, although locally this was over a metre in places. Above this, the modern soil horizon formed. There is no strong evidence for the date of this episode of wind blown sand. It occurred after the deposition of Roman period objects, but must have been separated from them by some period in time. A possible date for this is suggested by Luce Sands where there appears to be activity in the eighth and ninth centuries AD in dune movements.
Allowing for reasonable margins of uncertainty, that doesn’t seem to me inconsistent with my suggestion that, when Norse-speakers arrived (possiby in the 9th century, more certainly by mid-10th) they would have seen a ‘sandy creek’, extending inland where the peat and sand deposits are shown on Fig. 2 p. 14, overlooked by Senwick on the high ground to the NE. Whether this ‘creek’ was still regularly, or occasionally, flooded by the sea at that time must be uncertain, but I think it reasonable to suppose that the outlet of the valley at the head of the bay was still wide enough for their boats to have come in on the tide to be hauled onto the sand not too far below Senwick.
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