Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Commons Cattle Trail before the break-up

Up till now, I've only been able to show glimpses of the Cattle trail across the Commons of Carrickfergus as it survived after the Commons was broken up into farms after 1860.

It has taken me weeks to get hold of it, but at last I have a copy of the 1st Ordnance Survey map of the area in 1832. To my delight, it shows the whole townland of 2,730 acres without any farms, fields, fences or buildings. And right across it is an unfenced trackway which I have highlighted in green. It is exactly where it was anticipated.

Another thing that springs out (click on the map to enlarge it and see for yourself), is that the boundary of the Commons has a multitude of small houses lined right along the boundary. Before the 1860 enclosure, permanent dwellings were prohibited, so these were herds' houses, squatters' cabins, or shelters used by drovers and peat diggers.

The same thing is shown on the 1832 map further west, towards the middle of the Commons - small cabins or houses lined along the boundary, and the trail cutting across north of the source of the Woodburn River which flows down into Belfast Lough on the West side of Carrickfergus.

The source of the Woodburn River is marked on this (and later maps) as "BRYAN O'NEILL'S WELL".


  1. John,
    Thanks for your (e-mail) comment on the last post. Yes, the cattle trails must have been wider than the present fragments with thorn hedges suggest. But the thorn hedges were after 1860, and the 1832 maps show the trail as unfenced (the symbol for that is the double dashed line, rather than a double solid line. I suppose that's when the dogs came into their own!

  2. It looks like you've put some serious research into this series of articles. I hope you preserve them somehow for posterity. Does your local library and historical society take donations of such information?

  3. Gorges,
    I don't know they would be interested, given the amount of rubbish they would have to accept (not only from me), with no way of telling what was worth keeping.
    But although this series is a 'blog with a quest', I enjoy allowing myself the luxury of exploring the side-tracks, hoping that one day I'll be able to pull it together when I get to the end of the trail!.

  4. I see your point; still, I believe that I'd check with them. Your work should hold more interest for them since it IS researched and you're a published author.