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".

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Commons Cattle Trail Today

When I went back to the Commons recently to see if any parts of the old cattle trail from Ballynure to Dalway's Bawn could still be traced on the ground, I saw this old haunt in a new light.

The photo shows the old drove road as it leaves the south-east end of the Commons just below Lough Mourne, heading east towards Dalway's Bawn. From here the trail continues as an unsurfaced country lane for 3 miles across the 'North-East Division' of Carrickfergus County, and on through the townland of Bellahill, down past the 'Resting Slap' to 'Bullock's Walk' beside Dalway's Bawn.

The first thing that strikes you when you look at this on a 1950s map of this part is that the Commons trail which once crossed an open upland area has been mostly hidden under a patchwork of small fields and farms that followed the 'Enclosure' and letting of the Commons after 1860. Only eastwards from the south end of Lough Mourne does the original track survive, roughly from the point where Hart's Loanen reaches the Commons from Boneybefore. Hart's Loanen remains a similar 'green' country lane up at its north end, and is the way we Boneybefore lads walked up to Lough Mourne countless times in the 1960s and 1970s.

This Land Valuation map of 1860 shows the Commons about to be enclosed, with the outlines of the new land parcels outlined and numbered in red. This was before the fields were planted out and before any houses had been built there.

But the faint lines of the unfenced track-ways still
(in 1860) crossing the Commons from north-west to south-east can be seen underneath. The Cattle trail seems to have wandered about the open hill top grassland at will.

The highlighted boundary of the Commons shows that only this bottom part of Lough Mourne was actually in the Commons.
Lough Mourne itself was turned into a Water Reservoir in the 1930s, and to preserve the immediate water catchment area around it from farm 'pollution' the surrounds were planted out with conifers about the same time.

But the big 'planting' difference in the landscape up here was made with the setting of hawthorn field hedges when the small 'Commons' farms were laid out 150 years ago (wherever the upland was grass rather than bog).

Even the thorn hedges which grow along the dykes on either side of the surviving cattle trail were not an original feature on the Commons.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Rise of John Dalway's Cattle 'Empire' in East Antrim

Take these ingredients:

1. Dalway's Bawn;
2. The
Cattle Trail across the Commons from Ballynure to the coastal ports linked to Scotland;
3. Dalway Manor - the large tracts of land acquired in east Antrim by Dalway (and his tenants and partners).

Put them together and what comes out of the mix? They reveal the big picture of a cattle trading 'empire' that began in the 1500s and was still going strong in 1850.

The map of these combined ingredients is worth a close look (click on it to see it properly), for it tells the whole story:
Note the lands to the north west around Ballynure and its Fair Hill which was the Ballynure part of 'Dalway Manor';
Note the lands to the east around Dalway's Bawn that made up the other half of Dalway Manor;
Note the 'Aldermans' land in the North-East Division of the County of Carrickfergus that was controlled by Dalway and his tenant-farmers (and which gave his bigger operation the right of access to the Commons and grazing rights across it).
When the Cattle trail is shown linking all these, the pattern suddenly leaps out in a way that no written history has yet recorded, and the true purpose of Dalway's Bawn is revealed.

The earliest known date of a grant of the Broadisland and Kilroot lands to John Dalway was in 1591 from his wife's cousin, Shane McBryan O'Neill. But when Shane as chief of north Clandeboy died in 1596, the country was in turmoil. The MacDonnells had overrun the district by 1597, and after the death of Sir John Chichester at Battle of Pin Well (on Dalway's lands at Ballcarry), John Dalway, John Dobbs, Lieutenant Hart and Sir Moses Hill - all with an interest in these lands, had to flee and wait for quieter times.

The end of the Elizabethan war in Ireland was marked by the surrender of Hugh O'Neill on the very eve of Elizabeth's death in 1603. The new monarch was James I of England and Scotland, who had formerly been James VI of Scotland and a kinsman of the Scottish MacDonnells of the Glens. But John Dalway did get a re-grant of 'such lands as he held in right of his contract with Shane O'Neill'.

A few years later, in 1608, came the definitive 're-grant' of these lands to John Dalway from James I, 'with the consent of the commissioners' for the Ulster Plantation. It was probably the plantation commissioners that introduced what was for them a standard clause requiring Dalway to build:
'within the next seven years, a castle or house of stone or brick ... with a strong court or bawne about the same, in any convenient place, within the territory of Ballinowre'.
The lands of this grant are described in great detail, not only listing the individual townlands of the two separated territories of Ballynure and Broadisland, but also giving a precise description of the boundaries of these two estates (see the above map for the general locations).

There are a few more interesting details in the 1608 grant to John Dalway. He was
'to hold at Thomastowne, within the cinament of Ballynowre, a friday market, and a fair on the feast of St Bartholomew, and two days after; unless the fair-day fall on a Saturday or the Lord's day'.

Another part of the grant confirmed Dalway's holdings as a freeman within the County of Carrickfergus as:
'the half burgage ... on the E. side of High street, in the town of Carrickfergus ...
two parcels of ground near the E. end of said town ... one extending to the commons of the said town, northwards ...
lately assigned to said John Dalway for his Aldermans share of said townlands of Carrickfergus.'
The grant then goes on to mention that Dalway could in turn grant any part of the estate, apart from 600 acres for his own demesne, to any English or (lowland) Scottish subjects without needing 'the king's license' to do so. Some breakup of the estate did occur, but nothing that interfered with the basic economic thrust of the cattle trail. A Scottish noble man, Sir Archibald Edmonston, took a large section of the estate at Red Hall around Ballycarry in 1609, but this only served as a catlyst for thousands of lowland Scots settlers to overwhelm the district and secure the northern approaches that had been so vulnerable to incursions from the Glens. John Dobbs of Castle Dobbs married Margaret Dalway, the daughter of John Dalway and Jane McBryan O'Neill, and so the Dobbs family eventually owned much of the Kilroot and Ballynure lands.

When these lands are mapped, the whole thing suddenly makes sense. But it is also clear that the Dalway control of this cattle trail from the Sixmilewater Valley through to the ports for Scotland at Whitehead and Islandmagee could not have happened without the important central link in the chain - the Commons of Carrickfergus.

It was the old cattle drove trail across the Commons of Carrickfergus that connected Dalway's Ballynure and Broadisland estates. The townland of Castletown just east of Ballynure not only includes the site of the 'old castle' and bawn at the river crossing of the Castle Water, but also the 'Ballynure Fair Hill' which held fairs for cattle and pigs in May, September and October, with a large horse fair also held on nearby Reagh Hill in May, November and Christmas Day. Many of the pigs and cattle sold at Ballynure Fair ended up on boats leaving Portmuck (
muc is Irish Gaelic for 'pig') or Whitehead for the drove roads in south-west Scotland. Dalway's Bawn was their last stopping place before the 'end of the trail'.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

An uncanny gathering at Bellahill farm, near Dalway's Bawn, in 1953

This is the second time the East of Eden Chronicles have taken a strange twist with the discovery of another old photograph taken about 1953 (see the 'year of the crowning' post). The event was a birthday party for Raymond Cowan - the boy in shorts pointing a toy gun across my face at the sheep. It was held on the Cowan farm at Bellahill beside Dalway's Bawn, and behind Raymond is my mum. Mrs Cowan is beside my mum on the left of the picture. In front of Mrs Cowan is Eric Glynn (of Davy Crockett hat fame in previous posts) . Mrs Glynn (with the round glasses second from the right) came from the area between Dalway's Bawn and Ballycarry before she was married.

But on this occasion I want to introduce another classmate from Eden Primary School - Alexander (Victor) Hart on the extreme left. His brother Ian is feeding the lamb on the extreme right, and my younger brother is in the middle at the front. Mrs Hart is the tall lady in the center.

This uncanny gathering is relevant to the Dalway story not just because it places us on a farm at Dalway's Bawn, but because the Harts play an important part in that story.

Jumping forward from 1597 when Lieutenant Harte was with John Dalway at the Battle of Pin Well at Ballycarry, to the mid-1800s, we find an Alexander Hart (sometimes spelled Harte) as the principal tenant farmer on the Dalway home farm at the Bawn in Bellahill townland.

Victor Hart (who I have just renewed contact with after 55 years) tells me that he is the 5th Alexander Hart from his home farm at Newseat, near Boneybefore. His brother Ian is still 'feeding the sheep', as he is now a Presbyterian minister of a large Belfast congregation.

But back in 1860, Alexander Hart was Dalway's main tenant farmer at Bellahill, and he had a network of other farms in the nearby townland of Crossmary and in the 'County of Carrickfergus' (which was divided into Alderman's Shares between 1576 - 1601). These Hart farms were mostly in the North-East Division of Carrickfergus, although one holding was a 'Burgers' plot in the center of the medieval town. The Aldermans Shares in North-East Division ran in parallel strips up to the Commons, and they brought with them rights of access to and grazing on the Commons. Up alongside each strip was a lane or 'loanen', and Hart's loanen ran up beside Victor's farm at Newseat and gave us Boneybefore boys a gateway - a straight walk - up to what was the magical world of Lough Mourne and the upland moors and bogs of the Commons.

Like Eric Glynn, Victor Hart was in my class at school and the three of us walked the mile or so from Boneybefore to Eden twice a day. On the way home (so Victor reminds me) I often went past my own house and walked with him back to his farm up Hart's Loanen until dark. The memories of this and of another parallel laneway on the next Aldermans strip (Davy Jack's Loanen) to Davy Jack's farm are legion, but I must stick to the story after one digression. Davy Jack's farm had a waterwheel, open-hearth cooking and he only used horses in the fields. His only road transport was a horse and farm-cart, and many times I rode in it even as far as Carrickfergus. On the side of the cart was
'Hugh Jack, Bluefield' painted in small white letters. I now know that Davy's grandfather was a Hugh Hart Jack, that his great-grandmother was an Alexandrina Hart who married a Hugh Jack, and that her father was the Hugh Hart of Bluefield farm that is marked on the map 0f 1860.

The fields on all these farms were always stocked with cattle when I was young, with a multitude of small thorn-hedged fields climbing up like ladders towards the foothills that marked the beginning of the Commons. The lanes were literally cart-tracks, but straight and not regarded as private.

When I re-trace my steps up Hart's Loanen (in my minds eye, for the fields are all housing developments now), I force myself not to divert into Victor's farm at Newseat. A bit further and the 'ruins' appear (the earlier Hart farm of Alexander Hart Senior in 1860). Then over a hump-back bridge, past Smiley's farm (John Smiley had joined the Star of Eden Pipe Band), straight across the Middle Road and on up a steep rise until the blue, wild waters of Lough Mourne were reached. Carrickfergus Castle used to house some prehistoric dug-out wooden boats found here, and the surrounding 'mosses' had wild plants and birds we never saw down in the lower fields.

I allow myself this apparently meaningless nostalgic ramble for three very good reasons:

a) I didn't know before now that there was a Hart family connection with John Dalway, or with Dalway's Bawn;

b) I didn't know before now that Hart's lane had originally been a secondary cattle drove route to and from the Commons; and,

c) I didn't know before now that a James Esler was a tenant of Alexander Hart at Dalway's Bawn in 1860 - sharing a double cottage with another 'byresman' called William Close. A 'byre' is, of course, a cattle-house and it appears these men were actually 'cow-boys' in Dalways Bawn itself. But my maternal grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were all cattle farmers along the cattle drove routes of mid-Antrim, and had the same name:
James Esler.

Now if it turns out that I am related to this James Esler, I will be just as excited as Victor Hart was to learn that he was descended from Dalway's comrade, Lieutenant Hart of Carrickfergus in 1597.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Dalway's Bawn: The Early Scotch Dimension

(This is the fifth of a series exploring the history of the Dalway cattle drove trail)

Although the Earl of Essex had died in 1576, the remains of his Elizabethan English colony settled in the town of Carrickfergus.

John Dalway was one of those who came to the fore in the town by the 1590s, along with John Dobbs and a Lieutenant Harte, and these three men were to play a critical role in the story of Dalway's Bawn and the later cattle trail.

By the late 1600s, Carrickfergus had entrenched its 'English only' policy within the walls of the town, so the suburbs shown to the west remain to this day as 'Irish Quarter' (where the town's Catholic Church is located). 'English' meant 'Established Church', and the town's freemen were required all to attend the old Anglo-Norman church of St Nicholas in the town. The suburb to the east (also shown in the foreground of the inset illustation) is 'Scotch Quarter' along a road leading east - to Boneybefore and Kilroot.

The 'big' church all of us in Boneybefore used to attend for special occasions was Joymount Presbyterian Church in Scotch Quarter. The name 'Joymount' comes from the large mansion shown in the inset. Joymount House (called after Lord Mountjoy, the Lord Deputy in Dublin) was built in 1610 by Sir Arthur Chichester, Governor of Carrickfergus and Ulster, and brother of Sir John Chichester who had been Governor of Carrickfergus until he was killed by the Antrim (Highland) Scots at Ballycarry in 1597, with Dalway, Dobbs and Harte fleeing the scene. But the 'Scotch' of the Scotch Quarter - and most of east Antrim and Islandmagee - were not 'Highland Scots', but were lowland Scots that had settled after 1603 when James VI of Scotland took over from Elizabeth I as James I of England and Scotland.

The early 'Scotchmen' that were threatening Carrickfergus in the 1590s were Highland, Catholic and Gaelic-speaking Scots in the glens of north-east Antrim known as the 'MacDonnells of the Glens'. Their main stronghold was Dunluce Castle at the far end of County Antrim, and the seeds of conflict had already been sown by Essex with his raid on Rathlin Island in 1574.

In 1594, twenty years after John Dalway first settled in Carrickfergus, he was still living there in a tower-house with his wife Jane McBryan O'Neill (a close relative of Shane McBryan) and their daughter Margaret (who later married John Dobbs of Castle Dobbs). By this time John Dalway had been appointed 'Sheriff of Antrim' and was writing regular intelligence reports to the Lord Deputy in Dublin and Sir Henry Bagenal in Newry. The theme of these letters was always the same - the loyalty of the Clandeboy O'Neill's (particularly Shane McBryan O'Neill, his wife's cousin) was solid, but they were under intolerable pressure from Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and James McSorley Boy MacDonnell of the Route (north Antrim).

John Dalway had got a grant from Shane McBryan O'Neill of the lands at Broadisland (Ballycarry) and Kilroot in 1591, paying in cattle rather than money yearly to Shane and his heirs. In 1594, as Sheriff of Antrim, John Dalway 'examined' Shane McBryan and wrote to the Lord Deputy that

"the Earl of Tyrone sent O'Hagan to Belfast to have the said Shane become his man and run against the Queen."
But Shane had resisted and provided Dalway with 'promises and slanty'.

A year earlier, in 1593, Dalway had reported from the 'Camp at Comber' that

"Owen McHugh, that killed Neal McBryan Ferta's son, has drawn a large force to assail the great Ardes."
A 'great prey' of cattle had been taken fron Neale McBryan O'Neill of north Clandeboy, and 500 men were beseiging him.

As 1594 progressed, Dalway's reports concentrated more and more on the threat posed by the Antrim Scots.

"James Oge McSorley Boy MacDonnell took from Neale McBryan Ferta the number of 200 cows besides garrans (horses) and other spoil, and doth threaten to make his repair thither again."
He urged the Lord Deputy to send some men to help defend Shanes Castle at Antrim, for "if it should be lost the whole country will be thrown open". In July 1594 Ensign John Dalway wrote again to the Lord Deputy that the cattle belonging to the townsmen of Carrickfergus had been taken prey by James MacSorley Boy MacDonnell. He feared that "the town will be overthrown if more force is not speedily sent." In October the same year he reported that £300 worth of lead and powder had been landed in the Glens of Antrim from Scotland.

The reinforcements that arrived in Carrickfergus in 1595 were under John Chichester from Devon who was Sergeant-Major of the Elizabethan army in Ireland. As Shane McBryan had apparently joined the Earl of Tyrone in rebellion, Chichester captured Shanes 'bawn' at Antrim, and took Shane to Carrickfergus Castle where he again pledged support for the Queen. However, Shane died while still at Carrickfergus and his estates were forfeited to the Crown. Dalway later received a re-grant from the Crown of the east Antrim estates that he had previously been renting from Shane. Sir John Chichester was then appointed Governor of Carrickfergus and John Dalway made 'Deputy Victualler in Ireland'.

But the threat of the Antrim Scots came to a dramatic head on Dalway's lands at the 'Battle of Pin Well' in Aldfracken Glen (near Ballycarry) in 1597 .

James McSorley Boy MacDonnell had brought a large force down from the north of the county into east Antrim. Having plundered Islandmagee he concealed the most of his men in Aldfracken Glen near Ballycarry, and approached the North Gate of Carrickfergus Town in a provocative show of defiance. Sir John Chichester took the bait, and pursued him with about 20 of his horsemen, including John Dalway, John Dobbs and a Lieutenant Harte who later provided an eye-witness account.

When Chichester and his men reached Aldfracken Glen, they were set upon by the larger force of Antrim Scots, and a complete rout occurred. Sir John Chichester was captured, and MacDonnell cut his head off on a nearby rock, tossing it to his men to play football with. About ten of Chichester's men were also killed, but several others escaped by swimming across Larne Lough and hiding in the caves near the Gobbins in Islandmagee. Although he was injured, Lieutenant Harte escaped to Islandmagee as well, "and so by swimming over saved my lief." Among the other runners was Lieutenant Dobbs who "retreated under a bridge until the danger had passed." Another runaway was Lieutenant John Dalway, who concealed himself for a time in the dry flow or ooze left by the shallow water that had once separated Islandmagee from the mainland.

Sir John Chichester was replaced as Governor of Carrickfergus by his brother, Sir Arthur Chichester. It was Sir Arthur who built the mansion house of Joymount in the town in 1610, and who had led the Elizabethan forces across into Tyrone to finally put down the rebellion of the Earl of Tyrone in 1603.

In St Nicholas's Church in Carrickfergus, in a side-aisle reserved for the Chichesters, is a monument to Sir Arthur and his wife. Beneath them is an effigy of Sir John. When James MacSorley Boy MacDonnell as an old man visited the monument, he is reported to have pointed to the effigy of Sir John and said,

"How the deil did he come to get his head back, for anes I taen it frae him".
Underneath the Chichester Aisle in St Nicholas Church is the Chichester's family burial vault with lead coffins of various early Chichesters. The skull of Sir John sits on a stone shelf at the back.

Once the Elizabethan war in Ulster was ended in 1603, three of the men lucky to escape with their lives at Ballycarry, (John Dalway, John Dobbs and Lieutenant Harte), were soon to play a central role in the next stage of the story of Dalway's Bawn and the cattle trail it controlled.