Deer Hunt from Shane’s Castle to Ballymacpeake

One of the most amusing incidents in rural life have ever witnessed, occurred on the 22nd ultimate (22nd October 1849), within a short distance of Portglenone.

The quiet inhabitants of the townland of Coolbawn were surprised to observe a number of persons in full chase after some strange looking animal, at the early hour of 6am, and young and old immediately rushed out en masse to swell the “regular muster” – some, indeed, in their “nocturnal habiliments” — many imagining, as they were not aware of the circumstances that it might be a “still hunt” (the “mountain dew” being sometimes manufactured in the locality), while the well-understood shout of “mad dog!” burst forth from other quarters equally in ignorance.

Deer hunt from Shane’s Castle across Coolbawn & Ballymacpeake townlands,  near Portglenone

Deer hunt across Irish townlands in 1949
North of Ireland – hunt across Coolbawn and Ballymacpeake townlands in County Derry in Oct 1849

Ireland – Deer Hunt Extraordinary

It was amusing to hear the hasty opinions of the country people, as at intervals they beheld the animal bounding from “hollow to hillock;” while one individual swore it was the devil, another, whose physiognomy would have earned compassion for him in any country, was seen pressing forward and exclaiming most vociferously, “It’s my cuddy – its my cuddy the villains are hunting!”

Shouts echoed from valley to valley, various parties were seen struggling with the greatest impetuosity through hedges, crossing rivulets, and clambering over ditches.

By this time the vast concourse, having passed through the townland of Ballymacombs, reached the boggy morass at Ballymacpeake, when it became generally known that the object of pursuit was a splendid stag, with “towering antlers”

“Fleet of foot, and tall of size.”

The deer hunt continued.  A general whoop was now heard from all parties, which, with the yelling of the numerous dogs that accompanied their masters, made the “welkin ring.”

The noble animal, trusting to speed for safety, now took the high road for upwards of a mile during which time frequent discharges of shot were expended, without avail. The stag turned several times, and gazed, as if in wild astonishment, at its pursuers; it even permitted some to approach and lay hold of its antlers, who generally paid for their freedom by a full length toss on the ground, the animal again resuming its course with wonted rapidity.

In the townland of Tamladuff, however, after a run of some four or five miles, a bullet from the piece of a countryman left the animal, now panting from exhaustion, lifeless on the turf,” and thus closed the chase.

A dispute now, “fierce and hot,” arose as to whom the trophy belonged, during which the claimants dealt each other some “plaguing knocks.” Those who were possessed of “curs,” “collies,” and other sub-varieties of the canine species, loudly asserted their right to a quota of the spoil; while the person who fired the “fatal shot” had the prize borne victoriously from the field, on the shoulders of four of his companions — not, however, before the usual indications of a pugilistic conflict were exhibited by man present.

The animal, which weighed three cwt., is supposed have strayed from Shane’s Castle, and crossed the Bann, near the New Ferry The oldest inhabitants state, that, about 120 years ago, a similar occurrence took place, when a deer performed nearly the same circuit, the people (back then) quarrelling for whole day as who should obtain the dead animal.

The above article appeared in the Coleraine Chronicle – Saturday 10 November 1849

SOME OBSERVATIONS – The poor deer must have been badly frightened, across the many hours of the deer hunt, prior to it’s demise. But such incidents did occur in rural Ireland.  The article, in places, makes use of some old terminology (e.g. hillock, habiliments), unheard of in modern times – as well as using some Scottish based words (e.g. cuddy).   And at one point the article refers to a local declaring that the strange-looking animal was the devil – but interestingly the author of the article refuses to spell out the word ‘devil’ instead using the term “d—l”.  And locals said that the last time such a deer was seen in the area, was some 120 years earier – which would mean during the 1720s.  The article also refers to the production of mountain dew (or moonshine to our American cousins) being common in the Ballymacpeake area (especially in Eden moss).  Illegal spirits production was big across Ireland. A future article will focus on Eden’s mountain dew 🙂 Watch this space.



"I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

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