In August 1965 a new exhibit opened at the Ulster Folk Museum. Originally from the rural townland of Coshkib, a few miles north of Cushendall in County Antrim, Coshkib Hill Farm was formerly owned by the Hyndman family.
The house was initially chosen because it was seen as typical of many a farmhouse in the Glens of Antrim. As it was being dismantled, however, it became apparent that the house was also an excellent example of how an older house type could be adapted and extended over time. When it was originally built in the 1850s the farmhouse had two rooms, a thatched roof and earthen floors. There was also a corner recess or outshot beside the hearth fire in the kitchen. Around the 1920s the house was raised and slated – an upper storey was added, creating two new bedrooms upstairs, and the thatch was replaced with slates. The downstairs bedroom was made into a parlour or ‘good room’ reserved for important visitors. The outshot in the kitchen was also removed, probably at the same time.
In addition to the farmhouse, Coshkib Hill Farm had a full range of outbuildings. These included a byre with a threshing loft above, a duck pen or ‘cru’ and three outhouses under a single roof. All of these buildings were removed at the same time as the house.
Great care was taken to recreate Coshkib Hill Farm’s original setting at the Folk Museum, including its steeply sloping farmyard and the positioning of the outhouses at the upper end next to the road, followed by the farmhouse, and the byre and loft at the lower end. Certain features characteristic of the Glens of Antrim were also included. The gateways at each end of the yard were acquired from neighbouring farms and furnishings were collected in the Cushendall area from similar houses.
The Hyndman family’s connection to Coshkib Hill Farm goes back to the mid-1800s. By the early 1900s it was owned by Daniel Hyndman who had inherited it from his father. Daniel married Margaret Murdough in 1871 and they went on to have seven children during the 1870s and 1880s.
John, their first son born in 1871, was deaf. He worked as a gardener at a local ‘big house’ and never married. He died in 1920.
Matilda, born the year after John, married John Donaldson, a tailor, in 1897 and they had six children. Sadly one of their daughters died in infancy in 1900 and another daughter died at the age of 12 in 1911. Matilda died in childbirth, also in 1911, just a couple of weeks before her daughter passed away.
Thomas, born the year after Matilda, married Annie McKeegan in 1902. They had three children, one of whom died in infancy in 1904. When Annie died in 1905, Thomas returned to Coshkib with his two young daughters and worked as a road contractor. He died in 1916.
Bridget (Biddy), born in 1878, married William McAllister, a sailor, in 1901. They had five children, two of whom were twins. Sometime after William died in 1912, Biddy went to live with her brother Daniel (Dan) at Coshkib.
Robert, born in 1881, married Mary McKeegan (Annie McKeegan’s cousin) in 1903. They had two children, born within a year of each other. He was often hired by bigger farmers for skilled horse work.
Daniel (Dan), born in 1884, never married. He inherited the farm after his parents died and lived there until his death in 1953.
Margaret was Daniel and Margaret’s youngest child, born in 1886. Little else is known about her, though she is listed as a visitor at her sister Matilda’s house in 1911 census and she was the death register informant for her brother Thomas in 1916 and her brother John in 1920.
In 1900 Daniel Hyndman had 17 acres of mixed land and shared common grazing of another 17 acres of moor with two neighbours. Whilst he cultivated oats, potatoes, hay and some turnips, the farm was best known for its cattle and horses.
The family kept five or six dual-purpose shorthorn cows, which could be housed in the byre at the lower end of the farmyard, or left to graze on the hillside. Daniel adopted the practice of ‘grazing the long acre’ – he would often be seen around five or six in the morning during the summer, tending his cattle as they ate grass on verges along the roadside between the farm and the townland of Moneyvart about a quarter of a mile away.
Daniel and his sons were skilful horsemen and were leaders in the move towards larger horses in the Coshkib area which enabled farmers to expand tillage on their farms and hastened the eventual extinction of the Cushendall pony.
Daniel’s wife Margaret kept several dozen hens and sold the eggs to shopkeepers in Cushendall. The family also kept two sows of the Large White Ulster breed. Litters of piglets produced by the sows were reared in about six weeks and sold at Cushendall fair. When the sows were giving birth they were sometimes brought into the house, the settle bed in the kitchen providing a barrier which prevented the sow from rolling over on to the piglets and crushing them – a common problem.
The family were hunters and kept a few greyhounds at Coshkib. A local ballad entitled, ‘Dan Hyndman’s Greyhound’ celebrated the dog’s ability to outwit the local gamekeepers! Indeed, such was their passion that some of the Hyndman boys were prosecuted on occasion for trespassing in pursuit of game.
The Hyndman family home was well known as a cèilidh house. Neighbours often gathered there in the evenings. Family and neighbours sat around the fire and talked of local affairs and of past times. Evening activities included a friendly game of cards, a story well told, a tune played on the accordion or a song sung.
Dan Hyndman was a keen storyteller and Michael J. Murphy of the Irish Folklore Commission Dublin interviewed both Dan and his sister Biddy on a number of occasions in the early 1950s.
The last big event to be held in the house was Dan’s wake in 1953. Both Michael J. Murphy and the Ulster poet John Hewitt attended the wake, after which Hewitt wrote his poem ‘The Wake’. Both men latterly attended the opening of Coshkib Hill Farm at the museum.
After Dan Hyndman’s death, the farmhouse became unoccupied. The outbuildings and land were sold to a neighbouring farmer and the old house and outbuildings were used as general agricultural stores. In the mid-1960s the Coshkib farmhouse and outbuildings were acquired by the Folk Museum and formally opened in August 1965.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Coshkib Hill Farm and the Hyndman family. All information contained within this story is believed to be correct at time of publishing. I would like to extend my thanks to one of our volunteers, Rowena Cairns, who has carried out a significant amount of genealogical research on the Hyndman family in recent months.