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Ballycastle mid 18th C.


The illustration is from Simon.

     R: A three-masted ship sailing to right pellet border 28mm

Illustrated in Simon, & mentioned in Seaby's Standard Cat. Pt 3, p143;-

"... undated but almost certainly after the building of the harbour at Ballycastle in 1750, is the pewter colliery ticket issued by the promoters, the Boyde family."

Dalton & Hamer's introduction states;-

"Dr Smith states that this was probably issued by Hugh Boyd, soon after 1736, for the convenience of the poor."

This token was also listed by Aquilla Smith, M.D., M.R.I.A. in "CATALOGUE OF LEADEN AND PEWTER TOKENS ISSUED IN IRELAND." (pp. 215-221 with one page of illustrations) as follows;-

Obv. A ship with all her sails set, sailing to the left, within a beaded circle, close to the edge of the coin.
Rev. ONE - HALF-PENNY - FOR - BALLYCASTLE - COALS OR - SALT in six lines, within a beaded circle. It weighs 94 grains.
Coal was worked at an early period on the coast near Ballycastle, and saltpans were in operation in the same neighbourhood during the last century. The coal-mines were held by a company mostly composed of Englishmen, previous to the year 1736, at which time the Earl of Antrim granted them in perpetuity to Hugh Boyd, Esq. (Statistical Survey of the County of Antrim. p.82)
Snelling published this token in his second additional plate to Simon, about the year 1769, and, having described a few of the copper tokens which were issued in the North of Ireland, in 1736, added:- "It is very probable that about this time No.23 was struck, which is made of lead."
This token, which is of good workmanship, and made of pewter, was probably issued by Mr. Boyd, shortly after the year 1736, for the convenience of the poor at Ballycastle.

The full Aquilla Smith paper and plate are also on CDROM.

--- O: a 'castle' in a circle of pellets
    R: 1748 | BC (ornate) | XX

This is believed to be another coal token from Ballycastle, possibly related to the previous piece.


The following extract is from a letter I received from Mark Smith, a mining/coal token collector from Cleveland, May 1999, who supplied the illustration of the token.

The two other illustrations which Mark sent of the ruins and scene are on the CDROM.

Dear Barry,

Moving on now to the possible newBallycastle piece. I have still got a lot of research to do on this one. Hopefully an imminently expected reply communication from Robert Heslip, the curator of coins atUlster Museum, may throw up some more information on it. I bought the token from a Scottish collector who obtained it some time ago from one of his local dealers. The token came with a card identifier describing it as a colliery ticket from Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. It is possible that this is where it was originally found. The token is not in the best condition but all of its design is discernible. It measures 33.5mm in diameter by 2.5mm thick. It is struck on a soft (?) white metal flan which has a surface tone similar to antique pewter.
The token does not feel heavy enough in my opinion to be silver although I could be wrong. The token's obverse depicts (in very high relief) a church/castle type building within a very crude double border of pellets. The building shown consists of a pair of twin drum type (?) side towers either side of a central keep (?) which is characterised by a distinctive high gabled roof or spire. There appear to be small side projections eminating from the top of the latter roof/spire. Although not that well discernible in the scanning the token bears a date (?) of 1748 above the initials BC and the numerals (?) XX.
I am aware of the famous C18th Ballycastle salt/coal halfpenny token but the one described above appears to be of a much different style and cruder manufacture. I am also aware of the simple communion tokens issued for Ballycastle. In my opinion the date of 1748 places this token too early to contend as a communion token (SBW note - see below) it is however consistent with the earlier claim of it being used in the Ballycastle coal trade The small but not insignificant Ballycastle coalfield was at its peak under the control of the pioneering Hugh Boyd in the mid C18th Boyd would presumably have been familiar with the use of tokens in colliery management from trade links with the Cumberland coalfield. Historically north-eastern Ireland had strong connections with the West Cumberland coalfield which had been responsible for supplying much of Dublin's fuel demands since the mid C17th. This is significant, as it was in this part of mainland Britain that colliery tokens were first introduced on a large scale under the instigation of the Lowthers of Whitehaven sometime after the 1680's.
Presumably the BC on the token's reverse is meant to stand for Ballycastle. I have no idea as to the meaning of the XX shown below. I have attempted to identity the building shown on the token's obverse with one existing in Ballycastle in 1748. There is really only one candidate and that is the town's castle. The building cannot be identified with Boyd's church, as this was not built until 1752. The castle at Ballycastle was built in the reign of James I and was much in the style of a Scottish fortified tower house of the period. From various contemporary sketches the castle appears to have been much on the lines as that still in existence at Ballygally. It was characterised by (?) small drum towers (probably on one each of its four corners) and had a very steep pitched gabled roof. By 1748 it was in a state of much dereliction and it was reportedly pulled down in c.1852 by act of the Court of Chancery as its one remaining high gable end was in danger of imminent collapse.
Mark Smith

SBW notes;

1. I have change "Historically north western" to "Historically north eastern" which I think is what Mark meant.
2. I don't think they can be discounted from being a Communion token on date alone - there are a number of Irish communion tokens bearing dates earlier than 1748 - eg. Larne (1700), Burt (1728), Donagheady (1706), etc. However, it is unlike any other communion token.
Although these are not 19/20th C. I have included them because of their importance. An illustration, further details of the latter, together with sketches of the possible construction is on the CD, courtesy of Mark Smith.

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