Irish herdsmen had always led their cattle around the cound the open countryside in the middle ages, looking for fresh pasture. In the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, herds of cattle, or 'creaghts', became even more vital to feed a displaced Irish population and rebel forces on the move.
"The Irish word caoraigheacht, Hiberno-English `creaght', signified a herd of miscellaneous livestock with its attendants, grazing or passing through other people's lands, with or without the landowner's permission. The term has not been noted as occurring earlier than the late fourteenth century, and from this period onwards the leaders of such herds could be members of either the Irish or the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. A creaght could be formed by the settled population of a district temporarily displaced in time of war, moving as a train of refugees, or aggressive migrants, under the leadership of their own chief. There were also certain classes within society -- landless nobles, wandering poets or mercenary soldiers -- who were accustomed to migrate from one landlord to another, with their band of followers and livestock... [A]n increase in this class of landless noblemen and the warfare associated with the Tudor reconquest combined with an existing pattern of transhumance to bring about the situation in 1610 where society in mid-Ulster was perceived as being organised in creaghts or `herds' rather than into villages."
(Katharine Simms, "Nomadry in Medieval Ireland: The Origins of the CREAGHT or CAORAIGHEACHT",
Department of Medieval History, 3143 Arts Building, Trinity College, IE-Dublin 2)
The Calendars of State Papers Relating to Ireland contain many mentions of Ulster 'creaghts' which were such a common-place that the term began to be used to describe also a type of social organisation. Native Irish would have moved their cattle in creaghts through the area around Markethill before Planter settlers became firmly established. In his deposition to the 1641 Rebellion commission, James Shaw, innkeeper at Markethill, mentioned creaghts in and around the parish of Mullaghbrack.
In the accompanying audio recording, Dr. Neil McGleenon, retired headmaster and local historian, talks about the local area known as Tyrones Ditches, Hugh O'Neill and Creaghts in the period of the Nine Years War at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Use the audio controller to listen to this talk, given in 2003.