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Mediaeval Scotland

EXTRACT FROM the Ulster Journal of Archeology, SHOWING the Tribal Casualties of the Celtic Period in Ireland.

The “croes” or herds, of various species, formed with the herdsmen a creaght, which moved along the hills and through the woods, rendering, as a seignioral due, either one of each species of “Cro" or sometimes, on the death of their “can-finny” (ceann fin&, or head of the kin owning the stock), the best as a heriot; or else a few pence per head. As among the Germans, no limit of space was assigned to the occupancy. Tyrone did not “sett any portion of land”; and his receipts of chief-rent were therefore uncertain, because the can-finnys, as “free tenants,” could, “by the custom of the country,” remove from under “one lord to another.”

The “certayne custome” above alluded to, of rendering victual, had many ramifications, a few of which may be noticed. The Gaelic military force, whose status is well expressed in ancient ballads by the designation of “the Kempery men,” or men of the camp, were, with their taoiseach, or leader, supported throughout the country by the creaghts—a practice used by the Earl of Tyrone as lately as the 17th century. The primary “rent” to the king (of which presently) and other charges, some of which also became a species of rent, arose from this nomad mode of maintenance. During peace, as Davyes observed, the chief of Feara-managh asked no more than he was entitled to :—“But in time of war,” wrote Sir John, “marry! he made himself owner of all”; taxing as he listed, and imposing as many bonaghts, or hired soldiers, as he had occasion to use.” The king was then justly empowered to exert every means, and raise the sinews of defensive war by an impost which was not for his own particular benefit, and the very name of which, bon-eaght, signifies the original payment rendered by maintaining the military.

To sustain armed defenders was with clansmen the next duty to that of rising at the gairm skiaigh ; and accordingly follows it in a list of “duties and rents'’ to M'Carthy More, being the custom of rendering to the chief and his men two principal articles of Irish sustenance, namely, oatmeal and butter, which, as the custom had now become “certayne,” were given by measure, and therefore termed sorren. Bonaght, or the primary charge of maintaining soldiery, was specially due on land modernlyheld by sorren tenure; and this sorren seems to have been the coigne-bon, or refection originally given them ; being, as the record states, “ otherwise coigne, as extorted by the Earl of Desmond, who was supposed to have invented this exaction, which he but adopted from the Irish.” Originally it was merely “a nights meal ” upon the land where “the Earl passed through with his forces”; that is, on which the troop encamped. But as such a tax was uncertain, it was unequal; and therefore sorren more, if the chief “did not come in place to spend it,”became a “rent” For every parcel of land was “charged with its own portion time out of mind,” having been commuted, from an unlimited refection, into a measure, or “sroan,” namely, “a gallon and a half of oatmeal flour made of burnt oats, and a quirren pottle, or 10 lbs. of butter, valued in times past—the one at 4d., and the other a groat’’; and every parcel of sorren land sent certain numbers of these measures to the earl’s residence. The earl also received his sorren from junior chiefs, such as O’Donoughue, O’Callaghan, etc., and from a priory whence it was due, either in kind or (at the prior’s and “deputy-captayne’s” choice) in money, each chief rent being valued at 4 8s. 8d. While some districts paid this rent, other ceann-cinh and monasteries were “charged with the higher tenure” of receiving the chief and his train at cuid-oidche, or supper, equivalent to the modern dinner. The explanatory term for this provision, namely, “a portion, a meal, or a refection ”  {cuid is a part or share), seems to denote the chiefs gavel right to a coigne, or meal, as his partakeable portion of the fruits of the land. It seems also that the original method by which the nomad Ri was maintained was by these visitations, which came as such to be called “cosherie,” possibly derived from cios-ri, namely, cess or rent for the king. This primitive mode of a chieftain maintaining his train in the houses of his clansmen (against which the very first printed statute, anno 1310, and another Act of 1634, were specially directed) was revived after the confiscations of the 17th century, when some of the kindliest feelings of human nature conspired to renew this ancient custom in order to support the families of fallen chiefs. The antiquity of the practice is, of course, greater than any native records, which, however, refer to it in deeds as early in date as the nth century, when a certain petty king in Meath relinquished the right of having a night’s coinme every quarter of a year at the tenement of a herenagh at Ardbracan, and the king of Leinster released certain land “a procurations et expedicione mea"—the former term implying provision for himself, and the latter, military service and the charge of bonaght} These two charges were evidently the fundamental imposts on land. There was also an offering called in Latin satellitum poturoe, drink for the king and his retinue, the exaction of which is alluded to in an ancient grant to an abbey. When, in 1535 O’Neill renounced “refectiones vel expenses, quae dicuntur proprie coyne, livery, coydeis, vel talia proculenta” (drinkings)

inter Anglicos,” he, in effect, promised to relieve the subjected Englishry from expending them by cosherie. The Latin word expenses is of course a translation of the English term for the outlay made in the reception of a chief and his retinue by the Irish tenantry, who even in the 17th century continued the ancient communistic custom of yielding convivial refections, or “common spendings” instead of paying rent; a practice vindicated by Spenser, and which was at first a payment for what was actually rented from the king and his troops, namely, protection. It was the most popular eulogium of any chieftain to declare him the spender and defender of his clan.

Modern great lords often feast their tenantry on the rent day, and their incomes are derived from vast earldoms that belonged to their ancestors in times when the Gaelic seigneur received no more than his share in the feast, which, with his lodging, was termed cuid-oidche, originally called a supper, but literally a “portion for one night.” In the same manner this refection was at first the coinme and sole wages of the military; and it would seem that eaught, a supper, is the origin of eackt, payment. Buannacht bona, i.e. the primary renderings, became “customary services”; and the first usage, that of giving sorren, grew in course of time into the formal payment of rent.

In the 17th century sorren continued to be the head-rent of West Connaught, each quarter of land paying yearly certain measures of meal—"Hibernic" vocatos sruans, cum sufficiente butiro. This was the “greddan meal and butter,” said to have been presented in 1603 to O’Neill of Castle-reagh by his servants, and which Anglick was “ strowan ”— see Ulster Journal of Archceology, vol. III., p. 134; and p. 160, showing that oatmeal was part of the feudal rent of Ulster in the 13th century; also vol. II., p. 139, that “com and butter” was the principal living of O’Neill and his clan. “Sorren land,” probably for most part arable, designated a freehold, liable to this rendering; as “mart land,” mostly pasture, may have been one whence a mart (the term still known in Scotland for a “beef,” or salted cow) was to be sent in, for (as Sir John O’Reilly expressed it) “ the spending of his house.” In Ophaly every ploughland rendered 24 sieves of oats, value 5s., and two beeves, 4s. 2d., to O’Conor, besides being liable to “taxes and customs.” This was anno 1550; and a rent so unusually regular was probably a composition arranged at the time when Henry VIII. was to have created the ruling chieftain a viscount. Sorren and mart, or meal and salted butter and beef, were the secondary form in which receipts from land accrued to the chieftain; who, in early ages, as has been seen, was interdicted from possessing anything though all belonging to the clan was freely at his service: "of their own accord they gave him so many cattle, or a certain portion of grain ”—rude offerings subsequently made more acceptable by preparation for use; and these are apparently typified in the ceremony used in inaugurating a “public officer,” and especially the king, of throwing wheat and salt over him as symbols that the plentifulness of peace should attend his reign. Another ceremony of more antique times, that of the chief-elect and his clan eating of the same meat and drinking from the same vessel, marked the community of property in food ; and their quality was further insisted on by denying to the chief the use of any “cuppe or dish.” These at least seem to be the meaning of parts of an installatory ceremonial which was evidently misrepresented to Giraldus Cambrensis.

Equality of rank was strangely mingled with individual power in the position of the chieftain. To wear a similar garb, and to live sociably and on equal terms with the clansmen, secured to him their hearts. At court, Tyrone was an earl ; yet, when there, he declared he would rather be “O’Neill” than Philip of Spain ; but among the “ Cinel Eoghain ” he was merely the first of themselves, and, living among them in their simplicity of life, often received his “king’s rent " as “cosherie” in their dwellings ; or the feast was in the open air, where he held his court, and the brehons gave judgment; and, when seated among his clan “on a green bank,” he was (as a contemporary observed) in his greatest majesty.

Penalties conceded to the king as the enforcer of cains, or legal fines, were probably his earliest receipts by right. The first mentioned in a list of dues to the chief of West Connaught, in the 17th century, is a sevenfold fine in every species of cattle for “stealths,” which some Anglo-Irish lords endeavoured to prevent by fining the suffering tenant for his want of vigilance.3 A portion of every eric was (like the Saxon wite), due to the chief for the homicide of men under his comeric or protection. O’Doyne paid a third of all cains, casualties, etc., arising in his country to a potent neighbour, O’Conor, for his comeric. All who were under the rule of M'Carthy More were called “his cane poble,” or people subject to his law and its penalties. Fines wexe various and numerous, and must have formed a considerable ingredient of income from a large and populous region.

The much reprobated practice of receiving coigne (made illegal on account of its abuse) was, besides being .the original receipt of the chieftain, in fact his only means of subsistence when outside his territory, in times when the non-existence of either money or hostelries precluded him from aught but availing himself of the “old custom of giving meat and drinke.” There was an ancient usage in Galway of giving “connome and meales” to the leader of the Arran galloglasses and his men whenever they came to town. Even in the metropolitan county, and in the 17th century, the receiving “coigne and livery” was partly the consideration for which land was let; it being stipulated in a lease dated 1613, that the lessee, the Archbishop of Dublin, should provide sufficient victual and lodging for two boys, with horse meat and stabling for three horses, on the premises, whenever the landlord, Sir R. Nugent, resorted to Dublin.

Coigne or refection, when systematically due, was specially named the “custom of cuddikie’’ and warranted the chief in coming “with such company as pleaseth him to the lands charged with that tenure, and in taking meat and drink of the inhabitants thereof for the space of four meales, at four tymes of the yere.” This “custom” was, in fact, the quarterly rendering which appears by many antique records to have been the fundamental rent charge on land. When the Ri was on visits to his vassals under this usage, he was said “to have his people” or train “in coshcrie”— that is, taking his cios as a king. The provisions for the occasion seemed to have been obtained by assessment on the tribe holding the land, cios being a tribute or contribu-

tion : hence is derived the word “cess,” peculiar to Ireland, having the same root as the Latin and French terms that imply an assessment levied tributim, and anciently used to denote the charge upon the tenantry of “the Pale” of maintaining the troops of the crown. The method of collection by contribution was continued in the 17th century, for the purpose of supporting the needy descendants of dispossessed chieftains by “coshering.” This practice was denounced by the Statute of 1634, because it sustained thousands of young “idel,” or noble, swordsmen, who soon afterwards broke out into general insurrection to recover their lands ; and who “cessed themselves, their followers, horses, and greyhounds upon the country,” receiving “their eaught and adraugh, viz., supper and breakfast,” and craving helps; to supply which, and their “entertainment,” the country people made “cuts, levies, and plotments upon themselves.”

Vassals who held land by the tenure of receiving their chieftain at cuid-oidche appear to have been of superior rank to the frank tenants of sorren-land, which was liable to “bonaght” for galloglasses. The same custom prevailed, of course, in Gaelic Scotland. In the comparatively modern rent-roll of a Scots laird there occurs the—“Item, for cuid-oidche, 20s.,” receivable yearly, if he did not use his right to lodge for one night in his tenant’s house. Curious as the practice is in its origin, it was subsequently well adapted to the requirements of a wide-spread clan, whose disputes with borderers often obliged their chieftain to visit the extremity of his territory. But it undoubtedly arose as a mode of maintenance ; and, having become a “rent,” was commuted in Ireland towards the close of the 16th century into a money payment. “Cuddihie,” as rendered to the Earl of Clancarthy, is termed a “ portion ” to be spent either at the freeholder’s house or sent to the earl’s,

in a certain proportion of flesh, aqua vitae, ale, cows, and flour, or else in lieu, 8s. 8d. This composition had been effected by Government Commissioners, who valued this charge as due by certain monasteries, and sorren by others, at the same rate. Their labours (of which by-and-bye) seem to have been permanently successful in Munster. In the 17th century, O’Driscoll continued to pay M'Carthy-reagh a sum equivalent to about 150 a year at present in lieu of entertaining him at supper and M'Brien Ara received some hard cash, with certain heads of various cattle, instead of all “customs, refections, impositions, or cess of horse and horse boys, contributions of sragh, sorohin, and bonnagh, duties, casualties, aids, benevolences or free gifts, cuttings, cosheries, or other advantages, claims, and demands.” But the tribes in the wilds of Connaught seem to have retained their old mode of rendering tribute; as appears by a record that a certain “clan” paid rent, as such, in the form of bread, drink, and flesh, at Christmas, and a proportion of bread, butter, and drink, at Easter, yearly. When rent came into Lord Clancarthy in such gross and live forms as cattle, accompanied by loads of merchandise, to the pre-emption of which when landed at his seaports this chieftain was entitled, the arrival might have been announced to him like that of the bulky tribes the poet wrote of.

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