On Some Irish Land Deeds

“The President read a paper on some ancient Irish deeds.

These deeds are mostly in the Irish language and character, of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. They are of the nature of deeds of mortgage, wills, covenants, deeds of arbitration, indentures, deeds of partition, conveyance of land; and some of them are Brehon Law judgements.

No. 1 – Is dated A.D. 1450, and also by the local historical fact, “”the year in which Donoch O’Brien died.””
It is a deed of mortgage by deed poll, but differs from our modern deeds of mortgage in that it does not convey the lands. It consists of five parts. In Part I. it is recited that Donnell oge O’Kearney had possession of the lands of Ballymote, or rather a half quarter of them, for a debt due to him by the owners, Teige Mac Sida (Mac Sheedy), [Mac Namara], and his son. But Teige and his son seem to have been in debt to Donoch O’Brien [first Earl of Thomond ?], whose bailiffs entered the lands of Ballymote, then in the possession of Donnell Oge O’Kearney, and carried three valuable mares. Arbitrators were appointted, and Teige Mac Sheedy and his son were condemned to pay five marks to O’Kearney. As security for these five marks, Mac Sheedy, the son, mortgages a half quarter of Ballymote to O’Kearney.

In Part II. it is stated that Mac Sheedy, the son, had been murdered by Donnell Oge Mac Namara, but had by his will left his property to his brother and chief, Donnell Derg [or the red], subject to the debts due to O’Kearney.

Part III. is a further mortgage. Donnell Derg, and the two sons of Lochlainn O’Curry, had stolen two pigs from O’Kearney ; an arbitration was agreed to, and a fine of half a mark given for the pigs, with three ‘unigee as costs, and one ‘uinge’ as a twelfth, or umpires’ fees. To meet these charges, Donnell Derg mortgages the lands to the amount of one mark. These facts enable ns to fix the price of pigs in that golden age in Ireland. The mark was two-thirds of £1, or 13s. 4d., and consequently the two pigs, being valued at half a mark, were worth 3s. 4d. each. The other half mark was equal to four’ uinge’, or ounces, and one ‘uing’e is called ‘the twelfth’ i.e. the twelfth of a pound [of gold ?]. An ‘uinge’ must, therefore, have been 1s. 8d.

Part IV. The pig transaction does not seem to have permanently broken friendship between O’Kearney and Donnell Derg; for the former appears to have lent the latter a sum of money, secured by a further mortgage on the lands.

Part V. Donnell Derg, however, engaged in gambling, but lost eight marks, and his person appears to have been seized by Hugh Roe Mac Namara, and Owen of the Money, the successful gamblers. He was ransomed by Teige Mac Donnell Mac Namara, who gave a good steed for him to the gamblers; so that the price of a good steed in those days-was about £5 6s. 8d Mac Namara, however, owed O’Kearney one ‘uinge’ of gold and six marks for three milch cows; and the rescued gambler, Donnell Derg, mortgaged his lands still further to the prudent O’Kearney, to discharge this portion of his debt to Mac Namara. The lands concerned in this document are situated near Sixmilehridge, County of Clare, and the same remark applies to the next two deeds.

No. 2 – Is another deed, of the nature of a mortgage on the lands of Kill Fiontanain, dated August 11, 1612.

No. 3 – Is a statement of the debts or demands of Conor Mac Teige upon the clan Mac Craith, out of the lands of the Lower Corbally. (No date.)

No. 4. – The will of Mortogh Mac Mahon, written after his death by the testamentary priests who were present at his death-bed; it is little more than an acknowledgment of his debts due to Donn Mac Gorman. ( Not dated). He appears to have lived in the neighbourhood of Kilrush, County of Clare.

No. 5. – A deed of mortgage (1549), on the lands of Donnell Oge O’Kearney (see No. 1), to Mac Con Mac Lochlainn, son of Sida [M’Namara). (The date shows that the Donnell Oge O’Kearney here mentioned to have been the son or grandson of the personage mentioned in No. 1.]

No. 6.- An endrsement on No.5, dated also 1549, containing a power of redemption, and liberty to O’Kearney to carry off manure from the land, “”if there be manure upon it.””

No. 7. A deed of arbitration respecting the lands of Garry Orrtha, between Conor Mac Teige and Mac Craith Mac Teige, dated A.D., 1587.

No. 8.-An endorsement on the former, much obliterated.

No. 9.- A deed of indenture, dated 1551, conveying half the land and inheritance of Murchu, son of Conal’, son of Murchu, son of William, of Bally Sidhnoidh for ever, to Philip and Connor, the two sons of Conor son of Teige, and their heirs after them; and a sort of mortgage of the other half of his land to Philip and to Dermot, to whom Murchu promises to pay a rent, whenever “”he is able to sit in the land,”” and if not able “”to sit”” in it, then Philip and Dermot were to pay him a rent. This document is subscribed by Murchu O’Mulregan, Conor O’Dwyer, William O’Davoren, Shane O’Dwyer, and Philip O’Dwyer .

No. 10.- A mortgage, dated 1587, to Conor, son of Teige [O’Dwyer?] and Eogan, son of Donnell, on the lands of Matthew, son of Murchu [O’Mulregan ].

No. 11.-A mortgage, dated 1576, to Conor, son of Teige, son of William [O’Dwyer], on two-thirds of the lands of Dromainn-an-Chunna, from Matthew, son of Murchu, son of Conor [O’Mulregan). This deed contains two singular covenants :- lst. That Matthew is to have an invitation at Easter and Christmas, “”upon Conor, and upon Eoghan, son of Donnell.”” And 2nd. “”If it shall happen to Matthew to fall into poverty or distress, Conor and Eoghan are to give him food and clothing, Conor paying two-thirds, and Eoghan one-third, of the burthen, .and Matthew doing the utmost service to them on that account.””

No. 12.- A mortgage, not dated.

No. 13. – An endorsement on No. 12, dated 1531. These are of no particular interest, except that the payment is made in cows, and no mention made of money. The parties seem to belong to the same families of O’Dwyer and O’Mulregan, who are concerned in Nos. 9, 10, and 11. Nos. 7 to 13 inclusive relate to a district in the county of Tipperary, on the borders of the county of Limerick. “”

No. 14.-A deed in Latin, nearly obliterated.

No. 15.- A deed of arbitration, in Irish, dated 8th Oct. 1584, containing a very full and formal statement of the names of the parties concerned, the cause of controversy, and the decision of the arbitrators. The original is in Mr. Curry’s collection, and is a very remarkable and valuable specimen of a decree of arbitrators under the Brehon Law between two parties of the O’Kennedys of Lower Ormond, county of Tipperary.

No. 16.-This is very nearly in the form of a modern deed poll, dated 19th July, 1611. It is a lease for twenty-one years, of the western half of the lands of Moy Lacha, parish of Kiliush, barony of Clonderala, county of Clare, from Turloch Roe Mac Mahon, to Shane, son of Teige O’Gilltinane, and after the expiration of the term of twenty-one years, “”until redeemed by the payment of ten pounds of the crowned money of the Saxons, of good metal and pure silver.”” This deed contains a formal clause of re-entry, the appointment of a bailiff to give possession, and a covenant for peaceable possession. .

There is also a remarkable covenant in which Turloch Mac Mahon, the lessor, acknowledges himself bound “”to put this writing into the force of the law of the Saxon king, as the law adviser of the above Shane may advise.””

The originals of this and of the five following are in Mr. Curry’s collection.

No. 17.- A curious document, evidently founded· on Brehon Law, but not dated. It is a statement of certain personal and other injuries inflicted upon Teige, son of Sioda, or Mac Sheedy, by Fingin, son of Mac Con, and his family. It is a kind of bill of indictment.

No. 18 . – A deed of arbitration for certain injuries inflicted on Donnell, son of Rory, by the sons of Lochlainn, son of Fingin, son of Donnchadh [Mac Namara.] These personages appear to have lived in the neighbourhood of Cratloe (county of Clare); and the outrages which gave occasion to the arbitration were committed “”in the summer in which Murchadh O’Brien and Donnchadh O’Brien went to England.”” The deed was executed in 1550. Nos. 17 and 18 relate to the Mac Namaras mentioned in No. 1.

No. 19.-This document, dated 1591, is a curious compact, in which the descendants of Melachlainn O’Lochlainn of Ballymachane [in Burren, county of Clare], acknowledge themselves bound to Donnchadh O’Brien, by the terms of a compact made with their family by Connor, son of Turloch O’Brien, grandfather of the then Earl of Thomond. In this covenant they acknowledge themselves tenants of certain lands and vassals under the Earl; and he, on the other hand, concedes to them what would now be called tenant-right :- .. “”I, the Earl of Thomond, acknowledge upon my honour that I have promised that whenever lands or castles belonging to these people shall be brought to an end”” [meaning, it is presumed, by the expiration of their lease or tenancy], “” I will give them the appraisement of Boece [Mac Egan] and John O’Tierney and Eoghan O’Daly.””

No. 20.-A deed of partition, dated April 3, 1675, between Aedh and Cosney, the sons of Gillananoemh Oge O’Davoren, of certain lands of their ancestors, situate in the district of Burren, county of Clare. This document provides that if any part of the lands be lost to the parties, they are to balance the loss with each other, in the same way as in the original partition. Also, that neither party has a right to put away his portion in pledge or perpetuity, so that the other cannot redeem it; also, that if any part of the lands be in pledge, whoever is first able to redeem it shall hold it until redeemed by the other; and if one party shall fail to have heirs, the other shall succeed to his portion of the property. Lastly, that if there be any part of Aedh.’s land which he is unable to occupy, Cosney shall, if able, occupy it without let or hindrance from Aedh.

No. 21.-An agreement between Donnell Oge O’Kearney and Graine, daughter of Mac Con [Mac Namara). Donnell had a mortgage upon the lands of Graine [situate near Six-mile-bridge, county of Clare], to the amount of eleven ‘uinge,’. with a right to two free cows; the lady being advanced in years, gives up her rights and her lands to Donnell, on the condition that he supports her, with power to her son, and to him only, to redeem the lands after her death; but if there be manure or buildings on the lands, they shall be appraised and redeemed according to appraisement. Here is another recognition of tenant-right. This document is dated 1522.

No. 22-1s a copy of a deed, made by Mr. Curry from the original, in the British Museum (Egerton, No. 139, p. 179). It is an agreement dated 1510. Lochlainn Riabhach O’Mullona [Mullowney] mortgaged his lands to Shane O’Radan for four cows, in calf, and a good male pig; Shane O’Radan gives Connor O’Gleeson the privilege of having four cows on the land until it is redeemed.

No. 23.-This is a judgment of four Brehons in a controversy respecting land. The Brehons were of the family of O’Deoradan, Domhnall, Cathal Ferganainm, and Giolla Patrick; and the contending parties were, Gerald, son of Cathal Carrach; Brian, son of Murtoch; and Donnchadh, son of Crimhthan. Witnesses were examined upon oath, and the Brehons, acting upon their testimony, decide; and in an appendix to their decision minutely describe the boundaries of the land. The decision is as follows:- “”And in accordance with that”” [viz., the evidence], “”the Brehons gave it as a judgment that Gerald should have possession of the land, and that neither Teige nor Donnchadh should have any claim on it from that time forth. And the one-eighth part of the sheaf of that year was awarded to Donnchadh in payment for his labour.””

This decision is dated 1560, showing that the Brehon Law continued to be practised in some parts of Ireland to that period; and it can be proved to have continued at least 100 years later. The original is in the Library of Trinity College (H.. 3, 18, p. 455). The lands and parties mentioned in this document belonged to the county of Wexford.

No. 24. – Is a letter of confraternity, in Latin, granted by Patrick Culvyn, local Prior of Dublin, of the order of Friars Eremite of St. Augustine, to John Stackpoole, and Genet Gwyth, his wife. Dated 31st of August, 1507.

Dr. Todd then made some remarks on the historical and antiquarian value of the deeds described, and exhibited to the Academy some of the deeds, together with a MS. book containing transcripts (made by Mr. Curry for the University Library), in which the whole are written, without the contractions of the originals, and rendered accessible to ordinary readers of Irish.”

Comment: Taken from Irish Natural history Society Journal, Vol. VIII. Vol. VIII, 1858-1861. pp. 15-19. ‘on Some Ancient Irish Deeds.