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A Description of Thomond in 1574 by Edward White

Edward White’s Description of Thomond in 1574 by R.W. Twigge

As several incorrect versions of this State Paper (which contains a brief description of Connaught and Thomond, enumerating the several baronies, parishes, castles, and gentlemen therein) are current in Ireland and often quoted as of authority, it seems desirable that a correct copy of White’s description of the County of Clare, taken directly from the original document preserved in the Records Office, London (S.P.I., Eliz. xlv., 35, 1) should be printed in this Journal.

Sir George Carew, when in Ireland, collected many papers relating to native affairs, and possessed a copy of this Return, which is now among the Carew MSS. (611, p. 234) in Lambeth Palace. It is presumably from this inaccurate and defective copy that the account contained in MS. E. 2, 14, of Trinity College, Dublin, was taken. The latter was published in 1878 by the Rev. Edm. Hogan, S.J., in “A description of Ireland in 1598, etc.” (p. 124), and repeats the errors of MS. 611.

The authorship of this survey had been assigned to Sir Thomas Cusacke (d. 1571), but he sent his book on the State of Ireland to the Duke of Northumberland in 1553; and such statements can only refer to the fact that he was one of the Commissioners employed to make shire-ground of Connaught and Thomond.

The document here printed was compiled by Edward White shortly before March 1574, when it was forwarded by Sir Edward Fyton (Lord President of Connaught and Thomond, 1569-1572, and Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, 1573-1579) to Lord Burghley.

There is a letter from Fyton to Burghley, dated 27th March, 1573 (recte 1574) wherein he writes:

“……synce your Lordship requyred at my handes some notes of the Nobility and Gentlemen with declaracion of their countreys and castles…I have now as I could sent the same by this bearer Edward Whyte…not so perfect as I would wish…partly because sundry of the parishes and castles be so growen out of memorie…The said bearer hath been a doer in gathering the notes of Connaght…he speaketh the Spanish tongue very well: he understands also the French tongue as merchants use, and is indifferent ready with his penne…as for his owne tongue I mean th’ Irish he can both well write and speake it and interprete it; borne in the towne of Lymerik of good parentage and English nation.”

White evidently pleased the Lord High Treasurer of England, for in 1577 he was employed at Galway in the pay of the English government. (S.P. Ireland.)
Despite some omissions and verbal errors, his Description of Clare may be regarded as trustworthy. The correctness of the names of many of the gentry set down by him as owners of castles is confirmed by the despatches of the Earl of Ormond in 1570, when he was engaged in putting down the rebellion of the Earl of Thomond and took sureties for the good behaviour of the inhabitants of Clare. (S.P.I. Eliz. xxx. 68.)

[In the journal article, Edward White’s description of Thomond was placed here, followed by this paragraph:]

After the description of the County Roscomon, is the following paragraph:-

“The names of certain castles and towns within the county of Clare that were builded and erected by Englishmen: - Inshiquyn and Obrien’s Bridge, Inysh and Qwynhy, Clare and Bonratty. In old time these were good market towns and had English jurisdiction in them, and were governed by portriffes and other officers by authority of the King of England: but now they are all wasted and destroyed in a manner – saving the castles, and no part of the towns left but old houses of stone work, broken gates, and ruinous walls.”

It is needless to comment on the errors contained in the above statement, or to refer here to the state of ruin brought about by Elizabeth’s officials in the country.




Description of Thomond by Edward White