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|Land and Lineage:
The McEnerhinys of Ballysallagh in the Sixteenth Century
By Luke McInerney
Ballysallagh East has been identified as the principal abode of the McEnerhiny sept in the sixteenth century. The McEnerhinys, with a historic genealogical connection to the ruling Mac Conmara Fionn clan, were among the leading freeholders of the West Clann Chuiléin lordship with a sizable sept-estate in one of the most fertile districts in Thomond. Documentary evidence gives credence to the suggestion that the sept had some historic connection, perhaps originally as an ‘erenagh lineage’, to the termon lands in Kilnasoolagh parish, though what form this constituted is difficulty to now quantify.
The survival of primary documentation allows a micro-study to be undertaken into the inheritance of the McEnerhinys. The tussle over sept-lands was typically a high stakes game and the killing of Loghlen McEnerhiny in 1573 had all the trappings of a traditional dispute—employment of a galloglass mercenary, kinship as a determinant in landholding and the precarious position of a minor heir. Reading between the lines it is possible to also comment that there existed a powerful incentive for deirbhfhine kinsmen on the margins of eligibility to act opportunistically and displace a young heir. In this context, it should be remembered that the capacity for conflict over land was never far from the surface in sixteenth century Ireland and the general propensity of low-level anarchy in late medieval lordships—especially those under stress from external threats—goes a long way in explaining violent outcomes.
This survey began by describing the sources
employed in developing a more complete picture of a sept-lineage. While
research into sixteenth century Gaelic lordships has come a long way over
the last few decades, much remains to be done. New information can be
revealed by dedicated scholarship that is regional-specific and which
can provide a nuanced account of landholding and lineage: two topics fundamental
in understanding Gaelic lordships. This under-explored topic presents
the historian a fertile base in which to develop a specific line of enquiry
into continuity and change in Gaelic lordships and how this manifested
at the local level.
McEnerhiny land dispute: