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The West Clann Chuiléin Lordship in 1586: Evidence from a Forgotten Inquisition
By Luke McInerney

Structure of the West Clann Chuiléin Lordship in 1586

In Clare, the first series of inquisitions were held on the lands of Gaelic magnates well disposed to the New-English administration. The system spelt the end of Gaelic land tenure including the custom of ‘gavelkind’ – partible inheritance – after the first inquisition post mortem was held in November 1577. [32] The purpose of an inquisition post mortem was to determine by a sworn jury, what revenues, if any, escheated to the crown on the death of a freeholder and what was the status of the land tenure in question.[33] The inquisition dealt with here was not an inquisition post mortem as it was taken during the lifetime of John McNamara at the Court of the Exchequer at Galway. The inquisition was likely to have been drawn up as part of the inquiries into the landholding arrangements that prevailed in Thomond for the 1585 composition agreement.

Inquisitions were an important tool of the new-English administration and a powerful means of extending political patronage. The establishment of English law and administration in the lordships in Clare came about after Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy, progressed through Thomond in February 1576 and abolished the ancient customs of ‘Coigny, Kernetty and Bonaght’ and forced Conor O’Brien, the third Earl of Thomond, to acquiesce authority for the earldom to the new English administration.[34 The intervening period between 1576 and 1585 saw a transition in landholding by Gaelic freeholders as English common law began to erode, and replace, brehon law.

The 1585 composition sought to replace charges and military exactions that Irish lords and English garrisons imposed on the provinces, by converting them into a rentcharge levied on land.[35] This process was part of a wider push of spreading English law that sought to diminish the Gaelic magnates’ authority and encourage local sept-heads to pursue freeholder status and break the patron-client dependence that they had with their overlords.[36] The 1585 composition agreement cajoled the Gaelic gentry to be fully enmeshed in feudal land tenure and it set out what lands were held free from crown rent and limited traditional impositions of dues and taxes over freeholders.[37] It is therefore notable that John McNamara refused to sign it.[38] Between 1585 and 1589 John McNamara complained to the English administration of the unfair nature of the composition agreement and the empowerment of Donough O’Brien in his position as Earl of Thomond. McNamara’s grievance was related to the Earl’s encroachment upon his lands and the Earl’s connection to the influential houses of Kildare and Ormond.[39]

John McNamara was the son of Teige McNamara who died in 1571. This lineage of the McNamaras were styled ‘Mac Conmara Fionn, Lords of West Clann Chuiléin’ and had their residence at the castles of Knappogue and Dangan-i-viggin.[40] John McNamara tenaciously held onto his status as clan chieftain until his death in 1602.[41] The inquisition document dated 27 January 1585 (recte 1586) is of great historical value as it shows that the lordship of West Clann Chuiléin was stratified in its social divisions, and its administration by the ruling McNamara clan had parallels to feudalist methods of indirect rule. This situation grew out of the development of tribute-raising from vassalsepts after the McNamara emerged victorious in the wars against the Anglo-Normans of Tradraighe in the early fourteenth century, and their subsequent colonisation of the Uí Bloid lands of east Clare.[42] The inquisition details a virtual ‘who’s who’ in the lordship and identifies the principal vassals of the McNamara.

The inquisition begins by stating the jurors, ‘by vertue of their othes [oaths] said that John mcNemarrae otherwise called mcNemarra Fynn cheife of his name is lawful and next heire to his Father Teige’. In typical fashion the jurors’ names were listed hierarchically, as would be expected in status-conscious Gaelic society. We find ‘Donogh mcClanchy of the Ownlyne’,[43] ‘Mahowne mcEnerhin of Ballysallaghe’[44] and ‘Sollo O Molchoyne of Ballyolchoyne’[45] cited as the first three jurors. As expected, representatives of hereditary service clans penned their names: ‘Donyll O Hickye of Ballyhickye’,[46] ‘Ilund O Molchonre of Ardkyll’[47] and ‘Donyll mcClanchy of Kyllen’.[48] Missing from the line-up of jurors, but mentioned in the text are ‘Connor Ballowe O roddan’ and ‘Loghlin Reoghe O roddane’, representatives of the O’Roddan ‘stewardmarshal’ sept[49] that formed part of the tribute-collecting apparatus of the lordship.[50] Also mentioned were representatives of the ‘O lyedane’ (O’Liddy)[51] and ‘O Mollowne’ (O’Moloney)[52] clans who historically were important lineages in the lordship.

The jurors can be divided into three categories. Predictably, two members of the learned brehon clan McClanchy (Mac Flannchadha) are represented and the list is headed by ‘Donogh mcClanchy’ indicating his role as leading juror and paralleling his status in the social order. Other members of the secular Gaelic literati included one member of the noted poets and chroniclers, the ‘O Molchonre’ (Uí Mhaoilchonaire) of Ardkyle,[53] and a member of the hereditary physician sept of ‘O Hickye’ (Uí hIceada). In the second category were the large freeholders that had a measure of independence in the lordship. These included three members of the McEnerhine’ (Mac an Oirchinnigh) sept based in Kilnasoolagh parish,[54] one ‘O Molchoyne’ (Uí Mhaoilchaoine) and several members of various ‘mac Conmarrae’ (Mac Conmara) branches.[55] The third category are harder to identify but appear to be important tenant-vassals such as ‘Connor McGylleduffe of Ballynegreggy’[56] and the two ‘O mongevans’ (Uí Mongabháin)[57] of Roynannae (Rineanna) and Leamenehe (Leamaneigh).

Evidence from the inquisition indicates the stratified nature of the lordship. The McNamaras employed hereditary service clans to collect tribute and perform administrative functions. While the inquisition stated ‘land which belongeth to mcNemarrae was and is holden by English tenure’ the daily functioning of the lordship, and the raising of revenue, was undertaken by the O’Roddans. We know from other documents that the O’Roddans served as tribute-collecting stewards of the McNamara – a point confirmed by the testimony of the two O’Roddans in the inquisition.

The sept-lands
Evidence points to a hierarchy in landholding that determined the distribution of wealth among vassal-septs. While landholding patterns do not neatly fall into three categories, we can speculate that the lordship was characterized by land occupied by (1) freeholding septs; the (2) mensal land of chieftain John McNamara Fionn; and the (3) demesne lands of McNamara sept branches.[58]

The land of the freeholding septs were distributed in various parishes. A concentration of sept-land can be found in Tradraighe, though the pattern is not absolute. Using ownership analysis from the 1641 Books of Survey of Distribution it is clear that during this later period ownership of these lands was mixed but most freeholders recorded in 1641 were not McNamaras. Cautiously, if we apply this assumption retrospectively to 1586, the land of the freeholding septs were not overly infiltrated by McNamara kinsmen, but largely controlled by members of vassals-septs.

The inquisition document shows that the lands of the freeholding septs were extensive and totaled around 142 quarters out of over 287 quarters of land that comprised the lordship.[59] The total acreage can be estimated at 17,803 statute acres (11,127 Irish acres) excluding 1,520 statue acres where uncertainty existed on the rent owed.[60] These were the lands that ‘McNemarrae and his ancestors yearly Received and tooke up the Rent and Dutye resyted and sett downe upon the quarters of land’. Most of these lands comprised the patrimonial sept-land of vassal-septs. The main vassal-septs were independent of the McNamara Fionn in the sense that they were not his direct tenants. Rather, they owed him rent and duties – what is known as ‘lordship rights’. This exchange underpinned the structure of lordship and was the basis of its existence. The main septs that fell into this category included the McClancys, McEnerhinys, O’Mulconrys, O’Hickeys and the Cusacks. These septs’ patrimonial lands – as identified from their recording in 1641 – were enumerated in the inquisition document.

The lands of the McMahons at Clenagh in Kilconry parish were recorded but it is understood that they were generally under the suzerainty of the McMahon lordship of Corca Baiscinn.[61] The sept-lands of other important septs such as the O’Roddans,[62] O’Liddys[63] and O’Moloneys[64] were not returned in the inquisition, while the estate of the O’Mulqueenys at Ballymulqueeny in Templemaley was recorded under the category of ‘always frely acquited lands dischardged of and from all rents and demands of the said mcNemara’. From this complicated mix it is possible to distill several key points.

Cross referencing lands in the inquisition that fall under the category of owing rents and duties to John McNamara, to a 1622 inquisition which lists lands claimed by Donough McNamara Fionn of Dangan-i-viggin against the Earl of Thomond, we find that 34 of the 50 lands claimed fall under this category.[65] This relationship between those lands recorded as owing rents and duties to John McNamara in 1586 to the lands claimed by Daniel, the son of John McNamara in 1622, supports the view that these lands constituted the ‘lordship lands’ that the McNamara Fionn exacted rents from but did not own outright. In the intervening period between 1586 and 1622, the McNamara Fionn lost the right to levy rents over these lands to the Earl of Thomond.

In terms of size, the most important were the sept-estates of the McEnerhinys and McClancys in Kilnasoolagh and Kilmaleery parishes. The McEnerhiny estate is recorded as comprising two quarters at ‘Ballysallagh mcEnerhine’ which owed 6s and 8d sterling. The McClancy estate which comprised the quarter of ‘Horlonn’ (Urlan) owed 6s 8d sterling, and the two quarters of Ballysallagh (west) owed 7s and 10d sterling and 8 ‘pecks of otts [oates] whereof the quarter of Horlonnbege [Urlan Beg] is to pay a third parte’.[66] These were two important freeholding septs that owed a fixed rent to the McNamara Fionn.

The line-up of jurors in the inquisition makes it clear that the McClancys as brehon lawyers were the most important freeholding sept in the lordship, followed by the McEnerhinys who held a large compact estate in Kilnasoolagh parish and provided three jurors to the inquisition.[67] Next in importance was probably the O’Mulconrys whose patrimony at Ardkyle in Feenagh parish where they kept a school of history was recorded as subject to McNamara’s rent but uncertainty existed as to the amount. This was also true of the O’Hickeys of Ballyhickey in Clooney parish whose rents and duties were also uncertain, perhaps because the services that these two hereditary service clans performed were compensated through granting of immunities from rents and tribute, a common arrangement that existed in Gaelic lordships.[68] Lands of minor freeholding septs such as the Cusacks at Urboll (Whybogh)[69] in Killeely parish, and the O’Hurneys at Keevagh in Quin parish, were also recorded as yielding rents to John McNamara. Given that our identification of the location of septs is dependent on the parish returns in the 1641 Books of Survey and Distribution, it is probable that other septs held land in ‘freehold’ in 1586 but subsequently declined in fortune and are not recorded in 1641.[70]

The absence of a contemporary list of freeholders in 1586 means that we are reliant on the 1641 returns as a point of comparison. Despite the obvious limitations with this approach, the broad socio-political hierarchy can be reconstructed. The chiefly household of the McNamara based at Quin parish was at the apex of the social hierarchy with landed interests and collateral branches dispersed throughout the barony of Bunratty. The major freeholding vassal-septs held compact estates at the baile level. This comprised the McClancys, McEnerhinys, O’Hickeys and O’Mulconrys and probably some lands of the O’Moloneys whose main estate was under the lordship of the McNamara Reagh in East Clann Chuiléin. The O’Roddans could be included in this group given their hereditary role as steward-marshals, however their lands cannot be identified. Below this tier were lesser freeholding septs such as the O’Liddys who appeared to have declined in status over the middle ages, and the Cusacks and O’Hurneys.[71] An underclass of subinfeuded cultivators existed on the lands of these freeholding septs, some of who were members of the displaced Uí Bloid clans.[72]

The lands that yielded rents and duties to John McNamara as the lord of West Clann Chuiléin also included obligations of service in lieu of rent. For example, a freeholder at Moyhi, an island near Limerick, was ‘bound to maintaine and keape a cott or a boat upon his own […] cost and chardgs to ferre the said mcNemarrae and his providgion up and down to Ryver of Sheannen’. The lordship resembled a hybrid-feudal mix that can been seen emerging in other late medieval Gaelic lordships. The use of fixed monetary payments assessed on the productivity of quarters – the basic property unit in Gaelic Ireland – along with rents payable in kind such as services (eg maintaining a boat on the Shannon), indicates sophistication in revenue collection and points to a level of complexity in assessing the rental levy on vassal septs.

The monetary assessments of over 287 quarters of land mentioned in the inquisition points to a deepening of monetary exchange rather than barter in Gaelic lordships, as well as a developed tribute collecting apparatus.[73] There appears to be no relationship between higher rent charges and certain sept-lands, though it does appear that the ten denominations that paid oats were all located in Tradraighe.[74] Moreover, even the high-status McClancy brehons were required to pay oats on their lands at Ballysallagh West and Horlonnbeg (Urlan Beg), while McEnerhiny freeholders who occupied ‘Ballysallagh mcEnerhine’ (Ballysallagh East) were exempt.

Overall the logic behind the computation of rents levied on various quarters must have been based on the agricultural potential of land as no pattern can be discerned from the inquisition; suffice to say that the highest rents were paid out of Ballyallia in Templemaley parish (24s 8d sterling) and Clenaghbeg in Kilmaleery parish (26s 8d sterling), reflecting a generalised geographical spread of rents levied on the freeholding septs of West Clann Chuiléin.

Demesne Lands
The second form of land tenure recorded in the inquisition document are lands described as ‘the lawful and proper inheritance of the said John mcNemarrae’. These comprised of around 321/4 quarters (6,446 statute acres or 4,029 Irish acres)[75] and constitute the demesne lands. The division between demesne lands and mensal lands is difficult to discern, but the high proportion of McNamara kinsmen holding these lands identified in 1641 may indicate that the lands were the demesne lands of the McNamara Fionn clan and populated by McNamara sept branches. That the inquisition does not list the rent payable out of these quarters suggests that non-fixed food-rents and services were collected from these lands. Essentially, the demesne lands were occupied by tenants of equivalent status as the rent-paying freeholder septs, except for differing
tenurial conditions.[76]

The demesne lands were scattered throughout the lordship and do not conform to any geographical locus. It can be speculated that these lands formed the ballybetagh[77] estate of the McNamara Fionn and was where McNamara collateral branches resided.[78] However, they are notably absent in Kilraghtis, Templemaley and Doora parishes. This cluster of parishes in the historical division of Upper Clann Chuiléin (Cloinne Chuiléin Uachtaraighe) was the original túath where the McNamara Lord’s of Uí Caisín had their chief seat prior to the fourteenth century.[79] The absence of demesne lands amongst these parishes suggests that those demesne lands that owed John McNamara unspecified food-rents, service and ‘hospitality rights’ were the residence of collateral McNamara septs. These septs consolidated their estates further from the historic ‘core’ of the lordship in Upper Clann Chuiléin on the former territories of the Anglo-Normans and their Uí Bloid allies in Tradraighe and Uí Cearnaigh after 1318. Over time these collateral McNamara branches gained a measure of autonomy from the chiefly McNamara lineage, ensuring separate tenurial arrangements.

The inquisition document also states that ‘mcNemarres ancestors had alway[s] toward[s] the mariadge of every of their eldest daughters upon the whole Barrony the number of vixx cowes or for every cowe xxxd st. in mony’. This custom is reminiscent of feudal practices of financing dowries for dynastic marriages. The practice is suggestive of the ambition of the McNamara Fionn in securing alliances through matrimonial diplomacy.

The Mensal Lands
The inquisition sets down a third form of land tenure. A list of seventeen lands constituted the mensal estate of the lordship. The lands would have been attached to the position of McNamara Fionn. The inquisition document hints at the semi-feudalised arrangements that prevailed and the ‘chiefly right’ that a McNamara tighearna had over these lands: ‘the tounes or villadgs herafter ensuinge were bound to Keape and Beare the said mcNemarres horses and boyes with sufficient horsmeate and boyesmeate every Christmas and Ester when he Kepte any of the said feasts at his Howse or toune of the Degen’. Majority of the lands situated in the parishes of Clooney, Templemaley or Kilraghtis, in what was the traditional patrimony of the McNamara. This contrasted to the demesne lands, which mainly located in other parishes of the lordship. The reference here to ‘horsmeate’ and ‘boysmeate’ was a common exaction imposed by Gaelic lords over their tenants on mensal lands and formed an important element in feeding the chiefly household. These arrangements also provided the McNamara a fixed supply of food that directly supported his household, as indicated by the reference to ‘feasts at his Howse or toune of the Dengen’.[80]

The McNamara Fionn’s residence at Dangan-i-viggen in Quin parish served as the centre of the lordship. The inquisition also noted that the McNamara Fionn held ‘Cowrtes Barron’ – his manor court – at Dangan. This situation has strong feudal parallels in terms of the chieftain’s principal residence being the nerve-centre of the lordship and a place where hospitality was provided and judgments made. The reference to McNamara’s ‘kearntyes and huntesmen’ having ‘certain Dutys upon certiaine qrs of Land…untyll…cott off by statute’ suggests that the household troops of the McNamara Fionn – ‘kerntyes’(ceitherne)[81] – were billeted on the lucht tighe lands of the lordship. The custom was likely to have been extinguished by English law after its introduction in Clare in 1577.

In addition to the seventeen land denominations listed as bound to render foot-rents to the horses and boys (attendants) of McNamara Fionn, the inquisition stated that ‘mcNemarra hath of his owne Inherytance in the toune of Qwyne the nomber of iiixx tenements and gardinge plots’. These must have also comprised part of the mensal estate that was attached to John McNamara’s office as chief; and if we take all these references together it leaves the impression that the mensal estate of the chief of the McNamara Fionn was confined to Upper Clann Chuiléin. No Tradraighe parishes are enumerated in the list. Of the seventeen lands listed sixteen can be identified. According to the 1641 Books of Survey and Distribution these totaled 4,624 statute acres (2,890 Irish acres).

The mensal lands of the McNamara Fionn provided for his personal estate and were relatively extensive. However, the economy of the lordship was not simply based on food exactions from the mensal or lucht tighe lands. The levying of fixed rent charges on the lands of freeholding vassal-septs, and the less defined rents and foodstuffs exacted from the demesne lands of McNamara kinsmen, also contributed to the tribute that sustained lordship. This tribute was used to sustain McNamara hegemony and create patron-client links with kin and non-kin in order to control territory through local ‘nodes’ of power. This system operated as McNamara kin held land in each túatha, even in those traditionally associated with other septs. Tribute was used to perform the functions of lordship that included patronage of important freeholders such as poets and genealogists who legitimised McNamara suzerainty over subject clans, and brehon judges who codified legal agreements and arbitrated disputes. The McNamara developed an increasingly feudalistic outlook as they consolidated their position in the later middles ages and expanded the patronage of churches and received tolls from markets and revenue from trade monopolies.[82]

We cannot be sure which septs populated the mensal lands but evidence from other lordships indicates that those tenants that dwelt on the mensal lands were subject to the burden of heavy tribute. An example here are the McClunes who occupied Carrowgeare in Quin parish in 1641 and which comprised part of the inheritance of John McNamara.[83] The McClunes occupied the lower tier of the social hierarchy as they were not a hereditary service clan but rather a ‘tenant-sept’ on the mensal estate of the clan chieftain.[84] However, they were significant enough to be mentioned as small freeholders in 1641. The mensal estate of John McNamara in 1641 was worked by a mix of tenantsepts and an underclass of propertyless cottiers who evade mention in contemporary records.[85]

Comparison with the freeholders recorded in 1641 reveals that part of the mensal lands were occupied by hereditary service clans under privileged tenurial conditions. These included the O’Hickey physicians of Ballyhickey in Clooney parish, McBrody historians at Ballyogan in Kilraghtis parish, and the O’Neylan hereditary medical clan who occupied Ballyallia and Ballymacahill in Kilraghtis parish.[86] These clans rendered important services to the ruling McNamara and occupied a position of high-status in the lordship. It was common for chiefly families to settle important followers and hereditary service clans on their mensal estates – or lucht tighe lands – and this is probably the reason why a high proportion of these clans occupied the aforesaid lands.

We know from an inquisition taken in August 1624 that when John McNamara Fionn died on 28 February 1602 he was the owner of Dangan and Knappogue, as well as a water mill and gardens and two-thirds of the tolls and customs of Quin, among other lands.[87] These lands were the core lands of John McNamara’s mensal estate and as clan chief he had access to the trade revenue from Quin, bolstering his monopoly position in local markets. This underscores the feudalized nature of the lordship as a system of regulated trade. The McNamara lordship was founded on a clan system of kinship and dependence which sustained the preeminent position of the chiefly McNamara lineage at Dangan. The system increasingly relied on income from monopolized trade and regulated markets from the late middles ages as the McNamara chiefs embraced elements of the feudal economy and took advantage of their strategic location between the mercantile cities of Limerick and Galway.[88]

The Free Demesne Lands
The 1586 inquisition details a list of 63 land denominations, which constituted 103 quarters and totaled 17,254 statue acres (10,784 Irish acres).[89] These lands were ‘freely acquited and dischardged of and from all rents and demandes’. It is impossible to identify the tenurial arrangements with certainty, but the fact that some of these lands were reserved for ecclesiastical use (eg. ‘Clonloghline’ 1 qrt; ‘Kymaliere’ 1 qrt; ‘Kyllanesowlaghe’ 1 qrt; ‘Carrowdorane’ 1 qrt)[90] and that some of the lands listed were those of the high-status hereditary service clans, suggests that these lands constituted the demesne lands of the lordship.[91]

It is not known whether these lands differed in tenure to the previous list of demesne lands predominately populated by McNamara sept-branches. The lands were freely acquitted of rents and demands and so such tenurial conditions may point to these lands being occupied by freeholders who owed unspecified services. Few demesne lands were located in Kilmurry-na-gall or Kilfinaghta parishes possibly on account of the Earl of Thomond holding lands in these parishes. Also, some of the lands probably overlapped with the lordship of East Clann Chuiléin, whose chiefly family were the McNamara Reagh based at Mountallon.

This second list of demesne lands that were free from tribute may have included an estate for the tánaiste of John McNamara Fionn. It was not until August 1585 that chieftains had to abolish the ‘names styles and titles of captainships, tanistships and all other Irish authorities and jurisdictions...together with all elections and customary divisions of land’ (spelling modernised).[92] Therefore this extensive list of 103 quarters may have encompassed the tánaiste estate.[93] A comparison of the 63 land denominations with the 1641 Books of Survey and Distribution suggests that less than a third were in the proprietorship of McNamara freeholders. While there is a limit as to how much can be extrapolated from the 1641 Books of Survey and Distribution, the fact that the Earl of Thomond and other septs held majority of these lands in 1641 is suggestive of these lands comprising part of the lordship’s demesne, rather than mensal, estate. The nature of the tenure is, however, difficult to ascertain. The ecclesiastical lands in the Kilnasoolagh, Kilmaleery and Clonloghan parish cluster were held by episcopal tenure and belonged to the bishopric of Killaloe. We could expect that ecclesiastical lands were farmed by hereditary tenants attached to the church lands and under the stewardship of a local erenagh.[94]

The point that these lands were freely acquitted and discharged from all rents and demands clearly indicated that the lands held some status in the lordship. Analysis of these lands show that two were the patrimonies of the high-status service clans such as Ballyallia (sept-lands of the medical O’Neylan sept) and Ballyhicky-by-west (sept-lands of the physician O’Hicky sept). Ballyallia and Ballyhicky also feature in the towns and villages who owed John McNamara rents and services and which probably comprised his mensal lands, so their inclusion as free lands is ambigious, perhaps suggesting special tenurial arrangements. Other septs that occupied these demesne lands in 1641 (and presumably in 1586) included the O’Mulqueenys at ‘Ballymulchyne’ in Templemaley parish, O’Neylans at ‘Roslovan’ in Kilraghtis parish and McEnerhinys at ‘Dowre’ in Templemaley parish and at ‘Lysconnogher’ at Clonloghan. The mixed nature of these lands could indicate overlap between demense lands and those of the freeholding septs.

The free-lands do not conform to any particular geographical pattern but are dispersed throughout the lordship. This suggests that the lands constitued part of the demesne estate of the McNamara Fionn and were exempt from fixed rent. The extensive nature of these lands, and the fact that few service clans were settled on them, allows us to conclude that whatever the tenurial conditions that prevailed, these were separate to the mensal estate of the McNamara Fionn.

Overlordship: Earl of Thomond
The final tier of lands enumerated in the inquisition document were lands ‘subjected to the Erles rent Chardg’. These lands owed a rent to Donough O’Brien, fourth Earl of Thomond, who claimed revenue from these lands as ‘his ancestors had recieved and tooke up a yearly rent Chardge upon certaine quarters of land’. These lands consisted 19 land denominations that totaled approximately 26 quarters and 8,624 statue acres (5,390 Irish acres).[95] The majority situated in Tradraighe. Many of these lands were owned by the Earl of Thomond in 1641, suggesting that the lordship of the lands had passed from the McNamara Fionn to the Earl before 1622 as five of these lands were claimed by the then McNamara Fionn in that year as under his lordship, hinting that the Earl of Thomond had usurped the rents from these lands.[96]

The imposition of rent on these lands was in line with other Gaelic lordships where traditionally the provincial king – the rí ruirech – demanded rent from Gaelic magnates and often kept a demesne in every túatha of the subject lordship. The inquisition also stated that the ‘Erles ancestors upon the decease of every mcNemarrae had and received a kind of duty called borowe, which is a certaine nomber of Cowes taken by complusary meanes, or for every Cowe xxxd’. This is clear reference to the boroimhe, or cattletribute, famously imposed by Brian Ború in the eleventh century to assert his suzerainty and from which coined his name.[97] A residual collection of this tribute was still extant in 1586, though its conversion into a monetary sum hints at the increasingly monetised economy of the lordship.

The inquisition document alludes to the imposition of ‘bonought’ on McNamara lands in the event of a ‘rysing owte’ against the Earl’s enemies. One footman upon every quarter of inhabited land in the lordship was to be supplied with victuals for two days and the cost borne by McNamara. The potential for resistance to this imposition was partly mitigated by the division of responsibility: ‘but if they were to stay any longer than ii days, then the said Erle was not onely bound to find them meate and drinke upon his owne Chardge but also to give mcNemarrae a lyinge [ie ‘cuddie’ or payment] for every such tyme’. The Earl of Thomond was also bound to give McNamara a third of all war booty captured. While it is difficult to estimate how militarised the West Clann Chuiléin lordship was, a document written forty years earlier in c.1540 assessed the military strength of McNamara and the Earl of Thomond. The document recorded ‘McNemarry, lord of Clinchollan 200 h[orse], 1b[attle of galloglass] and DC [600] k[ern]’.[98] The estimated military strength of the ‘lord of Thoumound’, Murrough O’Brien, was ‘200 h[orse], 2 b[attles of galloglass] and DC [600] k[ern]’.[99]

The McNamara had consolidated their position in east Clare in the late Middle Ages and were the principal vassal of the O’Brien kings of Thomond. The McNamara, however, experienced a lessening of influence after Murrough O’Brien, as part of Henry VIII’s ‘Surrender and Regrant policy’, relinquished his former Gaelic title for that of Earl in 1543. The ability to muster vassal clans for military service and billet troops on vassals was an essential requisite in imposing authority by Gaelic rulers. As the position of the O’Briens strengthened during the sixteenth century this obligation – which resembled feudalism despite the fact that the McNamara did not hold their lands by right of military service - also strengthened. We can estimate that in 1586 the McNamara Fionn was required to raise around 300 foot-soldiers to support the Earl of Thomond’s military campaigns.[100]

Summary of Landholding in the Lordship
The West Clann Chuiléin lordship rested on three tiers of landholding. These included the lands of the freeholding septs who paid a rent and, in some instances, food-rents to the chieftain of the McNamara Fionn. While their historical independence from the ruling McNamara lineage meant that their tribute was fixed and lands separate from the lordship’s demesne lands, they were an essential part of the lordship as the McNamara extended his ‘lordship’ over them – ie. right to claim a chief rent from certain quarters and military service on behalf of the Earl of Thomond. As a result of the composition agreement in August 1585, the McNamaras lost their lordship rights to take rents from these lands as in 1622 Daniel (Domhnall) McNamara Fionn of Dangan-i-viggin claimed a great many of these denominations from the Earl of Thomond.[101]

The second tier comprised the demesne inheritance of the McNamara Fionn and was heavily populated by junior McNamara sept branches. These freeholders probably owed food-rents and services but this is not specified in the inquisition. In the later section of the inquisition an extensive (second) list of demesne lands is recorded though it is now difficult to ascertain whether the tenurial condition there differed from the first list of demesne lands. Amongst these lands four quarters belonged to the bishopric of Killaloe and presumably owed a chief rent, or foodstuffs, to the Bishop of Killaloe.

The third tier of lands in the lordship were the mensal lands of the McNamara Fionn. These lands were attached to his chieftaincy and directly provided foodstuffs to the ruling household. On the mensal lands were settled the O’Hickey, O’Neylan and McBrody hereditary professional families. The mensal lands were the most compact of the three types and confined to parishes in Upper Clann Chuiléin. In addition, the McNamara Fionn also received duties from trade in the villages that fell within his lordship and had the right to billet his kerns (foot-soldiers) and huntsmen upon certain lands in the lordship, as well as the right of lodgings for his retinue on the mensal lands.[102]

Over and above these three tiers of land were the over-lordship rights of the Earl of Thomond. The Earl claimed rents from 26 quarters of land, many of which located in Tradraighe, near the ancestral mensal lands of the O’Brien kings and in close proximity to the fourth Earl of Thomond’s manor-house at Bunratty.[103] In this context, the Earl of Thomond was asserting his traditional privilege as the rí ruirech and right to collect tribute from his vassal uirríthe, the McNamara Fionn. The reference to the Earl receiving, by compulsory means, a tribute of cows or boroimhe on the death of a McNamara chieftain alludes to a separate tribute-raising system that the Earl employed. This picture presents a hierarchical division of lordship whereby the Earl of Thomond asserted his right to levy tribute on the lands of vassals and enforced this with a parallel administrative system that used coercive means when necessary. As the main Gaelic loyalist in North Munster, the fourth Earl of Thomond greatly strengthened his position over subordinate chieftains like the McNamara Fionn and significantly encroached on their traditional patrimonies. The Earl conveniently used his position as an English-appointed Earl to assert his authority; though he was careful to still patronise Gaelic poets who acted as his propagandists.[104]

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Nomenclature Evidence
from the 1586 Inquisition