Recently, inspired by Irish Culture Night, I bought a copy of the O’Doyne manuscript, published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in the early 1980s. The manuscript itself is in Marsh’s Library, Ireland’s oldest public library, and is dominated by documents relating to the lengthy legal battle between Charles O’Doyne (Cathaoir Ó Duinn) and his older brother Thady (Tadhg), the sons of Tadhg Óg Ó Duinn, lord of Uí Riagáin (Iregan – now Tinnahinch in County Laois). Charles was a graduate of Oxford (BA, 1586 and MA, 1591) – “a good scholar and a zealous Protestant” – and was Master in Chancery from 1602. Thady appears to have been more settled in Ireland and whereas Charles had no heirs, Thady had at least ten children, mostly from his second marriage.
I was not aware, when I bought the book, that I had stumbled across a battle that was marking its 400th anniversary. Tadhg Óg Ó Duinn was lord of Iregan from 1558 to 1607. When he passed away, the fighting began. This day four hundred years ago, on the 26th of November 1608, Ireland’s Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester (whose portrait appears in this post), issued his verdict. Sir Arthur, incidentally, came over to Ireland after the death of his brother John during the Battle of Carrickfergus in 1597 – John was apparently decaptitated and his head used as a football by a potential ancestor of mine, Sorley Boy McDonnell (mooted progenitor of today’s M(a)cSorleys through his first marriage).
So, would Arthur choose between the zealous bachelor Charles or the father many-times-over Thady? Read on… what follows is the verbatim letter he wrote:
Letter Directing Attorney-General to draw up Fiant for Letters Patent. 26 November 1608.
By the Lord Deputie.
To the attorney general.
We greete yow well. Where the King’s most excellent Majestie by his highnes letters under the signet dated the 29th of July 1608 hath signified unto us his Majesties pleasure on the behalf of Capten Thady Doyne esquire Cheiffe of his name, that his highnes is graciouslie pleased in Consideration of the said Tady is good service heretofore done to his highnes to graunt unto the said Thady his heyres and assignes the Contry of Iregaine and all the lands, tenements, tythes and hereditaments therein and thereto belonginge and all fellons goods and deodands therein happeninge, to be held of his highnes, his heyres and successors in Free and Comon Soccadge as of his Majesties castle of Dublin. And further to graunt full power and authoritie unto the said Thady, his heyres and assignes at his and their will and pleasure to hould and keepe within the said Contry of Iregaine in such fitt places at such convenient time Courte Leete and Courte Barrons, marketts and Fayres, as to us shalbe thought fitt. Theise are therefore to will and requier yow forthwith to make a Fyant or Fyants in due forme of Lawe of the particuler appearinge under Mr. Surveyor’s hand in the scedule hereunto anexed, and all other lands of right the said Thady hath or ought to have in the said contrey of Iregaine, Tythes, felons goods, deodans, Fayres, marketts, and other the premisses unto the said Thady his heyres and assignes to be houlden of his highnes as aforesaid. Incertinge therein such further ordinary Clauses as in such letters Patents are usuall. And leavinge blanks for the times and places for the said Courts, Fayres, marketts. And such Fiant or fiants so made to send unto us fayer written ingrossed in parchment under your hand that wee maie give further order for passinge the same unto the said Thadye under the greate seale of this Realme. And for your doeinge thereof this shalbe your warrant.
Given at his Majesties Castle Dublin this 26th of November 1608.
So Chichester went with Thady, giving him ownership of the land, the right to host markets and fairs, the right to host courts, the whole kit and kaboodle for Iregan… not that Charles took it lying down. Before the year was out, he had replied with a thirty point response to the Lord Deputy’s decision. The letters flew back and forth for the next four years, before the disgruntled Charles realized his options were running out. Ironically, Charles’ death in 1617 sparks the process off again among his own heirs!
So, 400 years on to the day, one thing we can say is that family feuds, wills, land and wealth – some of the staples of soap operas – have a long pedigree!