Wednesday, March 25, 2015

LAST week, I happened to come across a report concerning the latest revision of Irish statute law. Ordinarily, such a subject wouldn’t overly excite me. But when I scratched the surface a bit, I was surprised to find that, far from bringing our statute book right up to date, this latest revision will be removing those proclamations, decrees and so on deemed to be obsolete … but only up to the year 1821.

Coincidentally, on the same day as I made this discovery, I had been browsing through the census, something I engage in from time to time. And on this occasion I decided to depart from my usual browse through the 1901 and 1911 census, with which you may be familiar.  Instead, I was taking a look at the census return for 1821 – the very year up to which the revisions were recently made. At the time, though, the recently revised laws were current.

Unlike the 1901 and 1911 census records, those of 1821 (and up to 1851) are incomplete, often with whole counties missing. In fact, Queen’s County doesn’t figure in the 1821 records, so, during my browse, I contented myself with a look at nearby Kilkenny.

Though the county is represented, details are fairly sparse, with Callan being the only parish on record. Even within Callan, there are only two family records available. In house No 25 in Haigues Lane, Robert Smyth, who was a slater by trade, resided with his wife Mary and their three small children. And, interestingly, the only other record for Callan is for another Smyth family.  John Smyth, like his neighbour in Haigues Lane, was also a slater. And he resided with his wife Reachell, their daughters Honour and Hannah, and their sons George and Robert. Most probably, the families were related.

So let’s take a look at some of the laws that were in vogue for these two families, and which, henceforth, will no longer affect us.

If you are from the farming community and you either keep cattle or grow grain, there are a couple of items which might interest you. You will be pleased to know that the 1543 proclamation, which prohibited the sale of cattle, other than on a market day, will be removed from the books.

And I wonder how those of you who live outside The Pale will feel about the removal of the proclamation of 1556, which prohibited corn from being sold from within The Pale to your counties. Unless I miss my guess, I think that the farmers within The Pale, who, presumably, can now sell their corn to you, will be delighted.

The sale of corn was an issue that seemed to crop up (no pun intended) with frequency. In 1557, there was a further proclamation prohibiting the sale of corn into the Irish country from within The Pale, and in 1560, an order which simply prohibited the sale of corn to anywhere from The Pale.

And if you know of anybody who may be living near the well in Rathfarnham, who, for the last 400 years, were inhibited under pain of death from using that well, you might want to let them know that they can fire ahead now.

Also, I have to tell you that there has been a collective sigh of relief in our house, as, just in time for the impending visit of our youngest and her Scottish husband, the proclamation of 1622, which banished wandering Scottish men, will no longer be in vogue. And the idle and wandering men, who were lumped in with the wandering Scottish men in a proclamation of 1625, might also breathe more easily. I hope the latter don’t turn up as well.

Strangers in Dublin will also be relieved to hear that the proclamation of 26 October 1641 ordering all strangers to leave Dublin within one hour is being removed, as, indeed, is the one made two days later threatening death to those who harboured strangers.

As for Queen’s County, if you are a descendant of one of the Irish Septs, who were banished to Kerry in the early 1600s, and your ancestor returned to the county and failed to leave it again within seven days, you’ll be relieved to know that the order of 1626 requiring them to return from whence they had come no longer applies. It’s interesting to note that this order came nearly 20 years after the transportation of the Irish Septs and is an indicator that the numbers of those returning to the county was significant enough to warrant a royal decree against them.

Under the hammer also is the proclamation of 1645 which, under pain of death, prohibited the pulling down or defacing of houses without the owner’s consent.

While it is amusing to look back on these proclamations, it is sobering to think of the people who suffered under these harsh laws, and their removal from the statute books this year will affect us little. But their application, in times past, greatly impacted those who lived under their shadow.

And keep an eye out for idle and wandering men. Since the revisions, they can idle and wander to their hearts’ content – inside or outside The Pale as they please.

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By Tom Cox
Contact Newsdesk: +353 57 86 70216

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