CELT document E590001-007

A Briefe description of Ireland: made in this year, 1589, By Robert Payne



The second edition of this little tract was not known to be in existence until November, 1840, at which time it was purchased at a book sale, in Dublin, at a very considerable price, by a member of the Irish Achaeological Society, who has kindly permitted it to be reprinted.

It contains many interesting particulars, which are narrated in a manner calculated to impress the reasder with perfect confidence in the fidelity of the Author's relation of what he “discovered and learned” during his residence in the South of Ireland.

It may be assumed that it is of extreme rarity, as it is not mentioned in Harris's edition of Sir James Ware's History of the Writers of Ireland; neither does it appear in the valuable Catalogue of Manuscripts of Printed Books, relating to this country, compiled by the late General Vallancey, and presented to the Library of the Royal Irish Academy in February, 1839, by the Marquis of Normanby, at that time Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; nor is it to be found in any of the public libraries in Dublin.

The earliest bibliographical notice of the first edition of Payne's tract is given by Ames, with the title as follows:—A Briefe description of Ireland: Made in this year. 1589. by Robert Payne. vnto xxv. of his partners, for whom he is vndertaker there. Truely published verbatim, according to his letters, by Nich. Gorsan, of Trowell, Nottinghamshire, one of the sayd partners, for that he would his countreymen should be partakers of the many good notes therein contaiyned. The Three Cranes, &c. 16mo. 1589.—Typog. Antiq. 4to. 1786. Vol. ii. p. 1127.

This description has been copied in the Bibliotheca Britannica by Watts, who has printed Corsan instead of Gorsan.


Lowndes in his Manual, 1834, gives a very short notice of it, without reference to any sales catalogue.

The circumstance of the first edition only, of this tract, being known to these authors, attaches much interest to the second and enlarged “impression”, a reprint of which is now presented to the members of the Irish Archaeological Society.

Of the author, Robert Payne or Paine, (p. 9), little more is known than that he appears to have been resident manager in Ireland for “xxv. of his partners”, for each of whom and himself, he provided four hundred acres of land in the county of Cork, (p. 7).

It may be presumed that he was selected for this office, on account of having previously directed his attention in England to agricultural pursuits, and the means of improving waste grounds, for he was probably the Robert Payn who published, in 1583, a work on this subject, whose title is given by Ames as follows:—Rob: Payn his Hill-mans Table, which sheweth how to make Ponds to continue water in high and drie grounde, of what nature soeuer. Also the Vale-mans Table, shewing how to draine moores, and all other wette ground, wood or water, that you cannot come into, &c. Prin. 1583.Typog. Antiq., Vol. iii. p. 1662.

His letters are dated from a place called Poynes-end, (p. 9), the exact locality of which the Editor has not been able to discover.

The author appears to have fully appreciated the great advantages which would result from judiciously cultivating the soil of this fertile island; and by abstaining from naional reflections, and divesting himself of all undue prejudices, he is prominently distinguished from many of the writers of his time, who too commonly
“—judg'd the many by the rascal few.”

The origin of the “Undertakers”, to which class of persons Payne belonged, may now briefly be noticed.

By the Act of Attainder passed in 1586, the twenty-eighth year of Elizabeth, against Gerald Fitzgerald, the sixteenth and last Earl of Desmond, and his accomplices in rebellion,—Irish Statutes at large, Vol. i. p. 418,— property, amounting in all to 574,628 acres of land, was forfeited, and became vested in  p.vii the Queen, except what was restored to Patrick Condon, and the White Knight, &c.

Her Majesty was intent on peopling Munster with English settlers, and letters were written to every county in England to encourage younger brothers to become “undertakers” in Ireland, a name applied to the settlers on account of their being obliged to undertake to observe certain conditions enjoyned by the Queen.

The plan devised for the plantation of Munster was, to divide the forfeited lands into seignories; and to require each undertaker for 12,000 acres, to plant eighty-six families upon his estate, viz.—

His own family to have1600 acres
One chief farmer400 acres
Two good farmers300 acres
Two other farmers400 acres
Fourteen free-holderseach 300 acres4200 acres
Forty copy-holderseach 100 acres4000 acres
Twenty-six cottagers and labourers800 acres
Total12,000 acres
And so proportionably for smaller seignories.

The inducements to settle in Ireland were very great. The Queen proposed to give estates in fee, at two-pence an acre, in the counties of Cork and Waterford, to be rent free till March, 1590, and to pay but half the rent for the next three years, thenceforth they were to hold in soccage; to have liberty for ten years to transport the growth of their lands, duty free, to any place in amity with England; to be free from cess for ever; to have liberty to import necessaries from England, free of custom, and no Irish were to be permitted to reside on the lands; with several other coventants, some of which her Majesty did not perform, particularly that of keeping troups for the security of the settlers in Munster.

On the 26th of April, 1587, a commission was issued to several persons of rank, authorizing them “to make books to the undertakers of Munster, which shall be a sufficient warrant to the Chancellor to pass patents accordingly.” — Cox's History of Ireland, fol. 1689, Part I, p. 392-5.

Cox's account has been preferred to that given by Smith, in his History of Cork, whose statement respecting the plot for the plantation of Munster, bears  p.viii evidence in itself, that it is not correct, for out of a seignory of 12,000 acres, he accounts for the disposal of only 6600; and his Abstract of the Queen's articles, which were dated 27 June, 1586, differs from Cox's account in several particulars.—See Smith's Cork, 2. Ed., Vol. i, p. 54.

It is only necessary to add, that the original copy of this tract consists of sixteen small pages including the title page, on the back of which is printed page 2, beginning close to the upper margin without any short title, or other mark of commencement, except its large initial letter: there are thirty-five lines in each page except the last, which has only six, and they are numbered in the middle of the upper margin.

The Editor has not thought it expedient to adopt the peculiarity of commencing the text on the back of the title page in the present reprint, as the size of the page does not admit of an exact fac-simile; but the orthography and punctuation have been accurately copied. Italic capitals are sometimes used in the original, owing apparently to the printer having been deficient in Roman type, but this defect was not considered of sufficient importance to be retained. An index has been added by the Editor.

A. S. June, 1841

Robert Payne

A Brife description of Ireland: made in this yeere. 1589. By Robert Payne [...]

Edited by Aquilla Smith

A Brife description of Ireland: made in this yeere. 1589. By Robert Payne [...]



Let not the reportes of those that haue spent all their owne and what they could by any meanes get from others in England, discourage you from Ireland, although they and such others by bad dealinges haue wrought a generall discredite to all English men, in that countrie which are to the Irishe vnknowen.

These men will say there is great danger in trauelling the countrie, and much more to dwell or inhabite there: yet are they freed from three of the greatest dangers: first, they cannot meete in all that land any worsse then themselues: secondly, they neede not feare robbing for that they haue not anye thing to loose: lastly, they are not like to runne in debte, for that there is none will trust them. The greatest matter which troubleth them is, they cannot get any thinge there but by honest trauell, which they are altogether ignorant of. These men cannot tell what good fruites England hath, the which Ireland wanteth, neyther can they iustly saye, but that it lieth better for the vent of all commodities then England doeth.

What these men haue reported or what the simple haue credited, that would rather beleeue a runneagate then trauell to see, I care not. But what I haue discouered or learned in that countrie, I will herein recite vnto you.

First, the people are of three sortes, the better sorte are very ciuill and honestly giuen: the most of them greatly inclined to husbandrie, although as yet vnskilful, notwithstanding through their great trauell many of them are rich in cattell: some one man there milketh one hundred kine, and two or three hundred yeawes and goates, and reareth yeerely most of their breed.

Their entertainement for your diet shalbe more welcome and plentifull, then cleanly and handsome: for although they did neuer see you before, they will make you the best cheare their country yeeldeth for two or three dayes, and take not any thing therefore. Most of them speake good English and bring vp their children to learning. I saw in a Grammer schoole in Limbrick, one hundred, & three score schollers, most of them speaking good and perfit English, for that they haue vsed to conster the Latin into English. They keepe their promise faithfully, and are more desirous of peace then our English men, for that in time of warres they are more charged, And also they are fatter praies for the enemie, who respecteth no person. They are quicke witted and of good constitution of bodie: they reforme them selues dayly more and more after the English manners: nothing is more pleasing vnto them, then to heare of good Iustices placed amongst them. They haue a common saying which I am perswaded they speake vnfeinedly,  p.4 which is, Defend me and spend me: meaning from the oppression of the worser sorte of our countriemen: They are obedient to the laws, so that you may trauel through all the land without any danger or iniurie offered of the verye worst Irish, and be greatly releeued of the best.

The second sorte being least in number are called Kernes, they are warlike men: most of that sorte were slayne in the late warres.

The third sorte, are a very idle people, not vnlike our English beggers, yet for the most parte, of pure complexion and good constitution of bodie: one of the greatest ouersights in the better sorte is, for that they make not that idle sort giue accompt of their life.

They haue the English lawes and gouernours as in England. First, there is a Lord deputy ouer the whole land, that representeth her Maiesty, also a Lord Chancellor, a lord Treasurer a Lorde chiefe Iustice, and all other Maiestrates, Officers and Courts, in like maner as belongeth to Westminster.

The land is deuided into fiue great parts: that is to saye Munster, Lanster, Canath, Meath, and Vlster. In Munster, are these vii. great countries: Owrmwood, Deasmond, Corke, Waterford, Typerare, Lymbericke, and Carrey. A great parte of Munster, was forfited to her Maiestie by meanes of the Deasmondes late rebellion.

There is two very rich countries called Kennory and Conelogh, both within the countie of Lemerick: and they are called the gardenes of the land for the varietie and great plentie of all graine and fruites: and also there is more plentie of venison, fish and foule then else where in Ireland, although in euery place there is great store. This land belonged some-to the knight of the valley, who for high treason was executed at Lemerick. Ouer euery part is an Englishman liefetenant which hath authoritie as fully as the Marshall, to execute Marshall lawes vpon the Irish offenders at all times. Also there are Iudges of assises for euery circute, who keepe their assies as our Iudges doe: if any matter be to bee tryed there betweene an Englishman and an Irish, the Iury is halfe English and halfe Irish. There is a sheriffe of euerye countie, with vndersheriffes, Arrant bayliffes, and all other officers appertaining. Also ther is a conuenient number of Iustices of peace in euery countie with Constables and pettie Constables, who keepe their quarter sessions orderly.

The countrie is scituated somwhat neerer the Equinoctial line then England, but yet for that it lyeth more vppon the Ocean seaa and is full of Riuers and  p.5 small brookes, it is not so hot in summer as England, neyther is it so colde in winter, for that the seas fretteth away the Ice and Snowe there, muche more then in England.

The generall Map of Ireland, which is ioyned with the old Map of England, is most false: The authour (as it seemeth) drew them both by reporte, and the common computation of myles: and made his scale after the English measure that is one thousand paces, or fiue thousand footes to the myle: but therein hee greatlye deceiued himselfe: for the shortest myles in England are much longer then that measure, and an Irish myle is longer then two of those myles, by which meanes he hath made the Map of England lesse by the halfe then it should be. Notwithstanding, he hath ouer reached in his number of parish Churches, and the Mappe of Ireland littell more then one fourth of that it would be, if it were truely drawen. This seemeth strange, and hath deceiued manye ignorant in Geometrie: but alwayes take this for a principle, that the square of two myles contayneth iust foure times so much as the square of one myle, & so of all proportions from the greatest to the least: wherefore as much may be said of the longe myle which containeth two shorte myles.

Some mistrust that the Spaniards will enter the land, and that the Irishe will releeue them: no doubte there are some Traytors in Ireland. I woulde I coulde truely saye there were none in England. But this I dare assure you, the greater number, and all the better sorte doe deadly hate the Spaniardes, & yet I thinke they beare them fayre wether, for that they are the popes champions, and a great parte of the Irish (for want of good preaching and discipline) are greatly inclined to papistrie.

But their entertainement this last yeere amongst the Irish (notwithstanding they brought the popes holye candles and pardones) sheweth howe they affecte Spanishe gouernement. Most of the better sort of the Irish haue read of their monsterous cruelties in the west Indians, where they most tiranously haue murthered many millions moe of those simple creaturs then now liue in Ireland, euen such as sought their fauours by offering vnto them all that they had, neuer resisting nor offering them any harme. Wherefore I doubt not, that the Irish are so foolish to entertaine such proud guestes knowing their tyrannie, and hauing not so well deserued at their handes as those simple soules whom they so cruelly murdered. Neither are the Spaniardes so vnwise to trust those Irish, who so lately imbrued their handes in their blood, slaying them as dogges in such plentifull  p.6 manner, that their garmentes went aboute the countrie to be sold, as good cheape as beastes skines. If you haue not the said booke of the Spanishe cruelties, I praye you buy it, it is well woorth the reading, I haue forgotte the title, but it is of a smal volume in quarto: it is written by a learned Bishop of their owne country about forty yeeres sithens in the Castalian toonge, and dedicated to theire King for reformation of those cruelties: afterwardes translated into English and diuers other languages, to make their monsterous tirannie knowen to the world. When you haue read the same, commende it to our Catholickes that will bee sauede by their workes, and yet will not giue God thankes at their meate, for that they will not once haue in their mouth the prayer for our Queene, annexed to our vsuall thankes giuing at meate. I pray God open the eyes of their vpholders, and let them se what these men gap for, which is (no doubt) the mine & ouerthrowe of her highnes, whom I pray God preserue. But none are so blind as they that wil not see. The Catholiks are borne with for their conscience sake, yet from such consciences spring all the Traiterous practises against her Maiestie.

Although some of small iudgemente (which thinke euerye soil good that beareth long gras) haue failed of their expected woad crops, by meanes of their vnskilfull choice of grounde, yet assuredly the commodities of the countrie are many moe then eyther the people can well vse or I recite. Their soile for the most part is very fertil, and apte for Wheate, Rye, Barly, Peason, Beanes, Oates, Woade, Mather, Rape, Hoppes, Hempe, Flaxe and all other graines and fruites that England any wise doth yeelde. There is much good timber in manye places, and of that streightnesse and so good to reaue, that a simple workeman with a Brake axe will cleaue a greate Oke to boardes of lesse then one ynche thicke, xiiii. ynches broad and xv. footes in length, such a board there is vsually sold for ii. d. ob. There is verie riche and greate plentie of Iron stone, and one sort more then we haue in England, which they call Bogge myne, of the which a Smith there wil make at his forge Iron presently. Also there is great store of Lead Ore, & Wood sufficients to mayntayne diuers Iron and lead workes (with good husbandrie) for euer. A barrell of Wheate or a barrel of bay Salt contayning three bushels and a halfe of Winchester measure, is sold there for iiii. s. Malt, Peason, Beanes, for ii. s. viii. d. Barly for ii. s. iiii. d. Oates for xx. d. a fresh Sammo worth in London x. s. for vi. d. xxiiii. Herrings or vi. Makerels vi. sea breames, a fat hen, xxx. Egges, a fat Pigge, one pound of Butter, or ii.  p.7 gallones of new milke for a penny. A reede Deare without the skinne, for ii. s vi. d. A fat Beefe for xiii. s. iiii. d. A fat Mutton for xviii. d.

There be great store of wild Swannes, Cranes, Phesantes, Partriges, Heathcocks, Plouers, greene and gray, Curlewes, Woodcockes, Rayles, Quailes, & all other fowles much more plentifull then in England. You may buy a dosen of Quailes for iii. d. a dosen of Woodcokes for iiii. d. and all other fowles ratablie. Oysters, muskels, cockels and Samphiere about the sea coastes are to be had for the gathering, great plentie: the Phisitions there holde, that Samphier is a present remedie against the stone: you maye buy the best Heafers there with Calues at their feete, for xx. s. a peece, which are nothinge inferiour to the better sort of Lyncolnshire breed. Their chiefe horsses are of as great price as in England, but carthorsses, mares, & little hackneies are of a very smal price: the meanest Irish man disdaineth to ride on a mare. You may keep a better house in Ireland for L. li. a yeere, then in England for CC. li. a yeere. All your commodities you may transport from the sea side, from the countie of Corke (where I haue prouided for each of vs foure hundred Acres of land) to England for viii. d. the hundred waight, so that you make the same ready about S. Andrewes tide, when the hering fishers goe home from Ireland. The charge of which carriage for so much as you barell, you may saue a great parte through Cheapenes of the caske, and then will most of your commodities, viz. Butter, Cheese, Bacon, Beefe, Honny, Waxe, Tallowe, Corne, and Herring, with diuers other Marchandize be readie for the market.

The worsser sorte of vndertakers which haue seignories of her Maiestie, haue done much hurte in the countrie, and discouraged many from the voyage: for they haue enticed many honest men ouer, promising them much but performing nothing, no not so much as to pay their seruants, and workmen wages. They will not let any terme, aboue xxi. yeeres or three liues, and the demaund for rent xii. d. the Acre: this is so farre from the meaning of her Maiestie, as appeareth by her highnes graunt, that (as I think) they haue, or shortly wil make all their estates voyde. They find such profite from the Irish tenantes, who giue them the fourth sheafe of all their corne, & xvi. d, yearly for a beastes grasse, beside diuers other Irish accustomed duties. So that they care not although they neuer place any English man there. But the better sorte of vndertakers being many good knights and gentelmen of great worship, do seeke by all meanes possible to plant their landes with English men according to the  p.8 meaning of her Maiesties graunt: they offer to any man either three hundreth acres of land in feefarme or foure hundred acres by lease for one hundred yeeres, for vi d. the acre without any fine.

Sir Richard Greenfield taketh a very good order for artificers and labourers. he will let any poore man of honest behauiour a house, xl. acers of land and vi. milche Kyne for xl. s. the yeere, for the terme of three liues: and if any of these men after they haue bread on the same stocke a sufficient number of cattell to store their ground, doe deliuer their stocke again then shall they pay but xx. s. rent for the rest of their termes. And if any of the said Kine be stolne, and the owner doe track which way they were driuen from his ground, the said sir Richard will deliuer him so many Kine for them, for that the lawe is there, if you track any stolne goodes into any mans land, he must tracke them from him, or answere them within xl. daies, so where the tracke ceaseth, the goodes must be answered.

A man may be as well and cleanely tabled at an English house in Ireland for the profit of fiue Kine and fiftie sheepe, all which will be bought for vii. li. x. s. and for the rent of so much land as will keepe them, which is xx. s. the yeere, as at the best ordinarie in England for vi. d. a meale. all which amounteth but to xxxv. s. vi. d. a yeere, accounting ii. s. in the pound for interest of the stocke. Women may be borded for the profite of foure Kine. xl. sheepe, and xvi. s. rent. Seruants for iii Kine. xxx. sheep, and xii. s. rent. Children for ii. Kine, xx. sheepe, and viii. s. rente. Thus may a man that is xii. in houshold, viz. Himselfe, his wife ii. seruantes, and viii. children be very well tabled a yeere for the profite of xxxi . Kine, iii. C. x. sheepe, and vi. li. x. s. rente: all which stocke will be bought for lesse then lx. li. The vse wherof being vi. li. the whole charge of a yeere for xii. persones is xii. li. x. s. which is xx. s. x. d. a peece. This hath not bene long vsed there, but now that Englishman thinketh himselfe happy that can make such a bargaine with an honest man: for although that which is not euery way to the guest aboue xii. li. x. s. may make the host with good husbandry more the a hundred markes.

One hundred poundes will buy lx. milche kine, CCC. yeawes, xx. swine, and a good teame: the ground to keepe these cattell, and vse this teame on, will be CCCC. acres at x. li. rent: so your yeerely charge will be with interest of your mony, xx. li. for the which you may haue yeerely vpon good securitie with warrant of your storke. XI. firkins of butter, and fortie great wayes of cheese, of the  p.9 milke gathered betwixt May and Michaelmas, which at x s. the firkin, and xxv. s. the waye, is three score and ten poundes, and the wooll and lambe of your sheepe, cannot bee so little worth as xxx.li. a yeere, all which amounteth to one hundred poundes: so may you declare besides your interest and rent, eightie poundes a yeere.

To husband this farme, your tenaunt must keepe viii. persons, which may be well done with the profite of the swine, winter milke, caules and the croppe which he should get vpon your land with your teame.

Most of the coyne in Ireland, and that which the people generally desire is base money made of coper or brasse, they will not change you an angell into that money without iiii d. gaines: I would to God her Maiestie woulde coyne foure hundred thousand markes of the same, and lende it to the English marchants gratis for two yeeres, to be imploied ther in mather, woade, rape, hoppes, hempe, flaxe, and such other commodities, as might set some great number of our English men to worke: by which meanes (in my iudgment) the land might be very well peopled, her Maiestie disburthened of a great parte of her charge there, the marchantes made great gayners, and yet at the two yeeres ende paie her Maiestie her full summe in currant English money for that base mettell, whereby her Maiestie might gaine at least CC. thousand poundes without hurte to any, and good to many thousandes. I haue sent you here inclosed an instruction how you shal mak a warren for conneies of two acres of ground, that shall bee sufficient for a gentlemans house, in which warrane, you may also make an Ortchyard, and the connies shal not barke your trees, nor make their berries vnder the rootes, neither shall the said connies goe forth of two acres. Thus with my hartie commendations, I bid you heartilye farwell.

From my house at Poynes end, this xxv. of Iune. 1590. Your llouing freind
Robert Paine.

2. The copie of an instruction for a warraine

First, you must choose two acres of very drie ground, and compasse it with a ditch as round as a circle, fiue footes deepe, and seuen footes wide: let the slope side of your ditch be towardes your warraine, and that wayes throw vp all your earth: let the out side be plum vpright, which you must presently payle, otherwise  p.10 the earth will fall in: then plante your trees not aboue viii. ynches deepe, and at the least xxiiii foote asunder: lay at euery roote close about the tree, as much pease strawe as a man will cary vnder his arme, the which will keepe the roote moyst in sommer and warme from frostes in winter. The best time to set your trees is shortly after Michaelmas: which verefieth an old prouerbe in Kent: if thou wilt a good tree haue, let him carrye a greene leafe to his graue. In the very middest of your ground you must make a little lodge, in the which you must haue eight seuerall hutches, so placed that they may be alwayes open into the warraine, in euery hutche you must tye with a little chaine a tame bucke connie of the best kinde: then store your warraine with 64. of the better sorte of tame female connies, which is for euery bucke viii. doas, euery weeke the first quarter: and then moonthly you must wash your trees with water, so high as a conny can reach, wherin you must burst the garbage of a connie. Also euery weeke you must drawe a peece of carraine at the foote of your payle in the bottome of your ditch round about your warraine, by which meanes your connies will neuer offer to touch your trees, nor com neere the payle to scrape them selues out. You must feede your connies with the shortest and sweetest hay you can get: you may giue them gras, & any hearbes or weedes: they will eate foure dayes in a weeke in sommer, and two daies in winter, but not aboue for feare of the rotte: yet let them haue haye enough at all times, you may fatte them with graines mixed with oates, brane, or French wheate: you must giue your connies euery day one oate sheafe, which will alwayes keepe them hearty, sound, and fayre skinned. I doe accoumpt your charges in keeping your connies to be xx. markes a yeere: that is, your warrainers board and wages viii. li. and the connies meate v. li. vi. s. viii. d. the increase at an indifferent reckoning, will be seuen litters a yeere: euery connie of the best kind will bring vi. Rabbites at a litter, where one of that sorte bringeth fewer, two will bring moe, some will bring ix. litters in a yeere: and that doa is not worth the keeping, that bringeth not vii. litteres a yeere. The value of this increase after the aforesayd rates, and at viii. d. the couple, (which the very skinnes with good husbandrie of most of them will be worth,) amounteth to the summe of xliiii. li. xvi. s. a yeare. But for feare you should fayle in your reckoning, as the woman did that supposed all the egges in her basket wer capons: I woulde haue you allow for casualties, xi. li. ix. s. iiii. d. so resteth aboue all charges of the warrainer, and their meat, xx. li. by yeere de claro, which I thinke (being wel vsed) can yeeld no lesse: although this kind being bred in  p.11 houses doe not eate sweet, yet being bred after this manner, they are both the biggest, fattest, and sweetest connies that are.


There is on master Phane Beecher hath a greate parte of a proper country called Kenallmechie, about three myles from Tymoleague, and vi. miles from Kinsall, both market and hauen towns the farthest not a myle from the maine sea: through this country runneth a goodly riuer called Bandon wherein is great store of fishes of sundry sortes, especially Sammons, Troutes, Eales, and oft times seales. In this countrie is greate woodes the trees of wonderfull length which sheeweth the exelent fruitfulnesse of the soyle. This master Beecher (by meanes of his honest and plaine dealing, rather seeking to replenish his countrie with people according to her Maiesties graunt, then esteming any great gain to himself) hath gotten more sufficient tennauntes into his said countrie then any other two that do attempt the like within the prouince of Munster. So wel do our countrie men esteeme of his word that of my knowledge, a dossen gentelmen of good acompt haue dealte with him for v. hundreth Acres a peece onely vpon his report, none of the which neuer sawe the same, but there is no hope of any more land to be had of him, for he hath already to plesure his countriemen? mstraightned his demeanes, which I suppose he would haue done if he had had halfe the Desmondes lande. So many are desirous to Inhabbite with him: but he hath couenaunted with euery of his said tennauntes to place others vnder them, by which meanes there are many small perselles of 50. 60. or some a hundred acres to be had as good cheape and vnder as good conditions as the best, for his speciall care is that euery Inhabbiter there should haue as much libertie as a free-holder in England. He also hath ordained for his countrie a learned preacher, a free schoole and a good yeerely stypend for the releeuing of maimed souldiers, impotent, and poore aged persons, and for perpetuall continuance therof he hath abated euery of his tenauntes at the least ii. d. rent for euery acre for euer, which others take & hath charged his owne demeanes with no lesse: so that yerfew yeeres be ended (if God blesse his proceedings) those partes will be more like a ciuell citie in England, then a rude countrie (as late it was) in Ireland.

Although the name of the Irishe amongst the ignorant is odious, yet how many haue any of you seene executed in England for treason, murder, or felonye and yet knowe their cases are scarse so wel fauored as others our nerer neighbours which dayly pester our prisones and moonthly decke our gallouses, I canot denie but in the Desmondes warres were many Irish traitors, yet herein iudge  p.12 charitably: for such was the miserye of that time that manye weere driuen to this bad choice viz. That whether they would be spoiled as well by the enemie as the worser sort of souldiers at home, or go out to the rebelles and be hanged which is the fairest end of a traitour. But as touching their gouernment in their corporations where they beare rule, is doon with such wisdome, equity and iustice, as demerits worthy commendations. For I my self diuers times haue seene in seuerall places within their iurisdictions wel near twenty causes discided at one sitting, with such indifferencie that for the most parte both plaintife and defendant hath departed contented: yet manye that make shewe of peace and desireth to liue by blood doe vtterly mislike this or any good thing that the poore Irishe man dothe. wherfore let vs daily pray vnto almighty God to put into the heart of our dread soueraigne Elizabeth, that as her highnes is queene of so greate and fruitfull a countrie wherin her maiestie hath a great number of loyall and dutieful subiectes, to haue especiall care that they be not numbred nor gathered vp with traiterous rebells, neither that her maiesty wil vochsafe to tollerat traiterous subiectes to stand vpon any condition but only her gratious mercie: then would the hope of the rebells be soone cut off, and the good subiectes imbouldened to fech them in which now dare not so to doe for feare of after harmes.

With the eies of your minde you cannot viewe her maiesties able subiectes lesse then sixe millions of men, and one of them in his countrie is good innough for three wetherbeaten spainerds whom a fewe of our frostie nightes will make shrinke like rotten sheepe. yet thus much I must say for them, if almightie God for our contempt of his holye worde hath giuen them power against vs, as hee did the frogges against the Egiptianes. Then is there no forch able to resiste them: (without that) I see no cause why we either in England or Ireland should feare them: but yet there is a foolish rumoure, that sir William Standly with the spanish Kinges force wil enter Ireland, and that the Irish people who loued him wil take his part. No doubt he was welbeloued there: but I thinke rather for his Iustice and good dealing amongst them before he was suspected of trechery, then for any matter of false consperacie either to prince or cuntrie I doe thinke that Sir william then knewe not ten traitours in all Ireland: for howe durst any rebell make his villanous intent knowen, to a man so famous for true seruice as in those daies he was accounted? But suppose that hee doe come, what is hee to the last greate Earell of Desmonde, who had greater followers then Sir Willam is, and the King of spayne his purse more plentifull  p.13 then he can haue it? yet did not the said Desmonde bring his countrie to that meserie that one did eate another for hunger, and himselfe with all his posteritie and followers to vtter ruinne. Can the Irish so soon forget such great distrease, and be drawen into the like action with a meaner man? surely no. For the better sort will bring in their owne brothers if they bee traitrours, and therefore vnlike to ioyne with a stranger, although they loued him for his vertues. He is a simple Irish man that cannot tel you that the spanyardes loue treason, but deadly hateth traitours. I thinke it be true the Irish would gladlye haue their publike masse agiane: but they had rather continewe it in corners, then to heere it openlye in fetters and chaines as the poore Indianes do. The Irish is as wise as the spaniard is proud, and there is no grife more to the wise man then to liue in bondage to the proud man: the very name of the spaniard in respect of his pride and tirannie, is odious to many nations whom they neuer hurte, but in Irelend they seemed to doe some harme, or els the Irish did them wrong to take so many of their heads for recompence. An humbler nation then the spaniardes would not so quickly forget such measure as they receiued this other yeere in Ireland: and that the Irish (who can be warned by others mens harmes) know right wel. For vntill the spaniardes tiranie in the west Indians bee wrapped vp in obliuion, the Irish will speake them faire, but trust them nothing at all, vntill their heades be off.

I find by experience that a man may store 1000. acres of wood land there for thirtie poundes bestowed in swine, which being wel husbanded wil yeld more profite then so much like ground in England of x. s. the acre and fiue hundred pound, stocke. for in the Irish wood landes there is great store of very good pasture and their mast doth not lightlye fayl, their swine wil feede very fat without any meate by hand. 30. li. will buy 30. bores and 200. sowes with piggs, the increase of which wil bee sufficient for 1000. acres accounting but ii. litters in the yeere and v. pigges to the litter, which is littell more then halfe the increase that swine commonly bring forth. Swine will not be full growen before they be two yeeres old: so the first yeere you can kill but your old store and after according to the aforesaide rates 2000. euery yeere very neare two yeeres old a peece, the fliches whereof cannot be so little worth as iii. s. iiii. d. a peece in England which amounteth vnto 1000. markes per An. besid the offel, suet & grease, which we esteeme the one third parte of the value, which wil discharge rent, salt and boord, and the charges of three persones to tend them, and the shipping  p.14 with warranties into England. you may haue the carkeyses of fat biefes for their grasse, so you buy them in winter when the price is aboute xii. s. a peece, which their hides and tallowe when they are fatte are well worth, you may haue connies vi. for iiii. d. sterling, which their skines are well worth, this plentie is onely by the meanes of their small priced land. But if they should deduct x. s. for euery acres rent, then could not these commodities be aforded better cheape then the like are worth in England. There is not that place in Ireland where anye venomous thinge will liue. There is neither mol, pye, nor carren crow: there is neither sheepe dieth on the rot nor beast on the murraine.

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Title (uniform): A Briefe description of Ireland: made in this year, 1589, By Robert Payne

Title (original): A Brife description of Ireland: made in this yeere. 1589. By Robert Payne [...]

Author: Robert Payne

Editor: Aquilla Smith

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Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber, Beatrix Färber, and Janet Crawford

Proof corrections by: Beatrix Färber, and Janet Crawford

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Date: 2012

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

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Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only. The printed text on which this edition is based is in the public domain.

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  1. Fynes Moryson, A History of Ireland from the year 1599 to 1603 (2 vols, Dublin 1735).
  2. Edmund Hogan (ed.), The Description of Ireland and the State Thereof as it is at This Present in Anno 1598. (Dublin 1878) 43–44.
  3. Andrew Hadfield and Willy Maley (eds.), Edmund Spenser. A View of the State of Ireland. From the first printed edition (1633). (Oxford 1997). Includes guide to further reading.
  4. M. J. Byrne, Ireland under Elizabeth (Dublin 1903) [An English translation of Philip O'Sullivan Beare, Historiae Catholicae Iberniae Compendium (Lisbon 1621)].
  5. Richard Cox, Hibernia Anglicana; or the History of Ireland from the Conquest thereof by the English to this present Time. With an introductory Discourse touching the Ancient State of that Kingdom; and a new and Exact Map of the same, 2 vols. (London: H. Clark and Joseph Watts, 1689–90).
  6. Charles Smith, The antient and present state of the county and city of Cork: in four books. I. Containing, the antient names of the territories and inhabitants, with the civil and ecclesiastiscal division therof. II. The topography of the county and city of Cork. III. The civil history of the county. IV. The natural history of the same ... Published with the approbation of the Physico-historical society. Dublin: Printed by A. Reilly for the author, 1750. Reprinted Dublin 1774. Reprinted by the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, with the addition of numerous original notes, etc., from the mss. of the late Thomas Crofton Croker, F.S.A., and Richard Caulfield, LL.D. Edited by Robert Day and W.A. Copinger. Cork 1893–1894.
  7. Ciarán Brady, Spenser's Irish Crisis: Humanism and Experience in the 1590s. In: Past and Present 111 (May 1986) 17–49.
  8. Aidan Clarke, Pacification, Plantation and the Catholic Question, in: T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin and F.J. Byrne (eds.), A New History of Ireland, Vol. 3: Early Modern Ireland, 1534–1691 (Oxford 1976; 1989).
  9. Nicholas P. Canny, Reformation to Restoration: Ireland 1534–1660 (Dublin 1987).
  10. David Edwards, Spenser's View and Martial Law in Ireland, in: Hiram Morgan (ed.) Political Ideology in Ireland, 1541–1641 (Dublin 1999) 127–157.
  11. John Andrews, 'Plantation Ireland: a review of settlement history'. In: Terence B. Barry (ed.), A history of settlement in Ireland (London 1999) 140–157.
  12. Nicholas Canny, (ed), Making Ireland British, 1580–1650 (Oxford 2001).
  13. R. W. Dudley Edwards, Mary O'Dowd, Sources for Modern Irish History 1534–1641 (Cambridge 2003) 99.
  14. A. L. Rowse, The Expansion of Elizabethan England, (University of Wisconsin Press 2003). See chapter 4, Ireland: colonisation and conquest; esp. 130–134.
  15. Anthony M. McCormack, 'The social and economic consequences of the Desmond Rebellion of 1579–83', Irish Historical Studies 34 (May 2004) 1–15.
  16. David Edwards, 'A haven of popery: English Catholic migration to Ireland in the age of plantations', in: Alan Ford and John Mc Cafferty (eds), The origins of sectarianism in early modern Ireland (Cambridge 2005) 95–126.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘A Brife description of Ireland: made in this yeere. 1589. By Robert Payne. vnto xxv. of his partners for whom he is undertaker there. Truely published verbatim, according to his letters, by Nich. Gorsan one of the said partners, for that he would his countrymen should be partakers of the many good Notes therein conteined. With diuers Notes taken out of others the Authoures letters written to his said partners, sithenes the first Impression, well worth the reading.’ (1841). In: Tracts relating to Ireland, printed for the Irish Archaeological Society.‍ Ed. by Aquilla Smith. Vol. 1. v–viii; 3–14 (separate pagination). Dublin: University Press, Graisberry and Gill.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Aquilla Smith},
  title 	 = {A Brife description of Ireland: made in this yeere. 1589. By Robert Payne. vnto xxv. of his partners for whom he is undertaker there. Truely published verbatim, according to his letters, by Nich. Gorsan one of the said partners, for that he would his countrymen should be partakers of the many good Notes therein conteined. With diuers Notes taken out of others the Authoures letters written to his said partners, sithenes the first Impression, well worth the reading.},
  booktitle 	 = {Tracts relating to Ireland, printed for the Irish Archaeological Society.},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {University Press, Graisberry and Gill},
  date 	 = {1841},
  volume 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {v–viii; 3–14 (separate pagination)}


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Creation: by Robert Payne

Date: 1590

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  • The text is in late sixteenth-century English. (en)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: description; prose; settlement; undertaker; Munster; 16c

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  1. 2012-06-14: Online proofing (3). (ed. Janet Crawford)
  2. 2012-06-13: File proofed (2); preliminary SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2012-06-12: File proofed (1); basic structural and content encoding applied; header created; file parsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2012-06-11: Text scanned in. (capture Beatrix Färber)

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