CELT document E610002

Observations made by Sir John Davys, Attorney of Ireland

Sir John Davies

Edited by Charles William Russell ; John Patrick Prendergast

Whole text


OBSERVATIONS made by Sir John Davys, Attorney of Ireland, after a journey made by him in Munster

It may please your Lordship:
About a year and a half since, when I returned out of Ulster, where I had been imployed as one of the justices of assize, I did then presume to trouble you with a relation of all the occurrents of that journey, intending thereby to give you a particular view and discovery of the state of that province at that time. You were pleased to accept of that rude advertisement favourably and nobly, which I humbly acknowledge; and therefore, having performed the like service this Lent vacation in the several shires of Munster, (being associated with the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas), I have thought it agreeable to my duty to give you the like account, although the place, the people, the business were much unlike and different. For Munster being the south, and Ulster being the north quarters of this kingdom, Munster beyond comparison is better inhabited and manured, having  p.464 in it three ancient and well-built cities, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick, besides divers fair corporate towns, not inferior to the better market towns in England: whereas on the other side, Ulster is a very desert or wilderness; the inhabitants thereof for the most part having no certain habitation in any towns or villages, only upon the east sea-coast there are three or four poor towns inhabited, as Knockfergus, Carlingford, the Newrie, and Dundalk, besides the Derrie, newly built and incorporated upon the river of Loughfoyle. Again, Munster was divided into several counties or shires above 300 years since; an argument that our law hath as long been current there, though the course thereof hath been many times interrupted by defections and rebellions, and now for a space of 30 years past that province has been governed by a President and Council residing amongst them, which hath made our civil government and justice familiar unto them. But on the other part, Ulster hath ever been such an outlaw, as the King's writ did never run there until, within these few years, it was cut into several counties by Sir John Perrott; and yet the laws of England were never given in charge to the greatest part of that people, neither did any justice of assize ever visit that province before the beginning of His Majesty's reign. So as the face and form of things in these two circuits did arise and appear unto me very different; yet there was one resemblance, namely this, the people of both provinces did seem to take great comfort to be visited by justices from the State. The poor northern people, because they were subject before to the judgement of their lewd Brehens [Brehons], who knew no other law but the will of the chief lords; and the Munster men, though they be governed by a just and worthy President, yet, because the ordinary justices of that province who assist the Lord President, have their estates, their residence, and their alliance there, they were glad to see strangers joined with them, and seemed to like the aspect of us that were planets, as well as that of their own fixed stars.

We began to execute our commission in the city of Waterford, where we found the Lord President, with the Chief Justice of that province, and some others of the Council there. The county of Waterford is but little, yet, because the session was holden in the city, the appearance was great. The jail was not very full, and the prisoners for the most part were natives of that shire, of which there were very few which were not bastard imps of the Poores [Powers] and Geraldines of the Decies, which two septs do overspread all that county. This bred some difficulty in the trials there, for the sheriff could not impannel a jury of freeholders, but some of them must be of the surname and kindred of the prisoner that was to be tried, so that, if the evidence were not full, they would ever acquit the party; and where it was direct and clear, we were fain sometimes to threaten them  p.465 with the Star Chamber before we could get a verdict for the King. Whereupon I observe that, whereas the negligence of the ecclesiastical and civil magistrates hath given way to the licentiousness of this people, it hath filled that kingdom full of bastards; for as, by reason and impunity of the common use, the bastard is of as good reputation as the legitimate, and doth commonly share the inheritance with him, hereby it cometh to pass in this land the septs are great and more spreading, and that there are more of one surname than are to be found in England, or in any kingdom in Christendom, insomuch as I think I may truly affirm, that there are more able men of the surname of the Bourkes, than of any name wheresoever in Europe. The like may be said of the Geraldines, Butlers, and the Poores, of whom I spake before, and so of the Irish septs, as the O'Neals in Ulster, the M'Carties in Munster, the Birnes and Kavanaghs in Leinster; for the Moores and Connors are almost extirped by the late wars, and yet these weeds are like to grow up apace, if every lewd woman may father her child upon whom she list, and the promiscuous generation of bastards be suffered. Besides the branches of these great septs are not dispersed and scattered, as the younger brothers of other countries are wont to seek their fortunes abroad, but they still plant themselves altogether and possess one country or territory together; which is not only an impediment of equal trials and a cause of perjury in time of peace, but in time of war their neighbourhood and cohabitation gives them opportunity to conspire together, and to rise in arms together against the State, if the chief or most active of the surname happen to be displeased. For these being so near him, are like so many arms and limbs unto him, and make him as strong and proud as one of those giants who were born with hundreds of hands, and being proud of their strength did rebel against Jupiter. It were therefore an excellent policy, if a convenient way might be found, to break and scatter these septs, and severally to transplant them among other names and families; and withal it were expedient that a law might be made that no bastard should bear the name of his reputed father, for if this were effected, sundry mischiefs would be taken away which do often hinder the public justice, and give occasion of stirs and rebellions.

Touching the causes, either civil or criminal, in this country, there fell out none that are fit to be signified to you as extraordinary matters. For reducing of the people to church, a double course was holden against the multitudes of recusants in the cities and towns, where we sat. We proceeded by way of indictment upon the statute 2º Elizabeth, to levy the penalty of 12d. upon every person for every Sunday and holyday on which they absented themselves from the church, because this is a positive law, and the pain thereof seems not to be heavy;  p.466 the people do not repine at the execution thereof, specially because the moneys are employed to charitable uses, and yet assuredly, if the statute were fully executed both in the towns and in the country, this poor kingdom would not be able to bear it. And we perceive already that the churl, and farmer, and poor country gentleman,—if their churches were re-edified,—and the artisans and meaner sort of citizens, will be in short time drawn to conformity by this law only. The other course taken by my Lord President against the aldermen and chief burgesses of cities and towns, was a course of prerogative in sending mandates under the seal of the Council of that province, in like manner as the Lord Deputy had proceeded against the citizens of Dublin. His Lordship had sent his mandates to Waterford, and therefore being now come himself, he sent a messenger unto such as had received mandates, commanding them to attend upon him and the justices of assize to church; which they refusing, for only the mayor did bear us company, he had purposed to punish them with fine and imprisonment, but that they desired to have their consciences satisfied with conference, and with that end they prayed to be spared until after Easter; his Lordship and the rest willingly yielded to the request, and appointed two preachers to confer with them; albeit then we did suspect they desired this conference, not to be satisfied, but to win their liberty during the Lent, for hearing of mass and performance of their superstitious ceremonies. The Mayor of Waterford, Sir Richard Ayleward, hath willingly and bona fide conformed himself, and the sherriff of the shire, one Mr. Poer, is a well-affected Protestant. The rest for the most part continue in their recusancy.

From Waterford we passed to Cork, and by Dungarvan, the way we lodged the first night at Dungarvan, where, the next morning being Sunday, we heard a sermon, at which all the people of that poor town were present, one or two of the chief burgesses excepted, who desired a time of conference, which was granted unto them. This general conformity was wrought by the presence of the Lord President the week before, when he passed that way from Cork to Waterford. Here, when I perceived how easily the inferior and common sort of people are drawn to the church, I began to doubt whether it were not a preposterous course to proceed against the wealthier sort of aldermen and citizens first, because they being proved by reason of their wealth, and consequently wilful, and withal most laboured and wrought by the priests as being best able to entertain them, are resolved to suffer at first for the credit of their cause, presuming this storm will quickly be overblown, as it hath been in former times; and so by their example they make the multitude more obstinate. Whereas on the other side, if the churches were filled at the first, but with the inferior sort of people, the richer sort of people, being the less number, would be ashamed of their paucity, and their cause  p.467 would fail of the countenance it had by the general defection and recusancy; besides many of them which forbear the church, not so much for conscience as for popularity, would follow the multitude willingly, and think their credit with the world sufficiently saved, in that they were not the first nor the only men that conformed themselves. So that it may be probably concluded that as, if the better sort were compelled to repair to the church, they of the meaner condition would come for fear; so, if the general multitude were drawn to conformity, such as are persons of quality for the most part would come for shame. But which of these courses is first to be pursued I will not take upon me to resolve. In Dublin both are prosecuted together, with this success;—of 20 aldermen and citizens which were censured, one only is reduced; for the rest, some lie still in the Castle, refusing to pay their fines, others are enlarged, having paid or taken order for the payment of their fines. But of the common inhabitants of the town a great number do repair to their several churches, and that number doth weekly increase; so that it is to be hoped, within a short time, few of the meaner sort will absent themselves. With these the pain of twelve pence every Sunday prevails. But if the wealthier sort have no heavier punishment than to pay twelve pence Irish for every Sunday or holiday, which amounts not to three pounds sterling for a whole year, they would make a scorn both of the statute and of the proclamation; so that law and prerogative must go together in this and other towns, and I hope ere it be long they will prevail effectually. It hath been thought meet hitherto to endeavour the reformation of the towns only and specially of Dublin, being the seat of the State; so that no Lord or gentleman in the country has as yet been troubled for recusancy, only some were restrained for contriving and exhibiting that factious petition, which you have seen. The true reason why the country towns and villages are not yet looked into doth consist in this—the most part of the churches are broken down or ruined, and the commission for the re-edification thereof, and planting the ministers therein, hath not yet been executed. The New Testament and the Book of Common Prayer in the Irish tongue, which will incredibly allure the common country people, are not yet fully prepared; besides it hath been thought that, if the cities might have been reduced first, the country would have followed their example without contradiction. Yet hath it not been thoroughly neglected. For by the diligence of some of the clergy and of some well-affected gentry in the country, divers parishes in the country are entirely reclaimed already. Among others, the bishop of Kildare doth deserve good recommendation, who being Vicar of the Naas, the chief corporate town in the county of Kildare and within 12 miles of Dublin, hath drawn well nigh all his parishioners to his church, and of them more than two hundred received the Communion this last Easter, as himself told me within these few days. Likewise divers parishes near Dublin are  p.468 wholly conformed, and others within the bishoprick of Meath; so that the English Pale is not so universally Catholick as Sir Patrick Barnewell and some others will affirm it to be. As for Leaxe [Leix] and Offaly, by reason of the English colonies planted there, the great part of the people do willingly come to church. In Ulster, Knockfergus and the Derrie have not one recusant in them; and all the people of that province, at least the multitude, are apt to receive any faith if the Bishop of Derrie, who hath engrossed three great bishopricks in the North, would come and be a new St. Patrick among them. The poor priests themselves do not refuse the oath of supremacy there, and the like I hear of the priests of Connaght, where the Justices of Assize this last Lent, as one of them told me, have taken the oath of 40 priests at least. In a word, if this work of reformation, were undertaken in all parts, there would be little difficulty found, but only in the chief towns, which are not many, and in the English Pale; and in these places the chief persons only will oppose themselves, which chief persons, if the multitude were drawn from them, would stand so naked and solitary that either shame or fear would draw them to conformity.

From Dungarvan we came to Youghall, where, Youghall resting one night, my Lord President called before him the mayor and chief burgesses, who had formerly received commandments to repair to the church. They desired time for the satisfaction of their consciences, as those at Waterford had done, and obtained that favour. This town is inhabited with many English, all which, together with some Irish, do frequent the church, which is well served with a sufficient preacher; so that my Lord President hath great hope to make this a town of the reformed religion in a short time.

From Youghall we came to Cork, and dined by the way with the Viscount Barrie, who at his castle at Barriecourt, gave us civil and plentiful entertainment. When we came to Cork my Lord President having taken an extreme cold, kept his chamber during the time of the sessions, but the rest of the commissioners performing the service, there was great appearance and good attendance of the principal inhabitants of this county. There were present with us the Lords Barrie and Rowe, the Bishop of Cork, the poor Lord Courcey, together with the principal lords of countries, as Cormock M'Dermot, and other of the M'Carties, O'Swillivan, O'Driscall, and Sir John FitzEdmond of the Geraldines; only the White Knight and his son made default, pretending himself to be sick, but indeed he was obnoxious unto many challenges, and amongst other things he doubted lest he should be charged with relieving of one Morrie M'Gibbon Duff, a kinsman of his own, who is now a wood kern and called a rebel, and so indeed it was presented unto us by the grand inquest of the county. When we had delivered the goal, which was full of persons, and tried some nisi prius, a trial  p.469 not usual in these remote parts before this time, we did not forbear to reprehend the great lords for continuing their barbarous custom of Cosherie and other Irish occupations, to the impoverishment of their tenants and in contempt of the King's proclamation on that behalf, whereof we had private information, though the tenants themselves durst not complain; only one or two who had been dispossessed of part of their freeholds for not being able to pay cess and contribution to their lords in time of war, did complain, and were restored to their possessions. This reprehension and justice done against the lords, as it was a great comfort to the inferior sort, so, to do the lords right, they seemed to be nothing dissatisfied therewith, but promised faithfully to abolish all Irish Customs, and to perform obedience to the proclamation in all points. This being done, we called well nigh 100 of the citizens and burgesses of Cork, who, at the quarter sessions before, had been indicted upon the statute for not coming to church; we required them to pay the penalty of the laws (viz.) twelve [pence] for every Sunday and holiday. The chief of them desired copies of the indictments, to the end they might put their traverses thereunto. We told them that, if they would be bound to come to church next Sunday they should be admitted to their traverses, but if they would not do so, we would not permit them to use this wilful delay; whereupon they submitted themselves to payment. The gross sum amounted to 60l. and upwards, for which we appointed collectors, and assigned the moneys towards the building of a hospital there; as well because that town does swarm with poor and impotent people, as also because one of the citizens dying in London had by his testament given 200l. to maintain the poor whensoever the city should erect a hospital. The citizens were glad of this assignment.

And so we departed from Cork towards the county of Clare and Thomond, where we had appointed our next session; in which county, because it is taken to be out of my Lord President's jurisdiction, we had my Lord of Thomond only joined in commission of gaol delivery and oier and terminer with us: so that my Lord President remained at Cork to recover his health, making ppointment to sit again with us when we should hold session for that county of Limerick. The first night we lodged at Malowe, a house of my Lady Norries, which is a well-built house, and stands by a fair river in a fruitful soil, but it is yet much unrepaired, and bears many marks of the late rebellion. From thence we passed by Kilmalocke, a good corporate town, over a sweet and fertile country, unto the city of Limerick, which is indeed a town of castles, compassed with the fairest wall that ever I saw, under which runs the goodly river of the Shannon, which makes it a haven for ships of good burden. Though it stands above three score miles from the sea, yet such is the sloth of the inhabitants, that all these fair structures have nothing but  p.470 sluttishness and poverty within. At our entry into the town we were met by the Earl of Thomond, the Lord Bourke, and others; the Earl having for our great ease prepared a commodious house to sit in the county of Clare on the other side of the Shannon, which divides the county of Clare and Thomond from the county of Limerick; so that we still kept our Lodging and residence in Limerick, and yet performed the service of both counties. In the connty of Clare, which contains all Thomond, when I beheld the appearance and fashion of the people I would I had been in Ulster again, for these are as mere Irish as they, and in their outward form not much unlike them, but when we came to dispatch the business we found that many of them spake good English and understood the course of our proceedings well. For the justices of Munster were wont ever to visit this county, both before my Lord of Thomond had the particular government thereof and sithence. After the dispatch of the gaol, which contained no extraordinary malefactors, our principal labours did consist in establishing sundry possessions of freeholders in that county, which had been disturbed in the time of rebellion, and had not been settled sithence. The best freeholders next to the O'Briens are the M'Nemaraes and the O'Laneyes. The chief of which , families appeared in a civil habit and fashion, the rest are not so reformed as the people of Munster. But it is to be hoped that the example of the Earl, whose education and carriage your Lordship knows, and who indeed is served and waited on very civilly and honourably, will within a few years alter the manners of this people and draw them to civility and religion both.

We ended the ordinary business of the county Limerick of Clare somewhat sooner than we expected, and therefore we began the session of the county of Limerick, a day or two before my Lord President's arrival there. Among other malefactors, one Downing who had been a lieutenant in the late wars, and dwelt not far from Limerick, was indicted for murder on the procurement of my Lord Thomond, and the cause stood thus: Downing having obtained a commission from my Lord President of Mounster, to execute by martial law vagabonds and masterless men, and such as had borne arms in the late war, it happened that an idiot fool belonging to my Lord of Thomond, with another of the same quality that followed Sir John M'Nemara, a knight of Thomond, came straggling into the village where Downing dwelt; he, meeting with them on a Sunday morning, took them and immediately hanged them both. My Lord of Thomond assuring himself that Downing knew the idiot, and knew he belonged to him (for he was a notorious fool known to all the country), and that therefore he did execute the poor creature maliciously, caused an indictment of wilful murder to be exhibited against him, before my Lord President came to the town; upon this my  p.471 Lord President conceived some unkindness, because, having received his authority from him, and the fact being done within his province, he expected that my Lord of Thomond should first have aquainted him with the matter, before he had proceeded in this manner. Notwithstanding, the bill was found, and we proceeded to trial; but with this protestation;— that we would not call the authority in question, but allow it him as a justification in law, but we would examine whether he had exceeded his authority maliciously or no; pronouncing this withal, that, if he knew him to be a natural idiot, or knew him to belong to my Lord of Thomond, he had transgressed his commission maliciously and consequently had committed murder. We chose the most indifferent jury we could to try the prisoner, who was found guilty upon some evidence that was given that he knew the idiot, and knew him to belong to my Lord of Thomond. Upon the giving up the verdict, some few words of passion bassed between my Lord President and the Earl; but they were not so bitter, but that I hope this term at Dublin, where they purpose both to be present, an atonement will be made betwixt them, when they have somewhat expostulated the matter before my Lord Deputy. But in the meantime, we for our parts, though the fact was foul, and though our provost marshals are oftentimes too nimble and too rash in executing their commissions, so that it were not amiss that one or other of them did smart for it, and were made an example to all the rest, yet, because we would not utterly discountenance the martial law, which at that time and that place perhaps had been necessary; and because Downing had been a tall soldier, and performed good services in the late wars, we thought good to reprieve him, to the end my Lord Deputy may grant him. His Majesty's pardon, if it so please his Lordship. The gaol being cleared, we began to consider how we could cut off two notorious thieves, or, as they term them, rebels, who, with two or three kern at their heels, did infest the whole country. The one Maurice M'Gibbon Duffe, whom I named before, the other one Redmond Purcell, cousin german to the best of the Purcells, whom they call the Baron of Loughmowe in the county of Tipperary; the former we found to be received and cherished for the most part in the White Knight's country; the latter we understood chiefly to be relieved in the county of Arra upon the borders of Thomond and Tipperary by Sir Tirlagh O'Brien and his sons, which Sir Tirlagh is brother to the bishop of Killalowe, natural Lord of Arra and uncle to the Earl of Thomond, by the mother's side. We first called the White Knight and his son, whom by special commandment we sent for to Limerick, and charged them with the relieving of the traitor M'Gibbon. They protested the contrary, and vowed their utmost endeavours to bring him to justice. Notwithstanding we thought it good to commit them both, for then  p.472 we knew their kinsmen, tenants, and followers would use all possible means to get the traitors, to procure the liberty of their chief lords. Howbeit, the White Knight, with importunity and vows of service, did prevail so far with my Lord President, that he got licence to return to his country for one month, and, if in that time he performed no service upon the rebels, himself and his son should render themselves to my Lord President, to be restrained or punished as his Lordship should think meet. For Sir Tirlagh O'Brien and his sons, we had once resolved to take bonds of them for their appearance at the next sessions, because the proofs against them were not direct and clear; but afterwards the Bishop of Killalowe, his own brother, accusing him and his sons as relievers and familiar companions of Redmond Purcell, my Lord President, after our depurture from Limerick towards Cashell, committed them prisoners to the castle of Limerick. Whereupon this effect did follow: Purcell, not daring to trust the inhabitants of Arra, among whom he was wont to lurk, fearing they would seek his head to redeem Sir Tirlaghe's liberty, retired into the county of Limerick, where one Morice Hurley drew him into a castle of his, and brought some of my Lord President's soldiers upon him, who, killing one or two of his kern, took Purcell himself alive and brought him to the President since the end of our circuit, so that now we hear he is executed by martial law. As for Morice M'Gibbon, the like must needs befall him shortly, for there are so many snares laid to entrap him, that it is not possible for him to escape. After this we received some petitions on the behalf of certain undertakers of this county and the county of Kerry for the re-establishment of their possessions in some parcels of land whereof they had been disseised in the time of the late wars. These undertakers, though they move pity in regard they are English and poor, yet in other respects deserve no favour. For they are the most backward in payment of the King's rent of any fee-farmers in Ireland, and yet they had their arrearages remitted unto them the last summer; next, they suffer almost half their land to lie waste, and to be unprofitable either to themselves or to the commonwealth; and lastly, they observe few or none of the covenants comprised in their letters-patents, and laid down in that wise and exact plot for the undertakers of Munster; and amongst the rest they utterly neglect the principal, namely, that they should inhabit their lands with tenants of English birth, to the end that every lord of a seigniory, being able upon all occasions to rise up with 150 to 200 Englishmen, they might be a mutual strength and security one to the other, and be enabled to stand upon their guard against the mightiest rebel that could rise in those parts. But contrariwise, all our undertakers for the most part have planted Irish tenants in their lands, and among others, even the sons and kinsmen of the ancient proprietors and owners thereof, who  p.473 forfeited the same by their attainders; so that these vipers being nourished in their bosoms, upon the first alarm of any rebellion, do fall upon their landlords and cut their throats, make spoil and booty of all their substance, and cast out their wives and children stript and stark naked, whereof even these men themselves had a bitter experience upon the last revolt in Munster. When we had heard and ended the greatest part of the civil causes arising in this county, there was some time spent in the execution of a commission directed specially to inquire who was next heir to Richard, late Lord Bourk of Castleconnell, who together with his brother Thomas (who was indeed his next heir apparent) was slain in the late rebellion. After their death, Tibbot Bourke, the surviving and youngest brother of that house, supposing the rest to be dead without issue, claimed the lands and the title of the Lord of Castleconnell, and hath ever since enjoyed the same. Now this commission was purchased and pursued by a gentlewoman, who saith she was the lawful wife of Thomas, and had issue a son by him, who, if he be legitimate, must needs be the heir of the house;—Tibbot Lord Bourke affirming on the other side that she was never lawfully married to his brother Thomas, and consequently that her son is a bastard and not heir.

A jury being composed of the best gentlemen of the country, as it was meet in a cause of that importance, the evidence on both sides fell out to be thus: — It was first directly proved that although Richard and Thomas were both slain in one conflict, yet Thomas died before Richard, and so the wife of Thomas was utterly precluded both of her title of dower and title of honour. Howbeit the gentlewomen brought divers witnesses, who deposed directly that she was married to Thomas Bourk, and that they were present at the marriage, and that it was solemnized with a mass. They named likewise the priest, with other circumstances; as that Thomas Bourke received marriage goods of her friends, and brought her home to his own house, and after all this had a son by her. My Lord Bourke, on the other side, brought forth a certificate from the priest himself (who durst not appear in regard of this proclamation) to this effect: That, true it was they came to the church to be married, that their friends on both sides were present, that they had a mass. But, saith he, when I examined the parties touching the canonical impediments which might hinder the marriage, I found reason to forbear to marry them, and so the assembly broke off, and without the celebration of any marriage at all; besides it was proved that Thomas Bourke did shortly afterwards entirely abandon the gentlewoman, and when word was brought him that she had borne him a son, he protested publicly that he would not father it. This doubtful evidence did so perplex the jurors (who withal were carried with divers affections) that they continued 24 hours, yet could not agree of a  p.474 verdict; whereupon, although the jury upon an inquisition be not so strictly kept as a jury of trial between party and party, who are ever kept from meat, drink, fire, and candlelight, till they be agreed, yet it was thought fit to restrain these in a private house, that they might agree before our departure. Nevertheless, because they could not agree when we departed, they were all bound to appear this term in Dublin, either to yield up their verdict or to be censured for their contempt. Upon these doubtful terms doth the title of that barony as yet stand. The last part of our business here was to indict the citizens of Limerick for not coming to church according to the statute, which was the more easily done, because the foreman of the jury was a well affected Protestant. So that there stand indicted 200 and more of the burgesses of that town, and for the penalties for six months, and when they are levied will amount to 200 marks ster. or thereabouts. We have assigned it to the repairing of the cathedral church there, which hath suffered much dilapidation and ruin.

Those businesses being thus passed over, we passed from Limerick to Cashell, over the most rich and delightful valley in Ireland, for the space of 20 miles together. At Cashell we held sessions for the county of "the Crosse" and Tipperary. It hath been anciently called the county of Crosse (for it hath been a county above 300 years, and was indeeed one of the first that was made in this kingdom,) because all the lands within the precinct thereof were either the demesnes of the Archbishop of Cashell or holden of that see, or else belonging to abbeys or other houses of religion, and so the land is, as it were, dedicated to the cross of Christ. The scope or latitude of this county, though it were never great, yet now it is drawn into so narrow a compass that it doth not deserve the name of shire. For whereas in former times (as we were informed) the whole county contained 150 plough-lands or thereabouts, wherein the sheriff of the Cross is suffered to execute his authority, because the county of the liberty of Tipperary, wherein the Earl of Ormond doth claim and use jura regalia by an ancient grant of Edward 3, hath from time to time so encroached upon the lands of this little county, that it is almost swallowed up; and these encroachments have been for the most part in time of war and public rebellions. For then, the people of this county, fearing to be burdened with cesse of soldiers and other contributions of the country, would affirm that their lands lay within the county palatine of the Earl of Ormond, whose greatness and favour with the estate was ever such that he protected the inhabitants of his liberty from burdens of that kind. We had appointed so short a time for the execution of our commission there, being informed that very few businesses would arise unto us in that place, that we had not leisure to examine these encroachments; but we resolved to take order  p.475 above, that a special commission for that purpose should be awarded to be executed this next summer vacation, and in the meantime to search the records for the ancient limits and extent of that county. We found not in the gaol of this shire above two or three prisoners, and as many more appeared on recognizances; of which only one was arraigned, condemned, and executed, and the rest being loose and idle persons, found masters or sureties for their behaviour, and so were delivered; whereupon there remained nothing to be done but to indict the recusants of that town, wherein we found only one inhabitant that came to church, for even the Archbishop's own sons, and son-in-law, dwelling there, are obstinate recusants. We indicted more than 100 in this poor town, and appointed the penalties to be employed towards the reparation of the parochial and cathedral church, which is a fair ancient structure upon a high hill, which is nothing but a main rock on the west side of the town.

Departing thence we came to Clonemell, a well-built and well-kept town upon the river of Sure, in the county of the liberty of Tipperary. In this county we gave in charge to the jury all matters not determinable by the Earl's charter, viz., all treasons and all other offences which have been made capital or otherwise penal since 46 Edward 3, in which year the Earl's charter doth bear date. We arrainged but one prisoner, namely, one of the sons of Sir Tirlagh O'Brien before named, who was indicted for a murder, which fact is treason by a particular statute in this realm, and was found to have been committed by him and Redmund Purcell, the wood kern or rebel of whom I spake before, with others of that lewd company. This country did so much complain of mischiefs done by Redmond Purcell, that it was thought meet for a terror and example to suffer the execution of the law upon this young gent, and accordingly he was executed. After this my Lord President (whose zeal in matters of religion tempered with good moderation, doth merit very much consideration,) was desirous that a priest, one James Morice, who was lately before apprehended, should have been indicted for publishing a slanderous and seditious bull, though without all question it be a forged and counterfeit thing, as you may perceive by the copy, which I have presumed to send to you herewith, albeit perhaps you have received it already. Before we would conceive any indictment hereupon, we thought meet to examine the evidence, which we found not to be ripe enough, because the parties that should make the direct proof were not present, and therefore we deferred this business till another session. This town, being in the liberty, is more haunted with Jesuits and priests than any other town or city within this province, which is the cause we found the burgesses more obstinate here than elsewhere. For, whereas my Lord President did gently offer to the principal inhabitants, that he would spare to proceed against them then, if  p.476 they would yield to conference for a time, and become bound in the meantime not to receive any Jesuit or priest into their houses, they peremptorily refused both. Whereupon, the chief of them were bound to appear at Cork before the Lord President and Council, presently after Easter, there to be censured with good round fines and imprisonment; of the multitude we caused 200 to be indicted, but with much ado was the grand inquest drawn to find the bill, and yet for the most part they were gentlemen of the country. The Jesuits and priests of name that have lately frequented the town are, Nicholas Lennagh, Jesuit, Andrew Mulrony, Jesuit, Richard White, priest, Gerrard Miagh, priest, William Crokin, priest. Amongst these, Nicholas Lennagh hath special credit and authority; and, which is to be noted, before that horrible treason was to have been executed in England, he charged the people to say three Ave Marias for the good success of a great matter, which, what it was they should not know until it was effected and brought to pass; and as I got intelligence of these priests and Jesuits that resort to Clonmell, so did I learn the names of such others as do lurk in the other principal towns of Munster. In Limerick these three: Brien O'Cairn, a Jesuit, Richard Cadan, Richard Arthure, priests, In Cork these: Robert Miagh, Dominick Rocke, James Miagh, priests. In Waterford: Dr. White, Jesuit, Lumbard, a priest, &c.

If our bishops, and others that have cure of souls, were but half as diligent in their several charges as these men are in the places where they haunt, the people would not receive and nourish them as now they do. But it is the extreme negligence and remissness of our clergy here which was first the cause of the general desertion and apostacy, and is now again the remora or the impediment of reformation. My Lord President doth use his best diligence to apprehend these priests; but he findeth difficulty in it, because they do easily lurk or escape in a country where every man beareth them favour. Besides they live in the houses of gentlemen and noblemen under the name of surgeons and physicians, and can hardly be taken in the exercise of their functions. Howbeit, since the apprehension of Lalor here in Dublin, the priests and Jesuits that frequent the English Pale have conceived some fear; and some of them have made means to my Lord Deputy that he would remit their contempt in staying here after the time prefixed in the proclamation, and to permit them forthwith to depart the kingdom. We finished the few businesses that were to be done at Clonmell on Easter-eve, and so concluded our circuit, my Lord President returning to Cork, my associate to his house in the county of Waterford, and myself towards Dublin. And because I was to pass by the Carricke, a house of my Lord of Ormond, where his Lordship hath lain ever since his last weakness, I went thither to visit his Lordship and to rest there upon Easter-day; but because the feast of St. George fell out in the Easter holidays, I was  p.477 not suffered in anywise to depart until I had seen him do honour to that day. I found the Earl in his bed, for he was weaker at this time than he had been for many months before; so that upon the day of St. George he was not able to sit up, but had his robes laid upon his bed, as the manner is. From thence I returned to Dublin at the end of Easter week.

Jo: Davys

Document details

The TEI Header

File description

Title statement

Title (): Observations made by Sir John Davys, Attorney of Ireland

Author: Sir John Davies

Editor: Charles William Russell

Editor: John Patrick Prendergast

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 7540 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a Department of History Project at University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2016

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

CELT document ID: E610002

Availability: Freely available.

Availability: Material in this letter is in the free domain.

Source description


  • Calendar of the State Papers relating to Ireland, of the reign of James I., volume 1603-1606. Preserved in Her Majesty's Public Record Office, and elsewhere. Edited by ... C. W. Russell, ... and J. P. Prendergast. (London 1872).

The edition used for the digital edition

Davies, John (1872). Calendar of the state papers relating to Ireland ..., 1603-1606.‍ Ed. by Charles William Russell and John Patrick Prendergast. 1st ed. cxviii + 658 pages. London: Longman & Co.

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

  title 	 = {Calendar of the state papers relating to Ireland ..., 1603-1606.},
  author 	 = {John Davies},
  editor 	 = {Charles William Russell and John Patrick Prendergast},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {cxviii + 658 pages},
  publisher 	 = {Longman \& Co},
  address 	 = {London},
  date 	 = {1872}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The present text covers pages 463–477 of the volume.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been checked and proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text with no alterations.

Quotation: There are no quotations.

Hyphenation: There are no soft hyphens.

Segmentation: div0=the correspondence.

Interpretation: Names are not tagged, nor are terms for cultural and social roles.

Profile description

Creation: By Sir John Davies

Date: May 1606

Language usage

  • The text is in seventeenth-century English edited to 19th-century-standards. (en)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: histor; politics; law; Irish customs; letter; 17c

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2016-12-07: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2016-10-26: TEI header created; file parsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2016-10-25: File proofed; structural and some content encoding applied. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2016-10-25: Pages 463–477 captured. (data capture Beatrix Färber)

Index to all documents

CELT Project Contacts



For details of the markup, see the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

page of the print edition

folio of the manuscript

numbered division

 999 line number of the print edition (in grey: interpolated)

underlining: text supplied, added, or expanded editorially

italics: foreign words; corrections (hover to view); document titles

bold: lemmata (hover for readings)

wavy underlining: scribal additions in another hand; hand shifts flagged with (hover to view)

TEI markup for which a representation has not yet been decided is shown in red: comments and suggestions are welcome.

Source document


Search CELT


    2 Carrigside, College Road, Cork