Mac Mahon's Black Rent


from Seanchas Ard Mhacha
Ceart Ui Neill
Eamon O Doibhlin
(R.I.A. MS. 24, p. 221-225)

1. "The first of January was on Saturday this year of our lord 1425.  The King
of England came to Ireland and this was the reason of his coming - a great
war being waged against his people by the Irish, namely O Neill, Domhnall,
son Enri Aimhreidh, and Mac Mahon. Ardgail son of Brian Mor.  The reason
for that war was the rent which O Neill and Mac Mahon claimed from the
foreigners, and another reason was the killing by the foreigners of Brian Mor
Mac Mahon, son of Aodh, son of Roalbh, the high-king of Oriel without
opposition from any man from the Boyne to Derry (all obeying him), and from
Gleann Righe to Bearamha in Breifne.  This is how he was slain: a big bribe
was given to his own bodyguard, a gallowglass, and he took that bribe, and
when he got Mac Mahon alone he slew him and decamped thereafter.  That
was the greatest killing that was done either of English or Irish of his own
time truly - and the saddest and most hateful treachery wrought in Ireland
in that time.  Cuchonnacht Mor O Birn was the name of that soldier.  The
King of England made peace in Ireland that time, and he confirmed their
rent to O Neill and MacMahon on the English on the King's part and in return
they were to get ward and protection.  Three quarters of a year and the King
remained in Ireland, and he returned to England after making peace in
Ireland, and not long thereafter he died leaving his kingdom to his heir, a boy of
five years old.  This heir had a good foster father: Mortimer was his name, Earl
of March, and the warding of England and the greater part of France and the
foreign settlements in Ireland were in his hands.  He came to see and to
visit Ireland and many of the nobles of Ireland made submission to him, and
returned from him with joy and great honour.  Mac Mahon likewise came, Ardgail, son
of Brian Mor and the Earl granted him rent to O Neill and Mac Mahon just as it was in the time of the King of England before him in accordance with the peace he had made with the Irish.

2. Brian Mor Mac Mahon, high King of Oriel it was who fixed the rent on the
foreigners in respect of that portion of his land which they held.

3. Hereunder is a detail of that rent:-
(a) Forty yards of superfine cloth from Betagh (of Moynalty) and two ounces
of silver with every yard per annum.
(b) Twelve years of cloth and four pecks of malt on the parish of Siddan.
(c) Twelve yards of superfine cloth and twelve pecks of malt from Dromconrath
per annum.
(d) Fourteen pecks of malt and the fodder of four steeds, with their grooms
and dogs, also with their boys, on Cremartin.
(e) Twelve pecks of malt and the fodder of ... horses with their grooms and
hounds with boys on Rathruskin.
(f) The clothing of Mac Mahon and his wife of superfine cloth and the fodder
of four horses and their grooms on Mellifont Abbey per annum.
(g) Fourteen pecks of malt and twelve years of superfine cloth on the town
of Ardee per annum.
(h) Twelve pecks of malt and the feeding of six horses with their grooms and
hounds and hawks on Louth per annum.
(i) The rent of MacMahon on Taaffe of Braganstown, eight years of superfine
cloth and eight pecks of malt and five marks of silver per annum.
(j) The rent of Mac Mahon on Babe of Darvor is eight pecks of malt and
 fourteen years of kersey.
(k) Mac Mahon's rent of White of Richardstown is four pecks of malt and
eight yards of broadcloth.
(l) Mac Mahon's rent of Clinton of the water four pecks of malt and four
yards of superfine cloth.
(m) Mac Mahon's rent of Drumbilla of the Roche four pecks of malt and four
years of superfine cloth.
(n) Mac Mahon's rent of Moore of Barmeath, six pecks of malt, eight yards
of broadcloth, and twelve geese every Christmas.
(o) Mac Mahon's rent of Dundalk, eight pecks of malt and twelve yards
of superfine cloth per annum.
(p) Mac Mahon's rent of Priesttown four pecks of malt and twelve yards of
superfine cloth per annum.

4. And there is not a ploughland or a tate in possession of the Plunketts or
Gernons, or Bellews or Taaffes or Dowdals or Whites, or indeed any newcomer
but there is a "rent of defence" due to Mac Mahon by them each year in
accordance with what we have written above.  For it was to Brian Mor the
son of Ardgail that rent was first granted, and every king that succeeded
him maintained that rent.

5. Ruaidhri, son of Ardgail and Manus Mor who held the hostages of the
foreigners as pledge for the rent in his own town, i.e., Lurgan, and forced them to
construct the Bawn in Lurgan in addition to the exaction of the rent: and
Eoghan, son of Ruaidhri and Feilim of the Wine (who was called by this name
because instead of the malt he would take nought but wine and the silver and
fine cloth in their own shape) and likewise every king that descended from
Feilimy to Ros Buidhe, and finally to Brian, son of Aodh Og (Inaug. 1589.
died 1622).

6. Three chieftains of Oriel in the time of Brian Mor, son of Ardgal, namely
- O Buighellan of Dartry, and Mac Kenna of Truagh, and O Duffy of Teallach
Gealagain, they were by right the stewards of the country.  O Connallaigh is
the Chief Marshall of all Oriel and whenever Mac Mahon is being inaugurated,
he is to give a knight's accoutrements to each of these Chieftains, or twenty
marks in old silver coinage in lieu thereof: and it is these three Chieftains
with O Connallaigh and the ecclesiastical superior of Clones who have the right to
form the Council of Oriel.

7. There is a certain amount of loss (falling off) infected on Mac Mahon i
respect of each profit that has been numerated above, namely: every harm that befalls
the country it is on them (the Chieftains) the burden of payment falls, or
the collection of it; and these chieftains give coshery two days and nights in
the winter after Christmas and one day and a night after Easter, and the same
is due by O Connallaigh.  To O Connallaigh, belongs the good steed, the
.....?, the word, the helmet, and the great spear in the time of inauguration, and it
is not proper to violate the right of sanctuary of any one of the men of Oriel
at any time.

8. Here is the portion of the profits of the Chieftains that are in Oriel (which is
due to them) by Mac Mahon viz. the accoutrements of a Knight to each Chieftain,
and a costume from Mac Mahon's wife to each of their wives.

9. It was Brian Mor who gave them bounties and the Chieftains increased them
in honour of Mac Mahon by as much as an ounce of gold for each Tate of their
patrimony each year as na honour and token or lordship and submission.
Therefore it is said that money impost is on the clans from that down to
the time of Ruaidhri, son of Ardgail, and it was that same Ruaidhri who
remitted half his rent to these Chieftains for their stipend, the other half to
remain due to himself and his successors."

Return to: The Rise of the MacMahons