Scotch-Irish-L Archives

Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 1998-02 > 0886782244

From: linda Merle <>
Subject: Re: Yeoman definition
Date: Fri, 06 Feb 1998 08:24:04 -0800

Hi Phil, have you looked at Otway's "History of Medieval Ireland"? He
dedicates a whole chapter to Norman-Irish society, describing in detail
six classes of tenants. Unfortunately for the sake of this
book he tends to use English terms, and he was talking about the Norman-
Irish, not the Irish, but I suspect he knows these terms in great depth.
He wrote the book based on both English and Irish primary documents,
ie the Irish Annals, so he is familiar with the Irish material.

According to him on the Norman-Irish estate there were 6 classes. The
you are refering to appear to be betaghs and burgesses. He documents
in Irish and Norman law, which became confounded in medieval Ireland, so
the estates were a mix.

Betaghs were in the same position, he says, as the English villein. A
papal letter of 1261 described them as "layman attached to the soil,
called Betagii". He goes to to describe differences beteween them and
English villein. The English villein had more labour services. He
that betaghs originated in the servile class of Celtic Ireland, quoting
as evidence an Irish king who around 1166 granted to his new priory of
Hallows Baldoyle, Co Dublin, --with its men -- (villeinage) "to wit,
Melisu Macfeilecan with his sons and nephews." There is an article on
origin of the Beatagh G MacNiocaill 'The Origins of the Middle Ages',
in "The Irish Jurist", new series, I, pp 292-98.

We are told the average betagh had 7 to 10 acres. By the end of the 13th
century their labor services to their lord had often been commuted for
money rent.

Burgesses sometimes formed the entire recorded population (Moyaliff and
Co Tipperary), holding their burgages at low fixed rent, not owing suit
the court of the manor to their own court, the hundred, whose judgement
was the judgement of their fellow burgesses. They often owed labor
like carting iron and salt from Cashel for payment when directed so by
the Bailiff at Moyaliff. The average burgage only held 3 acres besides
the burgage plot itself, though it is thought they also rented desmesne
lands to such an extent that the value to the lord was not the crops but
the hard cash paid to them by the burgess. Hence by the endof the 13th
century, Otway tells us, many lords were not cultivating their demesnes
themselves but relying on burgesses. Here we have the origins of the
folk and the hospitalers as well as the agent of the Irish lord.

He then does some analysis of who these folk were -- Irish or English.
He goes on for pages, concluding that it appears that a large portion
Welsh/Norman tenants brought from England. There was a labor shortage
in Ireland throughout the middle ages (says Otway) which was rectified
by importing labor.

I'd avoid yeoman -- the classes and the culture were significantly
different between medieval Ireland and medieval England. Or so Otway-
Ruthven seems to conclude.

Linda Merle

This thread: