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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part II. History of Thomond
Chapter 13. History of Thomond before it was formed into an English county: From the Death of De Clare in 1318 to the Formation of Thomond into an English County in 1580

Murrogh the Tanist succeeds, and surrenders his kingly title, receiving from the English instead an Earldom and the ownership, in fee simple, of all his lands; MacNamara and O’Grady also surrendered their ancient claims and titles

We now approach the time when the struggle between the English and Irish began in Thomond. Hitherto the natives were masters of the land of their birth. Each sept, and each individual of the sept, enjoyed his property absolutely free from any control of a man calling himself his landlord. The Church of the people too had its rights clearly defined, and enjoyed the lands bestowed upon it by the munificence of pious benefactors in former days. By the establishment of the rule of England all this was changed, and the endeavour to subdue the people, and bring them under the British system of land tenure, was the cause of a sanguinary struggle between the rival races that did not come to an end till the time of Cromwell and William III. In their preliminary movement to draw Thomond into subjection, the English Council proceeded very cunningly. They resolved to buy over O’Brien to their interests, by the offer to him of enormous bribes. They saw that if he could once be seduced, the other and smaller chieftains would follow. Acting on these views, they tendered to him the ownership in fee-simple, and to the exclusion of all the rest of the world, of the lands out of which he had received tribute as chief king, but to which he could lay no claim, as owner in our sense of that term. They further offered him the lands of the abbeys then lately suppressed, together with the Impropriate ownership of the Tithes of the parishes to which the king claimed the right of presentation. Such proposals were too tempting to be refused, and Murrogh, who, in his capacity of Tanist, had succeeded to the chieftainship on the death of his brother Conor, gave intimation of his readiness to enter into negotiations with the king with a view to the surrender of his authority. His first step was to write to Henry VIII. through the Lord Deputy, St. Leger, proffering his allegiance, and praying for pardon for himself and his adherents for the assistance they had given to Silken Thomas, and again, to the chieftains of the north in their attempt to drive the foreign enemy out of that country. He proposed to give up his claim to tribute from all lands lying on the east side of the Shannon, and as an equivalent, he embodied in his request the other privileges and demands already adverted to, to wit, a grant in fee-simple of all lands to which he could lay claim from ancient usage; authority to govern Thomond according to the king’s laws; the right to all the lands of the suppressed livings, as well as to all church patronage, except the appointment of bishops. He further offered to give up the title of the O’Brien and to take that of an earl, with the privilege of sitting in Parliament. All his demands were acceded to, and he was summoned over to the English Court at Greenwich to receive the investiture of his earldom. He repaired thither accordingly, accompanied by his nephew Donogh, son of the last King of Thomond. To himself was given the earldom of Thomond, with remainder to Donogh, who was in reality, according to British ideas, the legitimate and proper chief, as being the eldest son of the last ruler. Lest Donogh should feel discontented, the title of baron of Ibrickan was bestowed upon him, and he was to enjoy it during the lifetime of his uncle. [16] The example of the O’Brien and his nephew was followed by other chieftains of Thomond, who saw that the time was come when the power of England was likely to become predominant. Sheeda MacNamara, the Lord of Clanculein, offered to become the king’s subject on condition of obtaining a peerage, and of having the lands from which he only had the right of tribute previously, conferred upon him in fee-simple. His proposal relative to the peerage was refused, and he was obliged to content himself with the simple dignity of knighthood, but the lands were granted to him in conformity with his wishes. A similar honour was conferred on Donogh O’Grady, head of the Ui Donghaile, and the lands of his tribe also bestowed upon him.