Wardership of Sligo

The O’Connors Sligo had extensive possessions in the county Sligo; their influence and authority extended, according to the “Four Masters,” from Magh Ceidne to Ceis Corran, and from the river Moy to the boundary of Brefney. “Moy Ceidne” was the ancient name of the plain extending near the Atlantic, from Ballyshannon, in Donegal, to Bundrowes, in Leitrim, and, according to Charles O’Connor, contained part of Carbury, in Sligo; and “Ceis [Keash] Corran” is a mountain near Lough Arrow, in Sligo, towards the Curlew mountains, on the borders of Roscommon. The O’Connors for a long period held the castle of Sligo, but, generally, in subjection to the O’Donnells, princes of Tirconnell, to whom that castle and the territory of Carbury, in Sligo, originally belonged. The following document, which has been translated from an intercepted Irish MS. on vellum, lately in the tower of London, gives a very curious and interesting account of the condition on which the O’Connor Sligo held the castle of that town under O’Donnell; and it illustrates the mode of military tenure under the ancient Irish chiefs. This document is dated in the year 1539, and runs as follows:—

“These are the conditions and the agreement on which O’Donnell gives the Bardach, that is, the Wardenship of Sligo, to Teige, son of Cathal Oge O’Connor, and on which he accepted it; viz., that Teige should be a trusty and faithful officer to O’Donnell on all occasions, against both the English and Irish of the country, and of distant parts, and to be counselled by him in every cause, great and small, both at home and abroad, in church and country (or lay and ecclesiastical), and particularly every time that O’Donnell demands Sligo from the son of Cathal Oge, he is obliged to deliver it to him; that every time O’Donnell proceeds into North Connaught, the son of Cathal Oge is bound to deliver to him the keys of Sligo, and to give him up the town itself (or castle), for the purpose of transacting his affairs in North Connaught, every time he demands it; that should O’Donnell be under apprehension that the English or Saxons might take Sligo, he shall receive it from the son of Cathal Oge, to demolish it (the castle), lest it would be taken possession of by the English, or by any others in opposition to O’Donnell, or the son of Cathal Oge; that Teige is bound to go along with the officers and marshals of O’Donnell to every part of North Connaught to enforce the lordship of O’Donnell; that every time O’Donnell sends Buannaighe (i.e. retained soldiers) into North Connaught, Teige is bound to support them, and not that alone, but to enforce their billeting (or quartering), for the soldiers in every other part of North Connaught, and that Teige shall have no other soldiers than those sent to him by O’Donnell, and such as he will permit him to retain; that Teige is bound to send O’Donnell every provincial king who may come to Sligo, and also every chief of a town throughout Sligo to be sent to O’Donnell, and do nothing else but that to which O’Donnell himself shall consent; that Teige shall make neither peace nor war with any person far or near, in church or country, but with O’Donnell’s permission, and to be at war with every person whom O’Donnell desires him to be at war with; that O’Donnell shall have the small Tower of Sligo, to give it to whomsoever he himself may please of his own people, for the purpose of transacting in it all his private affairs in North Connaught.

Teige gave the Almighty God, in His Divinity and Humanity, as an oath and security for the fulfilment of everything in this engagement, and pledged himself that God might visit his body with all evils in this world, and to have no mercy on his soul at the point of death, if he did not fulfil this matter to O’Donnell, and to his heirs after him.

The security for this covenant on the part of the church is the archbishop of Tuam, who is not to allow the benefit of mass, of communion, of confession, of baptism, of burial in any consecrated grave-yard, or the protection (sanctuary) of church or monastery to be given to Teige, or any person who would join him should he violate any part of this engagement; and the archbishop is bound, and also every ecclesiastic under his jurisdiction, to extinguish the candles of the cross (that is, to pronounce excommunication) against Teige and every one who joins him, as often as O’Donnell requires them do so.

The sureties in these conditions on behalf of the professional men of Ireland, are Connor-Roe MacWard, O’Clery, and Fergal, the son of Donall Roe MacWard; and they themselves, and the professional men of Ireland, are bound to satirize Teige, as O’Donnell may require it.

The witnesses to this compact are the guardian (i.e. the abbot) of Donegal: viz., Roderick MacCormac and the entire of his confraternity, namely, Torlogh O’Connor, John O’Donnell, Bryan Magrath and William O’Dwyer; also the archbishop of Tuam (Christopher Bodekine), the Bishop of Raphoe (Edmund O’Gallagher), the abbot of Derry (Cuchonacht O’Firgil or O’Freel), and the Dean of Derry.

The year of our Lord when this indenture was written in the Monastery of Donegal, was 1539, on the 23rd day of the month of June, on the Vigil of St. John the Baptist.”

The following are the signatures of the ecclesiastics who witnessed this document, as written in Latin: “Nos Edmundus, Episcopus Rapotensis interfui tempore premissorum; Ego Abbas Derensis, testis sum omnium premissorum; Ego Frater Rogerus MacCormac, Guardianus de Donegal, cum meo conventu fuimus testes premissorum omnium; Ego Shane O’Donnell sum testium premissorum unus: Ego Frater Terrentius O’Connor, testis interfui premiss.; Ego Decanus Derensis interfui tempore premis.”

The professional men signed as follows in Irish:

“I Connor Roe, am in these sureties; I, O’Clery, am in these sureties: I, Fergal Mac Ward, am in these sureties.”

In Cox’s Hibernia Anglicana it is stated that—“In the year 1585, in the government of the lord deputy Sir John Perrott, O’Connor Sligo, who had formerly taken a Patent for the county Sligo, at the yearly rent of one hundred pounds sterling, did covenant that in lieu of this cess he would pay per annum a fine horse, and one hundred large fat beeves for three years, and afterwards one hundred and thirty beeves annually at Michaelmas, at the castle of Athlone; and also that he would at all Hostings bring twenty horse and sixty foot, and maintain them forty days, and would pay in money twenty-five pounds per annum, and that in cases of necessity he should assist the queen with all his forces, and that he should make legal estates to the freeholders—they paying their proportion of the aforesaid contribution; and the queen granted O’Connor all forfeitures for felony or by outlawry, or recognizance, and all waifs, strays, and penalties for bloodshed.” Thus it appears that, at that period, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the O’Connor Sligo had the chief authority in Sligo; possessed under the crown the lands of Sligo; and was equal in power to an earl over that county.