Celtic Design

CHAPTER VI.

THE LAW OF DISTRAINING

From The Brehon Laws by Laurence Ginnell, 1894

SECTION I.

INTRODUCTORY

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ET us now consider briefly the law of distress, that is the seizing of property for the satisfaction of debt. In its time it was substantially the most extensive and important part of the whole Brehon Code and in its operation affected the whole of it, being incidental to all litigation. That strange fact makes it interesting to us. It has besides some intrinsic points of interest. But the whole subject will not detain us at length proportioned to its ancient importance.

There had always been local customs regulating distress, but, as might be expected, neither were they all alike nor any one of them consistently observed even in the district to which it nominally belonged. The consequence was irregularity leading to injustice and sometimes to violence. The matter being so very important, a national convention was summoned and held, about a hundred years before the birth of Christ, on the hill of Uisneach, near the present town of Moate, in Westmeath, was attended by representative men from every province, and there a uniform system of distress drawn up and proposed by Sean (Shan), son of Aighe, a Connaught-man, was adopted for the whole country. This continued in force for nearly seventeen hundred years, and is the system now about to be briefly outlined.

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