Report on the state of the County of Kerry and the Baronies of Bere and Bantry (1673).

From The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, No. XLVI., July, 1868.

Description of the County Kerry in 1673 (extracted from "The MacGillicuddy Papers", edited by W. M. Brady, D.D. 1867).

Report on the state of the County of Kerry and the Baronies of Bere and Bantry. Dated, March 27th, 1673.

To His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

In obedience to your Excellencie's order of the 24th March last, we, the undernamed Justices of the Peace for the Countie of Kerry, have considered the state and condition of the three Baronies of Iveragh, Dunkerran, Glanerought, within the said county, unto which wee conceive the condition of Beare and Bantry to be very like, and doe upon the whole matter finde that the said four baronies are obnoxious unto the following evils, viz.:

1. To be preyed upon by any enemies shipping Pickaroons, and that the people thereof are under many temptations, and have many opportunities to correspond and comply with such vessels for their relief and refreshment, as may appear by the situation of the land, condition of the people hereafter mentioned, and several late instances.

That the said country being inhabited, for the most parte, by such people as are concerned to oppose the present laws, and that others being not enough in number to procure the execution of what the Magistrate commands; it hath happened that the Ministers of Justice have been so abused in their persons and goods, that they have been either terrified from proceeding in their duty, or wearied into a compliance with, or connivance at, those whom they before sought to punish.

The cause of which two General Evils wee humbly conceave to be as followeth, viz.:

1. For that the remotest parts of these Baronies are 180 English miles from Dublin, and near 40 miles from where Assizes and Sessions are held, and the way for the last 30 or 40 miles are the worst of all Ireland, unpassable in the winter time, and require an hour's riding, with much trouble and danger, for each mile, so as the Ministers of Justice cannot, from the inhabitants of those places (who are very poor), find any satisfaction for their troublesome journey after them. Nor will the causes wherein these poor people are concerned bear the chardge of sending men to make affidavits, or to be witnesses, etc., in them. Nor are there yet Manors enough erected in a sufficient order to try small matters upon the place.

2. In all the said Baronies, being 100 miles in compass, there is resident but one minister, and he without Church-wardens or Service Booke, officiating only now and then in one place, and who, although he have above £300 due to him, is now ready to perish for want of maintenance, and so vexed by the injuries and abuses done him by the papists, that he findes it easier to suffer than to seeke relief; whilst the country aboundeth with unnecessary Priests and Officers, and Friars, exacting large allowances from the people, and with youth learning of needless Latin instead of useful trades.

3. The country is soe thin peopled that there is above sixty-six English acres of land for every man, woman, or child that is within it; and these soe poore that untill very lately there was not in them tenn houses of two chimnies in each, not one inhabitant in them all able to bear the office of Justice of the Peace, or Sheriff. Noe kinde of manufacture or fishing (but oysters at low water) even in this place, which before the discovery of Newfoundland was the fishery of Europe, and no employment but the grazing of small cattle in the summer time, without making any hay for the winter, but a general face of poverty and rudeness hath overspread it untill within these five last years that the Trades of Iron, Lead, Timber, Shipping, Rape-seed, and Fishing of all sorts, Tanning, and several other trades subservient thereunto, hath been with great difficulty introduced by one or two persons. Soe as the people, by reason of their poverty and the fastness of the country are irresponsible either by their bodyes or goods for anything they did amiss. Nor was there any Magistrate upon the place to examine their actions.

4. The said country is not only thin peopled in generall, but the proportion of English and Protestants is smaller here than in most parts of Ireland; for in the said three Baronies of Kerry, consisting of Thirteen Parishes, there are not at the time tenn Protestant families in Eleven of the said Thirteen Parishes, that is to say, not above one in 150 families of the Papists, as may appear by the Collector of Hearth Moneys for the said Parishes for the said countrey, nor were the other two Parishes better furnished till within these four yeares, Sir William Petty erected Iron Works in them.

5. The countrey was by the last Powers that subdued it, laid wast for many years, soe as it was death for any man, woman, or childe to be seen in it. Neither since the Militia hath been settled all over the Kingdom hath there been any notice taken of this place, either to protect it by part of the Army or by a Militia of its own, even from an enemy's long-boat which with 40 Musqueteers may do what they please with this country. Nor at this time of speciall danger is there a garrison in any other part of the county of Kerry, nor since the suspension of the Presidency (of Munster) are the forces which were here under any command that's clearly understood.

6. From the year 1657 to the year 1668 it is manifest that there hath been a strange destruction of woods, and vast numbers of Pipe, Hogshead Barrell staves exported, yet such was the universal confederacy of the Irish in this particular, that though they are all probably guilty, yet not one man can be convicted of what many hundreds must needs be guilty. Besides, many malefactors have fled into this countrey either to hide or shipp themselves away. Nor do the country people, for fear of their lives or burning of their houses, dare refuse to entertain such persons and other soldiers against whom there are express statutes in this kingdom. Nor are there here Justices of the Peace able to do what is fitting in this matter for one cause or other.

7. The Irish of this country are all branches of a few families, and chiefly of the Sullivans and Carthys--but most of the Sullivans --they having been late Proprietors of most of the Lands here, as may appear by the surveys upon record. And 'tis certain that the Three Chief of the Sullivans themselves, namely, O'Sullivan Meore, O'Sullivan Beare, and MacGillicuddie, although neither of them were adjudged Innocent, nor have any benefit under the late Act of Settlement, do nevertheless variis modis enjoy considerable parts of their Estates, and that without paying Quit Rent unto His Majestie for the same as even Innocents are obliged to do, whereby they are enabled to engage great numbers of their names and families to assist them in such their trespasses and intrusions. Besides, the last of these three had lately acted as Justice of the Peace himself, whilst the English, to whom these lands are passed in Certificate, cannot legally come by them, Patents having been stopped from passing upon such Certificates.

8. The greatest part of these lands are, by a mere misunderstanding of the survey, contrary to the intention of the Explanatory Act, severall of his Majestie's decrees in the Exchequer, and against common sense itself, chardged with tenn times more Quit Rent than the lands were worth at the time of the first chardging of Quit Rents, which had occasioned many Pursuivant seizures and Liverys to issue against this countrey. All of which have taken little effect, by reason it was impossible to pay what was required: But have occasioned many violences and illegal actions by severall persons (and) was the reason of the first generall evill aforementioned, that is to say, of the countrey's being infested with enemy's shipping and their being tempted to favour Pickaroons in the remoteness and fastness of the countrey. It's situation upon the ocean and the multitude of its creeks and harbours: The poverty, thinness, and insolvency of the people, as also their confederates' ill will towards those who have gotten their lands, together with the plenty of cattle which are a refreshment to such shipping: And lastly, the fair excuses they can make for their so doing, as that they were surprised at their fishing and forced to ransom themselves with a little refreshment, etc.

And the reason of other generall evils, vizt., the baffling and eluding of the laws and Magistracy, are the aforementioned irresponsibleness of the people both in their bodyes and goods to answer Lawes--The multitude and confederacy of the Transgressors too many to be punished--The stopping of Patents upon Certificates, whereof the old proprietors doe and their adherents doe take advantage; And lastly, the exacting of more Quit Rents than can be paid or than the intention of the same requires, and the not settling of the same for all in generall, as hath been done in many particular cases an those not the hardest, which hath necessitated and provoked persons concerned to use extraordinary shifts for their natural preservation:

For Remedy of all which is humbly offered as followeth:--

1. That the ways of the countrey be mended which (although it seems a vast and monstrous undertaking) yet it hath appeared feasible by an effectual experience of this present yeare.

2. That the owners of the lands in these baronies might be called upon to erect manors for the use of the people in their small suits.

3. That there be above one hundred English Protestants in these three Baronies able to bear arms, and above thirty of them able and experienced souldiers.

4. That the said Englishmen, with as many more of the best affected Irish, may be formed into a Troupe of Dragoones and a Company of Foote to defend the country from foreigners, and that the several fisheries being restored and encouraged, the fishermen now belonging to them, which be about two hundred, and their boates, which may be thirty, may be able to deale with the enemy's long boats before they can land, as the Militia above-mentioned may do afterwards.

5. It is humbly offered for the strengthening of the said militia and containing the most suspected parts of them in their due obedience, that some central place of great nuturall strength, not above thirty miles distant from the remotest part of the countrey, nor from the River Shannon on the one side and Timoleague Bay on the other side, be thought upon to be manned with a competent garrison for that purpose, which may by the equal distance be equally distant from the whole West of Ireland, there being such places.

6. That the Ministers, Churches, and Churchwardens, with their necessary appurtenances, may be had and maintained, to prevent the contempt of the Protestant party and their Religion, and also their degenerating into Irish and Papist.

7. That all possible endeavours be used to encourage the English and Protestant party to live in the parts especially about the Sea Coasts, upon account of the fishing; As also in some one central inland part of the whole, upon some proper manufacture, so as instead of 150 Irish families for one of English now in the Eleven Parishes aforementioned, there may not be above six for one as in the two other parishes already planted by Sir William Petty.

8. That by this encouragement of the English, at least two or three Englishmen of good estate and reputation may be enabled to reside in this countrey, who, by acting as Justices of the Peace, may break the practice of Idlers and Cosherers: And dividing the whole people into tithings of families as heretofore, may Cause the Chief of each tithing to be bound for the good behavour of each person in it and each for the other, and for their forthcoming on occasion, and that Constables of Hundreds and Sheriffs' Bailiffs may, if possible, all be English.

9. That the stop upon passing Letters Patents upon Certificates be removed, and consequently that the old Proprietors may be dispossessed in form of law, and their numerous Kindred and followers not engaged to assist their usurpation any longer.

10. That the Quit Rents of this countrey may be settled according to the intention of the Law, the express words whereof are that it ought to be so moderate as to consist with the encouragement of Plantation: Moreover, besides the ordinary meanes above mentioned, It is humbly intimated the difficulty of regulating, civilizing, and securing this countrey may neede and desire some extraordinary helpes and consideration.

Lastly, We conceive that the rest of the County of Kerry and parte of the County of Cork are more or less in the same condition with the place above said, and require the same remedy: All which is humbly submitted by

Your Excellency's

Most Obedient Servants,