The Celtic Literature Collective

Ceart Ui Neill
The Rights of O'Neill

1. This is the customary right and lordship of O Neill over the province of Ulster.

His right from O Domhnaill; that he come with his full muster from Tarbh Chinn Chasla to Eas Ruaidh without regard to any benefit or adversity that might befall them. And these are the chiefs who come with O Domhnaill: O Baoighill from Tir Bhoghaine and Tir nAimhir, and O Maolghaoithe from Tuath I Mhaolghaoithe, and Mac Giolla Shamhais from Ros Buill, and O Breislein from Fanaid, and O Maoilegain from Magh gCaoraind, and O Muireadhiagh and O Conaill from Tuath Bhladhach, and O Toircheart from Cluain Eidheile and Mac Dhubhain from Tir Eanna, and Mag Fhionnachtaigh from Ard Mheg Fhionnachtaigh, and O Dochartaigh from Ard Miodhair and Mag Fhearghail from Tir Bhreasail, and Mag Loinnseachain from Gleann Finne. And if those families should die out, the dutry of hosting rests upon the tribes themselves, except the three free tribes of Muinter Chanannan in the territory of the Ui Chonaill themselves. And whenever the UI Chonaill should break away from their allegiance to O Neill, O Neill shall have what is his own judge shall award. And if cows increase among the Ui Chonaill, two in-calf cows are due each year. Provision for two hundred is the normal billeting to which the Ui Neill are entitled from the Ui Chonaill from Tarbh Chinn Chasla to Eas Ruaidh.

If O Domhnaill comes to the dwelling of O Neill on a visit, it is O Maolchraoibhe who provides food and drink for him, and the heads and hides belong to O Maolchraoibhe. If O Domhnaill should tarry for food or on billet, O Donnghaile is his marshal; and if he slaughters the beeves, the offal belongs to his people. O Neill is entitled to make a royal circuit of the Ui Chonaill, and his own high-stewards are the Ui Chuinne, and the Ui Again are stewards to him in every country into which he goes.

2. Here is the customary right and rent of O Neill from Breifne. From O Raghallaigh that he come with his full muster, without considering any benefit or hardship of his people; twenty marks from Iochtar Tire; twenty marks from the kin of Aodh O Raghallaigh; twenty marks and five ounces from the kin of Aodh Caoch an Fheadha; and ten marks of An Biatach; and ten marks from the kin of Scon mac Toirdhealbhaigh; and five marks on the country of Cathal mac Maolmhordha; and five marks from the kin of Giolla Iosa Og; and five marks and six ounces from the kin of Feidhlimidh mac Feaghail; and the two and a half marks of Toirdhealbhach Og mac Glaisne; and the mark of Eoghan O Raghallaigh. Provision for one hundred and fifty men is the normal billeting to which O Neill is entitled from Breifne. And twenty shillings from Domhnall O Raghallaigh, and twenty shillings from Baile Trasna, and the mark of Seon O Raghallaigh. And it was 'narrow-cross money', or salfas which was due from everyone when the rent was first proclaimed.

3. The right of O Neill from Ui Eachach Uladh: that they come in full muster, and if they should not come, O Neill shall have from them what his own judge shall award. Three hundred beeves from them, or six ounces (of gold) and two hundred marks instead. Provision for two hundred men as normal billeting from them: provision for fifty of them is due from the Ui Eachach themselves, namely Mac Aonghusa, and provision for fifty from Mac Artain, and provision for a hundred from the three chieftains Mac Shuileachain, Mac Duibheana and O Haidheid.

4. The customary right and black rent of O Neill from the Oirghialla: to come with their full muster upon summons, and if they should not come, O Neill shall have what his own judge shall award. Two hundred beeves from them. Provision for two hundred men as normal billeting from them. Of that amount provision for twenty is due from Muinter Cheallaigh (the O'Kellys).

5. This is the black rent of O Neill from Mac Cionath every year: to come with his full muster whenever called upon; and a hundred white groats; and forty-two groats for every baile biataigh; or a 'narrow-cross groat' or salfas instead of the white groat; and provision for fifty men as normal billeting.

6. The household of O Neill in Inis Eoghain is made free. And three chieftains were left over them: O Heanna, and he was given as estate from Tarbh Chinn Chasla to Tumog Eich I Eanna (where she died), a horse's run; the estate of O Maolfhabhaill, from Tumog Eich I Eanna to Allta Gorma entering the Breadach; the esate of O Duibhdhiorma, a horse's run from Allta Gorma to Ard An Chro.

Here is the lordship of O Neill over Inis Eoghain: provision for billeting a hundred men for half the year, and a hundred marks yearly in rent, together with maintenance for himself and his army on a circuit; and if it should fail him, O Neill shall have what his own judge shall award; and every pledge that is sent in across Derry Water as security for his rent shall not be restored until it is redeemed.

7. The lordship of O Neill over O Cathain: provision for fourteen men every quarter from Fir na Craoibhe; and provision for eight men from Clann Diarmada, and provision for four men from Tir Chaorthaidh; and four and a half from the Ciannachta; and provision for five men from Muinter I Mhaoilmheana; provision for ten men from Muintir Bhranan.

He (O Cathain) is bound on account of his stipend to keep O Neill as long as he wishes, and he is bound to come with his full muster from the gate of Ath Deiridh. Twenty-one beeves are his old rent, or two ounces and five marks a year, and to make hosting for Domhnall son of Brian of the Battle of Down on Ard Mhe Giollagain. Forty marks every quarter from O Floinn and hosting; and twenty-one beeves, or an ounce and twenty-five marks from Mac Giolla Mhuire every quarter, and hosting and encampment, and two ounces and five marks in lieu of the twenty-one beeves.

8. Provision for two hundred men as normal billeting from Fir Mhanach, and the same amount of beeves or of king's money, and a hosting of two hundred men; and if those two hundred should not come, a cow for every man lacking of them; and two in-calf cows for every cow that is not delivered. And if Mag Uidhir himself should come on a hosting without his people, he shall receive half the fine.

Every lord and chieftain that is appointed in the province of Ulster, namely O Domhnaill, O Cathain, Mag Uidhir, Mag Mhathghamhna, O Hanlauin, Mag Aonghusa, Mac Cana, O Gairmfhleadhaigh, etc. is bound to pay to O Neill a hundred cows, each one who is made lord, in addition to the intercession fee of the high-stewards.

Mag Uidhir is bound to convey all the dues and tax of O Neill from the tribes west of the lake Lough Erne.

9. The lordship of O Neilll over Mac Cana: hosting and encampment, and provision for forty men as normal billeting, and king's money: one-third over in Clann Bhreasail and two-thirds on this side, and provision for six men.

10. Over the Oirthir: provision for a hundred men as normal billeting, and a hundred marks, and that they come in full muster. And if they do not come, O Neill shall have from them what his own judge shall award.

11. The lordship of O Neill over Cineal Moen. Mac Conallaidh, if he is senior to the stewards of O Gairmfhleadhaigh in succession to the office of body-guard, receives the same bounty as O Gairmfhleadhaigh.

The lodging of O Neill due from them is one night from Mac Aodha and one night from O Ceallaigh and one night from Mac Conallaidh; and neither O Duibhin nor O Flaitbheartaigh are entitled to compensation, however long O Neill should stay with them.

If O Neill be with O Gairmghleadhaigh, liability for supplying him and the retinue to which he is entitled rests upon the four villages. His mercenaries shall be supplied by Coille Iochtaracha on Friday and Saturday when he is not with them himself. On the night that he is in Ard Sratha his table is supplied by Mac Conmidhe from Loch I Mhaoldubhain, the Reciter's land.

This is the rent of O Neill from Cineal Moen: two hundred beeves and a hundred and fifty marks of king's money; and rising out when they are summoned; and provision for a hundred and fifty men as normal billeting. And Mac Conallaidh has the duty of delivering the rent and handing it to the stewards; and fourpence with every beef for them; and if it should go astray, Mac Conallaidh must pay.

l2. O Gairmfhleadhaigh is O Neill's steward of horses and his chandler. A penny out of the ounce! For the service of the stallion (O Gormley) gets two screpuls, but the lad who holds the stallion's head gets a penny of this, and two pence for (the lad who holds) the mare. The stewards of the prime stallion (attend) for service each Tuesday. And O Gormley gets half a pig's scull, and its lard and its guts for his candle-making but he only gets the lard of one pig per night. Provision for sixty men from Tir Fhiachra, and provision for sixty from Mac Cathmhaoil or from his territory. Provision for sixty from Muinntir Bhirn; hosting and encampment in addition from them all.

13. Aodh the Fat was the first of the Ui Neill to establish lordship. Gormfhlaith, daughter of O Domhnaill, brought about through generosity the commutation of the beeves for king's money, and that O Neillshould have his choice of the beeves or the money.

14. Mac Cathmahaoil and Mac Murchaidh and O Doighlin are the fircheithearn of O Neill. And it is their duty to take and to guard hostages; and they are bound by their office to keep watch for the first three nights in camp and on a hosting; and wherever anything comes to O Neill in tax or as a fine for theft or bloodshed or defrauding customs, they receive a commission of two sheep on every cow. The woman of the house has the choice of the sheep-fold, and they have the second choice, that is a male sheep and a female and her lamb at foot, till the Feast of the Cross, and for every increase in the cows there is the same increase in the commission.

15. If a thief or an outlaw or anyone else is seized by order of the lord, those who make the arrest have a choice from his equipment; and if a prisoner be seized on a hosting, and be delivered into the custody of the fircheithearn fully equipped, the equipment is theirs; and if a prisoner go willingly, they have no right to any of it nor to booty, and the man who captures him has a hosting right to ransom for the prisoner. And if he go, it is the lord's custom that clothing and armour on which there is gold or shining mail is not counted by them. And the fircheithearna are not entitled to prey upon the people of the house, save on a stranger, unless the lord say that they shall be despoiled. If kernes be billeted upon the retinue of a king's son or of a neighbor, they are not entitled to prey on them. If they force entry by the king's command, they may take food. If cows are forthcoming from the guilty man, they may eat one beef, and if not, they may have a sheep.

16. The right of O Neill from Muintir Dhoibhlin: twenty loaves of flour in spring from each half-quarter, and a keg of butter with each loaf, and four baskets of malt in the spring; or a barrel from each half-quarter, and a keg of butter every week; four pence of Easter-Money every half-year from Muintir Dhoibhlin.

Every king and every chieftain and every stranger in O Neill's whole household shall pay according to the old custom of the Ui Neill from the time of Domhnall son of Brian of the Battle of Down till Henry son of Eoghan son of Niall Og son of Niall Mor was made king. He was a perfect and righteous king, a king who used to quell falsehood and injustice and maintain the rights of the strong and the oppressed. And when that Henry was made king, the churches and cells were freed from every servitude and hardship that had ever lain upon them up to then.

17. The household of O Neill is free of normal billeting; and no kindred in their territory enjoys freedom from bonn beo unless they have the equivalent of the bonn beo in men and money to supply a rising out. And if a raid or plundering is made into any of O Neill's lands, five pence from each tribe for fetters, except the tribe from which it is expelled. If the raid is driven off as the result of an alarm or rising out or summons, there is no charge for maintaining prisoners.

18. Muintir Chuinne and Muintir Again are the high-stewards and chief administrators of O Neill in the province of Ulster. Two-thirds of the revenue go to Muintir Chuinne, because there were two of them at the killing of Mag Lochlainn in the battle; and one-third to Muintir Again because only one of them was there present. Two cows out of every score, whether they be taken or given, and five pence for each cow as commutation.

Muircheartach son of Muireadhach son of Eoghan son of Niall Naoighiallach at the feast of Dun Turleim gave precedence of petition to O Cuinne the Active, son of Ailill son of Eoghan son of Niall Naoighiallach and to his descendants after him, and moreover they they should be buried in every burial-place of the kings of Ireland in preference to every other line descended from Eoghan, because it was that Cuinne who went to the Munster war on behalf of the aforesaid king.

19. Muintir Dhonnghaile are the marshals of O Neill; one fortieth goes to them (as levying share). A penny out of each man's provision on account of a riad or of encampment. One of them should be present at a parade. They have the heads and hides the first night on changing ground from one tribal land to another; and if they are billeted all about, O Maolchraoibhe still has a righ to the heads and the hides.

"Ceart Ui Neill." trans. and ed. by Myles Dillon. Studia Celtica. Volume 1. Cardiff: UWP.

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