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Details of SIR RANDALL MCDONNELL'S First Brief

Proofs that the island of Rathlyn is parcel of the dominion of Ireland.


From the situation, because it lies within a league of the firm land of Ireland, seven leagues and more from the firm land of Scotland, and not so near to any of the isles that are of the Scottish dominion. And the law saith that mare or particula maris est de territorio illius regni cui magis appropinqt; and, again, maris partes ejus provinci aeeonseantur que proxima est. From the nature of the soil, which neither breeds nor nourishes any living thing venomous, but is as clear of them as Ireland, where the isles of the Scottish or English dominions in the same sea breed and nourish them, which was thought to be a proof that the Isle of Man was British, as appears by Giraldus, in Topograp. Hibernia distinct, in 2, chapter 15.


It appears by records, that at the beginning of the conquest of Ireland and since the English possessed it, as a part of that realm, granted it and had service done for it, it was inquired of according to the English law, became forfeited to the Crown, temporal jurisdiction was exercised in it, and spiritual, as within the Bishoprick of Connor. Also that in those times the isles were not of the Scottish dominions, but in the dominion of the Norwegians or Kings of the isles that were feodary to them.


In 14° John the Bishop of Norwich, who was then the King of England's Justice in Ireland, did certify the King, that he had assigned for Allan Gallway, Insula de Rathlin and other lands, except certain Knights fees adjoining to the castle of Kilsanton, excepto ommi jure ecclesiastico, et omnibus illis que ad viros religiosos et ecclesiasticos pertinent.


For assurance of this assignment, the King by his charter granted unto this Allan Gallway this island, by the name of the island of Rathrim, in pratis et pasturis et in aquis dulcibus et salsis, inportubus et ripis, &c., and English liberties &c, infangethfet and utfangetheft. Wherein it is to be noted that this Allan Gallway was Constable of Scotland, and served King John with the license of the King of Scotland in the service in Ireland, as appears in Buchanan, liber 8, who cannot be pretended to be ignorant of the extent of the Scottish dominions, or willing to withdraw anything from it.


Teste apud, Westmr., 10 April, 4 Hen. 3.


The King sent his writ to Allan Gallwaye, and did thereby signify that the King and a great part of his Council should be at Yorke, where Alexander King of Scotland would also be present, about the affairs of the kingdom, and commanded Allan Gallway to be there, to do his homage and fealty for those lands amongst others.


Teste apud, York, 16 Jan., 4 Hen. 3.


The King by his writ directed to the Justice of Ireland recites that Allan Gallway had done his fealty and did command to give him seizin of the land that King John had granted him, viz.: Inter alia Insulam de Rathrim in which the King's command is executed by his ministers of the realm of Ireland.


That in this time it was not of the Scottish dominion, appears in Chron. Manniae, and Matthew Paris, fol. 745, and also by the charter dated 19 H. III, whereby the King calls Olanus, Rex Manniae et Insularum.


In the 6th Edw. I., the King sends his writ to the Justice of Ireland to be certified of the extent, that is, the particulars and value of the lands that were one John Bissett's, who died seized of divers lands in Ireland as the writ recites, and commands that inquisition should be made thereof, by the oath of men of the parts of Ulster. And it is presented by the oath of twelve men, that John Bissett the day of his death held the island of Rachry, then of the value of 4l. 8s. 5d., and that the same was holden of the Earl of Ulster, who at the time might create a tenure of himself. And that John Bissett endowed his mother-in-law of two parts thereof, which proves likewise that his father was seized of it. This inquisition was taken by virtue of the King's writ and taken by oath of men of that province of Ulster, and was taken in Cull, which is within the county of Antrim.


In 12 Edw. II., the King granted unto John Athy those lands and tenements which were Hugh Bissett's in Insula in Rughrie in Hibernia, by express words, which were forfeited to the King by adherence of Hugh Bissett to the King's enemies. So for the space of 200 years and more this island was possessed as a part of Ireland and all temporal jurisdiction was used therein; and it cannot be said that in this time the same was taken from the Scottish, for they then did not at that time possess the isles.


From 12 Ed. II., until the year 1500, there has been nothing shown on the one side or the other; but in that year there is shown on the other part that James IV. granted the island (which is mentioned to come to the King by the forfeiture Johannes de Insula) unto Adam Reed. That in the year 1537 he died and seisin was commanded to be delivered to Barnard Reade, his son and heir; the like is done in 1571 to Adam the son of Barnard, and after his decease the right thereof came to his four daughters and co-heirs, whereof one part came to Henry Steward of Barkesmyne, who, in 1585, contracted for this island, and undertook for himself and the other co-heirs to affirm it to Agnus McConell. After, in 6° James, those co-heirs did make resignation to the King, who granted it to the complainant.


Then it is to be noted, 1, that there is no proof that Johanes de Insula ever had this island, or that Reed took any profit of corn, cattle, or other things there; 2, those three instruments of delivery of seisin were, one a precedent to the other, one following the other in the same words; and the contract of sale was for less than three score pounds English, of the whole island, which is not much more than a year's value; and the latter assurances were made by those that had only a pretence of right, which is unlawful in the law of England, and by the law De his qui potentioribus. But for further answer, if those lands were of the dominion of the Crown of England, in the hundred years after the conquest of Ireland, it must be gained from it by sale, which is not pretended, or taken from it by strong hand. If it were so, it must be either by the subjects of Scotland, without being sent by the King, or by his warrant; by the former they could not gain any dominion by their entry into the island, but they do instantly become of the allegiance of him in whose hands or whom the isle was at their entry. If it had been gotten by the force of the King, yet if the English did again recover it, the same becomes of the same dominion it formerly was.


For further proof it is plain that in the time of Reed, Alexander Cara possessed this island, and the Glynnes and the great part of the firm land in Ireland, and after him, Alexander Oge possessed it with the Glynnes, and after him Cole McDonell possessed it, and after Surley Boy possessed it, and in 1585, when Henry Steward of Barskemyn contracted with Agnus McConell, neither the said Barskemyn nor Agnus had possession or profit, unless it were while the said Agnus detained Surley Boy as prisoner.


The title that McConell made to it and the Glynnes was as heirs unto Bissett, and Sir Randall McDonell paid a rent for his island unto Q. Elizabeth, and so did his father and brother before him.


The late Queen did inflict punishment upon the inhabitants as being robbers to the Crown; for in 18th Eliz. she sent an army thither, under the conduct of Sir John Norris, who slew and overthrew most of the said inhabitants, and maintained a garrison of soldiers in the castle of that island; and her forces did divers times burn, prey, and kill the said inhabitants as rebels against her Crown, which she would not have done, if this island had been piece of Scotland, there being then a strong league of amity between his Majesty and the said Queen. And doubtless his Majesty (if it had been reputed part of Scotland,) would have taken exceptions at the placing of the garrison there, the killing of his subjects, and required restitation thereof.--Cosmographers number this island among the islands belonging to Ireland.


The territories of the Glynnes, of which the said island is part, being parcel of the province of Ulster, was by Act of Parliament, anno 11 Eliz., vested in the Crown of England, in which it is called the Baron Missett's land. The said Queen did amongst other lands pass the moiety of the said island unto Walter, Earl of Essex, &c., and it was after resumed unto her Majesty's hands for not performing certain conditions mentioned in the patent.


By an inquisition taken anno 1 Ja., before the Lord Chichester, now Ld. Treasurer of Ireland, and others, by virtue of a commission to them directed, it was found that Q. Eliz., by virtue of the said Act, anno 11, was seized of this island, and thereof died seized; and that his Majesty was seized in his demesne as of fee of the said island, in the right of the Crown of England; and that Surley McDonnell, and his two sons, Sir James and Sir Randall, did successively take the profits thereof, as being half a tough of the Glynnes, in the county of Antrim, for the space of 20 years, next before the taking of the said inquisition; and, further, that the tithes of the said island did belong unto the Abbey of Bangor, in the Upper Clandeboye, in the county of Downe.


4 James.


The said island was not since the 15th of Elizabeth disposed of by letters patent until his Majesty, after the said inquisition taken, passed the same unto Sir Randall McDonnell and his heirs, with remainders to divers of his kindred.


By another inquisition taken in the co. Antrim, before Commissioners appointed, it was found that Wm. O'Dorman, late Abbot of the Abbey of Bangor, was at the time of the suppression of the said abbey seized of the tithes of the island of Raghlin, which abbey was dissevered 33 Henry VIII.; and those tithes have been since granted unto Sir James Hamilton and his heirs, under the Great Seal of Ireland, and are accordingly enjoyed by him. Sir Randall McDonell and his elder brother Sir James being sundry times in Scotland, before his Majesty's reign of England, and himself divers time since, did never hear of any challenge or pretence of right made by any unto the said island, saving that at his Majesty's last being in Scotland, the complainant did then make his pretended title to the said island known unto him.



Date: 1617
Held by: Lambeth Palace Library, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Extent: 6 Pages.
Unpublished Finding Aids:
  • Calendar of the Carew Manuscripts preserved in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth, ed. J. S. Brewer & W. Bullen (6 vols., 1867-73), vol. V, document 188.

Former Reference Department: MS 613, p. 1

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