Posted by in Features.

The annual payment of a tithe or tenth of all farming produce, animals or income for the support of the clergy goes back a long way, to the last order “which Yahweh gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites” according to the closing lines of the Book of Leviticus ch. 27:30–34. In Ireland as the monastic system gave way to a diocesan model reforming Abbot/Bishops such as St. Laurence O’Toole collected tithes in Dublin from 1161. Such became the law for all parishes under the Synod of Cashel from 1172. Pasture land had been exempted since 1736 but the tithing of such land converted to corn growing and even potatoes later on in that century gave rise to outbreaks of “Whiteboy” violence of a most vicious kind. As the Penal times faded and the Protestant church became less and less a State church the church cess—as in the expression “Bad Cess (Tax) to you”—was abolished in 1833 to become a land rent charge in 1838.

As I mentioned in the September Edition of Nuacht Chláir Photostat or facsimile copies of the 1827 Applotment Books for Co. Galway are available in the County Library in Nun’s Island.

The records for the civil parish of Claregalway are given in six half pages (A–F say) made up of three of estates, their principal tenants and land acreage and another three with the charges for first, second, third and fourth quality lands and the amounts collected thus for sharing out to the two clergymen of the parish. All the pages were divided up and ruled by hand and it is only in matching up the ruled lines that you find that the full page one should be c and d half pages together, page two should be e and b, while page three should be a and f together. We are not told how the lands were judged to be either first or fourth quality but given that cess (tax) was only on tillage land in the previous century it might be reasonable to assume that tillage land was first quality, pasture land second quality, rocky land third quality and bog land might be fourth quality.

Montiagh is given as 24 acres, with 80, 80 and 81 in the first, second and third quality divisions in the names of Patrick, William, Henry,Michael and Henry Duggan & Co. All the fourth quality land in Claregalway is charged at a penny (1d.) per acre, the third quality at four old pence an acre, second at one shilling and one penny (13d.) per acre while first quality land was charged at either one shilling and ten pence or at one and seven pence (as in the Montiagh case). If you do out the sums correctly the total charge on the 241 acres comes out at £12.00.04 or twelve pounds and four old pennies. The absence of mention of any fourth quality or bog land in Montiagh seems covered by the entry on the next line of 300 acres (all fourth quality @ one penny an acre) to The Honourable Dennis Bingham,”including part of Summerville”. This line seems to have “in commonage” written in small letters above it but perhaps this refers to the Duggans above? In any case I can find no other charge against the Landlord except the 25 shillings charged here.

Of the £12.00.04 then, the Rev. James Daly, Warden of Galway, got nine pounds and three pence while the Honourable and Rev. William Beresford got three pounds and one penny. Why the Rev. Beresford got in every case only one quarter if he was in addition an “Honourable” is beyond me! Perhaps some reader can explain? The people of Montiagh then contributed £12 of the total of £240 charged on Claregalway in 1827 when oats cost ten shillings and sixpence a barrel. That such a charge be paid to the Protestant clergy was resented even at an official level as can be seen in one of the Catechism questions of Donlevy’s Irish Catechism of the year 1741 and reprinted in 1848.

Q. Did not the Church command us to pay tithes?
A. She did, certainly; but we cannot, at this time, pay them to our own clergy; nevertheless we are obliged to maintain and support our clergy by some other means: for Our Saviour commandeth us to give a livelihood to those who serve at the altar, and preach the Gospel.

As we saw above, the church cess had already been abolished in 1833 but within about 30 years of zero inflation the people of Montiagh would be paying a Poor Law Valuation of £77 on their estimated 417 acres, 3 roods and 28 perches. But what would 24 barrels of oats cost today and how far would it go in the support of our clergy? Sin ceist!

Aodán MacGlynn