Session 95: Ystafell 11
Medieval Irish law and history

Chair: Elizabeth Boyle

Where are you from? Status and origin as a marker for fines in late medieval legal material

Riona Doolan
Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh (Cork)

In early Irish legal material, fines are calculated according to the rank of the person receiving the payment. The higher a person’s status, the higher the amount that they are entitled to receive. Variations in payment can also occur according to gender or dependence on a male relation. The later medieval commentaries on arson pay particular attention to the fines that must be paid if a fire breaks out. However, the fines are not calculated according the usual ranks of society from noble to slave. Instead, the fines are listed according to the status of the victim in relation to the túath, i.e. whether or not they are native to the túath. Along with restitution, if the victim of a fire is an (a)urrad (native to the túath) they are entitled to a full fine, a deorad (outsider) is entitled to a half fine, a murchuirthe is entitled to a quarter fine, while someone reckoned as daer (unfree) is entitled to restitution alone. The relative status relationship of this quartet has not been examined to date and this unusual division of fines appears to be found in later legal commentaries only. In this paper, I intend to explore the connections between these four types of status and why they come to be associated with each other in later medieval legal material.

Danair and Lochlannaigh in Irish semi-historical literature c.1100

Annie C. Humphrey
Trinity College Dublin

The Norse feature in medieval Irish annals, and in semi-historical literature including the Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh. In the latter texts, a heroic ancestor is shown as the enemy of the Vikings, including annal entries that support this agenda while ignoring or minimising disreputable events. The Norse are given designations with the prefixes dub- or finn-, which appear synonymous with the terms Danair and Lochlannaigh respectively. Traditionally, Danair and Lochlannaigh have been understood as ‘Danes’ and ‘Norwegians’ when translating and interpreting Middle Irish material. This anachronistic nationalism has affected lay and academic interpretation of these sources to the present day. 

While current scholarship considers alternative explanations for the dub-/finn- divide, the annals and same sources are examined, limiting the application of these theories across the corpus of medieval Irish literature. The early twelfth-century Cathréim Cellacháin Caisil, for instance, mixes dub-/finn- and Danair/Lochlannaigh terminology within its narrative. This is problematic because Cathréim was written as a direct response to Cogadh and is meant to occupy the same milieu. Why was the Danair/Lochlannaigh distinction important to the author of the Cogadh, but had become irrelevant to the author of the Cathréim? 

This paper considers the Danair and Lochlannaigh in the Cogadh, Cathréim, and the Cerball of Osraige saga preserved in the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland.

‘Essentially a chronicle of North Connacht’: a reassessment of the Cottonian Annals

Kathryn O'Neill
Harvard University

This paper will reassess the text known as the Cottonian Annals, which narrates the history of Ireland from Abraham to 1270 CE, and includes the most complete extant text of the so-called Pre-Patrician Material, as well as a collection of seemingly historical annal entries whose provenance remains the subject of debate. This text has interested scholars for its potential to shed light on the early history of the North Connacht dialect of Irish, but individual attention to the text has rarely gone beyond this to its broader significance. In fact, scholarly neglect of these annals has left a number of intriguing questions unanswered or under-examined. These gaps in scholarly attention include this set of annals’ relationship to the Chronicle of Ireland, its place of origin, and the networks of patronage that lay behind its production, networks which seem unusually to have joined both the learned Ó Maelconaire family and the regular canons of the Premonstratensian order. There is thus much to be gained from renewed scholarly consideration of this often-overlooked text, and this paper will be an in-depth assessment of the text as it relates to these questions.