We have already spoken of the character of the war waged by and against the Normans on Irish soil, and as war was then almost every man's business, we may be supposed to have described all that is known of the time in describing its wars. What we have to add of the other pursuits of the various orders of men into which society was divided, is neither very full nor very satisfactory.
The rise, fall, and migrations of some of the clans have been already alluded to. In no age did more depend on the personal character of the chief than then. When the death of the heroic Godfrey left the free clansmen of Tyrconnell without a lord to lead them to battle, or rule them in peace, the Annalists represent them to us as meeting in great perplexity, and engaged "in making speeches" as to what was to be done, when suddenly, to their great relief, Donnell Oge, son of Donnell More, who had been fostered in Alba (Scotland), was seen approaching them. Not more welcome was Tuathal, the well-beloved, the restorer of the Milesian monarchy, after the revolt of the Tuatha. He was immediately elected chief, and the emissaries of O'Neil, who had been waiting for an answer to his demand of tribute, were brought before him. He answered their proposition by a proverb expressed in the Gaelic of Alba, which says that "every man should possess his own country," and Tyrconnell armed to make good this maxim.
The Bardic order still retained much of their ancient power, and all their ancient pride. Of their most famous names in this period we may mention Murray O'Daly of Lissadil, in Sligo, Donogh O'Daly of Finvarra, sometimes called Abbot of Boyle, and Gilbride McNamee, laureate to King Brian O'Neil. McNamee, in lamenting the death of Brian, describes himself as defenceless, and a prey to every spoiler, now that his royal protector is no more. He gave him, he tells us, for a poem on one occasion, besides gold and raiment, a gift of twenty cows. On another, when he presented him a poem, he gave in return twenty horned cows, and a gift still more lasting, "the blessing of the King of Erin." Other chiefs, who fell in the same battle, and to one of whom, named Auliffe O'Gormley, he had often gone "on a visit of pleasure," are lamented with equal warmth by the bard. The poetic Abbot of Boyle is himself lamented in the Annals as the Ovid of Ireland, as "a poet who never had and never will have an equal." But the episode which best illustrates at once the address and the audacity of the bardic order is the story of Murray O'Daly of Lissadil, and Donnell More O'Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell.
In the year 1213, O'Donnell despatched Finn O'Brollaghan, his Aes graidh or Steward, to collect his tribute in Connaught, and Finn, putting up at the house of O'Daly, near Drumcliff, and being a plebeian who knew no better, began to wrangle with the poet. The irritable master of song, seizing a sharp axe, slew the steward on the spot, and then to avoid O'Donnell's vengeance fled into Clanrickarde. Here he announced himself by a poem addressed to de Burgh, imploring his protection, setting forth the claims of the Bardic order on all high-descended heroes, and contending that his fault was but venial, in killing a clown, who insulted him. O'Donnell pursued the fugitive to Athenry, and de Burgh sent him away secretly into Thomond. Into Thomond, the Lord of Tyrconnell marched, but O'Brien sent off the Bard to Limerick. The enraged Ulsterman appeared at the gates of Limerick, when O'Daly was smuggled out of the town, and "passed from hand to hand," until he reached Dublin. The following spring O'Donnell appeared in force before Dublin, and demanded the fugitive, who, as a last resort, had been sent for safety into Scotland. From the place of his exile he addressed three deprecatory poems to the offended Lord of Tyrconnell, who finally allowed him to return to Lissadil in peace, and even restored him to his friendship.
The introduction of the new religious orders--Dominicans, Franciscans, and the order for the redemption of Captives into Ireland, in the first quarter of this century gradually extinguished the old Columban and Brigintine houses. In Leinster they made way most rapidly; but Ulster clung with its ancient tenacity to the Columban rule. The Hierarchy of the northern half-kingdom still exercised a protectorate, over Iona itself, for we read, in the year 1203, how Kellagh, having erected a monastery in the middle of Iona, in despite of the religious, that the Bishops of Derry and Raphoe, with the Abbots of Armagh and Derry and numbers of the Clergy of the North of Ireland, passed over to Iona, pulled down the unauthorized monastery, and assisted at the election of a new Abbot. This is almost the last important act of the Columban order in Ireland. By the close of the century, the Dominicans had some thirty houses, and the Franciscans as many more, whether in the walled towns or the open country. These monasteries became the refuge of scholars, during the stormy period we have passed, and in other days full as troubled, which were to come. Moreover, as the Irish student, like all others in that age, desired to travel from school to school, these orders admitted him to the ranks of widespread European brotherhoods, from whom he might always claim hospitality. Nor need we reject as anything incredible the high renown for scholarship and ability obtained in those times by such men as Thomas Palmeran of Naas, in the University of Paris; by Peter and Thomas Hibernicus in the University of Naples, in the age of Aquinas; by Malachy of Ireland, a Franciscan, Chaplain to King Edward II. of England, and Professor at Oxford; by the Danish Dominican, Gotofrid of Waterford; and above all, by John Scotus of Down, the subtle doctor, the luminary of the Franciscan schools, of Paris and Cologne. The native schools of Ireland had lost their early ascendancy, and are no longer traceable in our annals; but Irish scholarship, when arrested in its full development at home, transferred its efforts to foreign Universities, and there maintained the ancient honour of the country among the studious "nations" of Christendom. Among the "nations" involved in the college riots at Oxford, in the year 1274, we find mention of the Irish, from which fact it is evident there must have been a considerable number of natives of that country, then frequenting the University.
The most distinguished native ecclesiastics of this century were Matthew O'Heney, Archbishop of Cashel, originally a Cistercian monk, who died in retirement at Holy Cross in 1207; Albin O'Mulloy, the opponent of Giraldus, who died Bishop of Ferns in 1222; and Clarus McMailin, Erenach of Trinity Island, Lough Key-if an Erenach may be called an ecclesiastic. It was O'Heney made the Norman who said the Irish Church had no martyrs, the celebrated answer, that now men had come into the country who knew so well how to make martyrs, that reproach would soon be taken away. He is said to have written a life of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and we know that he had legantine powers at the opening of the century. The Erenach of Lough Key, who flourished in its second half, plays an important part in all the western feuds and campaigns; his guarantee often preserved peace and protected the vanquished. Among the church-builders of his age, he stands conspicuous. The ordinary churches were indeed easily built, seldom exceeding 60 or 70 feet in length, and one half that width, and the material still most in use was, for the church proper, timber. The towers, cashels, or surrounding walls, and the cells of the religious, as well as the great monasteries and collegiate and cathedral churches, were of stone, and many of them remain monuments of the skill and munificence of their founders.
Of the consequences of the abolition of slavery by the Council of Armagh, at the close of the twelfth century, we have no tangible evidence. It is probable that the slave trade, rather than domestic servitude, was abolished by that decree. The cultivators of the soil were still divided into two orders--Biataghs and Brooees. "The former," says O'Donovan, "who were comparatively few in number, would appear to have held their lands free of rent, but were obliged to entertain travellers, and the chief's soldiers when on their march in his direction; and the latter (the Brooees) would appear to have been subject to a stipulated rent and service." From "the Book of Lecan," a compilation of the fourteenth century, we learn that the Brooee was required to keep an hundred labourers, and an hundred of each kind of domestic animals. Of the rights or wages of the labourers, we believe, there is no mention made.