Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rundale Clachans in Pre-Famine Ireland

rundale , regionally varied forms of infield-outfield *agriculture widespread in the later 18th and early 19th centuries in the north and west of Ireland, but largely disappearing after the *Famine. Practised as a form of collective farming by extended families holding land on a joint tenancy from a *landlord, rundale typically included potato gardens, permanently cultivated infields, periodically cultivated pastoral outfields, and additional summer transhumance or 'booley' pastures. Each family held a number of arable strips in the infield which were periodically reallocated according to custom or demand, sometimes under the direction of a local 'headman'. The arable was used for both subsistence (potatoes) and cash crops (oats). The associated clachan settlements were characteristically irregular.
Rundale is sometimes argued to have originated in pre-*Norman times, and to have survived the subsequent medieval and early modern commercialization of Irish farming as the farming system of semi-servile *betagh and, latterly, peasant groups in environmentally less favoured districts. While there is archaeological and historical evidence for the existence of early field systems which could support this interpretation, it is by no means certain that it is correct. It may be more appropriate to see rundale as the late-18th century consequence of the interaction between existing traditions of partible inheritance, rapid *population growth, and increasing dependence on the *potato. The excessive subdivision encouraged by the system ensured that it was eventually incapable of supporting this population growth even before the Famine struck. LJP
The Oxford Companion to Irish History, S.J. Connolly
"Rundale was much simpler and more flexible than the three field system, requiring less equipment and less organisation. It was egalitarian, and could operate without the benefit of a landlord, but it was complicated by the subdivision among co-heirs and in former times by the periodic reallocation of the holdings, which were scattered in many small plots so that all shared land of varying quality. The word used to describe the confusion of innumerable scattered plots and tortuous access ways in the infield was 'throughother', a word which has often been applied to other aspects of Irish life."
E. Estyn Evans, The Personality of Ireland: Habitat, Heritage and His- tory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 60. See also Desmond McCourt, "The Dynamic Quality of Irish Rural Settlement," in R. H. Buchanan et al., eds., Man and His Habitat (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971).
enclosure, the division of farmed, cleared, or reclaimed land into individual units surrounded by permanent boundaries. Most enclosure occurred during the 18th and early 19th centuries as part of the gradual modernization of Irish *agriculture, as 'improving' *landlords sought to reorganize the farms on their estates along more commercial and profitable lines. In contrast to England, where most 18th and 19th-century enclosure was sanctioned by act of parliament, Irish enclosure was piecemeal, and relied extensively on the implementation of leasehold obligations agreed between individual landlords and their tenants. Enclosure Acts were passed for barely 28 parishes, mostly in the former English *Pale, between 1800 and 1840.
Enclosure tended to occur earlier in eastern districts such as the Pale, where it frequently incorporated the results of engrossing, or the consolidation of adjacent commonfield strips, undertaken from the 13th century onwards, to create characteristically irregular linear fields. In western districts most enclosure occurred over a shorter period in the first half of the 19th century, as landlords eradicated the *'rundale' system of farming. In both cases the consequence was the replacement of communal settlement and economic activity with a landscape of dispersed farms and fields held in severalty.
The Oxford Companion to Irish History, S.J. Connolly
"Rundale," an indigenous practice of distributing plots of land among townland families, added still greater confusion and frustration for those who hoped to impose an orderly geometry on the countryside. These rundale villages remained the home of perhaps three-quarters of the population just before the great famine.9 In one count, there were some 62,205 townlands covering the country, some of them consisting of one or two dwellings on one acre of land. The average townland comprised something over three hundred acres and supported from fifteen to thirty households, often of related families with just a few family names predominating.10 At any given moment in the different regions of the country many variations could be found in the internal features of the townlands. Many persisted to the famine nearly unchanged, especially in the West, sustained by an equally old system of values, traditions, and associations. The famine would deliver the coup de grace to most of the rundale townlands and would be especially hard on those least touched by change, since these were likely to be the poorest, the least English-speaking, and the most dependent on the potato for survival. But the townland's place at the core of the peasantry's culture and economy was already doomed when the famine struck; it had been eroding for generations under more and more penetrating intrusions from the outside world, together with "defections" by its own more ambitious sons and, already, from among its restless daughters. The conquests and confiscations of the seventeenth century were traumas on a grand scale and mortally disrupted the upper levels of Catholic and "Old-Irish"11 society. Peeling away structures that had been created by still earlier conquests, the Williamite settlement replaced them with a predominantly Protestant, landed gentry that mimicked its English counterpart but lay like a crust over the native culture, absorbing much of the remnant of the earlier elites but failing to penetrate very deeply into the common Gaelic culture. The effects of the Penal Laws were also largely restricted to the same strata of social and landed elites, leaving most of the native institutions and practices that governed the uses and distribution of land largely undisturbed, especially in the remoter districts. lage of England, the bailia had no standing in the law either as a measure of property or as a jurisdictional or political unit, and certainly not as a claim to rights or civil identity on the part of their occupants.12 The "moral economy" governing rights to the land bore some resemblance to the common rights of villagers in England in that they could not usually be alienated, at least in the eyes of the inhabitants, but the townland itself lacked even the contested standing of the English village in the eyes of the law."
Probably the readiest introduction to the history of the townland, the "baile," the "rundale village," and the "clachan," all of them varieties of native settlement, can be found in E. Estyn Evans, Irish Heritage: The Landscape, the People and Their Work (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press, 1949), esp., "Village and Booley," pp. 47-57; also Evans, Personality of Ireland, p. 91; P. Robinson, "Irish Settlement in Tyrone before the Ulster Plantation," Ulster Folklore 22 (1976). See also R. H. Buchanan, "Rural Settlement in Ireland," in Stephens and Glassock, eds., Irish Geographical Studies (1970); McCourt, "Dynamic Quality"; Parliamen- tary Papers, 1843, vol. 24, Griffith's Valuation Report, "Accounts and Papers' Valuations" (Ireland).
Evans, Personality of Ireland, pp. 90ff.
For the layers of society created by the repeated conquests of the coun- try, see C. Brady and R. Gillespie, eds., Natives and Newcomers: The Making of Irish Colonial Society, 1534-1641 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1986).
In the boundary sketches preceding the Ordnance Survey, the geologist Richard Griffith recognized the discordance between townland and estate bound- aries, trying as far as possible to "keep the two from clashing." J. H. Andrews, History in the Ordnance Map: An Introduction for Irish Readers (Kerry: David Archer, 1993), p. 12.
Evans, Personality of Ireland, p. 91. See especially Eric Wolf, Peasants (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966) and Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), for comparison to characteristic vil- lages of western Europe. See M. Agulhon, The Republic in the Village (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), and Ralph Samuel, ed., Village Life and Labour (London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1975), for contrasts to the structure and mentalities of French and English villages in the nineteenth century.
Robert James Scally, The End of Hidden Ireland: Rebellion, Famine and Emigration, pgs 13-14
Because Ireland contributed an inordinate share to the great Atlantic migration and had also been the most deeply penetrated of all colonial societies, the emigration of the Irish peasantry tests a variety of general theories that apply to these two momentous historical events of the nineteenth century. But understanding the microcosm of events that made up these phenomena in Ireland is as filled with pitfalls as the history of great nations. Ireland's smallness and its modest importance in shaping the world's history do not make the task any easier, as one might first imagine. Whether Ballykilcline "typifies" the peasantry of prefamine Ireland, for example, depends very much on how close to the ground the historical record allows us to go. At the level of the Ascendancy, or of political institutions and commerce, there seem to be great variations in the official contexts within which the peasantry lived. The same variety can be found, for example, in domestic building styles, in the persistence of "rundale" townlands, or in organized forms of peasant resistance. All of these were of great importance for those who remained and would continue to distinguish different regions of the country for years to come. But the great majority of the emigrants in these years were in effect stripped of their outward diversity and reduced to the axioms of their culture. In these intangibles, they appear to have shared as much simplicity and uniformity as the baggage they carried.
The townland's traces have allowed us some passing sights into its material existence and even briefer glimpses of individual occupants' thoughts and character, as though we were examining the artifacts of an ancient and vanished civilization. But they do not admit us into its inner life. We cannot stand at Padian's door and listen to the nighttime dialogues of the Defendants, as we might hear a parliamentary debate, although we know that they took place. These blanks blot out most of the conscious life of the townland peasants, making them appear more passive in retrospect than they were. The obscurity of human agency among them may even have inclined us to embrace notions about the country's history that we would reject as absurd caricatures if applied to the nations and cultures that shook and shaped the rest of the world. This is probably because most of Western history has been based on our study of power and our effort to understand change and its causes. Ireland has never had power. And, as for the mostly calamitous changes that mark its history, they have generally been ascribed either to intrusions from outside or to intractable cultural traits that have hindered its material progress and bound the country to an essentially inert and passive history as a nation.
Despite their apparent incongruity, there seems to be a great weight of truth in both these propositions. Many of the features of townland life were clearly vestiges of the past, social and communal values that may have preserved its internal moral order but did little to help its material survival in the long run. This seems especially true of the persistence of its "throughother" moral economy that impeded initiative and practical accommodations with the changing realities of the world around it. To that degree, it might be said that the townland imposed its history on itself. It is also self‐ evident that its lack of the conventional powers to resist subjection kept rural Ireland on the extractive periphery of Europe, blocked from direct access to the economic and technical family of nations that western Europe was becoming in the two centuries before the famine. And unlike any other Roman Catholic people in Europe, they were also virtually cut off from their mother church for more than a century, leaving many of them barely recognizable to their coreligionists when they surfaced in the metropolis.2
These circumstances certainly contributed to the many "hidden" qualities persisting in the native culture at the time of the famine, in its politics and economy, but even more strikingly in the inward-looking identities and stratagems adopted by the peasantry to prolong its existence. We have seen also that some of these traits at least set out on the Atlantic journey with the emigrants, perhaps surviving for generations into the future. There is even less doubt that they persisted stubbornly in the postfamine townlands.
Robert James Scally, The End of Hidden Ireland: Rebellion, Famine and Emigration, pgs 231-32
In effect, this subculture was a method of defiance, an effort to force the landlord to deal with the townland as a collective entity rather than as the pathetically vulnerable individuals each tenant or subtenant was by himself. Some among the resident landed classes, especially those who saw themselves as "improvers," knew a good deal more than others about the workings of the silent economy of the townlands, but as we shall see, even these could live amidst the townlands on their estates for years, passing through them daily, and remain unable to make a sure count of their occupants or of who and how many belonged in their rent books. Although virtually all condemned this subculture, many tolerated its eccentricities or merely surrendered to them in frustration. One of the perennial sources of frustration concerned differences and disputations over the true measure of tenants' holdings, an endless cause of contention not only between landlord and peasant but, just as bitterly, sometimes murderously, among the tenants themselves. Divergent mental geographies, one graphic and the other oral, governed the use ofland simultaneously. One, embodied in the landowner's survey, was upheld by the law and the other by deeply embedded custom, a moral economy that was inextricable from peasant family and kinship systems but had no legal standing. In consequence, nearly any form of resistance to summary evictions, distraints on property, or arbitrary rises in rents might be construed as a criminal offense.
The common law in England, abused as it had been in the past century, offered some protection to the rights of tenants and villagers—or when it failed at least lent legitimacy to their protests. Its absence was the essence of colonialism in Ireland, distinguishing the rundale settlements absolutely from even the poorest of English hamlets. As in England, a tolerant or complacent landlord, not an unusual figure in the countryside, might find life more agreeable in overlooking the unofficial practices of the tenants if the rents were passably well met. But in any dispute about the measurement of land, and therefore the rights of all parties to it, the survey was the law of the land, the very foundation of the colonial system and all but unchallengeable by the small tenants and laborers who inhabited the townlands. It represented a system that had been implanted by the conquest, and behind it stood ultimately the authority of the Crown and irresistible force.
Robert James Scally, The End of Hidden Ireland: Rebellion, Famine and Emigration, pg 16 
"Irish peasant communities (clachans) usually grew from townlands (bally, baile). All townlands had specific names and their boundaries were usually delineated at a time when population was sparse. Even in remote areas, this was done at early dates. When townlands were first settled, they were laid out with equal areas of land of varying fertility and were sufficiently large to support one or two related families using extensive techniques of food production, mainly grazing. Agriculture was supplementary. Townlands were essentially land units that allowed households, at the time of initial settlement, to achieve subsistence with the least expenditure of labor. As population increased, usually by intermarriage among the families in adjoining townlands, the townlands were divided and subdivided, and the extra food needed to achieve subsistence was increasingly produced by cultivation. Townlands averaged about 150 hectares (520 statute acres or 325 Irish acres) but could vary from 60 to 400 hectares, depending on soil fertility.4
The most cherished social value of the Irish peasantry was the equalization of subsistence opportunities within each community. When population increased so that most of a household's food came from cultivation, the most important ingredient in equalized subsistence opportunities was the right of each household to cultivate an equalized area of land. Rundale was the name given to communal control over land use that enforced this social value. Rundale is defined as "the joint working of unenclosed arable and pasture land by kin groups who resided in farm clusters or clachans"5 in which cultivation units were equally divided and dispersed so that "each individual tenant had a proportion of every kind of land and no permanent possession of a separate part."6 Irish peasant households cultivated equalized shares of arable land, which were allocated under communally enforced rules in the clachans where they lived, and each household's cultivation rights entitled it to graze an equal number of livestock on the community's common pasture.
It was of secondary importance to the peasantry who was the legal owner of the land they cultivated, be it an Irish chief or an English landowner. The main concern of the peasantry was to ensure that the townland's food producing capabilities were managed by customary law so that there was equalized food safety within each community. Food safety was obtained by the ethic of fair sharing, which allocated to each household in the community an equalized number and quality of cultivation units and required the fair sharing of food supplies whenever a household had a shortage. For example, when an Irish peasant holding
1.6 hectares (4 acres) was asked how he would feed his family in a poor crop year, he replied, "The neighbors will not let me starve."7 Equalized sharing of food resources in each community was enforced by the equalized sharing of labor expenditures at planting and harvest, when neighbors would meet on a certain day and cast lots to see whose land they would cultivate first and whose hay would be first cut and stacked or whose grain would be first reaped.
Inheritance of equal shares of land at the death of the head of a household (partible inheritance) was the usual way of fair sharing land use, but it was not the only way. In many cases, fair sharing could not wait until the death of a parent. It frequently happened that the best way to maintain community harmony was to allow new households to become full members of the community as soon as possible after marriage. In its most fundamental aspect, this meant reallocating the existing cultivation units to a new household so it could immediately achieve subsistence food safety. Fair sharing of land resources could be done in several ways: reclaiming marginal land for cultivation, subdividing existing cultivation units, a periodic redistribution of existing cultivation units (changedale), or a combination of these methods.
Changedale was the custom of periodically casting lots in order to redistribute all of the cultivation units within a community's boundaries. Like partible inheritance, the purpose of changedale was to provide all households in the community with equalized shares of arable land. A common interval between distributions was three to five years. Changedale was an instant way to accommodate new households within the community when the parents of the newly married couple did not have enough land between them to subdivide without falling below the level of subsistence food safety. A newly married couple would bring an area of marginal land into cultivation and then seek a share of the townland's fertile land from among those households that still had cultivation units that were not being intensively worked. New households were thus enabled to instantly aquire subsistence food safety within the community's landholding structure.
During prolonged periods of peace, with concomitant population increases, the cultivation units of one household could become extremely small and scattered over the community's land. On the eve of the Great Famine, this was the condition of most arable land in the densely populated region of the Atlantic Fringe. Emyr Estyn Evans records a townland in Donegal in 1845, with an area of 83 hectares (205 acres), that had been divided into 422 cultivation units that were held by twenty-nine households. Changedale tended to die out when the community's land could no longer be subdivided and scattered without forcing the whole community below the level of subsistence food safety. At this point, oral genealogies became an important means of allocating land use if there were conflicting claims.8"

Famine in Peasant Societies, Ronald Seavoy

"As far as the written record tells us, Irish peasants always practiced a mixture of livestock grazing and cultivation, with the emphasis on grazing. The emphasis on grazing made excellent use of Ireland's cool, wet climate which allows grass to grow for ten or more months of the year. Grazing is an extensive form of land use, and as long as there was an abundance of grazing land, the peasantry preferred to produce a substantial portion of its food supply from cattle herding. The management of cattle herds produces food with minimal labor expenditures, and much of this labor can be done by children. During the summer, cattle produced an abundance of milk, butter, curds, and cheese (whitemeats), which formed a substantial part of a household's diet. Whitemeats were frequently supplemented by blood tapped from the jugular veins of the livestock. Only enough sheep were kept to supply the wool needed to make clothing or to be used as an exchange commodity.
If there were extensive areas of upland grazing, the peasantry practiced transhumance (booleying). Grazing also produced a mobile food supply that was easier to protect from theft or destruction during endemic internecine warfare. Livestock grazing was strongly attractive to the peasantry because the major crop, oats, was not a prolific producer on the poor soils that cover a large portion of Ireland.
Famine in Peasant Societies, Ronald Seavoy  
As part of this move away from the old nationalist synthesis, historians of the Irish countryside have tried to devise an alternative explanation for the rural violence endemic in Ireland between 1760 and 1850.17 The most convincing school of interpretation concedes a point that was anathema to the old orthodoxy: The oppressors of the Irish were as often Irishmen as Englishmen, and the victims of agrarian violence were much more commonly Irish land agents, middlemen, and tenants than English usurpers. Abstract concepts of "Irishness" and nationalist struggle have been replaced by an analysis emphasizing socioeconomic relations and local concerns and grievances. Above all, the violence is understood in terms of the disruption of traditional
practices of landholding and land use, which violated the "moral economy" of the rural poor.18
The response to such violations was direct, violent action. Fences were torn down, and animals grazing on newly enclosed land were driven off, mutilated, or killed. Landlords' agents were threatened, beaten, and assassinated, as were tenants who settled on land from which others had been evicted. Merchants and millers who charged prices deemed unjust were threatened and attacked. Land converted to pasture was dug up at night to make it arable once again, in an effort to expand the availability of land for small-scale potato cultivation. Far from being irrational or bloodthirsty, the violence had a specific purpose and "legitimizing notion," namely the attempt to restore traditional conceptions of a just society and economy in the face of innovations and intrusions.19 The type of violence in question may be described as a form of retributive justice enforced to correct transgressions against traditional moral and social codes.20
Making Sense of the Molly Maguires, Kevin Kenny, pg. 19

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