What’s in a name:  Coyne.



“Coyne”, (Coinneamh; a billeted person) or sometimes “Coyne and Livery”, was a general term which covered the exactions which a great lord, like McCarthy, imposed on his followers.  These exactions included various charges each with its own name, and each requiring the under chieftain to maintain and subsidise the life style of his over lord.  The principal requirement was the cost of billeting the lord’s armies.


The custom and practice varied up and down the Country, and generally we find that the purely Gaelic areas, like the kingdoms of the O’Neills in the North, were more moderate in their exactions.  The worst were areas under the great Earls such as the FitzGeralds of Desmond.


But everywhere the chieftains and freeholders  groaned under the weight of these exactions.  In some instances we hear of a freeholder being given the offer of giving up three quarters of his  land in exchange for total relief from the exactions.  We also hear sometimes of that same freeholder, a few years later, being charged the exactions as before, but now on his reduced piece of land.  An example of this sort of sharp practice was our own over-lords, the McCarthys of Muskerry, who had brought this to a fine art.


One element of Coyne had a more specific definition.  This was the term “Bonnacht” (buannacht; billeting tax) which was used to define the additional costs of supporting Gallowglass when these were introduced into Ireland in the 13th.c. from Scotland.  In the McCarthy areas these were usually from the MacSweeny families, but there were many other names in other places.  The Earls of Desmond for example employed MacSheehy gallowglass. 


A “battle” of gallowglass was in theory 100 men under the command of a constable.  They were all professional soldiers who had to be paid.  They also had to be housed and fed.  And horses provided for them which also had to be looked after.  It was a considerable cost to the overlord, and eventually this cost was passed on to the chieftains and freeholders.