Plantation Society

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The charters in the Great Parchment Book offer some fascinating insights into the different types of people who lived and held land in the county.  In each grant, the property-holder named is distinguished by their social status, office held, occupation, familial relationships, or a combination of these.  Many of those holding larger pieces of land in the Proportions – single and multiple townlands – were described according to social class: gentlemen, esquires, yeomen, and knights.  On the other hand, most of the people holding land in the town of Coleraine and the city of Londonderry were described according to their occupations: clerks, lawyers, carpenters, sailors, tailors, fellmongers, shoe-makers, glove-makers, innkeepers, barber-surgeons, butchers, brewers, cutlers, tanners, labourers, or according to their office, such as alderman, chamberlain, member of the privy council, or swordbearer.  Women, too, held property by these grants.  Although always described as widows or daughters, these women held land either under their own names or jointly with a man whose relationship to the woman is not often specified or clear.  Some properties are also held jointly by pairs or groups of men, sometimes fathers and sons, sometimes men with other links, such as a group of aldermen, yeomen, or husbandmen.  The names, too, give an indication of whether the land-holder was Irish, English, or Scottish.  While the ‘native’ Irish peasants were originally meant to be displaced and re-settled, the grants in the Book show that some Irish families, in particular the O’Cahans, were granted large amounts of land.

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  1. As part of the Walls 400! programme of events we are hoping to create a 1613 Market, just outside the present-day City Walls. So it would be great to know more about the people – Irish, Scots and English who would have been around in the first few decades of the 17th C. I am particularly interested in Captain Manus O’Cahan who was given back some of his land in the form of a freehold centred on the townland of Ballyshaskey; and his relationship with Alexander Skipton who “acquired” his property in around 1622.

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