Monday, May 18, 2015

Henry Tyrel's Outlaw Gang

In this blog post I will be looking at Henry Tyrel's followers. I spoke about Henry in two of my previous posts and as you now know he caused murder and mayhem across south-west county Dublin and north county Kildare in the early fourteenth-century. He could not have done it alone though, he would have found it very hard to cause this murder and mayhem without his outlaw gang. We're all familiar with outlaw gangs, Robin Hood had his Little John and Will Scarlett (though no Maid Marian until mid sixteenth century, see A.J. Pollard, Imagining Robin Hood (London, 2004), pp 14-15), they are as intrinsic to the outlaw tales as Robin, or the evil sheriff of Nottingham.

Robin (of Sherwood) poses sexily in front of his merry men, who don't look very merry really.

In the previous post I mentioned how outlaws like Henry were often of the gentry class – members of their gang, however, could come from all levels of society. Some, like Henry, came from well-to-do families, others were much more humble in origin, like Adam, whose surname does not survive because of the fragmented nature of the source:

Pleas of the crown and gaol-delivery, at Dublin, before John Wogan, Justiciar, on Tuesday the morrow of St. Lucia the Virgin, anno regni 34 Edward I. [14 December 1305]  
[Henry Tyrel] charged that he is a common robber and thief of oxen and afers and that he waylays (foristallat) faithful men passing [between] Lyouns and Ughtrard and exhorts from them money and other their goods under pretence of a courtesy; [and he entered] the house of Arnald de Penrys, and wastes his goods against the will of Arnald . . . . . . uses [her as] his own wife, and brings her to and fro with him at his will. And Adam son of . . . .rche charged with associating with Henry. They come and defend all robbery, etc., and put themselves on the country. 
Reginald Berneual, Robert de Caunteton, Walter . . . . as above, say that they are guilty. Therefore Adam is hanged. (Justiciary Rolls, 1305-1307, p. 477)

Like Adam, the vast majority of criminals executed in Dublin recorded in the court records were executed by hanging. I suspect Adam was Henry's squire, possibly someone of peasant stock who grew up in the same locality as his master, though the lack of evidence makes it impossible to establish that with any certainty.

Poor Adam (like the unfortunate Enguerrand de Marigny, banker, pictured above) was hanged. 

Unlike Henry Tyrel and the unlucky Adam, the rest of the outlaw's followers tried that day appear to have avoided the hangman's noose. Thomas le Norreys was charged with robbery and being in Henry’s company but the jury decided that he had been taken by force and he was therefore acquitted.

Thomas le Norreys charged that he was in the company of said Henry and had part of one afer . . . . he robbed from Rosyna daughter of Dermot the Smith, comes and denies all robbery, etc., and puts himself on the country. The Jurors say he is not guilty, but that he was in the company of Henry for one . . . . taken by force, and had his part thereof. but is not suspected. etc. Therefore of grace, etc., he is delivered quit, etc. (Justiciary Rolls, 1305-1307, p. 477)
Errol Flynn, looking merry, not sure his mates get the joke though.

Was he with Henry under duress? Well, that is unlikely, and it is probable that he escaped harsher punishment because he was personally acquainted with the jurors, who naturally would be very reluctant to condemn him to the hangman’s noose. Certainly, in England many judicial cases led to acquittals because the jurors were hesitant to condemn a friend or neighbour to death.
Richard, son of Richard le Schepherd, was also accused of being in the company of Henry Tyrel.

Ricard son of Ricard le Schepherd, charged that he is of the company of Henry Tyrel a notorious robber, and that he is a common thief of oxen and afers, and that he exhorts money from faithful people of the parts of Ughtrard and the parts adjacent, under pretence of requiring a courtesy, etc. He comes and defends all robbery etc., and puts himself on the country. And Walter Fox, John le Mareschal, Simon le Joefne, Roger Schallingford, Hugo de la Felde, . . . Blund de Tauelagh, John Oweyn, Martin Lange, Reginald le Clerk, Peter son of Thomas, Geoffrey . . . . and Ricard de Cruys, jurors, say that Ricard was in the company of Henry for taking certain small courtesies, as beer and the like, but not for any burglary or gross robbery. . . . Afterwards Ricard made fine by 10 marks by pledge of Maurice Tyrel, William . . . . . de Athgo, John Godman, Reginald Hyne and John de la Sale. (Justiciary Rolls, 1305-1307, p. 476.)

Though the jurors agreed that he was an associate of Tyrel’s they did not feel that he had taken part in some of the most serious offences. Therefore his life was spared; instead he had to pay a fine of 10 marks (a very substantial sum at the time). One of his pledges had the surname ‘de Athgo,’ which would suggest that he came from Athgo in Newcastle Lyons. Athgo is a hilly area, and it's likely that pastoral (i.e. raising animals) rather than arable (i.e. growing crops) was carried out here, so Richard le Schepherd, or one of his ancestors, could literally have been a shepherd – occupational surnames were all the rage back then. Maurice Tyrel, who was probably Henry's brother, was another pledge, thus Richard may have also been associated with other members of the family.

Richard le Schepherd may have been a shepherd, they didn't think too hard about surnames back then!

David de Naungle was possibly another follower of Henry's, he's mentioned in the court case involving the Irishwoman Mcnabyth (who was mentioned in my previous post). Richard de Bother was pardoned his murder, because David was a felon at the time it took place. (Justiciary Rolls, 1305-1307, 500). That was one of the dangers of being an outlaw, if someone killed you they would literally get away with murder!

The Robin Hood from Doctor Who is very cute! Give him his own series!

Several other men were declared outlaws in their absence at the time Henry was sentenced to death. Even though Gerald Tyrel was a very prominant and powerful individual in the locality, Thomas Tyrel was described first as Henry’s brother and then as Gerald’s son. This would imply that, at least to those in the locality, Henry was more well known, and certainly more notorious, than his father. Gerald may be more prominent in the records that survive, but Henry’s crimes appear to have left more of an impression on his contemporaries. This gives us some idea of how the selective survival of sources can shape our preceptions of the past.

Thomas Tyrel’s criminal career was even more spectacular (um, is that the right word? I probably mean worse!) than that of his brother. Not content with stealing cattle and other men’s wives he would be responsible for murdering some of the most important individuals in the colony. He was an accomplice in the murder of John de Bonevill, sometime seneschal of Kildare and Carlow. He was murdered by Arnald le Poer. Gerald, Thomas's father, served as seneschal of Ralph Pipard’s lands in Ireland, including the manors of Oughterard and Castlewarden in county Kildare. Shortly after Pipard relinquished them to the crown, they were granted to Arnold le Poer’s father Eustace. It is possible that Gerald continued to act as seneschal after the le Poers acquired the manors and it is likely that Thomas and Arnold become associates at this point. As well as his involvement in de Bonevill's death, Thomas Tyrel was also accused of murdering the king’s serjeant Robert de Someter and even in a society that was more often than not willing to overlook the crimes and misdemeanours of the gentry undoubtedly the killing of royal officials could not go unnoticed, or unpunished.

The axe was often the murder weapon of choice in medieval Ireland.

Certainly violence against officials was not unknown; John de Bonevill himself verbally attacked and physically threatened Robert Braynok who served as a serjeant of the king at Naas:

Robert Breynok for the King and for himself v. John de Boneuill. It is found by the same jury [as previous entry, but they are not named] that John did not inhibit his tenants to answer Robert, a serjeant of the King, but that Robert by precept of the Sheriff went to John and demanded from him pledges to acquit the Sheriff in the Exchequer of certain debts directed to be levied from John. John answered him: You ribald, you are my enemy. I will not find pledges for you, but I inhibit you to do any office in my land under penalty of life and limbs. But do you immediately find pledges to me to answer in my court. Robert, who is tenant of John, found pledges to him. Then John's wrath being somewhat soothed, he said to Robert, that he would not find pledges to him, but if he would bring him any serjeant of the King who was not under Robert, he would find to him the pledges which Robert demanded from him. On which Robert brought one of his subserjeants alleging that he was not one of his men. And to that serjeant John forthwith found pledges which Robert before demanded from him. Therefore it is adjudged [entry unfinished]. (Justiciary Rolls, 1305-1307, p. 128.)

This entry in the justiciary rolls reveals much about de Bonevill’s character, he appears to have suffered from anger issues, and his arrogance and temper more likely to win enemies than friends. Undoubtedly some officials abused their power which would naturally have led to resentment among locals. Whether the locals had some sympathy for the outlaws or just a sense of fear is unrecorded, however, some must have rejoiced at the premature demise of a seneschal and a serjeant; these officials were surely seen as instruments of unwelcome royal oppression. Certainly in outlaw legends like Robin Hood the officials are portrayed as the villains, and it is likely that where some individuals were concerned that this view reflected contemporary opinion.

Thomas Tyrel, like Henry, was also described as a common robber in the sources and apart from the de Bonevill incident it is likely that he committed most of his crimes in counties Kildare and Dublin. The justiciary roll entry of Thomas’s trial states that he was so feared ‘no one dared to come to the parts of Dublin to bring victuals there.’ Thomas was brought to trial in 1311, six years after his brother’s execution. If he and his gang were active for all this time one can only imagine the extent of control they had over the communities of both these counties. Here's the entry:

Pleas of the Crown and Delivery of Gaol at Dublin before John Wogan, Justiciar, Monday after SS. Peter and Paul, a.r. 4 
5 July 1311 
Thomas Tyrel, charged that he was at the slaying of John de Bonevill, King's seneschal of the liberties of Kildare and Carlow, and that he slew Robert le Someter, a King's serjeant, and that he is a common robber, as well in Co. Dublin as in Co. Kildare, so that no one dared to come to the parts of Dublin to bring victuals there, being asked how he would acquit himself, comes and says he is a clerk and that he neither ought nor can answer therefor here without his ordinaries. And because he is not found in clerical garb he is told to answer further if he will, but he refused to answer anything therefor. And because he refused the common law, therefore to the diet. And the constable of the castle of Dublin is directed to guard him in fitting manner under pain, etc. (Justiciary Rolls, 1308-1314, p. 217.)

Thomas refused to answer the charges laid against him claiming the benefit of clergy. There are many examples of accused men claiming to be clerks in the justiciary rolls and certainly in England it was a legal loop hole much used and abused. Individuals claimed to be clergymen because they knew if they could prove this that their case would be moved to an ecclesiastical court where they would receive a much lighter punishment. It is not clear if Thomas was a clerk or not, but it certainly was plausible. One of the Folville brothers was in religious orders but he also happened to be one of the most violent members of the gang and was eventually murdered outside his own church. In Thomas Tyrel’s case the jurors seemed unconvinced by his claims as he was not found in clerical garb. However because he continued to refuse to answer the accusations laid against him he was subsequently put on the diet. The constable of Dublin castle was ordered to guard him and, it is presumed, make sure he did not receive food or water. It does not record if the case was moved to an ecclesiastical court or whether Thomas met the same end as Henry. If he did succeed in convincing the court of his clerical status than it is likely that he avoided his brother’s fate.

Two of Thomas’s accomplices stood trial on the same day as their leader. One of them, Richard de Mora, was a chaplain, which may lend some credence to Thomas’s claims of being a clergyman too. A jury cleared Richard of robbing a horse but found him guilty of breaking into a church at Aderrig, which is a small parish to the west of Esker and Lucan, and stealing goods from a chest belonging to a Robert Fedan. The jury also declared he was responsible for stealing Hugh de le Felde’s oxen and burning down Jordan le Mouner’s house, but the only punishment he received was a fine of 40 shillings. Adam Squer was the other individual accused of being a follower of Tyrel’s, unfortunately the justiciary roll entry does not give any indication of the crimes he committed and he was sentenced to death. The entry informs us that he had neither chattels nor free land.

It's very difficult to find pictures of the merry men where they actually look merry...

Henry, and possibly Thomas, Tyrel were executed for their criminal behaviour, in spite of their relatively high social status and influential connections. The fate of their followers was a bit more mixed. Adam, who was executed with Henry, was probably his squire and of humble origins. Adam Squer, would appear to have been Thomas's squire, and the source confirms he had no property, so they may have died because they couldn't buy themselves a pardon. The other men involved appeared to have been a bit more affluent and were able to pay fines. Richard de Mora may have escaped execution because he was a clergyman but one has to wonder if Adam Squer could have avoided his fate for the sake of 40 shillings.

Thanks for reading – if you have any questions, observations or corrections email me at or comment below! 

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