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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


A Tale of Two Bishops

by Michael J. Farry - Lecturer in Law, Austin Waldron R. T. C., Carlow
(Institute of Technology, Carlow)

Source: Carloviana 1991/1992 No.39


Illustration by O.C.S. Chairman Martin Nevin c1991

Two Bishops figure prominently in the early Irish Justiciar Rolls involving Leighlin. Bishop Nicholas Chever of Leighlin (1275-1309) in 1297 and Bishop William in 1305.  Bishops and clerics at that time were often political appointees, who occupied these positions as a source of livelihood. In most cases they were not Irish and were not renowned for their moral standards.

The Justiciary Rolls for the 6th of March 1305 at Carlow before Edmund Le Botiller, Custos of Ireland, record an attack on the Bishop of Ossory and his retinue.  The sequence of events which led to the attack, and the later court proceedings, are reminiscent of tales of Robin Hood and Sherwood forest.  The Bishop complained that on the previous Sunday while enroute to “Tristledermot” on the affairs of his church, he was attacked by the Provost (Thomas le Chapman) and people of New Leghelyn in the King’s street and beaten and wounded.

Struck dog with spear

The jury found that “When the Bishop on the said Sunday passed through the said town of Leghelyn, it happened that Simon Purcel, one of his valets, rode at a distance after the Bishop, and a dog of one Ralph le Tannere, a man of the town, coming out of his master’s house attacked the serving-man (garcio) of Simon and tore his clothes, on which the serving-man with his spear struck the dog.

Which Ralph, being in the house from which the dog issued, seeing, taking a short stick, went out of the house, and threw it at the serving-man, stricking him on the neck, from which he fell to the ground, his face being badly wounded.

Simon and one Robert de Racheford, one of the Bishop’s valets, seeing this rode towards Ralph threatening him for that blow. Ralph, for fear of them entered his house and shut the door. Simon and Robert alighting (from their horses) tried to break the door (of the house) to take vengeance on Ralph.  But Ralph going into his yard by another door came into the street, and he and his wife raised hue-and-cry.  On which William son of Geoffrey Cachpol, and others (except Thomas le Chapman, Edmund de Valle, Adam Gregol and Oliver Dayncourt) and their households, men and women, came out with arms and stones, attacking Simon and Robert. 

The Bishop being in the outlet of the town perceiving this, peacefully returned, and gave as is customery the benediction, asking those assembled to cease from doing evil to his men, and pledging himself to make satisfaction immediately for any trespasses done by his men to each person of the town.   But they, not accepting his request, although often made, surrounding the Bishop, and Simon, Robert, and his other valets and servants, attacked them on every side; so that in the conflict a stone was thrown at the Bishop and one of his valets.   Michael de la Lyserne, was struck almost to death, so that his life is despaired of, and it is believed that he will die within three days, and Robert de Racheford was badly wounded with an arrow”.

The Jury found Thomas Chapman and Ric. Clement not guilty (they said that they were not present), but their wives and families were. And of said Edmund, Adam Gregori and Oliver, they say that they were not guilty.

The judgment given in the case was that “the Bishop recover against Thomas and the others convicted his damages taxed at a 100 marks, and William, son of Geoffrey Cachpol, and others convicted be committed to gaol, and Thomas Chapman and Ric. Clement, whose families were participators, be guarded. Edmund de VaIle, Adam Gregori and Oliver Deyncourt go quit”.

Bishop Nickolas Chever of Leighlin

Bishop Nickolas came before the courts some six years earlier on a number of occasions. He appears to have been a fearless type of person. In 1295 he was arrested and charged with harbouring felons. Later in 1297 he went bail for two accused persons.

Formerly Archdeacon of Leighlin; elected bishop before November 1275; received possession of the temporalities 7 March 1276; confirmed 28 September 1276; died 20 July 1309; also knowns as Nicholas Cheevers

The events which occurred after his death afford us some insight into the calibre and character of those who occupied clerical office at the time.

On Oct. 18th 1295 the Sheriff of Dublin was directed to take into the Kings hand (to take control of) the temporalities of Bishop Nickolas of Lechlin because he was charged with recent harbouring of felons.

On the 8th November 1295 The Chancellor was commanded to write to Walter Purcel, Knight of the custody of the Cross of Lechlin, “to fight and take the enemy of the King until the next parliament of the King of Kilkenny”.

Bishop Nickolas was directed (because he was indicted of some heavy charges) “not to go outside the walls of Waterford city, but to be there as if imprisoned and that his temporalities remain in the Kings hands. He is to do this under pain of forfeiture of all his temporalities”.

On the 9th Dec. 1295 he was released.

Walter de la Haye was ‘‘commanded to deliver by sufficient mainprise, Nickolas Bishop of Lechlin, arrested at Waterford by precept of the Custos of and to replevy the Bishops goods and lands taken into the Kings hands”.

On the 22nd Sept., 1297, Nickolas, Bishop of Leighlin went bail for Pt. Cheurce and Geoffrey Cheurce who were remanded in the prison of Dongarvan.

29th Dec. 1310, John Chevers, Dean of Leighlin, and master Ralph le Brun, Archdeacon of the same, charged that after the death of Bishop Nickolas they retained the Seal and sealed letters relieving Chevers from rent that he owed and giving profits to the archdeacon.

Source: Carloviana 1991/1992 No.39
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