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To entice English people, especially merchants, to move to their lands, the earliest conquerors and settlers created boroughs. These boroughs—and the five royal cities of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick—were granted privileges, confirmed by charter, which allowed them semi-autonomous government and freedom from tolls. Among the lists of burgesses and citizens (the name for the members of boroughs and royal cities respectively) we can find many Gaelic people. In 1226 three members of the Dublin merchants’ guild were Gillefintan (Giolla Fionntain), Richard Maolisel (Ó Maoil Ísu) and John Malamtin (Maol an Mainchín?). In 1258 the mayor of Dublin was Peter Abraham. Abraham was the Anglicised and shortened version of Mac an Bhreitheamhan or Mac Abrehon, but he could have been an Englishman named Peter Abraham.

At Clonmel in 1300 we find Roger Otoyk (Ó Tuait?), William Fagan (Ó Faodhagáin), William Boyk (Ó Buadhaigh?), Robert Boly (Ó Baoighill?), Henry Ker (Ó Carr?), John Okyk/Okilt (Ó Caoilte?), Adam Ohany (Ó hÉanaigh), Thomas Colyn (Ó Coileáin) and John Fagan listed as free men and burgesses. Seven years later, King Edward I’s Irish council decided that, by custom, even an unfree Gaelic person who owned a house in an enfranchised borough became a burgess and free person in English Ireland. The record from 1300 at Clonmel supports the council’s ruling, although the Clonmel burgesses could have been free from birth.


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