Duty-work, duty-fowl, duty-eggs, &c.

Duty work.——It was formerly common in Ireland to insert clauses in leases, binding tenants to furnish their landlords with labourers and horses for several days in the year. Much petty tyranny and oppression have resulted from this feudal custom. Whenever a poor man disobliged his landlord, the agent sent to him for his duty work, ... the tenants were often called from their own work to do that of their landlord. Thus the very means of earning their rent was taken from them: whilst they were getting home their landlord's harvest, their own was often ruined, and yet their rents were expected to be paid as punctually as if their time had been at their own disposal. This appears to be the height of absurd prejudice.

Source: Works of Maria Edgeworth. Vol. II. Boston: Samuel H. Parker, &c., 1824 (pg. 150). 

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Beside the rent, aids, and reliefs, the tenant had to pay certain "dues" in kind, and perform certain "duties." Contributions of poultry, eggs, &c., were required, as "duty-fowl," "duty-eggs," and soforth. The "duty-work" to be performed consisted in labour given to plant, reap, and gather the landlord's crops, to thresh his corn, draw home his turf, or like agricultural services. A rate of payment was occasionally fixed, but this payment was always less than the market value of the labour. The tenants had to neglect their own occupations in order to perform this labour. A receipt was passed for its performance as well as for the rent-payment, and for non-performance a penal sum was reserved in the lease, to be recoverable in the same manner as rent.

Source: Sigerson, George. History of the Land Tenures and Land Classes of Ireland. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1871 (pg. 153).

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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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