Ballyboe, ballybetagh, sessiagh, &c. - old Irish land measures

Source: Sullivan, William Kirby. Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. Vol. I. London: Williams and Norgate; Dublin: W.B. Kelly; New York: Scriber, Welford, & Co.; 1873.

  The word Baile or Bally as an Irish topographical term was employed in two senses, the Ballyboe and the Baile-Biatach. Boe means a habitation or house, and is equivalent to the Norse By, which exists in so many English town-names, as Appleby, etc. The Norse Ból and By appear to be synonymous; at least there is no doubt that By originally was a mansion or principal farm house, including of course sufficient land to keep a family in independence. In Ireland this appears to have been the quantity of land sufficient to graze twenty-one cows or three Cumals, the legal qualification of a Bó Aire of the lowest class, that is, of a free man having political rights; and in addition, a certain quantity of forest, and sufficient meadow land to provide winter fodder. The following curious Irish entry in the Book of Armagh appears to represent such a typical homestead: "Cummen and Brethán purchased Ochter n-Achid, with its appurtenances, both wood, and plain, and meadow together with its habitation and garden." Dr. Reeves makes the Ballyboe a "cow-land," and thinks the term analogous to the Latin Bovata and Saxon Ox-gang; in this, however, he errs by supposing Boe to be equivalent to , a cow, as indeed most people are in the habit of doing.

  In some parts of Ireland the Ballyboe is called a "Tate," which Dr. Reeves thinks is properly "Tath," and perhaps connected with "Tothland," the name of a division once used in England. He also mentions a custom in Norfolk and Suffolk called Tath. The word is, however, obvioulsy "Teti," a house, as distinguished from a hovel or bothy, that is, a Norse Ból or By, and a Franish "Mansus." The compounds of Tate or Tatty, as topographical names, occur only in the counties of Fermanagh, Monaghan, and Tyrone, with the exception of a few in Armagh and Louth.

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Source: Keenan, Desmond. Ireland 1603 to 1702, Society and History. Desmond Keenan, 2013.

  Thomas Larcom, the first director of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, made a study of the ancient land divisions of Ireland and summarised the traditional hierarchy of land divisions as being 10 acres = 1 Gneeve; 2 Gneeves = 1 Sessiagh; 3 Sessiaghs = 1 Tate or Ballyboe; 2 Ballyboes = 1 Ploughland, Seisreagh or Carrow; 4 Ploughlands = 1 Ballybetagh, or Townland; 30 Ballybetaghs = Triocha Céad or Barony. ... In the settlement of Ulster a ballybetagh means a town able to sustain hospitality which contained 15 tates, each of 60 English acres, so a ballybetagh amounted to 960 acres.

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Source: Reeves, William, ed. Acts of Archbishop Colton in his Metropolitan Visitation of the Diocese of Derry. Dublin: for the Irish Archæological Society, 1850.

The denominations of land which formerly prevailed through the diocese [of Derry] were the following:

  1. The Ballybetagh.——Sometimes abbreviated to Ballybet, which derived its name from baile biatač, "a victualler's town," and was reckoned the thirtieth part of a Trioča-cead, or cantred. It was the largest measure of land, and generally contained four quarters, which being very variable in their extent, there was no fixed standard for their complex. The barony of Tirkeeran, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, consisted of fourteen ballybetaghs, and Keenaght of thirteen. In the notes to the preceding rental, the numbers of ballibetaghs in several of the parishes are specified. In the county of Monaghan this denomination generally contained sixteen tates.
  2. The Quarter was one of the four components of the ballibetagh, and contained three ballyboes.
  3. The Ballyboe was one of the three components of a quarter, and was the commonest measure of land. Tirkeeran contained fourteen ballybetaghs, or 182 ballyboes, which gives an average of thirteen ballyboes for each ballybetagh, twelve being the exact number. In this barony there are 92,756 acres, which, being divided by 182, give about 509 acres as the average extent of a ballyboe. There are, according to the Ordnance survey, 228 townlands, each containing an average of about 406 acres, so that the ancient ballyboe may be estimated as a fifth larger than our present townland. Kenaght [sic] contained thirteen ballybetaghs, and is divided at present in 272 townlands, which allows nearly twenty-one townlands to a ballybetagh. The ballyboe was sometimes called a townland, and if our divisions bearing that name are more numerous now, it is chiefly owing to the fact that in many instances the generic names, as well as those of the intermediate and lower species, are retained and applied to independent portions of land.
  4. The Sessiagh, three of which constituted a ballyboe. The name in Irish was Seiffeač, which was formed from feiffeaf eač, "a yoke of six horses."
  5. The Tullagh consisted of a ballyboe and a sessiagh, that is, a ballyboe and a third. ...
  6. The Tate, or Tath, or Tagh, varied from ten to sixty acres. The word was very common in Monaghan, but of rare occurrence in Tyrone.
  7. The Gort was used to denote a measure of six acres, probably from the fact that this was about the quantity of ground which was generally assigned for the vicars' gorts, or gardens.

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Source: Nugent, Brian. A Guide to the 18th Century Land Records in the Irish Registry of Deeds. Corstown, Oldcastle, Meath: Brian Nugent, 2012-3.

      Poll, Tate, and Ballyboe, are synonymous terms, but
   the [equivalents in] acreage was in every case dependent
   on local factors and varied with the circumstances in the
   particular county.

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Source: Morrin, James, Clerk of Enrolments in Chancery. Calendar of the Patent and Close Rolls of Chancery in Ireland. Vol. II. Dublin: Alexander Thom, and London: Longman, Green, Longhman, and Roberts; 1862.

      In Armagh the prevailing denomination [for land] was
   the "ballyboe or town," which contained three sessiaghs;
   ... In Tyrone as in Armagh, the ballyboe or townland was
   the prevailing denomination, and contained three 'sheshawghes'
   or sessiaghs; it had besides a compound denomination called
   tullagh, consisting of a ballyboe and a sessiagh, that is, a
   townland and a third.

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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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