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 how did we organise against lawbreakers.

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normanhurst
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PostSubject: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Sat 07 Nov 2015, 21:37

whilst we see on the films a bank in the wild west gets help up, and within minutes a posse is despatched to give chase and bring them back to face justice... or a stage coach was held up, killings and robbery takes place... again a posse rides out to bring the law breakers back to a lock up. 

what was our answer to catching our own bank robbers and highway men... i never hear of a posse of country yokels riding out after them. how was the law of the land organised to give chase...
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Sat 07 Nov 2015, 23:52

Well, something rather posse like used to exist - the "hue and cry" - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hue_and_cry
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Sun 08 Nov 2015, 07:46

And of course in the "Wild West" time you're thinking of (ie the second half of 19th century) Britain already had a well-established police force: the Metropolitan Police were formed in 1829 and the County Police forces in 1839, and increasingly from about the 1850s the County Police forces also had Criminal Investigation Departments too. 

Prior to that all villages and parishes in towns and cities had their parish constables appointed by the Justices of the Peace in each county ... and the JP or magistrates also had the power/responsibility to "call out the posse" in the form of organising local parishoners or even calling upon the local militia to assist the constables if necessary. The position of parish constable goes back at least as far as Edward I  whose 1285 Statute of Winchester constituted "two constables in every hundred to prevent defaults in towns and [on] highways." There were also in the 17th and 18th century professional "thief-takers" who made their living by investigating crimes, apprehending villains, securing convictions and returning stolen goods to their rightful owners ... at least so long as the rightful owners had paid up-front for their services.

But I rather think the idea of the posse may be a bit of film-makers' dramatic licence. Perhaps it was sometimes like that out in the Wild West, but that's not really how we did things in Britain, is it  ... dammit even today the police are still not routinely armed! But even before the 19th century Britain was a much more urban and controlled society than "frontier" western USA, and with no great wastes into which a villain could escape and avoid the notice of curious villagers. Lynch-mob justice has always been generally frowned upon ... maintaining the established order, business-as-usual, stability and the rule of law (however corrupt and grossly unfair that might be), was far more important than indulging in popular mob rule. Interestingly the old statutes make it clear that one of the key roles of the old parish constables, besides apprehending felons, was that they should act as impartial witnesses and provide "true evidence" to the court of law, for when the felon was arrested and the case brought to court.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 08 Nov 2015, 13:21; edited 6 times in total (Reason for editing : typos)
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Sun 08 Nov 2015, 11:28

Incidentally the first Metropolitan police constables were rather quaintly issued with wooden rattles (like an old-style football supporter's rattle) with which to summon back-up aid and to alert all honest house-holders to render assistance. But later, after due testing and evaluation, the rattles were replaced by the best technology then available: the police whistle, originally and crucially with a "pea" which gave a much more piercing sound than a pea-less whistle, and which remained standard issue and in regular use until at least the 1960s.  (As a child I can certainly remember policemen carrying and using their whistles, although by then they were used more to simply attract the attention of motorists, or of misbehaving children such as myself, than for anything else).

From wiki:

Joseph Hudson set up the J Hudson & Co in Birmingham, UK in 1870. With his younger brother James, he designed the 'Acme City' brass whistle. This became the first referee whistle used at association football matches during the 1878–79 Football Association Cup match between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield. Prior to the introduction of the whistle, handkerchiefs were used by the umpires to signal to the players.

He began experimenting with pea-whistle designs that could produce an intense sound that could grab attention from over a mile away. His invention was discovered by accident, when he accidentally dropped his violin and it shattered on the floor. Observing how the discordant sound of the breaking strings travelled, Hudson had the idea to put a pea in the whistle. Prior to this, whistles were much quieter, and were only thought of as musical instruments or toys for children. After observing the problems that local police were having with effectively communicating with rattles, he realised that his whistle designs could be used as an effective aid to their work. Hudson demonstrated his whistle to Scotland Yard and was awarded his first contract in 1884.

Both ratchet rattles and whistles were used to call for back-up in areas where neighborhood beats overlapped, and following their success in London, the whistle was adopted by most police in the United Kingdom. This police whistle monopoly gradually made Hudson the largest whistle manufacturer in the world, supplying police forces and other general services everywhere. His whistle is still used by many forces worldwide. His design, was improved as the 'Acme Thunderer', the first ever pea whistle, which remains the most used whistle in the world; for train guards, dog handlers and police officers. From the 1880s and 90s, J. Hudson & Co began facing greater competition, as other whistle manufacturing companies were established, including W. Dowler & Sons, J. Barrall, R. A. Walton, H. A. Ward and A. De Courcy & Co. In 1987, Ron Foxcroft released the Fox 40 pealess whistle, designed to replace the pea whistle and be more reliable.
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Sun 08 Nov 2015, 12:20

In the Old West, was there any difference between marshals and sheriffs?

Glasgow had the first Police Force in Britain, established by an Act of Parliament to allowing the levying of a household fee to finance this in 1800 after a decade long campaign. Even before that, from 1788, there had been a professional, uniformed force off 8 men who augmented the original, static Watchmen by patrolling the city. These officers had to provide a surety bond of £50 to ensure their good behaviour. The Bailies of the Watch Committee who oversaw this force also broke new ground in identifying 'Preventitive Policing' as one of their principal functions.
In 1819 we got our first designated Criminal Officer  - the first detective.

The Advertisinf Standards Authority had to legally prevent the Met from calling itself 'Britain's first police force'.  tongue
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Sun 08 Nov 2015, 13:13

@ferval wrote:
In the Old West, was there any difference between marshals and sheriffs?

Sheriffs pre-date marshals in US history, the former being an English import with the earliest colonists who carved territories up into counties or shires on the English model. It is still the norm for a sheriff's jurisdiction to pertain to a county. Marshals were the direct result of a 1789 Act of Congress who took a position already in use (marshals were the guys who raised militia with congressional authority) and expanded it into an adjunct of the federal law system in states already subscribed to the Union.

In areas not yet a state or in disputed territories the appointment of a marshal was normally the first step towards that territory's application for statehood as it meant that the population agreed to several key legal criteria which the marshal would then ensure were met. Where communities also elected or appointed sheriffs there was therefore a strict demarcation between the roles each fulfilled. The sheriff kept local law and order, the marshal ensured the law being observed was one in keeping with federal legislation. Hot spots, such as Texas, ended up with both, and not always on good terms regarding the scope of each other's jurisdiction.

Sheriffs, being very much a community issue and choice in the remoter parts of the Union, could end up with a job for life (and for many this wasn't long at all). Marshals, under the 1789 Act, had to be re-elected every 4 years (though in extraordinary circumstances this could be deferred).

On the subject of posses (another English import - "posse comitatus" being "the authority of the county") the first recorded posse was in Cornwall, England, during the Civil War in 1642. Ralph Hopton, the royalist commander in the west, found himself and his territory rather cut off by parliamentarian sympathisers in surrounding districts. Not knowing that he enjoyed royal decree to raise militia (Charles had beefed up the "Commissions of Array" to allow local leaders adopt royal approval for such measures by proxy) and aware that his enemies were using a law passed in parliament "the Militia Ordnance" to do the same, he fell back on a little used common law concept to award himself the right by "posse comitatus". Using the same authority he had every Cornwall-based parliamentarian indicted by Cornwall's County Grand Jury and then he raised a small militia who adopted the name of a "posse" to round them up or chase them out.

"Posse Comitatus" was not repealed in England until 1967.
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Sun 08 Nov 2015, 21:56

i'm trying to write a reply to all this information but my wifi connection is so bad, i dont know if its because of the howling wind and rain... the leaves falling in my lane or the ponies leaving little messages all over the place. but i thank everyone for your contributions to my further enlightenment.
living here in the forest it throws a new light on my perception of just what it must have been like out in the wild woods.
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Mon 09 Nov 2015, 09:19

In G M Fraser's book, The Steel Bonnets about the 16th century Border Reivers, there was an action known as a Hot Trod, where a counter force would launch a raid over the Border to recover goods (mostly cattle) that hade been stolen by a hostile raiding force.


http://www.borderreivers.co.uk/Border%20Life/The%20Hot%20Trod.htm

The Reivers were also responsible for introducing the word "blackmail" and the phrase " caught red handed" into the English language.
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Mon 09 Nov 2015, 10:56

I've never quite understood how much authority beadles had. But according to Wiki they did act as early "security officers" - and still do in some areas of London:

Outside of religious and educational institutions, the designation of "Beadle" is most often held by officers of secular bodies of some antiquity.

Sometimes the title is used by uniformed security guards. For example, security duties at the Burlington Arcade, an upmarket shopping mall in Piccadilly, London, are carried out by staff called Beadles wearing what appear to be nineteenth century uniforms.[2] Also, Ely Place, a street in central London that is nominally part of Cambridgeshire,[3] is patrolled by a beadle, and police cannot enter the street without the beadle's permission.[3]

City of London

In the City of London the title is held by two distinct groups; both originated as "executors" or police for more senior persons.


Then there were the "watch committees" - again, I'm not sure exactly what powers they had.
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Mon 09 Nov 2015, 13:24




Thomas Rowlandson. Beadle and Barrow Women. 1819. British Museum, British Roy PIV. © Trustees of the British Museum.


I have found this site which I think is really interesting - lots of info about constables, the Night Watch - and beadles. The latter group of enforcement officers did have significant powers - no wonder they were loathed:

http://www.londonlives.org/static/Policing.jsp


In some parts of London constables were assisted in their duties by beadles. A beadle was a minor officer employed to communicate orders and execute them, and can be found in a wide range of eighteenth-century institutions. In terms of policing, beadles carried out an important role in the City of London and Westminster, the focus of this section. Beadles also appear frequently in the records on this website as parish officers, responsible for summoning Coroners' Inquests (IC) and carrying out the orders of churchwardens and overseers of the poor, and as officers of Bridewell Hospital, implementing the orders of the Court of Governors.

Within the City, beadles were long-established ward officers. The office was a full-time job with a salary, and many served in the post for years, sometimes also acting as constables. Many had subordinates, called warders, who acted as their assistants. Their responsibilities included a range of policing activities: organising and supervising the night watch; controlling crowds; prohibiting the sale of goods on Sundays; prosecuting nuisances; arresting and prosecuting prostitutes, beggars and vagrants; and even arresting men and women on more serious charges. The Minutes of the Bridewell Court of Governors (MG) include many men and women accused of petty offences who had been committed directly by ward beadles (from 1785, however, beadles lost the power to make commitments on their own).
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Mon 09 Nov 2015, 14:15

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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Tue 17 Nov 2015, 15:45

Wiki article about Thief-takers;

Thief-taker
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Wed 18 Nov 2015, 14:39

I came across this instance of detective work conducted in 16th century County Meath which might throw some light on the rather flexible and lateral thinking employed in some cases of common law-breaking at the time.

The fifth Baron Dunsany, Robert Plunkett, was approached by tenants of his estate at one point who complained that cattle were being rustled from their farms - not only a crime with devastating economic consequences for the owners (and for the purse of Dunsany himself) but one that was justifiably regarded as little less than an open declaration of hostilities in Dunsany's time, especially in lands like his that formed a border between "the Pale" and the wild Gaelic hinterlands beyond. Cattle raids were a sure-fire and much proven way for non-pale residents to start turf wars which might draw their adversaries into open battle and thereby prosecute through victory a repossession of land "lost" to English settlement.

Dunsany was anything but "English" (he took pride in using the Gaelic version of his name and spoke fluent Irish) but he did what was expected of him - he set his private militia on the job, though with instructions to keep their investigations as low key as possible so as not to antagonise their neighbours outside the Pale. House to house searches, severe interrogations, watches and bribery were employed over several months to hopefully find or ensnare the culprits, but all to no avail. Cows were still going AWOL and no one was any the wiser.

Suspicion then fell locally on a certain butcher in Trim - at that time one of the few towns in Ireland which operated under a type of "free charter" with no semblance of feudal fealty to any overlord - Norman, English or Irish. For this reason its denizens, free from that extra burden of scutage and fiercely defensive of this status as freemen (they ran a form of waiting list for would-be immigrants into their private sanctuary), were generally envied and despised by those in surrounding districts. Dunsany was aware of this, but in the face of a growing conviction locally that the butcher was the ringleader (older people remembered that he had some "previous"), decided he had better act.

Getting the butcher out of Trim was difficult enough. An armed raid on the town would have huge repercussions extending way beyond those which even a serious case of cattle rustling could justify. In the end Dunsany took a rather more conciliatory and intelligent view, correctly surmising that if the man was aware of the allegations against him, had guarantees of safety, and wished to clear his name, then he would accept an invitation from Dunsany to a meeting in Dunsany Castle where he could state his case in front of witnesses. Moreover, if Dunsany deemed his testimony honest and the man innocent he would recompense him handsomely for having attended.

And so the butcher came - accompanied by several Trim dignitaries (including a bishop) and a chest filled with documents. This in itself was remarkable - Dunsany had not expected the butcher to be literate. Even more surprising the documents proved to be receipts and orders which amply demonstrated that the butcher ran his business in an exemplary manner, and that in fact he was wealthy to the extent that he had no need to resort to crime to augment his income. Moreover there was a crucial aspect to his character which demonstrated the main flaw with local people's suspicions, namely that he wasn't the butcher with "previous" at all. That had been his uncle, dead now for some years, from whom he had inherited the business. The butcher, all agreed, was an innocent man. His good name was restored, he received his promised compensation, everyone had a great party courtesy of Dunsany, and all went back to their town and to their farms a little merrier, if no nearer ascertaining the guilty party.

Then some more cows disappeared and Dunsany realised that he would now have to get tough. He was on the verge of declaring martial law, not only in his own estate but even deep into Gaelic territories (and Trim) - a move that would almost certainly have precipitated warfare - when his wife Eleanor intervened.

She argued that he allow her just a few days to see what she could do. If she failed to find the culprit he and his army could go ahead and start what might well escalate into a full-blown civil war. In the meantime all she needed was a carriage, a barrel of sack mead, and a little spending money. And so Lady Dunsany arrived in Trim, not in her official baronial capacity but simply to "share a glass" with the butcher's wife, a woman who she said she had rather taken to when the Trim contingent had been up in the castle.

The butcher's wife did what Eleanor expected and decided to turn the visit into something more than a "glass or two" with a pal. With Eleanor's encouragement the woman extended the invitation to several more good wives of Trim so that by the time Eleanor arrived she was greeted by what must surely have been the first informal meeting of the Irish Countrywomen's Association.

Eleanor uncorked the sack and the nattering began. Within an hour she had ascertained that some strange offers of cheap cuts of beef had indeed been rife in the vicinity in recent months (much to the butcher's wife's annoyance) and that several of these housekeepers by profession had been approached. When this information was pooled (and the sack continued to pour) a general agreement concerning the appearance and the accents of the purveyors was arrived at. This in turn prompted another flurry of recollections regarding some other nefarious offers of agricultural produce going cheap from similar sources, which prompted yet another recollection of which road these accented creatures generally took out of town, which (after a little more sack) prompted a crucial recollection of a certain family from that neck of the woods who were personae non grata in another part of the county for reasons which no one was quite sure about, which in turn led eventually to someone remembering the name of the family and where they lived.

Eleanor didn't need to hear much more - which was well and good as that meant she and the rest of her new buddies could now have a serious go at the rest of the sack (fresh casks were already finding their way into the butcher's house). And so the ICWA meeting eventually drew to a rather tipsy and convivial conclusion late that evening and an equally tipsy and convivial Lady Dunsany wended her way back into the Pale, her suspicion confirmed that a group of women all conveniently positioned at a local hub of trade and gossip could not but have helped absorb the necessary information - it just needed them all to get together to assemble the jigsaw, and in a way that men probably never could.

Once Dunsany received the intelligence he sent a small SWAT team to handle the business. Their raid proved profitable - rustled cattle in various stages of existence from hoof to sirloin were discovered on the premises and the culprits, some caught literally red-handed, were rounded up and delivered to Dunsany for trial.

The women had averted a war.
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PostSubject: Re: how did we organise against lawbreakers.   Fri 20 Nov 2015, 11:12

Another case from Ireland from a slightly earlier period is also interesting.

The "Norman Invasion" in Ireland in the 12th century had, by the 15th century, led to a very complicated but on the whole workable mixture of laws, culture and traditions. Norman holdings were extensive but not all joined up geographically, and within and between each island of Norman family dominion existed several codes, all of which effectively and diversely represented different compromises between ancient Breton Law and the Feudal Law that the Normans had introduced into both England and Ireland after their Conquest of the former. Just to complicate matters further there were still small but important pockets of what might be called Irish Danelaw in operation, especially within the urban centres originally founded by Scandinavians.

As one can imagine this led to some serious issues regarding what to do with lawbreakers. A felon in one jurisdiction could well be a socially commended hero in the next based on whatever action he had taken - and again, as with the Dunsany incident above, it was cattle rustling that often stretched the inbuilt flexibility of these miscegenate laws to their utmost. Under Breton Law, designed for a mobile population moving with giant herds in tow, cattle meant wealth but not necessarily hoardable wealth. In other words anyone who allowed their cattle to be nicked most likely shouldn't have been trying to mind them anyway and the wealth the beasts represented was obviously better served in the hands of those who had acquired them. It was a rather fluid and effective form of "hostile takeover" between clan-based parties and in terms of aggression far exceeded in incidence and importance land acquisitions using the same military resources. Land meant little if it simply led to an increased risk of losing cattle as a result.

Within the old Viking towns cattle and indeed land meant diddleysquat. Here wealth was measured in goods and money, just like today, and depended completely on the exchange of both. Labour was the underlying generator of wealth, be it engaged in industrial or agricultural production or in flogging the proceeds. For that reason human life - like any other commodity - had to have a value placed on it concurrent with what existing market forces dictated.

Between these two codes were the Normans, who had started with the feudal idea that the top guy simply owned every resource and that crime is therefore a simple equation - if you take, damage or kill anything or anyone in a particular geographical area you have wronged the boss-man because it was he who effectively owned it/them and no one else. Punishments were therefore equally uniform in concept. If you were of no translatable value to the boss (and you most likely weren't as a mere individual, even if from a "good" family) then you were dispensable. However by the 1400s the big Norman dynasties had long since outsourced much of their administrative duties to subordinate players and a big chunk of these were Gaelic Breton Law enthusiasts. This led to a more "play it by ear" approach regarding crime and punishment, which in turn led to a requirement that each case therefore had to be assessed on its peculiar merits, which in turn had led to Ireland's first law courts constituted according to a design and principles very much in accord with modern ones. Ireland, unlike England, had never needed a Magna Carta formulated by barons - "habeus corpus" had arisen quite naturally as a concept once Breton sense had hit Norman sensibilities and an agreeable compromise had to be found.

Then, just to complicate things further, there were the religious areas - monastery and church-owned extensive tracts of land in which a compromise between ecclesiastical law and the neighbours' versions prevailed.

Finally, to put the icing on this complex legalistic cake, was The Pale - then a relatively small area within Leinster but including Dublin, the country's most affluent trading city, where everyone tried to conform to whatever England happened to be saying might be law at the time. They tried, but this was an England clutching roses and riven by warring dynasties who were wont to set laws aside themselves whenever it suited them, so Dubliners in effect developed their own code, one that reflected aspects of everything legal (barring Breton Law) plus some extra bits they had simply made up themselves.

Enter one Richard Barry (or Richard de Barry, or Riceard Uí Bhaire, or Risteard Uí Meic Caille, or in fact any of several other names by which he was known). Ricky was a Corkman, probably from Youghal as his use of the ancient Meic Caille name suggests he may have been actually of Gaelic descent from a very ancient East Munster clan of that name which had long been subsumed as "Imokilly" into the giant Barry baronetcy. We know he spoke Gaelic as his favoured tongue, and French ahead of English as his second, so that suggests also one of those peculiar Irish hybrid clans which, often through simple bloody-minded obduracy and innate survival skills, had managed to arrive at a sort of social middle ground with their new Norman overlords in which they could demonstrate through fealty and family ties their right to hold a Norman name with all the delegated power this position entailed while at the same time simply carry on as before regarding their Irish heritage and whatever was left of the regional privilege and power their clan had once exercised, thereafter simply alternating between the two identities as situations demanded.

Dick Barry, not being an eldest son (something that meant a lot in Norman Law though less in Breton Law) was therefore a prime candidate for such social shape-shifting. He was a businessman and ship owner in Waterford, an estate agent in the Barry baronetcy in East Munster, and an arable farmer on leased land within the same Waterford area. However as a Meic Caille he also enjoyed some ancient rights still respected in the region, and one of these was to acquire as big a cattle herd as he could, an acquisition that would bolster any future bid to become "The" Meic Caille and top man Irish-style in his clan. It was in exercising this latter right that he found himself in trouble.

The usual compromise was to let a subordinate Gaelic dignitary within a Norman holding go about his cattle rustling responsibilities as he so wished, as long as he kept it within the baronetcy. To the Norman overlord it was after all simply a case of moving resources around (he reckoned he owned them all anyway, even the rustler) while keeping the in-laws (as the Gaels often had become) happy. However Dickie thought otherwise. Instead of rustling Barry stock he set his sights further afield and 'alf-inched' a few thousand cattle belonging to the fearsome Wicklow O'Byrne clan to his north in their Wexford holdings.

Ironically at this point, at least in Gaelic O'Byrne Breton eyes, he hadn't actually broken any law - though this did not mean that the Wicklow-based Gaelic dynasty were any too pleased with his foray into their Wexford-based resources. But in Wexford there existed two Norman baronies - Bargy and Forth - the bosses of which reckoned that Dick had broken every law in the book when he herded his booty through their dominions en route to Waterford. Furthermore they had serious issues with O'Byrne aggression and encroachment. So the respective barons put a price on the felon's head and demanded his arrest. However, surprisingly perhaps to modern minds, the "felon" wasn't our friend Richie at all - it was "The" O'Byrne himself they blamed (presumably for allowing his stolen cattle to "invade" their territories).

And this of course was indeed something that Breton Law also supported. According to that regime O'Byrne must temporarily renounce his position as head of the clan (taoiseach) until a tribunal appointed by the elder members under his deputy (tánaiste) reviewed his fitness to lead.

With O'Byrne thus indisposed (by now he was a voluntary "hostage" being held in a monastery near Ferns awaiting trial) one of the barons, a guy called Lambert, decided to strike while the iron was hot and invade Wicklow. This brought his private army ominously close to Dublin which went on full alert and indicted Lambert for having invaded "their" Pale - contrary to an "English" law they had invented for the purpose. Dublin raised an "English" army to meet him in battle.

Lambert got cold feet at this point - in taking on what was now at least nominally an English Crown force he had bitten off way more than he could chew - and immediately ran for safety, in fact he ran to the sanctuary of the same monastery in Ferns in which the owner of the lands he had just invaded was holed up. He and O'Byrne availed of the opportunity to have a summit meeting to thrash out what they should do, the upshot of which was that Lambert would pay compensation to Dublin Corporation and O'Byrne would help him out financially. Byrne would also get all his lands back, an apology from Lambert (which would cement the reclaiming of his status) and a promise of help from Lambert when and if Byrne ever should launch an actual assault on Dublin (an ambition he had long harboured anyway).

Which still left the cattle problem, the beasts having been spirited away deep within Barry territory but with Baron William Barry denying any knowledge of or responsibility for his sudden and valuable increase in assets. Lambert and O'Byrne, now seemingly best of pals, hit upon an idea and upped their compensation bid to the Corpo in Dublin if the latter, having raised an army, now attacked Barry instead of them.

Dublin obliged (isolating and neutralising Munster chiefs was a long-standing tradition in Dublin so gift horses such as these were rarely looked in the mouth) and a declaration of war, sanctioned by the church and conforming now to all branches of the law, was made. Willie Barry, somewhat alarmed at this sudden change in fortune, pleaded for help from his powerful Desmond neighbours. Their leader however, one James Fitzgerald, had problems of his own. Known even within his lifetime as "the usurper" he had very shaky claim to his title (he was an Earl) and was devoted more to fighting with his relatives as a result than with his neighbours. However as Earl he was also, under Norman Law, obliged to intervene. The first thing he did was tell Dublin he wasn't going to hold their jacket while they entered any fray, and the Dubs duly discovered a sudden belief in pacifism.

His next intervention was to try to kidnap our Rich, a clumsy and unsuccessful move that so resembled an invasion of East Munster in its own right that it almost started a war even bigger than the one threatened by Dublin. Fitzgerald appealed to the bishop in Cashel for some guidance on the matter and the bish duly obliged.

Archbishop John Cantwell II (who had serious problems of his own as his number suggests) quickly decided that this would have to be dealt with as a purely criminal matter - the players militarily were now poised so dangerously close to open warfare that military diplomacy was nigh on impossible. However declaring young Richard Barry an outlaw was not a solution either. In fact in military terms such a move would have been something akin to the later assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in effect.

And so he used some lateral (or Lateran) thinking. He declared the cows themselves were the criminals in the case. Their disloyalty to their original masters was compounded by their subsequent trespassing over several others' territories, and their criminality was completed by their wilful grazing and consuming of good Barry grass. All the offended parties, he suggested, should combine in a spirit of fraternal cooperation to arrest the bovine miscreants and deliver them back to imprisonment in Wexford, where they had started.

There was only one flaw in all this. Cows, not having souls, could not be criminals. This however posed no problem to Cantwell. As Archbishop he could decree a soul anywhere he so wished (Norman Archbishops weren't like other Archbishops). He did just that, stipulating that the state of souldom would last only as long as it took to get them home. At the same time he excommunicated Richie for the same period. Now, churchless and therefore stateless, Richie could with impunity "trespass" on land without diplomacy being offended and escort the cattle back home to their "imprisonment".

The "march" of the prisoners ended up taking a little longer than the week or two Cantwell had envisaged. The whole thing became an excuse for a party and Richie and his nephesh-imbued cows were feted along the route, occasioning several over-nighters, some over-weekers, and one particularly alcoholic over-monther in Carlow along the way. Bards wrote planxties in his honour and poets so many paeans, ballads and hymns to his glory that, by the time Wexford had been reached, the erstwhile cattle rustler had become something of a genuine folk hero. In fact his standing was such that the next time the top Meic Caille job came up shortly afterwards there was only one man for the post.

And the law(s) was satisfied.
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