Some Elizabethan sheriffs of County Galway
by Dr. Joe Mannion
The province of Connacht was shired early in 1569, in preparation for the establishment of the provincial presidency later that year. The newly erected county of Galway comprised the territories over which the second earl of Clanrickard exercised some degree of control, nominal or otherwise, and its first sheriff belonged to a collateral branch of the Clanrickard Burke family. The significance of this appointment in Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney’s overall plans to anglicise the western region will be explored in this lecture in the first instance, as will its ultimate responsibility for the initial failure of the presidency. A subsequent change in viceregal policy saw the appointment of outsiders to the shrievalty of County Galway, many of whom apparently abused the position for their own material gain. But they were not alone in doing this, as one of the most notorious sheriffs of the embryonic shire was a native of the town of Galway, who predictably belonged to one of the celebrated fourteen ‘tribes’. The primary sources have not yielded a complete list of the sheriffs who served in the county under Elizabeth, but an assessment of the personalities and tenures of those on record broadens our understanding of the many new challenges faced by the Gaelic Irish of the region during the later Tudor period.
Dr. Mannion holds a PhD in history from NUI Galway, awarded for his dissertation on the Tudor lordships of the Clanrickard Burkes and the O’Kellys of Hy Many. His published works include a biography of Galway’s earliest known ecclesiastic entitled The life, legends and legacy of Saint Kerrill, a family history study called Clann Uí Mhainnín: the Mannion Clan historical trail: a guide to residential, ceremonial and burial sites, as well as a wide range of journal articles and book chapters dealing with diverse aspects of the medieval and early modern history of the South Connacht region.