The methods of raising an army in Ireland were founded upon the feudal system in England. Every tenant by Knight's service was required to find a certain number of horsemen and retainers in proportion to the fees he held. It may be interesting to describe how the Earl of Sussex in July 1560, raised a force in the County of Dublin for an expedition against Shane O'Neill. The Royal Commission written in latin, was first issued "for the musters", and addressed to the Privy Council and other leading men of the County. The instructions annexed were very detailed. The commission was divided into companies, who were alloted to the various baronies, for each of which they appointed a captain or 2. Precepts were then issued to the constables of every Barony commanding them to appear personally on 22nd day of the month at such place, as was appointed, and to bring in writing, to be certified and delivered on their oaths, the names and surnames of all persons between 16 and 60 resident in each constable's district, all of who were also to attend personally on the same day at the muster. These men were to bring with them "all such horses, harness, armour, bows, arrows, guns, weapons, and all manner of warlike apparel as they by any means can put in readiness against that time for the service of the Queen's Majesty and the defense of the realm." Any who failed to appear were liable to forfeit twenty shillings or suffer 10 days imprisonment.
On the muster day the commissioners were instructed to make a list of all present, viewing each "person and his furniture" considering his "hableness" and weapons. In the margin before the name of each man was to be marked letters: "that is to say, upon every hable man, archer h.a., upon every hable harquebus h.ha., upon every hable billman b.b., upon every hable horseman h.h., upon every hable kernagh h.k., and upon him that you fynde not so hable to leave out the first h" The instructions go on , " But also not in like sorte by writing what horse, armour, and weapon each of them shall then have by these letters. For a horse h.o., for a jacke j., for a spear s.p., for a bow b.o., for a sheaf of arrows s.h., for a bill b., for a gun g., for a sword s., for a habergen of mail h.m.,"
From this list we get a fair idea of the arms of the period and who handles them. (The Kernagh or Kerne, were the Irish contingent)
The muster books somade up by the Barony constables were then given signed to the commissioners and by them transmitted to the Lord Lieutenant by the 1st of August. At 6 days notice the men thus mustered were liable to be called together to what was called a "hosting" or assembly of the expedionary force.
Beacon fires were the best means that they could devise, as their method of communication, for giving warning to the barony constables of approaching danger. An order of the Earl of Sussex was "That beacons be set and good watch kept upon all the accustomed places for all the seacoast of the English pale where any arrival and landing of foreign enemies may be doubted". Also, "That there be appointed and commanded unto all persons so mustered a place most convenient to make their immediate and indelayed repair unto, with their weapons and furniture appointed upon every warning given by fire or smoke from the afore-mentioned beacons.
With regards to the pay of the soldiers accounts differ according to circumstances. In a general hosting in 1575 it was estimated at a rate of 12d sterling for every horseman per diem, 12d sterling per diem for every archer on horseback and 7d sterling per diem for every kerne
The Lord Lieutenant had the power to call upon the heads of the Irish tribes that acknowledged the Queen's authority, to provide a certain number of troops for service. Thee following was the form used by the Earl of Sussex in 1560. "Trustie and wellbeloved we grete you well; And whereas for the service of the quenes highness we have though good at this present to entertayne three hundeth sparres of her majesties gallowglasses under your conducte for one quarter of a yere; we lett you witt that we have directed our servall mandates unto Obyrne and unto Omoloy and unto captaynes of the Analy to furnyshe you of your bonaght for the same accoordingly, the which mandates you shall receyve herewith to be delyvered unto them and therefore will and chardge you and every of you to assemble and prepare your saide numbre of sparres of gallowglasses and with all expedicion receyve your said bonaght appointed and furthewith be with them in readynes to her majesties service as you shall from us have comandement. Herof se you faill not in any wise"
The Irish terms "bonagh" and "sparres of gallowglasses" require some explanation. Bonagh" was the tax imposed by an Irish chief for the support of his mercenarry soldiers. There were 2 kinds of foot soldiers, gallowglasses and kerne, the former were heavy armed infantry, equipped with a coat of mail and an iron helmut. A long double-handed sword hung by the side, and in the hand was carried a broad heavy keen-edged axe. The later, the kerne, were light armed foot soldiers who wore headpieces and fought with a dagger at short sword (skean) and had a javelin attached to the thing. Sometimes they used bows and arrows and they had 2 kinds of shields. One was of wickerwork that was convex outwards and covered with hide. The 2nd was a small cirular shield made of wood or bronze. Each gallowglass had his own man to carry his battle gear and a boy to carry his provisions, and these 3 were called the "sparre". Eighty spares made up a regiment or a body of galowglasses. The Irish also had a Cavalry armed with headpieces, shirts of mail, or jackes, a skean, a sword, and a spear.
A quote about the Irish soldiers, from Spencer's view of the State of Ireland, " They are very valiant and hardy, for the most part great endurers of cold, labour, hunger and all hardness, very active and strong of hand, very swift of foot, very vigilant and circumspect in their enterprise, very present in perils, very great scorners of death."
Extracted from: Vicissitudes of an Anglo-Irish family, 1530-1850 by
Philip H Bagenal
London: C. Ingleby 1925