A Maud-laird, also known as a Sma' laird or a Rentless Man, was a farmer who owned and farmed his own land, as opposed to the more common tenancy and rental arrangements in the feudal and early modern agricultural systems. As the name suggests, it was most prevalent on the Isle of Maud, although similar arrangements also existed on the east coast of Cynopea - especially on The Childe - and in the land surrounding the fertile Clutha river basin.
Maud-lairds, although more prosperous than the ordinary tenant farmer or landless peasant, were not part of the Oceanan gentry, and were looked down upon by the nobility. However, attempts by large titled landowners to bring the Maud-lairds into the tenancy system, in order to obtain rent from them, were met with fierce resistance, culminating in the "Maud Commotion".
Before the rise of the Maud-laird, the Isle of Maud, as well as parts of the coasts of Cynopea and Oceana lying on the Cynopean Channel, was under the personal dominion of the Laird of Maud, a title that appears to have existed since around the 5th century. Although the Laird of Maud became a vassal of the Oceanan King after Laird Kerron Kennaugh swore fealty to King Turbo the Conqueror in 1108 after the Clutha Scouring to prevent his land being invaded by Turbo's Neustrian armies, the Lairds thereafter attempted to keep a certain distance and independence from the court in Emporium. The Kings of Oceana tended to allow the Lairds a certain leeway in return, as their attention was focused east towards the threats of Neustria and Teutonia.
However, with the chaos that ensued after the death of King Turbo III in 1257, leaving no heir, and the Oceanan nobility fighting to gain the throne in his wake, the Lairds staked their claim to independence, with Laird Perick II Kennaugh revoking the Oceanan Crown's dominion over his territory in 1259. With the weak King Adoxus I desperate to keep ahold of the disintegrating Oceanan kingdom he had taken control of, Perick's declaration of independence went unpunished, although the Earl of Lonfordi took the opportunity to take Perick's Oceanan possessions.
Anticipating the possibility of later Oceanan retaliation, The Lairds strengthened their hold on the island, making Duntermon more defensible and constructing the formidable Fort Termon, completed in 1305, and extended their holdings in Cynopea down to the Childe. However, in a moment of relative quiet in this turbulent era of Oceanan history, King Turbo IV personally sacked Duntermon and Fort Termon in 1316, capturing Laird Ean IV Kennaugh as he tried to escape. King Turbo stripped the Kennaugh family of all lands and titles they held, and executed most of the adult males of the family. The Lairds of Maud were no more.
Perhaps in an act of contrition for the destruction of the Kennaughs, Turbo passed the lands formerly held by the Kennaughs over to the Oceanan Church, who feued much of their new land to peasant farmers on lenient terms. The peasant farmers in these areas were able, in many cases, to attain a higher standard of living than previously, and some became prosperous enough to purchase their land from the Church, becoming independent owner-occupiers of their farmlands.
Fermhalds and BallybegsEdit
The Maud-laird would typically own a small area of farmland, usually about 30-40 acres; more than enough to feed his family, pay his labourers - known in Maud as ballymen - in kind, and have some produce left over to sell at the market. The Maud-laird's house (Fermhald in Maudin) would be relatively small and frugal, and not considerably larger than the houses of the ballymen he hired.
The ballymen themselves would often live in small clusters of houses known as ballybegs, which were often located in small areas of common land between the borders of several farms. They were not tied to any particular Maud-laird's land, and had some independence as to which Maud-laird they worked for, although not complete freedom of movement: ballymen who moved away from their home ballybeg were often prosecuted as vagabonds. This state of affairs meant, however, that the ballymen were well-compensated by the standards of the time compared to other areas of Oceana.
Inheritence of the estate usually passed patrilineally from father to eldest son to prevent division of the farmland, which often meant that younger sons, not entitled to any part of the estate, would leave, taking up residence in a ballybeg, joining the Church, or seeking employment in Duntermon, especially in the Navy. If the Maud-laird had no direct male heir, particularly useful or favoured ballymen would often be designated to inherit the estate by entering into a marriage contract with a daughter or other close female relative which guaranteed the security of the family upon the death of the Maud-laird.
The "Maud Commotion"Edit
The "Maud Commotion" of 1581-2, also known as Maclagg's Rising or the Maud-laird's Stand, was the most serious revolt of the Maud-lairds and their ballymen against attempts by Oceanan landowners to extend their dominion over the Maud-lairds' estates, intent on reducing the Maud-lairds to tenant farmers rather than independent owner-occupiers. Amongst the grievances that the Maud-lairds held were attempts by the Oceanan landowners to intimidate Maud-lairds out of their land, as well as a worsening economic situation, largely blamed on landowners attempting to capture burgh markets, and trying to exclude the Maud-lairds from selling their produce.
What finally set the Maud-lairds on the path of open revolt was King Morpheus I's resurrection of the defunct Laird of Maud title; granting the Laird's old seat, the barony of Fort Termon, to his ally Cináed Mac Fhailib, 10th Thane of Vik, which would have set the Duntermon burgh market under the legal control of the Thane and his dependants.
Alister Maclagg of Barrafyn, a prominent and prosperous Maud-laird, became the leader of the revolt, and quickly wracked up successes against the disorganised Maudin barons. Maclagg's army set up a base of operations on the Lughelm, a prominent hill near Duntermon that could be easily fortified, and continued to harass the baronial troops, routing them completely in the Battle of the Duntermon Heights. Maclagg was then able to enter Duntermon and take control of Fort Termon. An attempt by the Thane of Vik to invade and take Duntermon ended in catastrophic failure, and the Thane's death. Maclagg saw this as a sign of good fortune and proceeded to invade the Clutha river basin, convinced that the smallholders there would join him too and enable him to take Glaschu, leaving Maclagg in a strong bargaining position with Morpheus I. Although some smallholders did, the response was disappointing, and Maclagg was left in the position of having to lay siege to Glaschu with insufficient numbers to take the city.
Donald Weir, 5th Earl of Lengze, a skilled military commander and one of Morpheus' most trusted vassals, was called into action to relieve the siege of Glaschu. He goaded Maclagg's army into open battle on the plains of the Clutha outside Glaschu, and, outnumbering them, won a decisive victory, capturing Maclagg and other leaders alive.
Although Maclagg and the other principal leaders of the revolt were executed by the Earl of Lengze, King Morpheus I, only recently risen to the Oceanan throne and lacking a completely firm hold on the crown, was simultaneously impressed and intimidated by the revolt. He was lenient in his treatment of the Maud-lairds (Maclagg's son Tyfin was allowed to inherit his father's estate, for instance) and reversed course in his land policies, passing legislation which protected the status of the Maud-lairds and halted the encroachment of the gentry - but only on Maud itself.
The few decades after the Maud Commotion were the high point of the Maud-lairds' power as a social class, but this was not to last. The Maud-lairds declined in social status as industrial development began in the late 18th century. Enclosure of the ballybegs had taken place in the 17th and 18th centuries as part of larger attempts of the Maud-lairds to improve their estates in the face of rising farm productivity in Oceana, tying the ballymen to particular farm estates and driving down wages. The poorer population of Maud migrated from the now-enclosed ballybegs to the industrial developments in Glaschu and the naval establishments of Duntermon. The loss of this labour led to a relative decline in productivity of the relatively small fermhalds and in the prosperity of the Maud-lairds.