by ehistoryadmin on January 27, 2017

Leinster Leader 11 May 1963

Obligations of a 19th Century Monasterevan Apprentice Traced in Ancient Naas Document

An apprentice to any of several trades here had to promise his master many things before being accepted during the nineteenth century. In several respects these conditions resembled rules of the Guild System which had passed its peak by the Middle Ages.

A boy in Monasterevan undertook, for one thing, not to marry during his five years apprenticeship to the stucco plastering and slating trade. John Sherwood of Clonegath accepted the boy, John James Whyte, on payment of £10 for his indenture at the start of the term, and another £3 at the end of the first year.

The printed indenture, with copperplate writing in blank spaces where particulars not within the scope of the printed portion were inserted, is treasured, in the home at Maudlins, Naas, of Mrs. Brownie Barber, a descendent of the 1856 apprentice.

Master of Craft

Apprentices then, as in the Guild System, invariably became masters in due course. A master was a master of his craft, not a master of his employee.

To such a man then did John James Whyte promise “to learn his Art, and with him (after the manner of an Apprentice) to dwell and serve from the twenty-fourth day of March until the full end and Term of five years, from thence next following, to be fully completed and ended.”

The indenture went on to demand of the apprentice towards his master “to faithfully serve, his secrets keep, his lawful commands everywhere gladly do; he shall do no damage to his said master nor see it to be one of others, but that he to his power shall let or forthwith give warning to his said master of the same.”

It behoved the apprentice not to waste the goods of the master, nor give or lend them unlawfully. With his undertaking not to marry was bound a promise to abstain from fornication.

Charity, Justice

Here again can be detected an echo of the old Guilds who always strove for justice by forming religious minds in their members. They prevented men exploiting or taking advantage of each other. In other words, the Guilds translated into action the Christian obligation of charity and justice.

Witness, as further indication, the following conditions, among others – the Monasterevan apprentice of 1856 was obliged to refrain from card-playing, dice table gaming “or any other unlawful games, whereby his said master may have loss, with his own or others goods;” he could not buy or sell without the master’s permission, neither could he “haunt or use” taverns, ale houses or play-houses.


He also had to obey a condition that he provide meat, drink, washing and lodging during the five years “befitting such an Apprentice, according to the Custom of the Country.”

That John James Whyte completed his apprenticeship is certain. A receipt for the fee of £13 is written into the bottom of the indenture, with the date April 29, 1861. Presumably, while the indenture sought payment of most of the money at the start of the contract and the balance after 12 months, a receipt was not issued until he passed out of apprenticeship.

Re-typed by Jennifer O’Connor





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