*from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Act I, scene II.
From the Yorkshire Historical Dictionary:
1) A herdsman who worked on behalf of the community, a practice on record in Wakefield manor from the fourteenth century.
In upland areas especially the animals shared grazing rights in the stinted pastures and these were sometimes referred to as ‘common’ flocks. In 1516, the abbot of Fountains leased to Henry Paicoke a tenement in Cowpmanhow in Craven, the farm now called Capon Hall: among the terms of his lease he was to repair and make walls at his own cost and was to be of gude demeanor and friendly unto the common gudes that goeth of the fell ther and to helpe the hyrdes and to dryff home eny of the common gudes wher he seithe it goo a wronge, Malham. Such hyrdes were referred to as common herds: 1536 The common of Knayesmyer shalbe drevyn … by … the pasture mayster and the common hyrd ther, York
1563 shall noyne Frome hensforthe hyer or kepe for theym selffes any manner of swynehyrde, nowte hyrd or shepherd butt that the saide tenants shal have and kepe emongest theym one common sheparde and to kepe noo hyrde butt in common, Great Ouseburn. There were still common herds in the Dales towards the end of the seventeenth century: 1673 one Richard Greenebanke being the common herd for Bordley High Marke.”
From: A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961:
“…On some occasions the corporation ordered that other officials should assist the pasture-masters: in 1536, for example, the chamberlains and four common serjeants were instructed to help the pasture-masters and the common herd to drive Knavesmire; and in 1533 the chamberlains were ordered to ensure that adequate fines were imposed on the owners of sheep impounded by the pasture-masters…”
From: Online Etymology Dictionary:
mid-14c., rascaile “people of the lowest class, rabble of an army,” also singular, “low, tricky, dishonest person,” from Old French rascaille “rabble, mob” (12c., Modern French racaille, “the rascality or base and rascall sort, the scumme, dregs, offals, outcasts, of any company” [Cotgrave, French-English Dictionary, 1611]), perhaps a diminutive from Old French rascler, from Vulgar Latin *rasicare “to scrape” (see rash (n.)). Used also in Middle English of animals not hunted as game.”