Friday, February 5, 2010

Scottish Weaponry

Today, I am going to introduce you to some of the favorite weapons of the Scotsmen. The ones they fought with in battles and carried with them day to day. 

This first is the claymore, often confused with the basket-hilted broadsword that was used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The claymore, is a broadsword like the ones used in the medieval days. Most of them were something like almost six feet in length. They were used in the days of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce and reeked havoc on the battlefield. They were never made really sharp because they were mainly used as a hack and cut weapon unlike the rapier. When you were up against men with heavy armor, this was the weapon you would want. The sword could also be reversed and the hilt and cross-tree could be used as a sort of mace. 

The weapon people probably most associate with Scotland is the basket-hilted broadsword. This was the sword of Rob Roy MacGregor and the Jacobites. By that time, the type of warfare fought didn't call for anything quite so heavy as a broadsword for armor was pretty much out of style. The basket-hilt was usually about three feet long and looked just like a normal sword except the fact that the hilt was closed in with a basket. This was because the Scots preferred to fight barehanded and wanted something to protect their hands. The hilt was usually covered with sharkskin or something rough because if your hilt got covered in blood, or, as it was usually raining in Scotland, you wanted to have a good grip on your weapon. The basket hilt could also be used as a weapon to punch people with.

This dirk was the favorite thing for a normal Highlander to carry with him at all times. Dirks were used almost every day, even for when they sat down to supper at night. A lot of times dirks were made from blades of broken swords and just fashioned to a new hilt. Because of this, dirks were thought to be almost sacred. If the sword broken had been in the family for several generations, this only added to the effect. You could even swear on the dirk when taking an oath. There's a saying in the Highlands that goes "if you lie by the dirk you die by the dirk" so as you can probably realize it was a good deterrent to breaking your word!

The targe is actually a shield that was carried by the Highlanders. It was usually made about eighteen inches round and was usually made of three sheets of wood put across the grain and covered in leather to make it as strong as possible. Most of them were equipped with a metal spike that could be fixed to the middle of the targe which also made it a weapon. What most of the men did on the battlefield was take their swords in one hand and hold their targe in the other with their spikes affixed and their dirks held behind the shield as an extra weapon.

These are just a few of the weapons that were used on the battlefield. As a better reference, here is a link to a video of the late Scottish historian, David R. Ross talking about Scottish weaponry (and the reason the sun doesn't set on the British empire!) Enjoy!

Talk to you again on monday!
Slainte, Hazel


  1. I love the title: bonnets and broadswords. You're very creative!!

  2. Thanks! I am always glad to get comments!