Interesting History on Shillelaghs and Blackthorn Wood
Posted by ABDULLAH AL NUMAN
Hello there from cane world! Just popping in to give everyone some really interesting history that I have found on Shillelaghs and Blackthorn wood.
A really beautiful product with a rich history!
You may have seen our great selection of Shillalagh and Blackthorn and wondered about their origins. Blackthorn is a large bush that grows in the British Isles. The twisted, thorny, dark colored limbs have been used for defense, called Shillelaghs, for centuries. Blackthorn is a very resilient wood that is naturally resistant to warping which made it a perfect material to be made into a fighting stick.
“Oh! An Irishman’s heart is as stout as a shillelagh, it beats with delight to chase sorrow and woe;
When the piper plays up, then it dances gaily, and thumps with a whack to leather a foe.” -Unknown
The Irish fighting stick of choice would be made from oak, blackthorn, ash or holly and would be known by the name bata which in Gaelic means Fighting stick. The rise in popularity of the bata is believed to be from the time when the Irish and the Scottish were not allowed to legally carry fighting sticks for self-defense. Men started training with their bata at an early age, and to be given one was considered a rite of passage into manhood. It was a common sight to see men practicing with them. They would hold the bata in the middle of the stick and snap it out with the wrist.
Anthony Bluett wrote in his book, “Things Irish”, that there is actually no tradition of the Shillelagh in Ireland. What we think of as an Irish Shillelagh actually started as a tradition in 19th century London. An English writer was the first person who coined the phrase Shillelagh, which eventually became synonymous for any Irish walking stick.
The term Shillelagh is pronounced – “shahll-Ay-luh” but people most commonly pronounce it as “sha-lay-lee”. The name comes from the Shillelagh Forest in County Wicklow. They were traditionally prepared by smearing the stick with butter or peat and placing in the chimney to cure, the bark was left on for added toughness and the handle was sanded down.
Folklorist Padraic Colum has said that the “Shillelagh should not be considered a symbol of Ireland but a badge of honor for those who carried it”.
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