The Scottish Gael Chapter VII
Of the arms and military accoutrements of the Celts
THE armor of the Celts may not inappropriately be considered their
dress, inasmuch as they apldotn laid aside their arms of defence, and
never appeared abroad without some part of their military weapons.
Respecting these, we have to express the same regret that was occasion-
ed by the subject of the preceding Chapter: there are few monuments
of antiquity that can, with certainty, be pronounced Gallic, and of these
few, scarcely any display the military attire; the Romans, according to
Montfaucon, repressing any desire to represent a subjugated people as
independent warriors. It was a particular honor conferred on two Cel-
tic legions, and a tribute to their unparalleled bravery, that statues of
them in their arms were set up at Edessa, as before recited.
The Gauls, in general, sought no other defence than what nature sup-
plied, despising artificial means of protecting their bodies;* but, when
fully accoutred, they had both helmets and shields, breast-plates, and
coats of mail, the common use of which was, apparently, confined to the
nobles; the vassals, or clients, being unable to procure these articles,
or, perhaps, denied the privilege of wearing them. The German foot,
in the days of Tacitus, were either naked, or dressed in light cassocks,
having few coats of mail, and fewer helmets. The ancient Britons are
described as going generally almost naked, disregarding all defensive
armor, except the shield. f
It does not appear whether the plates of iron with which they covered
their necks and bellies, J were used as ornaments or for protection.
Mela savs, the Britons wore the same armor as the Gauls, but, like
t Herodian, iii.
186 CELTS' CONTEMPT FOR DEFENSIVE ARMOR.
them, they relied on their dexterity and physical strength rather than on
any defensive armor, which they considered as an incumbrance, if not an
indication of cowardice. "I wear no armor," said an Earl of Strath-
erne, at the battle of the Standard, 1138; "yet they who do, will not
advance beyond me this day." Giraldus Cambrensis says, the Welsh
fought naked, or used very light armor, that it might not impede their
exertions, the Irish despising it altogether. At the battle of Telamon,
the Gesata? stripped off their dresses and stood before the army naked,
carrying their weapons only, that they might not be entangled by the
bushes or otherwise obstructed. Polybius describes it as terrible, and
astonishing to see those men marching naked, and to observe the motion
of their big bodies; conduct, however, more fool-hardy than discreet, for
they were dreadfully galled by the Roman archers, and, finally, beaten
back with dreadful slaughter. On other occasions, we find this practice
of denuding themselves noticed. The Gael retained the same custom
until almost the last century, the chief being the first to set the example.
However creditable this was to their heroism, and however advantageous
it might be in allowing a perfect freedom of action, the want of defen-
sive armor must have, on many occasions, been severely felt. The peo-
ple of the Low Country were, in this respect, superior to the Highland-
ers, who, as the song says,
" Had only got the belted plaid,
While they were mail-clad men."
Or as was observed of their scanty covering in a later age,
" The Highland men are clever men, at handling sword or bow,
But yet they are ower naked men, to bide the gun, I trow."
However much the Celts may have valued themselves on their con
tempt for armor, they were not ignorant of its utility, nor deficient in its
fabrication. They were dexterous in the manufacture of military wea-
pons, and careful, even to nicety, of their warlike accoutrements. Their
greatest delight was in the excellence and beauty of their arms; the
ancient Irish appearing, from Solinus, to have been remarkable for this
attention to their appointments.
To the Gauls the honor of inventing CHAIN MAIL appears due, which,
from being at first made of leather, according to Varro,* acquired the name
of Lorica. It is called, in Gaelic, luirich, and was the usual body covering
of the Scots and Irish, who wore armor, the plate being almost unknown
among mem; and it seems to have been worn of considerable length.
"The armor wherewith they cover their bodies," says the old Chronicle
before quoted, " in time of war, is an iron bonnet and an habergion side
almost even to their heels." Throughout Scotland, the jaque de inaill
was chiefly worn, according to a French author, who describes it in the
sixteenth century; and the person who furnished Holinshed with his ac-
count of Scotland seems to prefer it, as he regrets that his countrymen
should use heavy armor. The Irish full armed troops, in the seventeenth
* De lingua Latina.
MAIL AND HELMETS OF THE CELTIC NATIONS.
century, wore shirts of mail that reached to the calf of the leg, and
which were sometimes of leather, stuck with iron nails.* They also
had girdles, that were proof against shot.|
The Cimbri wore iron breastplates ;J and some of the Gauls, accord-
ing to Diodorus, had a sort of cuirass of similar metal, formed in rings,
or hooked, resembling chain mail, as some think. They had also a
kind of interlaced wicker under their vests.
HELMETS were more general, it would appear, among the Gauls than
the Germans, who, from various sculptures, are seen with a piece of
cloth wrapped round their heads. In the form and ornaments of the
helmet, the Celts had an opportunity for indulging their passion for dec-
Among the Gauls, the Lusitanians, the Celtiberians, and all of the
same race, they were made of brass. The former sometimes fixed on
them appendages resembling horns, or the wings of Mercury, of the
same metal, or embellished them with the figures of birds and beasts.
The tribes in Spain and Portugal surmounted them with red plumes, ap-
parently of horses' hair, and the Cimbri had them formed like the jaws
and muzzles of various wild beasts, adorning them farther with plumes,
like wings, of a prodigious height. || Chonodomarius, a celebrated hero,
is described as riding about in glittering armor, with a flame-colored
wreath or tassel on his helmet.lT
In the preceding cut, the two helmets on the right are from the sculp-
tures at the church of Notre Dame, Paris; the upper one on tne left is
from Dr. Mey rick's work on armor, as is the one in the vignette, the
lower is from a figure engraved in Montfaucon's Antiquities; and that
in the centie from a German on the column of Antoninus
The Massagetce had their helmets and breastplates ornamented with
* Spender. Ware. t Barn. Riche.
Diodorus. || Plutarch, ut sup.
t Plut rch, de Hello Cimb.
H Amm. Mar. xvi. 10.
i&a CELTIC SHIELDS.
gold. The Thracians, in Xerxes's time, had caps of foxes' skins.* l\
is probable the ancient Caledonians had a covering for the head, of a
similar material; little Oscar, in Smith's version of "Cathula," being
represented with his little helm of the fur of fawns.
The helmet, clogaid, literally the apex, or ceann-bheart, a headpiece,
is mentioned by the oldest bards as not uncommon amongst the Gael;
and from these authorities we find that they were adorned with the feath-
ers of the eagle's wing, perhaps the whole pinion, by which Ossian
appears to have recognised an Irish chief, it. being a mark of distinction,
for we find the "gray feather " always worn by a hero. We must make
allowance for the privilege of the poetical historians to embellish their
recitals by national imagery, every individual figuring in these tales be-
ing a hero, if not a cean-tigh,^ and consequently entitled to wear a
helmet and its proper crest. Whether helmets formed of metal were very
numerous in Caledonia during the Fingalian dynasty, may be doubted;
but the eagle's feather has ever been the peculiar badge of Highland
A skull cap, in times less distant from the present age, protected the
chieftain's head, and does not at any time appear to have been worn by
those under the degree of a Galloglach. Among the Irish, the glibe,
or matted hair, served the purpose of a helmet, but they also used a
head-piece covered with hide. The Scots were long but ill provided
with armor. At the battle of the Standard, the infantry had nothing for
defence but a target of leather.
The SHIELD of the Gauls, according to Strabo and Virgil, was usually
long,J and the Ligurians carried one of the same form. In sculpture,
we perceive the Germans with an oval shaped buckler of ample dimen-
sions. Tacitus admits it was large, but suited to the size of the bearer.
From the plates in Cluverius's work, we^nd it was at first formed of the
rough wood, or bark of a tree, sometimes retaining the natural curve, but
at other times appearing flat, and nearly the length of the boq\y ; in
instances it appears formed of straw, or rushes, something resembling
the work of bee-hives.
A small round shield seems, however, to have been the favorite of the
Celtne; and Schoepflin notices the remains of some discovered in Ger-
many.^ Several of the Celtiberi used the light shield of the Gauls, and
others bore round targets, the size of bucklers ;|| but, at Cannee, Poly-
bius says they both carried the same kind, which he describes as weak. 11
The Roman shield was, at first, square; but in their wars with the
Tyrhenians, a people of Gallic origin, they adopted the round form used
by thit people.** From the spoils that were taken at Thermopylae
.vhere the Gauls had no other weapons of defence, and deposited in the
* Herodotus, vii. 75. t Head of a house, chieftain.
t Lib. iv. p. 299, ed. 1707. lEneid, viii., v. 6(50, &c.
Alsatia illustrata, i. 67. || Diodorus.
TI Lib. ii. 2. ** Diodorus, Fragmenta xxiii.
CELTIC SHIELDS. 139
temple of Apollo at Dclphos, Pausanias describes them as similar to the
wicker targets of the Persians, called Gerrha.* Those Celts called
them thur^oi, or thyreos; the Welsh still use tarian, and the French retail,
thiros.f In the Gaelic, tearmun, protection, or defence, is applied to a
shield, as well as targaid, from whence comes the Saxon targa and Eng-
lish target: but sgiath is the usual term, and is applied to a buckler from
its supposed resemblance to a wing, denoted by the same word. The
most ancient and most common shields of the Caledonians were, proba-
bly, made of interwoven twigs covered with hide. In the poem of
Cathula, a sword is said to pass through the folds of a shield; and
young Oscar, in Duthona, is represented with one formed of woven
reeds.J Cresar describes the Aduatici, who occupied the country about
Douay, as having targets of wicker, covered with a tough hide; and
Tacitus says those of the Germans were either a sort of basket work, or
of board, painted, but seldom bound either with leather or iron, 5} like
that of the Romans. The Scots of Ulster, in the time of Spenser, car-
ried long wicker shields, which were quite unknown among the Southern
Lucan says some of the Celtiberi used a small shield, called Cetra,
which the Romans afterwards adopted. I find that C'etra, in Gaelic,
means something intervening, a term very applicable to a shield. The
Lusitani carried shields of a peculiar form, resembling a half moon, and
composed of the sinews of animals, so strongly interwoven, that, for
lightness and strength, they could not be excelled; being, besides, man-
aged with admirable skill, and whirled about so dexterously that it was
scarcely possible to wound the person who bore them. IT They were cal-
led Peltce, and four are represented on the shield of the Vesontes in the
engraving. Among the Etruscans it was round, and not fixed to the
arm, but held in the centre by the hand.
The shield of the ancient Caledonians, according to Herodian, was
oblong, resembling those assigned by Cluverius to the continental Celts;
but numerous discoveries prove that this was not the only form, if it was
at all common. Dr. Meyrick, indeed, exhibited lately to the Society of
Antiquaries, a curious remain of a shield of this shape, but the original
British target was circular. The figure of Britannia on Roman coins is
represented with one of this form, and apparently of the dimensions of
those which the Highlanders, during their independence, continued to
use. The bards invariably speak of them as round, and they appear to
have generally resembled those used in the last century, the poetical ex-
pressions "dark brown," "shield of thongs," alluding to their cover-
ing of leather. The targaid of the Scots' Highlanders was always orbi-
cular, and formed of one or two thin 'pieces of wood, covered with one
or more folds of thick leather, fastened by numerous nails, usually of
brass, but often of iron, and sometimes of silver, according to the cir-
Lib. x. 19, 20. t Holmes. J Smith's Gallic Ant.
$ Annals, ii. !j View of Ireland, p. <tl fl Diodorus.
90 CELTIC SHIELDS.
cumstances of the party. These nails, or knobs, served to strengthen
the targaid, and were rendered highly ornamental to it, for they were
sometimes formed into representations of armorial badges, by means of
the different metals. The most usual style was an arrangement in eon-
centric circles, which had a pleasing and rich effect. The one repre-
sented in the plate is in the armory of the Tower of London, and mea-
sures one foot nine inches in diameter. The one shown in the vignette,
p. 185, is taken from a portrait of a Highland nobleman in the Trius, in
the possession of Mr. Donald Currie, Regent street. The circular ar-
rangement of the nails is singular; for a bronze target of nearly the
same dimensions, found in Cardiganshire, and represented in Dr. Mey-
rick's excellent history of that county, exhibits, in relief, sixteen
lines of knobs, exactly resembling the nails on the shields of the High-
landers. It is difficult to determine whether the metal buckler was an
imitation of the wooden, or its model. Like the Scots' target, this curious
relick was carried by a single hold, a piece of metal being placed across
the boss, or umbo, which afforded room for the hand; and, in numerous
cases, those parts have been discovered of iron and brass, when the
wooden shield has been long perished. This method of wielding the
shield was common to all Northern nations.*
The small round target, covered with leather, common to both Scots
and Irish, was always retained by the Highlanders, who signalized them-
selves by its adroit management. So early as the first century, their
ancestors excited admiration by the dexterity with which they used it in
eluding the missiles of the Roman army."f The single hold, by which
the targe was grasped, enabled the bearer to use it with advantage; and
of so much importance was it deemed, that, in the last unfortunate rebel-
lion, it was the first care, after the battle of Preston Pans, to provide a
large supply for the army. By receiving the points of the bayonets on
their targets, they were able with their swords to assail the enemy, who,
by this mode of attack, were almost defenceless. Nor was this all: the
shield had often a spike fixed in the centre; and they were accustomed
to carry the dirk along with it, and thus were doubly armed. " When
within reach of the enemies' bayonets, bending their left knee, they, by
their attitude, cover their bodies with their targets, that receive the
thrusts of the bayonets, which they contrive to parry, while, at the same
time, they raise their sword arm and strike their adversary. Having
once got within the bayonets, the fate of the battle is decided in an in-
stant, and the carnage follows; the Highlanders bringing down two
men at a time, one with their dirk in the left hand, and another with the
sword. These are the words of one who served in the campaign, and
was well qualified to give an opinion. J This superiority in tactics en-
gaged considerable attention at the time of the rebellion, and various
plans were suggested to enable the regular troops to resist the furious
onset of the Highlanders.
* Keysler. 1 Vita Agric. t Mem. of Chev. Johnstone, p. 8G
USES OF THE SHIELD. 191
The targe was usually hung on the left shoulder; and, on a march, it
was sometimes borne on the arm: hut, except in actual war, it was not
carried about the person. It was reckoned the greatest disgrace among
the Germans, to quit their shield in battle. He who did so was not per-
mitted to join in sacrifice, or attend the public assemblies; and many
who were so unfortunate as to lose this part of their arms, hanged
themselves, to avoid the shame of appearing under a circumstance so
disgraceful.* The Gael did not carry this feeling so far, yet the High-
lander never willingly parted with his targe,
"Whose brazen stndds and tough bull hide,
Had death so often dashed aside." t
The shield of the Celtic chiefs was frequently of metal, or, like the
above, was covered with it. An iron shield, round, and weighing nearly
twenty pounds, is mentioned by Pennant as preserved at Dunvegan
Castle, in Sky. That of the Earl of Mar, in the engraving, is of steel,
ornamented with gold.
The shield was sometimes raised in bosses, ctlled, in Gaelic, copan,
which, from being hollow, could be made to emit a sound, and, by
means of these, it served other uses of some importance among the an-
'cient Caledonians. It was either suspended on a tree, or between
spears, near the king or commander of an army; and, when at sea, it
hung on the mast, "the dismal sign of war," and being struck with a
spear, was a signal for assembling the army, or preparing for immediate
battle. Hence it was poetically named "the shield of alarms," "the
warning boss," &.c.
The Celts did every thing in a grave, solemn, and peculiar way. It
seems to have been a privilege or duty of the leader of the war "to
strike his shield at times," and the warriors appear to have done so
occasionally, " when their rage arose," either to keep alive their ardor,
or as an indication of their readiness and anxiety for the contest. It
was also the practice, at least during the war, of awakening the chiefs
by these means. I cannot, however, very well conceive how the sound
emitted could be sufficiently loud to be heard through the whole army,
as the expressions of the poets seem to imply, although they had been
formed of the most sonorous materials; and such a mode of directing the
military operations of the troops appears unnecessary, where there were
horns for the express purpose. A people that were able to fabricate the
other ingenious parts of their military accoutrements, could certainly
form a shield of iron capable of producing a certain tone; but the extra-
ordinaiy effect that is said to have attended the loud clang of these
bucklers, can only be set down as a poetical embellishment.
The shield of Cathmor, a chief of Ireland, as described in the seventh
book of Temora, seems too artificial to be reconciled, with satisfaction,
to the rude state of the arts at that time. It had seven bosses, each of
* Tac. de Mor. Germ t Sir Walter Scott.
192 USES OF THE SHIELD.
which was ornamented with a star, representing a constellation,* and
conveyed by its sound a particular order from the king. I should cer-
tainty be inclined to doubt the existence of such a singular article, did
we riot know, from discoveries, that the bosses were sometimes of silver,
or other metal, of very ingenious workmanship, and were it not possible
to attempt a rational explanation of this traditional account. Shields of
metal were certainly of limited use among those tribes, and were con-
fined to the chief men, giving rise to the expression of "blue-shielded
kings," 8tc. That of Fingal was evidently of this sort; and the follow-
ing passage will throw considerable light on the manner in which this
curious custom was observed. " On two spears hung his shield on high ;
the gleaming sign of death: that shield which he was wont to strike, by
night, before he rushed to war. It was then his warriors knew when
the king was to lead in strife; for, never was this buckler heard, till the
wrath of Fingal arose." This shield, formed of metal, or covered with
a plate of iron, was of a more simple construction than that of Cathrnor.
The term " bossy," applied to these bucklers, was expressive of the
little convex plates with which they were ornamented. Some were, no
doubt, fabricated with superior ingenuity, divided into several of these
bosses, or knobs, a blow on any one of which might have be^en the
method by which the commands of the General were conveyed to the
army. This is perfectly agreeable to the symbolical and figurative man-
ners of the Celtic race, and the method was less strange than at first
The seven bosses on Cathmor's shield were "the seven voices of the
king, which his warriors received from the wind, and marked over all
their tribes." Here we are not told that the sound of the particular
boss which he struck was so loud as to be heard by all the army, but the
different clans were informed by means of the warriors. In the former
extract we also find that it was the warriors, i. e. the uasal, or those
above the commons, only, who knew when the engagement was to com-
It may be further observed, that the King of Morven, on one occa-
sion, having struck his shield in the night, many of his host were awak-
ened, and thought it was a signal for them to get under arms, which,
from other passages, we are led to believe it must have been; but
receiving no further intimation, they again went to sleep. It is impossi-
ble to believe that these shields could have sounded so loud as the Bard,
by poetical license has given us to understand; and if the bosses of
Cathmor's had rung with the noise of tenor bells, the army would,
nevertheless, have been liable to misunderstand their import: but the
king's determination being indicated by his giving a certain number of
knocks on a particular boss, his warriors or attendants instantly retired
and conveyed his orders to their respective clans. The shield was the
only part of the warrior's armor appropriate for the purpose of announc-
i/The shield of Achilles was, likewise, ornamented with celestial signs.
ORNAMENTS OF THE SHIELD. 193
ing the resolutions of the chief; and, as that of Cathmor was different
from Fingal's, perhaps each tribe had their peculiar signals.
The king is defender of his people, and the shield, used as the defence
of the body, denoted his presence, by being always suspended beside
him. It was also used figuratively, to denote this office of defender, in
being carried by bards in front of the army after a victory, as we find
from a Gaelic poem which refers to the era of the Caledonian Bard.
Those who besought assistance, also presented a shield covered with
blood, to denote the death of their friends or defenders.
The use of the shield as a tablet, whereon the glory and renown of
heroes and their ancestors were set forth, is not its most ancient appro-
priation. The origin of coat armor is, more probably, to be traced from
the practice of displaying the intentions or determination of hostile par-
ties. If the ancient warriors wore the skins and other parts of the
animals they killed, or adorned themselves with the spoils of their van-
quished enemies, they did so to inspire terror, by this means of showing
no less their power and valor than their inclination to support their
prowess. Nations and individuals have frequently assumed certain
symbols and borne them on their shields or ensigns, to demonstrate to
others the designs on which they were engaged.
The very meaning of the word herald signifies the champion of an ar-
my; and to declare war is still his province. The Bards were the her-
alds of the Celtse, and they carried the shields of the chiefs, as the
herald of succeeding ages bore the arms of his country or patron.
The marks impressed on the leather covered targaid resembles the
intertwining of sprigs, a favorite ornament among the Celts, being imi-
tated in the hilts of the dirks, and introduced in their brooches and other
ornaments. This intricate tracery, which formed, for so many ages,
their common pattern, is seen in the rude sculptures of monumental
stones, and appears to be derived from the mysterious woven knots of
the branches of trees, under which the Druids concealed their know-
ledge, and of which more shall be said hereafter.
The Gauls, says Diodorus, had often the brazen figures of animals on
their shields, which served both for ornament and strength; those of the
Cimbri being bright and glittering, adorned with the figures of beasts.*
The Celtae wer also fond of painting their shields, a practice which they
had in most ancient times, and which, being adopted for the purpose of
distinction, is clearly the origin of the science of heraldry, about which
its professors and antiquaries are so ill agreed.
At Thermopylre, the Gauls had their shields painted in a certain man-
ner, and the night being so dark as to prevent them from perceiving the
figures, they were unable to recognise their own troops, and consequent-
ly fell into complete confusion."f
When society is rude and unsettled, it is not to be expected that indi-
* Plutarch, vita Marii.
t " Nee scutorum signa possent agnoscere." Pausanias, ed. Francofurti, 1583,
viduals will have distinctive symbols or marks; a whole tribe adopts a
general recognisance: but the origin of coat armor is to be traced to a
much more remote period than the era of justs and tournaments. Dr.
Henry very ingeniously supposes that the introduction of clothing led to
the transfer of the figures which characterized nobility, from the body
to the shie.d.* This is, probably, in some degree true, for the skin was
gtained for a mark of distinction;! but insignia, I apprehend, were first
exhibited on standards and shields; and it is probable that the practice
was, at first, connected with a religious feeling, the figures being, per-
haps, the symbols of gods. In proof of this, we find that the jEstii car-
ried the images of boars, to indicate the worship of the mother of the
gods; and by this mark they were recognised and protected among their
enemies.^ The Gauls carried the images from their sacred groves to
battle. The princes of Milan, on Hannibal's descent into Italy, took
the ensigns of gold from the temple of Minerva, which ensigns they call-
ed immovable, and marched with them against the Romans. That
people did themselves retain something of this ancient custom; the
eagles and other military ensigns being deposited in a sacellum with the
tutelar gods, and, when displayed, they were placed together in the same
The Celtic tribes of Britain had standards, or banners, figuratively
termed sun-beams, in the bardic poems, each leading chief being pro-
vided with one. That of Fingal, of which Dr. Smith, of Campbelltown,
gives a description, was much respected as the king's ensign; but the
flag of Diarmid, who led the right wing of the army, seems to have been
superior.ir In the original Gaelic, the description of those of the seven
principal chiefs is very particular, and "so inimitably beautiful, that I
cannot imagine," says an intelligent writer, "how Mac Pherson has
omitted it in his translation."**
The materials of these banners it is not easy to discover. In the poem
of" the Death of Fraoich," conjectured to be of almost equal antiquity
with Ossian, bratach sroil, a silken flag, is mentioned, but it is doubt-
ful whether this be not an interpolation. It is probable that the term
now applied to silk, formerly meant only something of a very fine tex-
The Caledonian chiefs had hereditary standard bearers, and the office
was reckoned one of much honor, to which a salary in land and other
perquisites were attached. They continued to enjoy their trust and
emoluments, under Sir Donald Mac Donald, of Slate, in the last centu-
ry, and were retained by some chiefs to a more recent period. The
Celtic name, Vergasilanus, is Fear go saelan, the man with the stand
ard A superstitious importance was, in many cases, attached to par-
* History of Britain, i. p. 351.
I Isidore calls that of the Picts an infamous nobility. }: Tac. de Mor. Germ
Polybius, lib. ii. || Lipsius Milit. Roman, quoted by Gibbon.
tf Fingal, book iv. ** Letter of the Rev. Donald Mac Leod to Dr. Blair.
COAT ARMOR. 195
ticular banners, which may at first have arisen from the religious venera-
tion hefore alluded to. In. the island ofOronsay, near the tomb of Mur-
chard Mac DurFaidh, an abbot, who died 1509, is, or was lately, a long
pole fixed in memory of the ensign staff of his family, on the preserva-
tion of which depended the fate of the race. Clan na Faiter held three
lands in Bracadale, Isle of Sky e, for preserving the Braotach-shi of Mac
Leod, which, tradition asserted, was only to be produced on three oc-
casions. Pennant, who relates this story, says the third time was to
preserve his own life; but we are not informed whether any other effec.
was to follow this last display. To owe his life to its appearance, was
matter for lasting gratitude to the " fairy flag."
The colors of the ancient banners, or their devices, are not distinctly
known. " The dark wreaths of Erin's standard,"* the blended colors of
Mac Druivel's bratach, the beauteous green colored banner of the King
of plains, t and the red and green meteors, as others are termed, do not
give a very definite idea of their appearance. The banner of Gaul, a
companion of Fingal, was called Briachail bhrocaill.
The Celts did not confine their distinguishing badges to their flags;
they had, we have seen, long before the commencement of the era of
Christianity, depicted them on their shields. The Germans are cele-
brated for the taste with which these were painted, the various colors
being much admired. J Tacitus speaks of the Arrans, one of their tribes,
as having been distinguished by black shields, but he describes them
generally as ornamenting them with figures of animals, bears, bulls,
wolves, deer, oxen, horses, dogs, and lynxes, being enumerated. The
accompanying print, engraved and colored from the descriptions in the
" Notitia Imperii " of Pancirollus, and the " Hieroglyphica " of Pierius,
will show that the Gallic and German auxiliary troops bore various de-
vices on their shields, which were certainly, to all intents and purposes,
coat armor; and in a tasteful arrangement of colors and design the Brit
ish legions did not yield to their continental friends.
In the compositions of the bards we often find allusion made to paint-
ed targets. Sometimes they are called red, at other times spotted, vari-
ed, or chequered. S)
It is singular that the term breac, applied to the party-colored shield,
should be given to the coat or covering which became the family recog-
nisance of the Gael!
In the time of Spenser, the Irish also painted their round leathern
targets "in rude fashion."
Some of the figures depicted on the Celtic shields bear a close resem-
blance to those in modern coat armor We recognise the star, the gy-
ron, the carbuncle, the lozenge, the crescent, the griffin, the pall, the
tressure, &c. that appear in forms as rude as in many old works on her-
* Darthula. t Dargo. t Tacitus, Seneca, &c.
Drs. Mac Queen, Mac Pheraon, &c. &c.
In this branch of the subject the crests or badges of those nations
come appropriately under potice. That they bore various figures on
their helmets has already been shown: that they were for tribal and pa-
ternal distinction, cannot be doubted. Pausanias informs us that Aris-
tornenes bore an eagle displayed, Agamemnon a lion's head, Menelaus
a dragon, Stc. The Dacian symbol was also a dragon, and the Scy-
thians, according to Guillirn, bore a thunderbolt. The first Gauls who
exhibited at Rome as gladiators had a fish for their crest, and were
BADGES were borne on the helmet, and displayed on the shield and on
the banner; hence modern arms often contain representations of those
things anciently carried as marks of distinction. Bruce had three holly
branches, which were, no doubt, borne on his ensign, as he bestowed
them on Irvine of Drum, who was his banner bearer, and whose pos-
terity still carry them."j~
The lion, according to Gebelin, was the general badge of the Celtic
tribes; the national arms of Scotland are, consequently, of great an-
tiquity. It is true that Aldred describes the animal, at the battle of the
Standard, "ad similitudinem Draconis figuratim; " but the rude form
might very naturally occasion the mistake, for it is well known that the
heraldic figures had formerly extremely little resemblance to the real
objects. The science has indeed advanced in the march of improve-
ment, but it is not long since it was otherwise. A member of the col-
lege of arms once visited the menagerie in the Tower, where the lions
being pointed out to him; "Lions!" he exclaimed, " I have tricked J
too many, not to know what like they are!" actually believing the ani-
mals before him were another species!
There are many Scots families who bear animals, or parts of them,
that are not found in Britain or in Europe. It would be a very unrea-
sonable stretch of conjecture, to fancy that, such as carry figures of
creatures, which although long extinct, are known to have once lived
here, are of so remote extraction; but may we not be allowed to believe
that those charges were derived from the common practice of the ancient
Celts? The bearing of hereditary arms, or marks, is usually derived
from the Goths; but do those who say so, inquire from whom that people
acquired the practice? " In Celtic Scotland," says the laborious author
of Caledonia, " no chivalry, nor its attendant arms, were known in
1076. " The chivalrous spirit of the Gael was always the most striking
trait in their character, yet if the science of heraldry, as refined by
nations, was not studied by the primitive race of Scots, it was retained
by them in its original simplicity, and its nice distinctions and peculiar
regulations were preserved with rigid exactness.
In ancient families not manv instances occur where the supporters are
strange animals. The Highlanders had less fancy than others for these
* Festus. t Sir George Mac Kenzie.
I A term applied to arms that are drawn with a pen. Vol. i. p. 761.
BADGES OR CRESTS. 197
uncouth defenders of their arms. At tournaments they let their clans-
men stand by their shields in naked fierceness or in their native breacan.
The painted shields, the crests, or badges, worn on the head, the
standards, and strictly regulated patterns of their garments, were the in-
signia by which the Celtic warrior was distinguished and his tribe recog-
nised. Of the badges, as worn by the Scotish clans, the following is a
list, the correctness of which, as far as it extends, may be relied on.
For carrying these marks of distinction, after 1745, some Frasers and
Mac Kenzies were subjected to the penalties of the disarming act.
BADGES, or SUIACHEAMTAS, of the Highland Clans, with the Gaelic,
English, and botanical names.
Colquhon, Braoileag nan con, Bearberry, Arbutus uva ursi.
Cummin, Lus mhic Cuimein, Cummin wood, Cuminum.
Drummond, Lus mhic High breatuinn, Mother of thyme, Thymis
Fergusson, Ros greine, Little sunflower, Helian thymum mari-
Forbes and Mac Aoidh,"|" Bealuidh, or Bealaidh, Broom, Spartium
Fraser, luthar, Yew, Taxus baccata.
Grant, Mac Gregor, Mac Kinnon, and Mac Quarie,- Giuthas, Pine,
Gordon, ladh shlat, Eitheann, Ivy, Hedera helix.
Graham, Buaidh craobh, na Laibhreas, Laurel spurge, Laureola
Hay, Uile-ice, Misletoe, Viscum album.
Logan and Sinclair, Conis, Whin or furze, Ulex europaeus.
Mac Aulay and Mac Farlane, Muileag, Cranberry, Oxycoccus
Mac Donald, Mac Alastair, and Mac Nab, Fraoch gorrn, Common
heath, Erica vulgaris.
Mac Dougal, Fraoch dearg, Bell heath, Tetralix.
Mac Kenzie and Mac Lean, An Cuilfhionn, Holly, Ilex aqui-
Mac Lachlan, Faochag, na gille-fuinbrinn, Lesser periwinkle,
Mac Leod, Gunn, and Ross, Aiteann, Juniper, Juniperis communis.
Mac Naughtan, Lusan Albanach, trailing Azalia, Azalea pro-
Mac Niel and Lamont, Luibheann, Dryas, Octopetala.
*Many of this name assert that the Dutch myrtle, Roid, is the proper badge,
'93 WAR CRIES, OR
Mac Pherson, Mac Intosh, Mac Duff, Mac Bean, Shaw, Farquharson,
Mac Gillivray, Mac Queen, Clark, Davidson, Elder, and several
others, as branches of Clan Chattan, Lus na'n Crairnsheag, nam
Braoileag, Red whortleberry, Vaccinium vitis idea.*
Menzies, Fraoch nam Meindarach, Menzie heath, Menziesia
Munro, Garbhag an gleann, na crutal a mada ruadh, Common club
moss, Lycopodium clavaturn.
Murray and Sutherland, Bealaidh Chatti, Butcher's broom, Ruscus
Ogilvie, Boglus, Evergreen alkanet, Anchusa.
Oliphant, Luachair, Bullrush, Scirpus.
Robertson, Dluith fraoch, Fine leaved heath, Erica cinerea.
The three pinion feathers of the native eagle is the distinguishing
badge of a Highland chief, two of a chieftain, and one of a gentleman.
This mark of nobility was well known in the time of Ossian. Had
Prince Charles succeeded in his enterprise of 1745, it was intended to
institute a military order of the mountain eagle.
Connected with the means of recognition by badges and symbols, WAR
CRIES, or watch words, were in use by the Gael, with whom they were
fixed, and peculiar to districts and tribes. The remarkable shouting and
chanting of these nations in making their attacks is referable to this
custom, the particular exclamation forming the Welsh Ubub, the Irish
Ullulu,J and the Caledonian Cathgairm, or Slogan. A band of warriors
often used their own name as a war shout. One of the Cimbric nations
in the invasion of Italy, in this manner advanced, singing Ambrones!
Ambrones! and the Scots at the battle of the Standard, 1138, made a
great shout, crying Albani! Albani!
The names of leaders seem well adapted for incentives to battle or
rallying words for combatants. They were used simply by some as a
Douglas! a Douglas! a Gordon! a Gordon! or they were accompanied
by appellations, as Hainault the valiant! Milan the Noble! Sec. 'on the
continent. To some again were added expressions of incitement, as
Avant Darnly, by the Dukes of Lennox. Rallying cries often refer-
* To avoid trouble, the Box, from its close resemblance to the above, was
ly substituted, whence arose a belief that it was the Mac Intosh badge.
There is also
an opinion among some Seanachies, that the Craobh Aighban, Boxus
tree said to be found in the Highlands, is the true Suiacheantas.
t The oak not being an evergreen, the Highlanders look on it as an emblem of
fate of the royal house. The badge of the Pictish kingdom v/as Rudh, Rue,
seen joined with the thistle in the collar of the Order.
t The Greek Eleleu and the scriptural Alleluia ! Hoveden
WATCH WORDS 199
red to the armorial badge, as with the Counts of Flanders, who gave
au Lion. Some, from piety, called on the name of their patron saints,
and many, from the cause of strife, made use of particular sayings.
Among the Scots' cries are those of Buchannan " Clareinnis," an Isl-
and in Loch.omond. Campbell, " Ben Cruachan, a noted mountain, in
Argyle, Farquharson "Cairn na cuimhne," the cairn of remembrance,
in Strathdee. Fraser, anciently " Morf haich," afterwards "Castle
Downie," the family seat. Grant, "Craig Elachaidh," the rock of
alarm, of which there are two in Strathspey. The division of this tribe,
railed Clan Chirin, have properly " Craig Ravoch," to which they add
"stand sure," the others saying "stand fast." Mac Donald, " Fraoch
eilan," the Heathy isle.* Mac Farlane " Loch Sloidh," the Lake of the
Host. Mac Gregor, Ard choille,"| the high wood. Mac Intosh,
" Lochmoy," a lake near the seat of the chief, in Inverness-shire. Mac-
kenzie, "Tulach ard," a mountain near castle Donnan, the ancient strong
hold of the clan. Mac Pherson, " Creag dhubh chloinn Chatain."J
" Munro, Casteal Fulis na theinn," Foulis castle in danger. Forbes,
anciently Loanach, a hill in Strathdon. Clan Rannald, "A dh' aindeoin
cotheireadh e! " in spite of all opposition.
Border clans, and others now reckoned Lowland, had also their slo-
gans. The Maxwells cried, I bid ye bide ward law, i. e. the assemblage
of the clan on the hill of meeting; and the Logans rallied to the shout
of Lesterrick low. The Scots of Buccleuch had Ale muir. The John-
stone's, Light thieves all. The Mercers of Aldie, the gryt pool.-^
Hepburn, bide me fair. Seton, set on. Cranston, a Henwoodie, &c.
Certain districts had also their appropriate places of rendezvous, the
name of which sounded an immediate alarm. The people of Glen-livet,
in Banffshire, had Bochail, a well known hill. Where Celtic institutions
prevailed, these names became the fixed war cry, which was not confin-
ed to the period of mustering, but continued as the mode of recognition
and intimation of danger, during war.
The French had anciently "Monte joye, St. Denis," which was
changed to " Tue! Tue! " The kings of Scotland used, as the general
exclamation, " St. Andrew." The ancient Irish had " Farrah! Farrah!"
which is stated to be farrach, violence, but is rather "Faire!" be
watchful. It was customary with the Gael of that country to add the
interjection bua, or abu, to their particular cries, which is said to be
equivalent to business or cause, as Butler abu, the cause of Butler.
This interpretation is made in the same ignorance of Gaelic which is
seen in that of the motto of the Earls of Kildare, now of the Duke of
Leinster, so often denounced by the Anglo Irish parliament as the
watchword of rebellion. Crom-aboo is translated, I burn: it is Cuiram-
buaidh, I shall obtain the victory. The O'Neals had Lamh dearg, abu,
* Craig an Fhithich, the Raven's rock, is claimed as the peculiar slogan of
call themselves Mac Donel.
1 Ard Challich, Chalmers t Seal of the present chief.
200 FIRST WEAPONS OF MANKIND
the red hand, victorious! O'Briens, Mac Carthys and Fitz Maurices
Lamh-laider abu, the strong hand of victory. O'Carrol, Shuat-abu, stir
to victory. O'Sullivari, Fustina stelli abu, (Fostadh steille,) stoutly
securing victory. Clanriccard, (the Bourks) Galriagh-abu, victory to
the red Englishman, from the second Earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgo,
called the red. Earls of Desmond Shannet-abu. Mac Gilpatrick,
Gearlaider-abu, cut strong to victory Mac Swein, Battalia-abu, the
noble staff, victorious, from the battle-axe which they bear in their arms.
The Knight of Kerry, Farreboy-abu! the yellow-haired men victory!
Fleming, Teine-ar aghein-abu, fire to the bomb, victory! Hiffernan,
Ceart na suas aba, right and victory from above. Hussey, Cordereagh-
abu, hand in hand to victory.
War cries were anciently used by none but princes or commanders.
They were proclaimed at tournaments by heralds, and became the mot-
toes of families. One of the oldest in record is that of Gaul Mac Morn,
" First to come and last to go."
The effect of the ancient rallying shout is still strong in the north of
Scotland. The exclamation of Cairn na cuimne! is yet sufficient to
collect the Dee side men to the assistance of their friends in any brawl
at a market or otherwise. A friend informed me that, passing through
the braes of Moray, he suddenly heard the shout Craig elachie, stand
fast! and could perceive many people hastening towards a certain point.
On inquiry he found that a fair was held at a little distance in which
the Grants had got involved in a quarrel with their neighbors.
The most savage of human beings are found able to fabricate rude
implements wherewith to procure game for subsistence, or as a means
of protection against the attacks of ferocious animals. From the neces-
sity also of resisting the aggressions of neighboring tribes, much atten-
tion is paid to the formation of instruments of destruction and defence.
As mankind advance in civilisation, their ingenuity in all manufactures,
both necessary and ornamental, increase; but nations become sooner
proficient in the construction of implements of war than of those used
for any other purpose. In the armies of nations that have not emerged
from the first stages of society, each individual is obliged to provide
himself with such weapons as he can most readily procure, and, on
emergencies, other articles than regular arms are converted into instru-
ments of destruction.
A simple, ready, and sometimes fin effective mode of assailing an
enemy, is by means of stones thrown by hand, a method of fighting much
practised by the Celtic nations, who had numerous bodies of troops so
armed. Many figures of these people in Roman sculpture show the
warriors carrying a number of stones in the loose folds of their ample
cloaks, and Ammianus bears record to their violent and destructive as-
saults.* From Tacitus it appears the Germans sometimes used leaden
* Montfaucon, torn. iv. pi. 52, &c. To drop stones on besiegers has been
SLINGS. CLUBS. 201
balls as missiles.* Round stones in shape like an egg, and some larger
and of the same globular form, have been found in France, which it is
supposed were used for throwing by the early inhabitants."}"
The Irish, until comparatively recent times, continued this primitive
mode of fighting, at which Cambrensis says they were extremely dex-
Besides projecting stones by hand, SLINGS were also used. The in-
habitants of the Balearic isles, who were of Celtic origin, were the most
famous slingets of antiquity, and are believed to have acquired their
name from this celebrity. They carried three slings, one being tied
round the head, another fastened about the middle, and one held in the
nand. They were excellent marksmen, and could throw stones of three
pounds weight to a great distance. J The sling represented in the fig-
ures of ancient sculpture is plaited in the middle, where it is considera-
bly thicker than at each end. Cliar, now applied to a brave man, is an
ancient Gaelic term for a sling, ^ but Tabhal is the word now used. At
the battle of Largs, in 1263, the Scots commenced a furious attack with
stones and darts. The British tribes used a sling with a wooden shaft,
like those used afterwards by the Saxons, which was called crann tab-
huil, the staff-sling. The has relief at the commencement of Chapter
first, composed from figures on Trajan's column, shows the Celtic throw-
ers of stones, both by hand and sling.
A CLUB is another simple implement of destruction. In cases of ne
cessity, combatants will avail themselves of any thing that can be con-
verted into arms, and, at all times, those who can find nothing better will
provide themselves with a good stick. Three or four hundred of the
king's army went to the battle of Edgehill with nothing but a cudgel. |]
When the Highlanders joined Prince Charles, when they fought at
Gladsmuir and even afterwards, many had no better weapon, but
" Wijh heavy cudgels of good oak,
They vowed to kill at every stroke."
The Gauls, long after their subjugation, continued to fight with this
weapon, and on various remains of Roman architecture, figures of these
nations are seen wielding with vigorous arms, heavy knotted cudgels. IF
The ^Estii, one of their tribes, had scarcely any arms of iron, but chiefly
fought with clubs, which were hardened by being burned.** From dis-
coveries made in France they are found to have been short and thick,
and sometimes pointed with metal. The club of the old Britons here
represented was four-edged, of massy thickness at the end, and was call-
ed Cat. "ft The Jedworth staff, pointed with iron, which Major describes,
was a serviceable weapon to the hardy inhabitants of that border town.
* Annals, v. t Montfaucon. t Diod. Sic. v.
Urnigh Ossian, a poem. || Clarendon, ii, p. 40, ed. Oxford.
II Montfaucon, pi. 55, 56, &c. A club is by no means a contemptible weapon
We even read of desperate fighting with teeth and nails ! Beloe's Herodotus,
** Tacitus Annals. tt Dr. Meyrick. t| Lib. v. c 3
It would appear from Tacitus, that the Catti, besides thfcir other arms
carried certain iron instruments.
The arms of the ancient Gauls, and of the British tribes, have been
found deposited in the grave with the mouldering relics of their original
owner, or dug from the site ofthe Celtic strong holds. They are often
discovered to reward the laborious researches ofthe zealous antiquary,
and are not unfrequently turned up by the plough or spade of the indus-
The first implements of untutored man are formed of stone, a material
which is often moulded into suitable form with the nicest care.
The simple, and sometimes rude, but frequently ingeniously fabricated
weapons ofthe aboriginal Celt, are found in all those countries which
he inhabited; and along with those formed of stone are occasionally dis-
covered articles of bone, in some cases perforated, and evidently adapted
for purposes of war.*
A singular implement frequently met with throughout Britain and Ire-
land, has attracted the particular attention of antiq-uaries, who have been
at some loss to conceive the use for which these mysterious articles were
intended. They are not exclusively formed of stone, but are also found
of brass, or mixed metal; the presumption, however must be, that the
former are most ancient, although the manufacture may not have been
given up after the working of metal became generally practised. The
name of CELTS, by which they are known, has itself excited many con-
jectures. It is supposed to have been adopted by antiquaries for want
of any more appropriate term; but is, probably, according to Whita-
ker, the British word Celt, which signifies a flint stone. They are gen-
erally about five inches long and one or more broad, are sometimes very
plain, and in many instances are formed with much ingenuity. The
most simple are merely tapered towards each end, but others are varied
in shape, and nicely perforated for the insertion of a handle, which was
perhaps secured by small wedges.
It has been imagined that Celts were used in the Druidic saci'/ices,
and it has been observed from Livy, that even the Romans, in early
ages, killed their victims with flint stones. |
It has also been said that they were used as implements of carpentry,
which is not only probable, but some positive proof of the fact has been
* Hoare's Ancient Wiltshire ; Archaeologia. &c.
t Lib. xxiv, Ap. the Rev. J. Dow in Trans, ofthe Ant. of Scotland, ii. 199.
discovered. A writer in the " Archnsologia," on this subject, has ac-
companied his remarks with representations of a Celt fixed in the han-
dle when employed for the different uses of an axe, a chisel, and an
adze.* Their appropriation for domestic purposes is perfectly consistent
with their use in battle. With them the natives must have cut down the
trees of the forest, on the trunks of which the marks are often discerni-
ble, for no other description of axe has ever been discovered. In the
vignette at the end of Chapter III, some of these implements are repre-
sented, in the form in which they were evidently used by the ancient
wood-hewers and carpenters. The one on the left side shows the method
by which the most simple form, both in *tone and metal, was used. Be-
sides the ligature, a slight ridge may be observed on some, apparently to
prevent their being forced out of their proper position.
In the more improved manufacture of metal Celts, which are common
to North and South Britain, they are formed with a hollow for the in-
sertion of the handle, and, in several instances, part of the wood has
been found remaining in the socket. "f From this circumstance, and
their peculiar formation, it has been inferred that the shaft and blade
were in a line, making, as it were, a bludgeon; "f but was it not possible
for the Celtic warrior to find boughs of trees bent naturally to a right
angle, or that could be readily made so and adopted as an efficient handle?
The lower figure on the dexter side of the trophy, forming the vignette
to this Chapter, represents the method in which it is believed to have
been fixed when used as an axe. The metal Celts are usually provided
with a ring, as represented in the engraving, supposed to have been for
the purpose of suspending them by the side or over the shoulder. They
are often found with a mould, or case, into which they exactly fit, which
was either adopted for their preservation, the mould in which they were
formed, or itself adapted for service. It has, however, been observed
that all brazen instruments, from their value, were kept in cases of wood
lined with cloth. Celts have also, not unfrequently, a ring attached, with
sometimes a bit of jet or other ornament appended.
In some tumuli that were opened near the Cree, in the parish of Mon-
igafF, where, according to tradition, the Picts and Romans had fought a
severe battle, several stone Celts were found. One was in the form of
a hatchet, and resembles a pavior's hammer in the back part, like the one
represented in the engraving, and another was broad and flat, both hav-
ing an aperture for the shaft. J It may be observed that not only are
many of these implements formed at one end like the above, but hammers
are often found buried with the primitive inhabitants of these Islands.
The Gauls consigned similar articles to the graves of their relatives, and
in several sculptures they are represented carrying them in their hands. ^
There is no very positive authority to believe that the axe was a weap-
* Vol. xix. t Whitaker's Hist, of Manchester, &c.
t Stat. Ace. vii. 60, xvi. 227, xviii. 186, &c. See also Gordon's Itin.
Archaeologia. xvii. 120. &c. See the plate.
on in common use, either by the Continental or British Celts, but Ma)
cellinus speaks of it as carried by the former, and in 538 the Frank*
used it. By the Welsh, when formed of flint, it was called Bvvyelt-arv.
In a Teutonic romance of the eighth century, it is said that after the
iavelins had been thrown, "they thrust together resounding stone axes.'
The word used for these is stain bort, from stein, a stone, and barte, an
axe, and.it is thought to be the only name by which they are recorded.*
Hengist, the Saxon, calls a sword an axe."}" Among the Danes, who
used it double, it was called bye, and when fixed to a long staff, it is
to have acquired the name of all bard, or cleave all.
This weapon, when used by the Highlanders, was known as the Loch-
aber axe, called, in Gaelic, tuagh-chatha. The heavy armed soldier in
Scotland and Ireland carried it, until very lately, from whom it was call-
ed the Galloglach axe. It was usually mounted on a staff about five
feet long, but another sort was wielded with one hand, the thumb being
extended along the shaft, and so forcibly that no mail could resist it. In
the Tower of London were formerly shown some weapons called Locha-
ber axes; but since the recent excellent arrangements of Dr. Meyrick,
it appears they were English arms, no real Lochaber axes being in the
armory. They are, indeed, unaccountably rare. One, in this gentle-
man's admirable collection, is of a ruder form than the one here repre-
The figure on the right is from the axes formerly borne by the town
guard of Edinburgh, that in the middle from those of old Aberdeen, and
the other is an ancient form of the Highland tuagh.
* A reprint by Dr. Jamieson in a work on Northern Antiquities. Edinb.
Science, Nov. 1824. t Jamieson's Remarks on the Pictish language.
Two soldiers of the Black watch fought with this weapon before King
George, so late as 1743.
The SPEAR of the Gauls was called Saunia. It is descrihed as beitig
pointed with iron, a cubit or more in length, and little less than two
hands in breadth. This weapon was sometimes straight, and sometimes
barbed or bent backwards, so that it not only cut the flesh, but broke it,
tearing and rending it in a shocking manner.*
Tacitus says the German spear was very long, but was not often used,
a light missile javelin, with a short, narrow, but sharp head, being pre-
ferred, of which the horsemen carried one, and the infantry two or more.
With these they fought either hand to hand,- or farther apart, for they
were accustomed to throw them to an incredible distance, with the
surest aim. The Celtiberians had their javelins formed of iron, with
broad barbed points The Lusitani, who used the same weapon, are
celebrated for the vigor and precision with which they threw it.*
The Celtic race appear to have been remarkably dexterous in the
management of their airm thilgidh, or missiles. The Romans were ex-
cessively annoyed by these weapons, which were sometimes showered
upon them in volleys as thick as a flight of arrows. The vigorous arms
of the Gauls propelled their lances with so much force, as often to pierce
through the shield and transfix them in the body. Caesar mentions an
instance of the strength with which they were discharged, where a
Roman soldier had one driven fairly through both thighs !
A Gallic spear, or dart, was called Lankia,| from which the old
Gaelic, lann, a pike, and the English lance are derived. The geesum,
gaison, or gesa, was another missile weapon of the Gauls ;J and, in the
language of their Scotish descendants, the word gais is still retained.
Servius informs us that strong and valiant men, from carrying this sort
of spear, were called gaesi. Among the Highlanders, gaisgeach signi-
fies a valiant man, or hero, and guasdewr, among the Cumri of Wales,
has the same meaning. Livy describes the Gauls as armed with two
gae.si. The Celtic heroes of Caledonia also carried two.^
The gath, or cath, of the Gael signifies a dart or lance. The cateia
of the Gauls was a sort of weapon which commentators do not appear
to have understood. Cath-tei, in Gaelic, is literally a fiery dart, with
which Dr. Mac Pherson remarks that Cuchullin is said to have unfor-
tunately killed his friend Ferda. It was "kindled into a devouring
flame by the strength of wind," i. e. the blacksmith's bellows, the terms
gath builg and craosach dhearg, being of the same import as the jacu-
Itim fervefactum of Csesar,[| which were thrown against tbe Romans in
an attack on the camp of Cicero. The old Highlanders used a sort of
barbed dart, which they called guain.lF
* Diodorus. t Ibid. Lancea, a Spanish lance. t Crrsar, iii. c. 4
Cuchullin was so armed ; and Naos, " looked on his two spears," <fec.
|| Dissertations, p. 153.
!T Kennedy, in the H. Society's Rep. on Ossian's Poems, p. 125.
The Caledonians and Meatre had a short spear, provided with a hoi
ow ball of brass, like an apple, attached to the end of the shaft, which
contained pebbles, or bits of metal, that were intended, by their rattling
noise, to frighten the horses and alarm the riders.* In 1547, a French-
man describes the Scots' soldiers as carrying a singular weapon, for
the same purpose. " Tenoient a la main un epouvantail ridicule pour
affray er les chevaux. C'etoit une sonette attache a un baton de trois
aunes de long, avec quoi ils faisoient grand bruit." Dr. Mac Pherson
spoke with some old Highlanders, who had, in their youth, seen spears,
having a ball at the end, resembling the boss of a shield, and termed
cnapstarra. Those weapons were called triniframma, and were the fra-
mea of the Germans, mentioned by Tacitus.
The Celts generally carried the spear of a considerable length. Brit-
annia is represented on Roman coins with one of this description. The
Welsh, according to Cambrensis, bore lances of great length; but those
of the Scots were far longer. In the reign of James III., an act was
passed, "that a' speares be sex elnes in length." At this time, the
Annan and Liddisdale men carried them two ells longer than the rest
of their countrymen. f
The Scotish spearmen were, like the Macedonian phalanx, a most
formidable body. On level ground, where they could act with effect,
their irresistible charge was sufficient to clear the field of the enemy.
The lance of the British tribes was usually pointed with brass or coj-
per. The broad-edged form was called Llavnawr, and is that which the
Irish term the Lagean, from which the people of Leinster are said to
have acquired the name of Lagenians. The spear is called shleag by
the Gael, and it had formerly a thong attached, to enable them to recov-
er it when thrown at the enemy. Gisarming, from the French gisarme,
was formerly applied by the Scots to the spear. The short dart, appa-
rently about three and a half feet long, used by the Gauls :n hunting.
* Dio. Nicaeus.
t Sir W. Scott.
was called venabulum, which lexicographers translate a boar's spear.
The Celtic spears were of various forms, and used for different purposes
Gildas describes the Caledonians as pulling the Roman soldiers off the
praetentures with a sort of long hooked spears. The two lateral weap-
ons in the preceding cut are seen in a representation of Porevith, the
German God of Spoil.* The upper figure is the venabulum. The second
is the saunia, according to Cluverius; Lenoir, more agreeable to its
description, has the barbs turned back. The two others are from dis-
coveries in Britain, "I" the next is the Llavnawr, and the last the gwaefon
of the Welsh.
In the vignette at the commencement of this chapter, beginning at the
weapon next to the Celt, or axe, all are taken from the plates in the
work of that laborious antiquary, Wolfgang, already quoted. He says,
the first singular weapon was carried by the Gallic horsemen in Illyri-
cum; the one above it is the gaesurn; the next is hasta uncata gothica,
and the one close to the helmet he calls gesa. The spear on the left
side of the helmet he assigns to the Quadi, and that next to it is given as
in use by both Gauls and Goths. The Tragula Gallica is the next, and
a murderous weapon borne by the Vandals follows. The trident he
denominates the Gallic fork.
The Caledonians of former ages paid great attention to the exercise
of the spear, or the thrusting of the blade. J We hear of Conloch, who
was so famous for handling the javelin, that it is yet said of a good
marksman, " he is unerring as the arm of Conloch." The halbert car-
ried by the sergeants in infantry regiments, is derived from the Scots;
but the Highlanders have long discontinued its use. In 1745, when ne-
cessity compelled them to adopt any sort of arms. Captain Mac Gregor,
a son of Rob Roy, serving under the Duke of Perth, armed his compa
ny with blades of scythes, &c. sharpened, and fixed on poles seven or
eight feet long; and, rude as these weapons were, they did murderous
execution, for both horses and men were cut in two by them.
We find frequent mention by the bards, of "ashen " and "aspen "
spears. In the Romance before quoted, it is said "they first let ashen
spears fly with such rapid force, that they stuck in the shields. " One
Peter Gairden, a native of Brae Mar, who died in 1775, at the age of
one hundred and thirty-two, recollected having been sent into the woods
to cut straight poles for spear shafts.
A Gallic dart was long the only reward for valor among the Romans.
A soldier that had wounded an enemy received one of these weapons
from the consul. |J
The SWORD appears to have been a common weapon of the Celtic na-
tions. The Gallo-Grecians, who were attacked by Manlius, had no other
arms.U It was of great length and breadth, double-edged, with a very
* Montfaucon, &c. t Archaeologia.
t Lann-saich, a pike-man, literally a blade thruster. See p. 304.
j| Polybius. TI Livy, xxxviii. 21.
obtuse point. Diodorus says the swords of the Gauls were as big as the
sauniaris or spears of other nations. Being without a point, they were
adapted for slashing with the edges, and not for thrusting, its name be-
ing expressive of its form and use. The Celts called their sword patha,
or spada, which, in Gaelic, signifies to beat down or flatten. This word
is not now used for a sword, but spad is applied to any implement, or
broad piece of metal, and is the origin of the English spade, for which
it is the only name. The Highlanders sometimes call a sword lanri,
literally a blade.* Claidheamh is the proper name, and claoidh is to
vanquish. Varro derives the Roman gladius from clades, slaughter: the
affinity of the Gaelic and Latin is apparent.
The British Celts used the same long, blunt, two-edged sword. They
have been discovered in barrows, and a figure dug up after the fire of
London carried one; but the Northern tribes seem to have been most
partial to it. The usual length appears to be about two feet six inches,
but they are often much shorter. A common form of this weapon among
the Britons of the South, was with a swell or widening in the middle.
The Irish also had them both curved and straight.
The ancient British and Irish swords were generally composed of
brass, bronze, or copper; but it has been erroneously supposed that all
arms found of these materials are Celtic, from a belief that the use of
iron was known to the Romans only. The first metal employed by
mankind in the formation of arms, is brass, copper, or a mixture of these
with lead. These seem to have been the favorite metals of the Celts,
who had an art of rendering them perfectly hard. Considerable quan-
tities of brass and copper were imported by the Britons; but iron mines
were worked to a certain extent before the arrival of the Romans. From
its scarcity, and the difficulty of working this metal, it was very valua-
ble; but the natives certainly fabricated arms of it. Herodian attests
this fact; and at Lochenlour, in Glenturret, are to be seen the ruins of
houses, and heaps of ashes, the apparent remains of a Caledonian iron-
work. The people believe it to be the place where the swords of the
Fingalians were made, and old poems mention this glen as the residence
of the workmen.
The Gallic sword is represented as very insufficiently tempered, being
bent and twisted after every stroke, so that it was sometimes necessary
for the warriors to set their feet on the blade, in order to make it
straight.! The Celtiberians were, however, famous for the manner in
* The Dacian sword was formed like a sabre, the curve reversed. The Saxons
Danes called the sword stsx, and it resembled a scythe, which in Saxony is
t Livy. This is, perhaps, exaggerated; the swords of the Romans were
bent by the resistance of the enemies' armor. Amm. Mar.
which they tempered their swords. This excellence was produced by
burying the iron, and allowing it to remain in ihe earth until the light and
impure parts were consumed, when the remainder, thus improved, \va?
fit for the hands of the armorer. Weapons fabricated from iron prepar-
ed in this manner, cut so keenly, that neither shield, helmet nor bone,
could resist them.* Those people are said to have carried two swords,
which enabled "the horsemen, when they had routed the enemy, to
alight, and fight with the foot to admiration." This seems to show that
one was a dagger or pugio, adapted for thrusting or cutting, which Po-
lybius tells us they used in the battle of Cannae. It was common to the
Lusitani, and its excellence recommended it to Roman adoption."}" Some
of the Germans also had short swords; but they in general appear to
have preferred the missive javelin.
By the ancient Welsh laws, a sword, a spear, and a bow with twelve
arrows, were the three legal weapons. If the former had a bright hilt,
its price was twenty-four pence; if brittle-edged, sixteen pence, and if it
was round hilted it cost but twelve pence. Dr. Meyrick supposes the
hilts were formed of horn. In several parts of France, round flint
stones, pierced in the centre, are found, and are believed by antiquaries
to have been sword pommels.
Boemus remarks that the old Gauls, like the Irish, used swords a full
hand broad. It has been shown that the original name for these weap-
ons was descriptive of their breadth, which exceeded that of spear heads,
and was particularly noticed by the ancients. A strong man among the
Caledonians was indicated by the size of his sword. Fraoch, a cele-
brated hero, is represented as carrying one as wide as the plank of a
This unwieldy weapon. was not adapted for a close encounter; but the
athletic swordsman could, at a requisite distance, strike with tremendous
force; he therefore stepped back, if practicable, when aiming a blow.
Polybius observes, that the length of the Gallic swords, and the blunt-
ness of their points, proved verv disadvantageous when they contended
with the Romans at Canna? ana Telamon. It wasJjte; long swords of
the brave Caledonians which rendered them unableftf oppose the Tun-
grian and Batavian cohorts, who fought with the short Roman gladius in
the battle of the Grampians. The Franks also, who long retained the
sword of their ancestors, were frequently encumbered by its length. J
The excessive dimensions of this weapon of the Highlanders have been
reduced, but the term broad sword is still an appropriate designation.
It has ever been a favorite weapon of the Scots, and for 1800 years,
since the desperate conflict at the Grampian Hill, its exercise has been
sedulously practised, and its dexterous management in the field of strife
nas been the means of ensuring many a brilliant victory. The Scotish
swordsmen were only inferior to the phalanx of spearmen. The one
* Diodorus. t Gibbon. t Luitprand
represented in p. 213 is in my possession, and is a specimen of the old
manufacture; it is marked on each side with four busts, wearing eastern
crowns, which may have an allusion to the arms of Fraser, by one of
which clan it is known to have been used at Culloden. It is two feet
eight inches long in the blade, and one inch and a quarter wide. One
in the Tower armory is three feet long, and one inch arid three quarters
William the Lion, who came to the throne in 1166, ordained the
sword, dagger, and knife, to be the proper arms of his subjects. The
troops of Sir William Wallace were chiefly armed with the claidheamh-
more, to which the Gael have alwa; , been so partial. A French author,
in 1547, describes the Scots as armed with a sword that was ''very
large and marvellously cutting."
The sword of the Gauls and Britons is believed to have been suspend-
ed across the right thigh by a chain of iron or brass; a position that mus,t
have been very awkward and inconvenient. The description may be
misunderstood.* We find figures of these nations, representing the
belt, or chain, passing over the right shoulder, as now worn; and Pro-
copius describes the Roman auxiliaries, among whom the Celts were no
inconsiderable number, as carrying their swords on the left side. It was
customary with the Highlanders, to hold the sword in their hands until
they had occasion to use them, when they threw down the scabbard.
The scabbards seem to have been anciently formed of wood, remains
of which have sometimes been found adhering to the sword, deposited in
the grave of the Celtic warrior. Those of leather, which Henry the
Minstrel calls the hose, were marked with various figures, in manner of
the targets, &c. before described.
Sir Richard Hoare does not find that the sword of the ancient Briton
was provided with a guard; but, from Dr. Smith's description, it appears
to have been known to the old Caledonians. The form of the basket hilt
now usually worn, is not perhaps of great antiquity. It was only seen
among the better sort, for those of the common people were rude and
clumsy. The svutti which belonged to Gordon of Bucky, who assisted
at the slaughter OTWhe "bonnie Earl of Murray," is supposed to be the
most ancient specimen of this sort: but there is reason to believe that the
basket hilt is of much greater antiquity, and that the Gael had attained
considerable perfection in the manufacture. Isla, one of the Hebuda3,
was celebrated for the fabrication of sword hilts.
The Gael latterly received a great part of their arms from the Conti-
nent, and the Spanish blades were particularly esteemed. Their broad-
swords were always well tempered, but they appear to have been unable
to produce such excellent weapons as those fabricated abroad. Andrea
Feiara, who is believed to have lived in Banff, following with much
success the manufacture of broadswords, is accused of obstinately resist-
* " In dextro femore oblique dependences. " Diodorus.
BROAD SWORD EXERCISE. 211
ing all attempts to obtain possession of his peculiar mode of tempering
blades. This story is current among the Highlanders, but it has been
questioned whether Andrea was ever in Scotland. This point may be
left unsettled without much regret. Whether manufactured in Scotland,
or imported, the Ferara broadswords were highly esteemed, and by no
means uncommon in the olden time.
The boys of the Highlanders were trained, from an early age, to
cudgel playing, that they might become expert at the broadsword exer-
cise. Their whole time is said to have been so occupied; and, besides
training at home, there was a sort of gymnasium in Badenoch, to which
the youth resorted. Many anecdotes might be recited, to show the ex-
pertness of the Gael in handling the sword. John Campbell, a soldier
in the Black Watch, killed nine men with it at Fontenoy, and, on attack-
ing the tenth, his left arm was unfortunately carried off* by a cannon ball.
Donald Mac Leod, who was so remarkable for his robust frame and lon-
gevity, having entered the service of King William, and enjoyed, for
many years, a pension from George III., relates many brilliant anecdotes
of his countrymen's prowess. He fought various single combats, both at
home and abroad. On one occasion, he cut off part of the calf of a Ger-
man's leg, and wounded him in the sword arm, to show that he had it in his
power to take his life. In the rebellion of 1715, he accepted a challenge
from a Captain Mac Donald, a celebrated fencer in the Earl of Mar's
service, who had openly defied the whole royal army. In this trial of
skill, Mac Leod cut off the other's purse, and asked him if he wanted
any thing else taken off? on which Mac Donald gave up the contest,
acknowledging his inferiority, and left the victor his purse as a trophy.
The Earl, who was himself an excellent swordsman and kept a band of
clever fellows about him, sent ten guineas to Mac Leod; and his gen-
eral, Argyle, added as much. One of the Robertsons, of Lude, cut off
the two buttons of his antagonist's shirt collar, as a friendly hint that
head was likely to follow. Gillies Mac Bane, at Culloden, perceiving
the Campbells attacking the Highland army, by means of the breach
which they had made in an old wall, opposed them as they entered the
gap, and, ere he fell, overpowered by the number of his enemies, his
claymore had laid fourteen of them dead at his feet. At Preston Pans,
where the devoted rebels obtained their first victory, the slain all fell by
the sword. On this occasion, prodigies of valor were performed. A
boy about fourteen years of age was presented to the Prince, as one who
had killed, or brought to the ground, no fewer than fourteen !
Polyaenus says that the Gauls always struck at the head with their
swords. It was by slashing at the heads of the horses that the High-
landers were able so effectually to repulse and defeat the most numerous
bodies of cavalry. They also struck at the heads of the infantry; and,
to guard against the consequence of this mode of attack, it was repre-
sented as necessary for all to wear a skull cap, or horse shoe under their
hat. The onset of the Highlanders, in the language of Johnstone, was
212 BROAD SWORD EXERCISE.
" so terrible that the best troops in Europe would with difficulty sustain
the first shock of it; and if the swords of the Highlanders once came in
contact with them, their defeat was inevitable." Mac Pherson, of Clu-
ny, not aware that the cavalry of the royal army at Falkirk wore head
pieces of iron, declared, with astonishment, that he never met with
skulls so hard as those of the Dragoons, for he had struck at them until
he was tired, and was scarce able to break one!
The management of the broadsword, or single stick, which it closely
resembles, as now taught, may be comprehended in thirty-one lessons.
The old Highland exercise was not less remarkable for simplicity and
elegance, than utility. By seven cuts, oblique, horizontal, and diagonal,
and one guard, in which the sword is held vibrating, as a pendulum,
ready to turn aside the thrusts of an enemy, the adversary was assailed
and the person effectually protected. The salute of the Celtic swords-
man was peculiarly graceful. The importance of this exercise was
evinced by enabling undisciplined troops to make head against numerous
armies, and even defeat skilful veterans. Its utility in the present day,
to officers of both army and navy, is apparent, and many occasions may
arise to show the advantage of knowing properly how to use a stick.
With this simple weapon, a skilful player can defend himself with ease
from the simultaneous attacks of three or four, and put to defiance the
efforts of the most renowned pugilists. It is to be regretted that this de-
sirable accomplishment and healthy exercise is now so little attended to.
A favorite amusement of the Highlanders was the sword dance, which
was performed with a great degree of grace and agility, being usually
introduced as a finale to a ball, in manner of the " bob at the bolster"
of the Low lands, and the country bumpkin of England. The diversions
of most ancient nations were of a military cast. Olaus Magnus de-
scribes a dance of this sort among the people of the North. It was also
practised by the Saxons, even after the Conquest, the dancers being
called joculators, as if they were fighting in jest, from which arose the
old Scots word, jungleurs, and the modern English jugglers. A sort
of sword dance was usual in some parts of England, at no remote period,
but it was performed in a manner different from the Scots.
Mac Pherson, " the Rob Roy of the North," who was executed at
Banff, 16th Nov. 1700, and whose history Sir Walter Scott intended to
interweave in a romance, embellishing and amplifying its romantic inci-
dents by his fertile imagination, possessed a trusty claymore of Ferara's
manufacture. Before he left the prison, anxious to commit this weapon
to the hands of one qualified to use it, he bequeathed it to Provost Scott,
who left it to his son-in-law, Provost Mark. This gentleman fulfilled
the wish of poor Mac Pherson, by giving it to Mr. John Turner, his
near relation, a good swordsman; after whose death, it remained in
possession of his widow for some time: but an English gentleman ex-
pressing a desire to obtain a broadsword, Captain Robertson applied to
Mrs. Turner for that of Mac Pherson, which was readily presented, and
TWO-HANDED SWORD. 213
thus, about fifty years since, is said to have terminated the history of
the genuine blade, which was never afterwards heard of. A long tvvo
handed sword is preserved at Duff house, the seat of the Earl of Fife, in
the neighborhood of Banff, which belonged to this celebrated Kern
There is also his target, on which is a deep indentation from a bullet.
The intention of Sir Walter, to found one of his amusing productions on
the events of Mac Pherson's life, and the popularity of his memory in
the Northern counties, induced the author to make particular inquiries
concerning these relics, and the noble Earl, in whose armory they now
remain, with characteristic condescension, supplied these details. For
the other particulars he is indebted to a much esteemed friend, who pro-
cured the information from Mrs. Mac Hardy, an intelligent old lady,
the daughter of Mr. Turner.
The two-handed sword was a favorite weapon of the Highlanders, and
it is usually represented on the tombstones of the old Celtic heroes
Dr. Meyrick says the Spalhae were two-handed, and were called Ched-
dyv-hirdeuddwrn by the Britons, and Dolaimghin by the Irish. The
opinion of this writer is always deserving of high respect. On the
present occasion, he confesses that none of them have ever, to his
knowledge, been discovered.
It is not probable that the swords of the Caledonians who opposed
Agricola, although long and broad, were wielded with both hands, for
their left was sufficiently occupied in the dexterous management of their
little shield. A two-handed sword preserved at Talisker, in the Isle of
Sky, measures three feet seven inches in length. The one here repre-
sented is three feet six inches long in the blade, eleven inches in the
hilt, and two and one third inches broad. It is in possession of Mr.
Donald Mac Pherson, of Pimlico, and belonged to his ancestor, Mac
Pherson of Crathy, parish of Laggan, Inverness-shire. It is said to
have been six hundred years in the family; arid is represented by tradi-
tion as the identical weapon borne by one of the victorious combatants
at the battle of Perth. The last time it was used in war was in 1594,
when the Earls of Huntly and Errol, with inferior numbers, encountered
and overthrew the Earl of. Argyle at the burn of Altacholihan, in Glen-
livat. Some years ago, the remains of silk and silver lace were attached
to the hilt.
In those times, when the Highlanders went armed both "to kirk and
214 CEARNACH, OR KERN.
market," the gentlemen took their gille-more, or sword-bearer, along
with them. Even the clergymen armed themselves, in compliance with
the national custom. The Rev. Donald Mac Leod, of Sky, who lived
about forty years ago, remembered his great-grandfather, who was also
a clergyman, going to church with his two-handed sword by his side,
and his servant, who walked behind, with his bow and case of arrows.
A Gaelic song alludes to this practice, where it is said:
" Tha claidheamh air Join san't searmoin."
John is girt with his sword at sermon.
A vivid picture of a contention with the two-handed sword is given in
the description of the judicial combat between the clans Chattan and
Dhai, on the north inch of Perth, from the pen of Sir Walter Scott, who
has repeated the subject in "Anne of Geierstein." In the British Mu-
seum is a black letter work entitled, " La noble Science des jouers de
Spee," printed at Danvers, in 1538, which contains instructions for the
exercise of this sword. It is embellished with twenty -two wood-cuts,
representing the different guards and positions. From these, it appears
the weapon was often rested with the point on the ground, the hands not
being always confined to the hilt or handle, but occasionally grasped the
Allusion has been made to the troops called Cathern,* Cearnach, or
Kern. We learn from Vegetius, that Caterna, or Caterva, was the name
of a legion among the Gauls. Cath, a battle, turbha, a multitude, is
the Gaelic etymology of this word. The kaderne of the Welsh and
cathern of the Gael, signify fighting men, an appellation that became
known in the Low Country as a term of reproach, from the activity and
success of these men in foraying, repelling aggression, and making
reprisals on their Saxon neighbors. By the dexterity of their military
exploits, the young men were obliged to prove themselves worthy the
honor of being enrolled in this company of national guards.
The KERN were light armed, and excelled in the desultory manner of
fighting, characteristic of the Gael; hence they acquired the appellation
Cathern na choille, the fighting men of the woods. The Kern, whom
Spenser reckoned the proper Irish military, although accounted inferior
to the Galloglach, and stigmatized as " the dross and scum of the coun-
try, "were, from their renown, best known to the English, who proposed,
in 1626, to raise bands of them at 4d. per day, with pipers at 8d. They
had spears, swords, and dirks, but bows and arrows were their usual
arms. Derrick describes those of 1581 in the following lines
" With skulles upon their poules,
Insteade of civil cappes,
With speares in hand and sword by sides,
To beare off aflerclappes ;
With jaokettes long and large,
Which shroud simplicitie :
*See page 108.
Though spiteful dartes which they do beare
Their shirtes be verif straunge,
Not reaching paste the thigh,
With pleates on pleates they pleated arc,
As thicke as pleates may lye.
Whose slieves hang trailing doune,
Almoste unto the shoe,
And with a mantle commonlie
The Irish Karne doe goe.
And some amongst the reste,
Do use another weede :
A coat I ween of strange device,
Which fancie first did breed.
His skirtes be verie shorte,
With pleates set thicke about,
And Irish trouzes more, to put
Their straunge protractours out.
Like as their weedes be straunge,
And monstrous to beholde ;
So do their manners far surpasse
Them all a thousande folde.
For they are termed wilde,
Wood Karne they have to name ;
And mervaile not, though straunge it be,
For they deserve the same," &c.
The GALLOGLACH, or GALLOGLAS, were heavy armed: they were the
tallest and strongest men of a clan, and were allowed a portion of meat
double that, of the other troops. They were armed with swords, helmets,
and mail, and carried a Lochaber axe, which is said to have been pecu-
liar to them, as the dirk was to the Kern. Considerable dependence
was placed on these soldiers, who were usually drawn up against caval-
ry. An old writer on Irish history says they were neither good against
horse nor pikes. They were, however, in high estimation, and every
individual of this class was specified in official returns. In "the rysing
out of the Iryshrie and others to the general hosting, 1579," is Mac
Donell, a Gallweglasse. They received certain pay, which appears to
have been that called bonaughts. In an Irish MS., 1555, I find Gallo-
glas money mentioned. From the name given to their pay, they were
sometimes called bonaughti. Bonaugh-bur, was free quarter, and pay-
ments either of money or victuals: bonaugh-beg, was a commutation for
u settled quantity of money or provisions. These exactions were levied
on heritable lands under the term sorehon, which comprehended other
customary mails. Every plough land was also burdened with kern-tee,
a payment rendered for the support of the Cearnach. A Galloglach
usually attended the chief, whose duty was to prevent his master from
being taken by surprise, and to rescue him from any sudden danger.
The ancient Celts carried a dagger, suspended from a chain, or belt,
fastened round the body. Herodotus describes the Scyths and Thra-
216 DAGGERS, OR DIRKS.
cians as carrying this weapon,* which was sharp and pointed, being used
for close fighting, and among the Celtiberians it measured a span in
Dio describes the Caledonians, in the time of the Emperor Severus,
as armed with daggers; and a stone preserved in the Glasgow Museum,
dug from the wall of Antoninus, represents two figures, believed to be
Celts, with this weapon hanging before them. The heroes of Morven
and of Innisfail carried this essential part of the armor of the Scots and
Irish. J Among the ancient Britons, the dagger, like the sword, was
usually of brass, or bronze, and is often found in barrows in various
parts of England. The Saxons had it longer than the Britons. It was
called by the Welsh Cylleth hirion, or a very long knife; had a horn
handle with brass ornaments, and a small hollow at the tip of the handle,
for the thumb. By means of this weapon, the Saxons perpetrated the
treacherous and cruel massacre of the unsuspecting Britons, at their
temple on Salisbury plain. A very neat little dagger, with an ivory
handle nicely carved, found near Cillgerran, in Wales, may have belong-
ed to a Cambrian Chief. A little silver sword, about two and a half
inches long, was given by Cullen, King of Scotland, to Gillespic More.
Certain lands in Perthshire were held by this gift, and it was produced
The dirk of the Highlanders is called bidag, or biodag, the bidawg of
the Welsh, in the latter syllable of which we perceive the root of the
The BIDAG is adapted for fighting at close quarters, where the sword
cannot be used, or where the party may, either in the heat of action, or
otherwise, have been deprived of it. When dexterously wielded by a
strong and resolute Highlander, this was a most terrific weapon. It was
not held in the same way as the sword, but in a reverse position, point-
ing towards the elbow, and the manner in which it was carried allowed
it to be drawn with perfect facility. The belt which fastened the plaid,
became the baldrick by which this trusty blade was secured. It was
placed on the right side, and instead of hanging loosely as it is now gen-
erally worn, the belt was either slipped through a hook affixed to the
sheath, sometimes steady, and frequently movable on a swivel, or a
long hook, or slide, answered the same purpose. It was thus firmly at-
tached to the thigh, and was consequently so judiciously suspended, that
it could be drawn in an instant, and this was of some importance in the
event of a sudden assault, or so close a contention as would prevent a
free use of the sword. If it hung loosely, it would have incommoded
the wearer, and could not be so promptly at command, but, carried as
it was, the hand could instinctively be laid on the hilt.
From the peculiar manner in which this weapon was managed, the
most dreadful execution was sometimes performed with it. When the
* Lib. vii. c. 60-75. t Diodorus. J Ossian, &c.
Hist, of Cardiganshire. || Pinkerton.
DAGGERS, OR DIRKS. 217
arm was raised, the dirk was pointed to the assailant in front: when low-
ered, it menaced the foe behind, and, by turning the wrist either way,
the enemy was kept at bay, or, if he escaped destruction, received the
most deadly wounds.
Incredible feats have been achieved by the dirk, which was a con-
venient instrument to execute revenge. A violent feud had long sub-
sisted between the Leslies and the Leiths, powerful names in Aberdeen
and the adjoining counties, and one of the former having been invited,
on some occasion, to the castle of a nobleman not concerned in the quar-
rel, he found himself in the company of a number of his enemies, the
Leiths. Waiting his opportunity, he joined the dance, and, suddenly
drawing his dirk, he struck right and left, as he rushed through the hall,
and, leaping from the window, effected his escape. To commemorate
this bold and bloody exploit the tune of "Lesly amo' the Leiths" was
composed. Another early instance of its use as an instrument of secret
revenge, occurs in Ossian; as Carthon was binding Clessamor, the lat-
ter, perceiving the foe's uncovered side, " drew the dagger of his
fathers."* With this destructive instrument, at a later period, Forbes,
the Laird of Brux, who was out in 1745, made "sun and moon shine
thro'" the enemy, as he expressed himself to a friend of mine.
The Highlanders were always partial to " the cold steel." The sword
and dirk were well adapted to their fierce and overwhelming hand to
hand mode of attack, and their dexterity in the use of both, ensured the
success of many a foray, and was the means of their gaining many a
viqtory. There were always, even in late times, many of the " High-
landmen," who had no other arms, and from the many desperate .con-
flicts in which they signalized themselves with " sword an' dirk into their
han', wi whilk they were na slaw," these came to be spoken of as almost
the only weapons they possessed. At the battle of Killicrankie, fought
in 1689, it is said of King William's troops, that
" The dirk an' d'our, made their last hour,
An' prov'd their final fa', man."
I have remarked that more broad swords than dirks are to be now
seen, and the reason, I apprehend, is, that the latter were appropriated
for domestic purposes, when it was no longer necessary or lawful to
carry them as arms. Pennant observed the dirk frequently converted
into a.very useful knife, by the butchers of Inverness, being, like Hudi-
" a serviceable dudgeon,
Either for fighting or for drudging."
I have seen them employed for various uses. Some chopped up rnosa
fir as well as if they had never been intended for more honorable service,
whilst others served in the humble but useful office of a "kail gully."
Few are to be met with that do not appear to have been in requisition
for other purposes than originally intended. The Highlander has often,
by its means, provided himself with a "clear the lawing," i. e. a good
218 DAGGERS, OR DIRKS.
cudgel. In attacking the Duke of Cumberland's army, at Clifton, the
rebels cut through the hedges with their bidag, and it was one of the
complaints on the disarming act, that they should be deprived of their
dirks, with which they cut down wood, &c. Before the invention of
knives they supplied their place at table. Possidonius says the Gauls
applied them to this purpose. The Highlanders used them in quartering
deer and other game. The dirk was the favorite "brand " of the Gael.
The dagger of Ogar was "the weapon which he loved." The most
solemn oath was swearing on it, and so convenient an implement was it
found, that it was almost part of their weed. I recollect one John
M'Bean, who fought at Culloden, and was among the M'Intoshes, who
made so furious an irruption on the king's army. This old man, who
died at the age of 101, and was able to walk abroad some days before
his death, never thought himself dressed without his belt and a small
knife. A gentleman of my acquaintance had shown his pistols to an old
man at Skellater, in Strathdon, who, in reply, drew his dirk, and, re-
garding it with a look of satisfaction, observed, "my pistol will no miss
fire. " The Highlanders thought it hard when the act for disarming them
was passed, that they should not be permitted to carry this useful and
convenient article, and were loath, when the gun, the sword, and the
pistols were laid aside, to part with the dirk. It was a shrewd remark
of one Steuart, in Avenside, who, coming down to the lower part of
Strathdon, was reminded that it was now against the law to carry his
dirk; " No," replied he, indignantly, " it is not against the law, but the
law is against it! " The soldiers of the Black Watch, or 42nd, we*e
allowed to carry these weapons, if they chose, and as the corps long
continued to be composed of Duinuasals, or the better class of High-
landers, who could provide themselves with them, they were worn until
lately. Grose says that, in 1747, most of the privates had both dirks
The dirk of the Highlander is an instrument peculiar to himself, and
his ingenuity has rendered it extremely useful. ' The sheath has been
contrived to contain his knife and fork, an improvement that has taken
place at a remote period, as he could not well carve his venison without
these implements. Their insertion in the sheath admits a considerable
degree of ornament, and certainly adds to the splendor of a full dressed
Highlander. Some of the more modern dirks have the^op hollowed into
a little cavity that is appropriated for snuff, but the convenience of this
is not apparent. The length of the blade is determined by the length of
the arm; when grasped in the hand, the point ought to reach to the
elbow; it is double edged for some inches, and the old ones have usually
the figure of a grayhound traced by aquafortis, near the hilt.
The hilt of this instrument is often very curious, and is formed of a
piece of wood, usually of alder, ingeniously figured. It is said these
were generally .the work of shepherds, performed by means of a common
penknife. The carving represents a sort of tracery, where sprigs appear
interlaced, and twisted around a rough piece of wood. These were
more or less intricate, according to the fancy or ability of the workman.
Some are executed with remarkable taste, and their beauty is heightened
by small studs of gold, silver, brass, or steel, producing a rich effect.
Where the handles of the knife and fork were not made of horn or bone,
they were usually finished in a similar style. When the blade formed a
point that was carried beyond the end of the hilt, it was converted into
ail ornamental knob at top, and when it did not appear, the top was
carved or chased, and frequently a large cairngorm was set in it. The
following, in the possession of the author, is a specimen of the old bidag
The BELT for this weapon went round the loins, and was of much use
in ascending mountains, or in running, in which cases it was drawn
close. It was no less useful in fasting; a current proverb advises the
Gael to tighten their belts until they get food. It served also to fasten
the breacan, and sometimes suspended the purse, having a buckle of
brass, steel, or silver, which, in many cases, was figured, or bore a
motto in front. Those of the Celtic warriors were richly ornamented
witli gold and silver; and, in Ossian's days, the "studded thongs of the
sword," which he describes as broad, were much admired. A leathern
girdle, perforated lozenge-wise, as here shown, was found in a barrow,
at Beaksbourne, in Kent.*
The Norwegians, at the battle of Largs, fought in 1263, stripped
Ferus, a Scots' knight, of his beautiful belt.|
Baldricks were not always of leather; they were sometimes of cloth,
silk, or velvet, trimmed and ornamented with gold and silver. The
Highlanders have often a waistbelt for suspending a pistol and ammuni-
* Nenia Britannica.
t Johnstone's Transl. of the Norse Account of Haco's expedition.
$20 BOW AND ARROW
The dirk dance is a curious remain of the ancient amusements of th*
Gael, but, from the change of manners, few of the Highlanders have
now the least knowledge of it. It is denominated bruichcath, and some
dirks have several perforations in the blade for the purpose, it is said, of
inserting the ramrod of the pistol to act as a guard, but this is quite in-
consistent with the dirk exercise. This performance has been repre-
sented in London, where two brothers, of the name of Mac Lennan,
were almost the only individuals who could execute it, but the species of
dance which is now known does not appear to be the same as the ancient.
One James Mac Pherson, aged 106, several years since, saw two per
sons execute this dance, and declared it was not, by any means, in the
old national way.
The Gauls carried a kind of sword, called by Strabo and Julius Pol-
lux, machaera, by Cassar and Livy, matara, or mazara. The first, ac-
cording to O'Conner, is the Gaelic ma' c'ar, the desolation of the field
of battle. Mata is applied to all ferocious animals, and seems here
joined with ar, or ara, slaughter. The matadh achalaise was a weapon
worn by the Highlanders, and evidently derived from their remote ances-
tors. It was carried under the left armpit, whence the term achalaise.
Livy seems to describe it as hung from the left shoulder. In some
figures discovered in the North of England, we perceive a dagger sus-
pended by a cord, or belt, passing under the right arm.
Besides all these weapons, the Highlanders carried the skean dhu, or
black knife, which was stuck between the hose and the skin of their
right leg. This may not be a very ancient practice: the knife was for
the purpose of despatching game, or other servile purposes, for which the
Highlanders had an objection to employ their dirk.
The use of the BOW and ARROW is one of the most early discoveries
of mankind. The Eastern nations have always been distinguished by
an attachment to archery; and the modern Tartars, the descendants, as
many believe, of the ancient Scythians, who can scarcely, in distant
ages, be discriminated from the Celtae, still retain that dexterity in the
management of the bow, for which their ancestors were so celebrated.
The inhabitants of the West and North of Europe were also famous for
the exercise of this weapon, so serviceable in hunting and in battle, and
their armies contained a numerous body who were armed with it, and
who served both on foot and on horseback. So universal was the use of
the bow, that Pliny observes half the world had been conquered by its
means. Saighder, the Gaelic name for a soldier, is apparently a com-
pound of saighead, an arrow, and fear, a man.* The Raman sagitta
shows its Celtic original. The Gaelic word is a compound of sath, to
thrust, or push, and geoda, an appendage. lui, or fiui, an arrow, is
now obsolete, except in the poems of Ossian.|
In Britain, the Belgte are represented as having been particularly
* Smith, in Trans. Highland Soc. Vol. i. ; but see p. 126 this volume.
! Ret . Thomas Ross's Notes on Fingal.
BOW AND ARROW. <2'21
skilful in the practice of archery, but the etymology given of the name,
deriving it from this exercise, does not seem very just, for the bow was
common to Caledonians, Irish, and Welsh. The Belgic tribes were
denominated Firbolg, from the bolg, builg, or leathern bag, in which
they carried their arrows, as some maintain.
The chief part of the Gothic and Norman armies consisted of archers,
and among the Franks the use of the bow was strictly enjoined. A law
of Charlemagne ordains those who are armed with clubs to assume bows
and arrows. The superior skill of the Welsh, in the management of
this weapon, is highly extolled by Giraldus Cambrensis. who informs us
that the tribe named Venta excelled all others, and relates the following
anecdote of their strength and dexterity. During a siege, it happened
that two soldiers, running in haste towards a town, situated a little dis-
tance from them, were attacked with a number of arrows from the
Welsh, which being shot with prodigious violence, some penetrated
through the oak doors of a portal, although they were the breadth of
four fingers in thickness. The heads of these arrows were afterwards
driven out and preserved, in order to continue the remembrance of such
extraordinary force in shooting with the bow. It happened also in a
battle, in the time of William de Breusa, (as he himself relates,) that a
Welshman having directed an arrow at an horse-soldier of his, who was
clad in armor, and had his leather coat under it; the arrow, besides
piercing the man through the hip, struck also through the saddle, and
mortally wounded the horse on which he sat. Another Welsh soldier,
having shot an arrow at one of his horsemen who was covered with strong
armor, in the same manner as the before mentioned person, the shaft
penetrated through his hip and fixed in the saddle: but, what is most
remarkable, is, that as the horseman drew his bridle aside, in order to
turn round, he received another arrow in his hip on the other side,
which, passing through it, he was firmly fastened to the saddle on both
sides. A bow with twelve arrows were among the three legal arms 01
The celebrity of the Irish archers appears to have declined in latter
times. They continued indeed to use the bow; but if the name Scot is
derived from the old Gaelic Sciot, an arrow, their ancestors must have
been very remarkable for the practice. So much neglected, however,
had the art of shooting with the bow become in Ireland, that Cambrensis
recommends archers to be intermingled with the heavy English troop?,
when fightfhg with the natives; and the conquest of the island is said to
have been achieved, principally by the services of these men, to which
the Irish could not oppose a similar arm,* but the English long bow was
a weapon which neither the Scots nor the Irish could, at all times, effectu-
ally withstand. These nations never depended for victory in a pitched
battle, by the use of their bows, which were of small size. The Scots'
archers commenced an engagement, and when the battle joined, they
* Lord Littleton.
222 BOW AND ARROW
abandoned the arrow for the sword and spear, as they were afterwards
accustomed to do with their firearms. In the Low Country, where a reg
ular charge could be made, the spear was the favorite weapon. Few of
Wallace's men, we are told, were " Sicker of archery,"
" better they were,
In field to bide, eyther with sword or speare."
Notwithstanding the dexterity with which they managed their own lil
tie bows, the tremendous effect of the English was acknowledged in a
current saying, that " every English archer beareth under his girdle
twenty-foure Scottes," alluding to the number of arrows. Many enact-
ments were passed, with little effect, to improve the Scots' archers. So
late as 1595, one James Forgeson, a bowyer, was sent by the King of
Scotland into England to purchase ten thousand bows and bow-staves,
and as he could not procure them there, he proceeded to the continent.
The Scots, remarkable for their tenacity of ancient practices, continued
to use their short bows and little quivers with short-bearded arrows,
which Spenser says " are at this day to be scene, not past three quar-
ters of a yard long, with a string of wreathed hempe slackely bent, and
whose arrows are not above half an ell long."
The battle of Halidowne hill, 1333, affords an instance of the dread-
ful effect of the English long bow. "The lord Percie's archers did
withall deliver their deadly arrowes so lively, so courageously, so griev-
ously, that they ranne through the men of armes, bored the helmets,
pierced their very swords, beat their lances to the earth, and easily shot
those who were more slightly armed, through and through." The Scot-
ish archers, however, on several occasions, made a good figure in the
national armies, and acquired considerable renown. Those who oppos-
ed Haco, at Largs, in 1263, were well accoutred, and chiefly armed
with bows and spears. At the field of Bannockburn, James III. had
ten thousand Highlanders with bows and arrows, who led the van. At
Fala, James V. mustered an army of sixty thousand men, twenty thou-
sand of whom carried pikes and spears, and twenty thousand "were
armed with bows and habergions and two-handed swords, which was
the armor of our Highland men."* In 1528, Lord Howard, the En-
glish ambassador, brought three score horsemen, all picked men, and cel-
ebrated for all sorts of athletic amusements, to Scotland; but "they were
well sayed (tried) ere they passed out of it," says Pistcottie, " and that
by their own provocation; but ever they tint, (lost); till at last the
Queen of Scotland, the King's mother, favored the Englishmen, because
she was the King of England's sister; and therefore she took an en-
terprise of archery upon the Englishmen's hands, contrary her son, the
King, and any six in Scotland, that he would wale, either gentlemen or
yeomen, that the Englishmen should shoot against them either at pricks,
rovers, or butts, as the Scots pleased. The king was content, and
gart her pawn a hundred crowns, and a tun of wine upon the English-
* Lindsay of Pistcottie
BOW AND ARROW. 223
men's hands; and he incontinently laid down as much for the Scottish-
men. The field and ground were chosen in St. Andrews, ind three
landed men and three yeomen chosen to shoot against the English, iz.
David Wemys of that ilk, J)avid Arnot of that ilk, and Mr. John Wed-
derburn, vicar of Dundee; the yeomen were John Thompson, in Leith,
Stephen Tabourner, with a piper, called Alexander Baillie. They shot
very near, and warred the Englishmen of the enterprise, and won the
hundred crowns and the tun of wine; which made the king very merry.'
The Scots' Highlanders and the Gael of Ulster continued to use the
bow till the beginning of last century. It was extremely serviceable in
hunting, for which purpose it was much employed by the ancient Brit-
ons. In fighting, the Celtic method was first to expend all their arrows
at a distance; when the chief of each tribe advanced with his men to a
closer attack. The bow was last used as a military weapon by British
troops about 1700, when the regiment of Royal Scots, commanded by
the Earl of Orkney, were armed in " the old Highland fashion, with bows
and arrows, swords and targets, and wore steel bonnets."* About that
period the inhabitants of the island of Lewis were celebrated for their
dexterity in archery :| those of Glenlyon, in Perthshire,! and Strathco-
lan, were equally famous. The bow was drawn by the right ear.
The introduction of the musket was a death blow to the use of the
bow, and to the interests of all who lived by the manufacture. Those
affected by the decay of this ancient, and once so effective weapon,
strenuously opposed the adoption of firearms, and contended for its
superiority. Its encouragement did for some time become an object of
national solicitude, but no exertions could retard the advance of im-
provement in the art of destruction, and avert the ultimate fall of "the
noble science of archery."
In the Lansdowne collection of MSS., No. 22 contains a discourse,
addressed to the Council of Henry VIII., or Edward VI., showing that
the use of the bow was much more destructive than "goinnery."
Alleyn's Henry VII., quoted by Dr. Johnson, we are told that
" The white faith of history cannot show
That e'er a musket yet could beat the bow.'
In 1576, the bowyers, fletchers, stringers, and arrow-head makers,
petitioned Lord Burleigh for authority to enforce the practice of archery,
and repress unlawful exercises, according to the statutes; when it is
hoped that, in two or three years, the use of the bow would be restored.
A warrant from Queen Elizabeth, preserved in the same volume, was
granted according to the prayer of the petitioners, but it was unfortunate-
ly left without the royal signature.
Sir John Smyth, knight, in his work on " the Necessity of Archery,"
b. letter, 1596, says, he never will refuse, with eight thousand good ar-
chers, to adventure his life against twenty thousand of the best shot in
Christendom. Alas! the lamentable forebodings of speedy destruction
* Mem. Don. Mac Leod. t Martin. J Gillies' Old Gaelic Poems, p. 83.
2 6 24 STONE ARROW HEADS
to the liberties of old England, from the introduction of fire arms,
the creations of their own brains; and Smyth's objections were repelled,
with strong arguments, by one Barwick, an old and experienced soldier.
The Gallic bow appears, from various monuments, to have been simi-
lar in form to those now used. The Scythians had it of a singular curve,
the ends being bent inwards, in the form of a crescent, with a straight
round part in the centre. The Scots made their bows of yew; the
English preferred ash. Those of the Welsh were of rough wild elm.*
Arrows, in their most simple form, were merely a reed, or slip of
wood, carefully sharpened to a point; and it is reported as a curious fact,
that an arrow of this sort will penetrate deeper into the body which it
strikes, than if it were armed with any other substance. The arrows of
the ancient inhabitants of Picardy were formed of a certain reed, ex-
cellent for the purpose, and only inferior to those that grew in the Rhene,
a river in Bonnonia."f The Scythians used fir tree,^ the Sarmatte em-
ployed cornel wood, and having no iron, they pointed their arrows with
osiers. The Fenns, a people of Germany, used bone.
One of the most ancient means of arming offensive weapons, was by
the laborious formation of stone for that purpose. So generally does
this mode of pointing arrows seem to have prevailed, that there are few
countries where these rude articles are not to be found. They have
been discovered in America and the West India Islands. Herodotus
describes the arrows of the Ethiopians, who served in Xerxes' army, as
being pointed with a stone used for those seals that were engraved. ||
The use of metal, which that writer shows to have been well known to
the nations of the West at a very early period of time, indicates the ex-
treme antiquity of these stone implements, which are found in consid-
erable numbers in various parts of Scotland. In Ireland they are also
often met with, but in England less frequently, although beautiful speci-
mens have been discovered in the barrows of Wiltshire and elsewhere.
They have been found in Isla, but have never perhaps been met with in
any other of the Islands of Hebudas.
It is difficult to conceive how they could have been formed in those
rude ages, when there were no implements of metal to assist in the
manufacture. It must have been by a patient and careful beating and
rubbing, the workman probably spoiling many before he was able to
produce one perfect. The regularity of their figure is astonishing, and
much labor and perseverance were certainly necessary, to mould and
polish them so neatly. The flint of which they are formed is generally
of a brownish color; in Perth and Aberdeenshires they are generally
reddish. Some have been found in Ireland of a stone resembling an
onyx, and nearly as pellucid.
They are usually discovered in the sepulchres of the ancient tribes,
who were accustomed to deposit a certain number, according to the
* Gir. Camb. t Pliny, xvi. 36. | Strabo.
Pausanias, i. 21 || Lib. vii. 69.
STONE ARROW HEADS. 2*25
rank and estimation in which the deceased warrior was held; but in
Scotland they are more generally to be picked up on the land, particu-
larly that which has been recently brought under cultivation, being then
turned up by the plough or spade. In some particular parts they are
found more abundantly than in others, and often in such numbers as to
indicate the field of an ancient battle. Many rough flints are found in
a certain spot on the Culbin hills, near the aestuary of the Findhorn, and
no similar stones being near the place, it has been conjectured that a
manufactory for arrow heads was there established.* That they were
very valuable in those rude ages, when they were used, can be readily
believed from the extreme trouble there must have been in forming them,
and it appears they were occasionally deposited under ground for secur-
ity, as money has been in more recent times. If their fabrication was
an art practised by certain persons, these hoards may have been their
stock. In trenching a piece of very rough stony ground, at Cults, on
the banks of the Dee, a few miles from Aberdeen, several years since,
about thirty of them were found under a large stone; and, in laboring a
waste part of a farm in the broe of Essie, a similar deposit was discov-
ered. These singular facts prove the care with which those little im-
plements were preserved.
Their most common and simple form is a lozenge, more acute at one
end than the other; some are barbed on each side. One which was
found at Connemara, in Ireland, had no middle point, but, from the print,
it does not appear whether this part is in its original state."!" One of
found at Essie had the middle part very neatly perforated.
These stone heads were fixed, it is supposed, in a small cavity, adapt-
ed for this purpose, in the end of the shaft. Such a mode of pointing
arrows was very common in recent times, the shaft being formed with a
hollow at one end. In Scotland the flint arrow heads are denominated
elf shot, from a firm belief, among the common people, that they are of
no human formation, but the shot with which* the elves, or fairies, assail
cattle, and even attempt the destruction of human beings, either for their
amusement, or from a spirit of malevolence. J
This superstition exists in full strength, even among people whose
education, one might suppose, would prevent the indulgence of so ridicu-
lous an idea, and various p/actices are resorted to in order to avert or
counteract the designs of rnese evil spirits. I have heard several per-
sons speak of having beo;, struck with them, fortunately not with suffi-
cient force to prodv.f a <v/und, in the most positive manner, and mauy
more have declar^ ,'.iut (they have often witnessed the cattle laboring
under the effects or" 'AXA unearthly shot. It is, indeed, acknowledged
that now. wlier* the JV,notures have become so fully disseminated, the elves
* Sir T. Dick Lpa^j*. in Trans, of Scots Antiquaries, iii. 90.
\ Archcolngia ., TV. '.i04.
J The Manx believe that the Tirst inhabitants of their island were fairies,
extrenoe4y fond of hunting. Waldron's Hist.
226 STONE ARROW HEADS.
have been restrained from so free a range, and it is only occasionally
that any of the cattle are " shot a dead."
In Bowen's Geography, printed in 1747, we find it related that the
" county of Aberdeen has one sort of stones, which seem to be of the
fliut kind they are always found by chance, and often in the roads,
where none were to be seen an hour or two before, and sometimes they
are discovered in the boots, &c. of travellers; and as they are generally
found in the summer, when the s.ky is clear, naturalists conclude they
are formed in the air, by some gross exhalations!" Sir Robert Sibbaid
also notices their frequency in Aberdeenshire.* A clergyman, about
the end of the seventeenth century, says they are shaped like a barbed
arrow head, but flung, like a dart, with great force!
When cattle are unfortunately struck by these malicious elves, they
breathe hard and refuse all food, by which tokens it is easily understood
what has befallen them. Those women who are "canny" immediately
begin carefully to examine the animal, until they find where the arrow
head has wounded them; and this is a matter of no little difficulty, for
the skin is never perforated, but the hole is found in the inner membrane,
In Aberdeenshire they are accustomed to cure the elf shot by an appli-
cation of salt and tar, prepared with due solemnity. In other parts, the
place where the animal has been struck is well rubbed with salt, and a
quantity of it dissolved in water, wherein silver, or an elf shot has been
dipped, is poured down the throat, and some is also sprinkled on the
ears. The animal then begins to breathe easier, and, in the course of
an hour, will recover. Cattle who die of this disease, or, rather, acci-
dent, exhibit mortified spots in those parts where the shot is believed to
have entered, for it is not the least mysterious circumstance that the
shot itself is never found in the flesh, but is often picked up near the
animal. However strange it may appear, very respectable authorities
have borne testimony to the existence of such spots, or holes, under the
skin, as well as to the efficiency of the prescribed cure. That there is
such a malady is certain, and the mode of treating it may be successful.
The superstitious observances attending the application are derived from
those times when the efficacy of all prescriptions were believed to de-
pend on the virtues imparted by the ceremonies with which they were
prepared. None of the herbs, so celebrated for their sanative proper-
ties during the existence of Druidisrn, were gathered or administered
without the most scrupulous adherence to established forms.
In consequence of the popular persuasion that these singular stones
are really the offensive weapons of " the fair folk," it is difficult to
vail with those who have been so fortunate as to meet with one, to part
with it, .for it is firmly believed, that so long as an elf shot is
neither the cattle nor the owner is liable to be molested by these insidi-
ous enemies. They are, therefore, carried about the person, or carefui-
* Plott'g Hist, of Staffordshire.
BOW AND ARROWS. 227
\y deposited in the guidwife's kist, and sometimes they are even set in
I have been able to collect fourteen or fifteen of them, but have often
observed a party, from whom I was soliciting them, assume a look of
considerable gravity, apparently suspecting that 1 had some other reason
for my request than motives of mere curiosity.
After the art of working metals was discovered, mankind would soon
avail themselves of its use in pointing their arrows. The Scythians, so
early as the time of Herodotus, had their arrow heads of brass, and he
relates a story which shows that they must have had very great numbers
of them. The time when iron, or brass, became the substitute for the
rude flint of the primitive Celts is unknown. In the earliest history of
the Caledonians we find metal in use, and in one of Ossian's poems we
even read of an arrow of gold! In the seventeenth century they had
" arrows for the most part hooked, with a barbie on either side, which,
once entered within the body, could not be drawn forth again, unless
the wound was made wider." There seems to have been something
peculiar in the form of these points, which made a most galling wound.
Spenser describes the Scots of Ulster as having their arrows " tipped
with steele heads, made like common broad arrow heads, but much more
sharpe and slender, so that they enter into a man or horse most cruelly,
notwithstanding that they are shot forth weakely."f
The old Caledonian arrows were of birch, feathered in the usual man-
ner, and carried by the side. Perhaps the Celts stuck them in the belt,
as the English and Scots were afterwards accustomed to do; but a figure,
supposed to represent a Gaul, discovered in Northumberland, has a
quiver suspended at his right hip. Cambrensis informs us the common
Welsh carried the arrows in their hand. The ancient Britons had, how-
ever, generally quivers of osier; some of twisted brass, but unknown
antiquity, have been found. The Gael had them formed of badger's
skin.J Their strings are said to have been of hemp, but they were, it
is believed, also formed of the intestines of animals. It is reckoned
good policy to "have two strings to a bow." A seal, found in the field
of Bannockburn, .represented a figure carrying a bow, provided with
two strings, both fixed; and a law of Charlemagne refers to " arcum
cum duabus cordis."
An ancient amusement of the Scotish bowmen, was shooting at the
pepingoe, or popingay, and there is a society regularly established, in
1688, at Kilwinning, in Airshire, where this mark is projected from the
church steeple, and the archers, resting their left foot close to the base
of.the wall, shoot perpendicularly. The royal archers of Scotland, who
have the honor to be the king's body guard in that kingdom, and enjoy
certain privileges, were incorporated by Queen Anne.
* Vallancey says the Irish set them in silver, and wear them about the neck
ulets. Collect. Hib.
t Spenser. Carrying bows and arrows were restrained. Ib. 22. Hist of
J Prosnacha Fairge of Clan Rannald.
The Highlanders do not appear, in recent times, to have had CAV
ALRY, but the old Gael had certainly considerable bodies of horsemen. In
proof of this, a poem of John Lorn Mac Donald, who lived in the time
of Charles II., addressed to Clanrannald, may be quoted, where there
is a verse of which the following is a translation:
" When thou didst take up arms in the cause of thy King, thy saddles covered
thousand dark gray coursers. 1: *
The authoj of a journey in Scotland, 1729, says the Erasers, were
mostly composed of gentlemen on horseback. The Caledonians long
preserved a celebrity for horsemanship, which was inherited from their
remote ancestors, the Celtic tribes of Britain and the continent, who
were equally renowned for their well trained cavalry. The chief strength
of their armies consisted in infantry, but Strabo asserts that the horse-
men were most efficient, and Plutarch attests the excellence of this
branch of their military .f Tacitus particularly celebrates the Tencteri,
and Caesar acknowledges the admirable manner in which the Gallic,
German, and British cavalry opposed and thwarted his ambitious de-
signs. At the battle of Cannae, the Celtic horsemen behaved with a
firmness and intrepidity which excited the praises of their enemies.
In the Northern regions, we are told by Pliny, the horses were wild,
and roamed about in great herds, but the Gauls and Germans must have
had them domesticated and broken into great docility, and so much were
they esteemed, that the Romans, according to Strabo, procured the
chief part of their horses from Gaul. By Tacitus they are considered
less remarkable for their fleetness than for keeping excellent order,
marching with the greatest regularity. Those of Celtiberia were small,
but had a graceful pace, and were taught to stoop, that their riders
might be able to mount with facility ;J those of Lusitania were extremely
fleet. ^ The rude warriors of distant ages, robust, and inured to pri-
vations and fatigue, bred their horses to extreme labor and hardihood.
We are told that the Sarmatians, a German people celebrated as eques-
trians, when preparing for a long journey, gave their horses no meat for
two days, but supplied them with a little drink and galloped them one
hundred and fifty miles on a stretch!
The British horses are described by Tacitus and Dio as diminutive,
but extremely swift, spirited, and hardy, resembling those of the pro-
sent Highlanders, which were in general allowed until lately, like the
race in Shetland, to live in almost natural wildness.
The small native Highland horses are termed garrons, and although
now semi-domesticated, it is often a work of much trouble to catch them
when they are turned loose on the hills. To accomplish this, they are
sometimes driven up a steep hill, where the nearest pursuer endeavors
to catch them by the hind leg, both not unfrequently tumbling down
together; sometimes they are hunted until fatigue compels them to lie
* Turner's Collection, p. 87. t The whole force of the Catti consisted of
t Strabo. Pliny, lib. viii.
down. An entertaining writer, who visited the country many years ago,
gives the following description of the method of breaking-in these unruly
animals, as. he witnessed it in Inverness-shire. A man had tied a rope
about the hind leg; the horse was kicking and struggling violently, while
the Highlander continued 'to beat it unmercifully with a large stick,
" and sometimes the garron was down, and sometimes the Highlander
was down, and not seldom both of them together, but still the man kept
his hold," and succeeded in reducing the horse to perfect docility.
The ancient Caledonians were celebrated for the use of horses in war.
Their descendants neglected this arm, without entirely disusing it. They
are said to have had the greatest dread of cavalry, their fears being aug-
mented by an idea that the horses were taught to fight with their feet as
well as to bite. They certainly evinced no such terror in 1745, when
they so often defeated them. On the contrary, the rebels entertained
great contempt for cavalry, having so easily overthrown the dragoons.
The manoeuvre by which this was accomplished consisted in striking at
their heads, and slashing the mouths, which infallibly sent them to the
about. An old follower of the Mac Intoshes told rne he saved his life
at Culloden by this mode of defence, against some horsemen. The
cavalry in the Highland army on this occasion, besides the French piquet,
were chiefly from the Low Country. The Irish were celebrated horse-
men to a late period, and their horses were of the same small breed. It
was apparently from their size that they were called Hobbies, whence
the cavalry were denominated Hobblers. These troops were not, in-
deed, all provided with arms, but they were found serviceable in the
English armies, and paid according to their equipments. Two thousand
were ordered against the Scots by Edward II., and at the siege of Ca-
lais, in 1347, many were employed. The nobles had much pride in the
appearance of their horses. Paul Jovius says he saw twelve of a beau-
tiful white color, adorned with purple and silver reins, led, without
riders, in the train of the Pope. A French writer, describing the expe-
dition of Richard II. to Ireland, in 1399, says, Mac Murrough's horse
cost 400 cows, but he rode without either stirrups or saddle. The Cel-
tic riders do not appear to have used these articles. A bridle seems to
be indispensable; yet, in the sculpture of Antoninus's column, &e. they
are usually represented without reins, sustaining themselves, when at
full gallop, by clinging to the neck or mane. Sometimes a single rein
is seen; and a cord, or fillet, is in some cases carried once or twice
round the neck. Alexander I. offered a favorite Arabian horse at the
altar of St. Andrew's Church, the saddle, bridle, and velvet housings of
which were splendidly ornamented. The Welsh, whose horses were of
the same diminutive and hardy breed as the Scots and Irish, and who
retained the national partiality for the use of cavalry, had a conside-
rable number at the battle of Agincourt, 1415, none of whom had sad-
dles. The Irish, some centuries since, notwithstanding they neither
used stirrups nor saddle, were very expert equestrians, being accustom-
ed to vault on horses while running at their utmost speed, and although
they bore the spear above the head, yet many acknowledged they
had " never met with more comely or brave chargers." About two
hundred years ago they occasionally used a pad without stirrups,
but it was thought strange that the women should ride with their faces
to the right side.* It does not appear that shoes for horses were con-
sidered necessary by the Celts. The inhabitants of the Isles, and many
districts of the Highlands of Scotland, at the present day, prove that
these articles are not indispensable. The horses travel in these parts
without inconvenience, and with the surest footing, over the hard flinty
rocks, and along the most intricate and precipitous tractways. They do
not seem formerly, in any case, to have been shod, and so little is it yet
attended to, that, in some districts, the blacksmiths can neither make
shoes, nor put them on!
The Gallic, German, and Scythian horsemen, as seen in the remains
of ancient sculpture, wore the sagum, thrown over the naked shoulders,
and enveloping the rider much like the cloak of the modern cavalry.
They carried a shield and javelin, to which a sword was sometimes ad-
ded. Similar arms were borne by the British tribes, and retained until
late ages by the inhabitants of Wales. The Irish, in the beginning of
the seventeenth century, used also a staff.']"
The Celtic cavalry consisted of horsemen and charioteers, the troops
serving, in either way, according to circumstances. They were always
attended by footmen, who were ready to succor their masters when
wounded or overpowered, and were able also to fight in their stead.
These followers were chosen by the warriors from their own kindred,
and they had thus an opportunity of selecting the best qualified and
most faithful of their followers, who, like the attendants of the knights
of the middle ages, had opportunity of rising to distinction under the
eye of their superiors. How striking is the similarity of this practice to
that oftheScotish Gael! It is related of Hannibal, that, before the bat-
tle with Sempronius, he picked out one thousand horse and as many
foot, and ordered each to choose nine others from the whole army. As
this general had a numerous body of Gauls in his service, from which
people the Carthaginians always recruited their forces, it is not improb-
able that he imitated the practice of the Celts in this case, for we find
him, on other occasions, paying some deference to their opinion. The
Romans, who were noted for adopting every thing advantageous in the
tactics of other nations, perhaps formed their Velites on the Celtic
We find, also, that the Gallic horsemen were sometimes 'accompanied
by two servants, who, on the marches, attended to the wagons and
baggage, but were provided with horses, and fought bravely in battle.
They posted themselves in the rear, and supplied their masters with
horses, if dismounted, or, if killed, one took his place, and, if he also
Spenser, Riche, Stanihurst, &c. t Riche, p. 96.
WAR CHARIOTS. 231
fell, the other was ready to succeed, him. This mode of fighting they
called trirnarcisias, from the word marca, a horse.* To this day, marc,
in the Gaelic of Scotland and Ireland, has the same signification;! in
Welsh and Armoric there is march, in Cornish marh. The term is
therefore a compound of tri, three, and marca, horse! The same mode
of fighting was practised by the Irish, who had two regular horsemen,
and another whose business it was to attend to the animal. J These last
were the Horse boys. The chosen bands of the Persians, and others,
did not attack the enemy until those who were engaged had all been
slain; but the Celts, on the contrary, continued to fill up the places of
such as fell. Vegetius says, that among the Gauls and Celtiberians
these bodies amounted to six thousand men. Dumnorix, an ^Eduan
chief, kept constantly a great number of horsemen in his pay, who at-
tended him wherever he went. These men were so strong and
swift of foot, that, seizing the horses' mane, when running, they could
easily keep pace with them.
The most remarkable feature in a Celtic army was the body of CHARI-
OTEERS, who performed their evolutions with surprising dexterity and
direful effect. The Britons were indeed so expert in this manner of
fighting, that it is believed to have originated with them, an opinion that
may have arisen from the superiority of their tactics, and the practice
becoming less frequent on the continent. Much conjectural discussion
has arisen respecting the form and construction of the battle chariots.
Some antiquaries have supposed that they resembled the Irish cars, or
the rude carts used by the inhabitants of Wales ;|| but it is impossible
to believe that the British chariots, if not superior to those mean and
awkward vehicles, could have excited so particularly the notice of the
Romans, or made so great an impression on their veteran legions. In-
considerable as the commerce of the Britons may have been in those dis-
tant ages, it can be reasonably presumed they were not destitute of many
cars, for the purposes of traffic. The extended tractways, formed with
sufficient care to preserve, even yet, well defined remains, were surely
constructed for such conveyances.
Celtic armies were always accompanied by numerous wagons, even
when there was little or no baggage to be removed; and we learn from
Diodorus that they used* chariots in travelling as well as in war. One
description was called Covinus. Cobhain, in Gaelic, signifies a box, or
any similar receptacle, and is the origin of the English coffin, the bh
having; the sound of v. The word, if originally applied to the battle car,
may be derived from cobh, victory, or cobhuain, to hew down on all
sides, in allusion to the hooks and scythes with which these vehicles were
* Pausanias, x. 19. Died. v. 2.
t Hence marcach, a rider; marchsluagh, cavalry. Cabal, whence the Latin Cab
allus, is another term for this animal from all, a horse, and cab, mouth, i.
e. a horse
who is gmded by the mouth, or broken in.
$ Beckman's Hist, of Invent, ii. p. 247. Bello Gall. i. 15.
|| King's Munimenta Antiqua.
232 WAR CHARIOTS.
provided, both in Britain and on the continent. The old Highlanders
applied this term to a sort of litter, borne between two horses, in manner
of a bier. The word is now lost in the Gaelic,* but carbad, of similar
import, is preserved, and this word, used by Ossian and other bards for
the war chariot, is now applied to a coffin. From this has probably
arisen the tradition that that of Cuthullin, described by Ossian, was his
Another sort of chariots were called Essedas; and Whitaker, who
notices the general appellation of car-rhod, wheeled car, says they were
furnished with seats. Du Cange says the covinus was currua cathedra
instructus, but there is reason to believe that it was not so; the name
implies that they were not encumbered with seats. The Essedarii seem
to have been those who fought in the first-rate war chariots, drawn by
two horses, and their name appears to be one of those ancient Celtic
words that no longer exist. The term fonnadh, synonymous with carbad,
has been disused by the Highlanders for ages.
The battle cars must have been strongly built, to sustain the violent
concussions produced by their furious encounters, and they could not
have been constructed at all without the possession of necessary tools, and
a knowledge of the mechanical arts. I am here obliged to differ from
that excellent antiquary, Sir R. Hoare, who is of opinion that these ve-
hicles were of slight construction, and finds his supposition strengthened
by a recent discovery, of which he furnished an account to the Society
of Antiquaries."!" In a fissure, or chink, of the rock at Hamden hill, near
Bath, many curious articles were found; among which were fragments
of wheels, conjectured to be the remains of war chariots. One of those
was nearly perfect, measured two and a half feet in diameter, and had
contained twelve spokes. It was only two inches thick, being little
stronger than a grinder's wheel, and how a construction so weak could
have withstood the rough jolting, the furious driving, and the violent
shocks of a contention on unequal ground is not easily conceived. The
term carbad-cogaidh, literally the war chariot, used by the ancient bards,
seems to distinguish it from others, and, when it is characterized as
" rapid," it is expressive of the velocity with which it was driven.
Diodorus says the Gauls and Britons used the war chariot just as the
Trojans did, and we have little reason to believe the forms were very
different; a description of those of the Greeks and Romans may there-
fore be applicable to the others. There were two wheels, of no greater
diameter than the height of a man's knee, and they were sometimes
formed of wood, firmly joined together by iron, but the common method
was with four, six, or eight spokes, the fellies being shod with brass
The axle-tree, on which they moved, was long, in order to prevent the
car from being overset by the inequalities of the ground. The pole, or
temo, was very strongly fastened to the axle, and so well secured by
two diagonal pieces of wood that no instance is said to have occurred of
* Rev. Dr. Mac Queen, of Kiltnuir. t Archaeologia, xxi.
WAR CHARIOTS. 233
its being broken. The body of the car was also fixed to the axle, for
farther security, and the chariot could therefore be driven with the ut-
most rapidity, over all sorts of ground, and in the thickest tumult of bat-
tle, without any danger of being overturned. The body of the car was
en behind, and, from the manner of harnessing, this part fell very low.
he sides that were here little higher than the floor, rose gradually to-
wards the front, which was breast high, and rounded for the protection oi
the riders, from which it was called the shield part. In the works of the
bards it may be remarked, quadrangular chariots, and some of " many
corners," are spoken of. Fosbrooke says the body of the car was form-
ed of wicker; the harness of the Greek chariot was simple, but well
adapted for the purpose, the collar and the body girth appearing to be
the only parts employed, and both were formed of broad and thick leath-
ern belts, which joined across the horses' withers; on these were laid
the ends of the yoke, which was formed of wood, with a curve fitting the
round of the animal's shoulders.' The pole was fixed to the yoke by a
peg inserted in a hole, and was farther secured by a stout leathern thong,
which, according to Homer, was about fourteen feet in length.
The Celtic chariots appear to have been usually drawn by two hor-
ses abreast, arid it is supposed that this sort were the Essedae, which
were provided with the scythe blades, the covinus being drawn by one
horse only, and not furnished with these destructive weapons. This
opinion does not seem well founded, for, on an ancient sculpture, we
see an armed car drawn by a single horse. The blades, or hooks, were
like other arms, usually of bronze, and about thirteen inches in length.*
It is customary to represent them attached to the axle, but it is evident
that, for the purpose of cutting down the enemy, they must have been
immovably fixed to the car. If the description of Cuthullin's chariot, as
preserved in the poems of Ossian, be admitted as authentic, the cars of
the Britons will be found to have closely resembled those above des-
cribed, and to have been of ingenious construction. The investigations
of the Highland Society have discovered that the translation of Mac
Pherson was not executed with sufficient fidelity. The word which he
renders gems, is applied to pebbles, which, however, may comprise those
precious stones that are so frequently found in the mountains. There
certainly appears to be nothing improbable in the bard's account, for we
know that the Celts were always remarked for a strong pride of dress
and ornament, and used, long before the value of coral, as an export to
India, became known, to adorn their shields, swords, helmets, &,c. with
it. The Irish took the greatest delight in the splendor of their cavalry
accoutrements; and, in a comparatively recent period, it was thought
necessary to reoress their extravagance, by a statute against "the use
of gilt bridles and petronels." The Scots were equally vain, and it will
be hereafter shown that the Bardic descriptions are not inconsistent with
the state of the arts in those remote periods. Propertius says that the
* Fosbrooke's Encyclopedia of Antiquities.
234 CALEDONIAN BATTLE CAR.
car was often painted, and the yoke embossed.* Cuthullin is styled " the
chief of the nobie car," from which it may be inferred that it was of
superior construction; it was evidently an Esseda, and not the common
sort, and a prevalent tradition represents it with four horses. f
The following description from a poem in the possession of the High-
land Society, differs considerably from the version of Mac Pherson. In
the first volume of the Highland Society's edition of the works of Ossian
is another translation from the original poems, formerly in Mac Pher-
son 's possession, which shows that, however beautiful the diction, he did
not perform his task with strict fidelity.
I have there seen the car of battle,
The shining car of many corners !
Moving sometimes slow, and sometimes rapid,
Guided by the skilful and the wise !
It is like the mist which bright arises
From its edge of mild red light,
On a bare and stony summit.
Its green covering is formed of haircloth.
On its wheel, smooth as bone, is the gloss of wax.
Its beams of yew, with full grained ears,
And spreading bows is carved !
Around the car
Is every smooth and shining pebble.
The gleaming light, which darts a double ray
From its sides of crimson,
Is like the sparkling whirl of the sea,
Round a ship, when the moon is not seen on the flood.
First in the car is found
The gray, the swift, the leading horse,
The large thorough passing, quick travelling,
The broad breasted, sure eyed, and equal paced,
The high spirited, well trained, and wide leaping steed,
Whose name is Lia-maishah, (the handsome gray.)
Last in the car is found
The strong hoofed and powerful horse,
The long flanked, proudly bounding,
Small shanked, thin maned,
High headed, quick paced ;
The light bellied, snorting, eager steed,
Whose name is Dusronmor, (black, with large nostrils.)
In the centre of the car are found,
For the support of the generous steeds,
The arms known to fame.
The light, broad plated darts,
Of rapid flight and deadly aim.
The narrow but firm reins,
The precious highly polished bits, which shine in the mouth.
Lockers containing coverlets and glistening gems,
The beautiful furniture of the steeds.
* " Essedse ccelatis siste Britannici jugis," ii.
t Dr. Mac Queen, of Kilmuir, in a letter to Dr. Blair.
CHARIOT EXERCISE. 235
"Within the car is the strong armed hero of swords,
Whose name is Cuchullin, the son of Semo,
Sun of Suvalta, son of Begalt.
His red cheek is like the polished yew :
Lofty the look of his blue rolling eye beneath the arch of his brow.
His bushy hair is a waving flame,
As coming towards us, a fiery bolt.
He wields both his forward spears.*
The rest of this curious poem is wanting. It would appear from it
that the horses were yoked in line, but other translations represent them
abreast. These also describe the gems as ornamenting the horses'
The use of the chariot was confined to kings and commanders;"!" and
of the two riders, the most honorable held the reins, from which he ac-
quired the bardic appellation of the ruler of the car. In drawing up an
army, the Celts placed the horsemen and chariots at the extremity of
each wing, as we learn from Polybius and Tacitus, but they were also
accustomed to mix light-armed foot with the cavalry, for the purpose of
stabbing the enemies' horses, and overthrowing the riders. J The at-
tack commenced by driving furiously up and down, or rather bearing
down transversely along the front of the enemies' line, when by discharg-
ing their darts, or saunians, they broke the ranks and opened a way for
the infantry. When this was accomplished, they dismounted and fought
with their swords; the drivers retiring to a little distance, placed them-
selves in reserve to assist those that were most hotly pressed, and secure
the retreat of the warriors, should they be defeated.^ In order to avoid
the danger of the furious onset, Alexander ordered his troops, when en-
gaged with the Thracians, who had a multitude of cars, to lay themselves
flat on the ground, and, covering themselves with their shields, to allow
the enemies' cavalry to pass over them. The chariot attack was so
terrific, that the noise of the horses and rattling of the wheels, alone,
were sometimes sufficient to throw the firmest troops into confusion. The
Roman legions suffered excessively from the destructive charges of the
Gallic battle car. The admirable manner in which it was managed by
the Britons is attested by the great Caesar. " In the most steep and dif-
ficult places," says he, " they can stop their horses when at full speed,
turn them which way they please, run along the pole, rest on the har-
ness, and throw themselves back into their chariots with incredible dex-
terity." Such feats are only seen in our days at places for equestrian
exhibitions. The choicest phalanx of Roman veterans was shaken by
the British covinarii, whose numbers were astonishingly great, for, after
Cassivellanus had disbanded his army in despair, he reserved four thou-
sand cars as a small body guard, who, thus reduced, were yet so formi-
dable to the Romans that Cresar strictly forbade his troops to venture
* Report on the poems of Ossian, p. 205.
t Tacitus, Vita Agricolre. Adomnan, i. c. 7.
t Bello Gall. vii. Amm. Mar. xvi. 10. Bello Gall. v. 12.
236 RACE COURSES.
any distance from the camp, although his army consisted of five^ legions.
It was a favorite manoeuvre of the charioteers to feign a retreat, in
orde. to draw the cavalry from the main body, when, suddenly alighting,
they encountered the pursuers on foot, who were unable to contend with
a manner of fighting to which their usual tactics were so unequal, and
which was rendered more dangerous by the Celtic principle of fighting
in Clans. In that most ancient poem, the Tainbo of Cualgne, a chariot
fight is described. Linchets, or deep cuts like terraces, on the sides of
hills and in the vicinity of intrenchments, were probably for the ascent
and descent -of the cars.
It is evident that great skill was requisite in the management of the
war chariot. From an ancient coin, the driver appears to correct the
horses with a bundle of rods in place of a whip. Steadiness was most
essential as well in advancing as in wheeling, wherein it is thought that
the chief excellence in driving was displayed. Indeed, without an amaz-
ing dexterity in managing the carbad, the whole body must have been
thrown into disorder and confusion, and their own line of infantry broken
through. The Celts, fmore particularly the British tribes, were extreme-
ly proud of this part of the army, on which they placed so much depend-
ance, and it was therefore an object of national importance to have the
troops well trained and exercised in the various evolutions peculiar to
the service. Chariot races were undoubtedly very popular amusements
of antiquity, notwithstanding the assertion of Pausanias, that the prac-
tice was " neither an ancient invention nor attended with graceful execu-
tion."* Of so much importance did the Britons consider these races,
thai they appear to have made their celebration a religious duty, from
a cursus being found in the immediate vicinity of places of worship, the
most remarkable instance of which is found on Salisbury plain, near the
celebrated Stonehenge. This race course is about three hundred and
fifty feet wide, and rather more than three quarters of a mile long. The
seats for the judges, or the career, is placed at one end, and is raised
terracewise. From this place the racers started, and turned round two
mounds at the other end. It has been observed that if several chariots
contended, it must follow that those on the outside, having a greater
circuit to make than the inner rank, the equality between the competi-
tors was destroyed; but I am of opinion that this would be entirely obvi-
ated by the chariots being arranged, before starting, in a diagonal line,
from the corner of the career towards the side of the cursus, a form that
would, besides, allow the judges to have a proper view of those who
were to run.
There is another hypodrome about half a mile distant, which is sup-
posed to retain its ancient name in Rawdikes, derived from Rhedagua,
a race gro-jnd.f Another is seen near Dorchester; one is in the vicini-
* Lib. v. c. 9 ; he flourished in 165.
t Pownal on the Study of Antiquities.
ty of Royston, and another exists on the bank of the Lowther, near
Penrith. ' Perhaps the annual coursing around Cnoc an geal, in lona, at
the feast of St. Michael, may have originated among the pagan Celts.
The Cur ragh of Kildare, in Ireland, is supposed to have heen a cursus;
its name appears to come from comhruith,* a race-course. There is
also a plain called Curraugh, in the Isle of Man.
Mis-merh, the horse-month, was the name, according to Pryce, given
to March, because they, at that time, went to war on- horse back.f The
Britons continued to fight in cars in the time of Severus, who died 211,
and the era assigned to the Caledonian bard is the end of that century.
In the sixth century, from a quotation which Gratianus Lucius inserts,
we find of the Irish " collecto quando exercitu in curribus et equitibus,"
&c. At this time, they were used also by the Scots. From some Irish
writers, however, if they can be credited, it would appear that, about the
epoch of Christianity, the carbad was scarcely known. J Pinkerton
qjuotes an " Essai sur I'histoire de Picardie," to show that, so late as
1182, "cars were used in Flanders.
At the battle of Largs, in 1263, the Scots' horses were provided with
breast plates. It appears, from Nichols' Progresses of James I., that
the practice of horse racing, now so popular in England, was, about
that time, introduced from Scotland. In the Harleian MS., No. 681,
under the year 1593, it is stated that Earl Bothwell was to be at Kelso.
as the rumor went, ".to exercise the runninge and speed of horses."
In Uist, one of the Western Islands, Martin, who visited them at the
close of the seventeenth century, informs us there were yearly horseraces.
The Gauls used DOGS in war. Appian relates that a Celtic Ambassa-
dor's body guard was composed of these trusty animals. The Allobroges
also kept numbers of them for this service. The Cimbrians having left
their baggage in the charge of their dogs, they successfully defended it,
after the defeat of the army.|| The ferocity of the Celtic dogs rendered
them by no means despicable auxiliaries. Those of the Britons were
particularly esteemed, and great numbers were sent to Gaul, to be used
in war, being much superior to the continental breed. 1 do not find that
they were used by the Caledonians in battle, but they were kept for the
purpose of giving notice of the enemy's approach. TT The Scots' dogs
were famous all over the world for their good qualities. The Romans
imported great numbers from Britain, not indeed to recruit their armies,
but for the purpose of hunting.**
FIREARMS were introduced to Scotland in the beginning of the four-
teenth century. Barbour relates their first appearance, along with an-
other new article, at the siege of Berwick, in 1338.
* The mh quiescent. + Archseologia Cornu-Britan.
t Ogygia, p. Hi. 280, &c. Norwegian Account of Haco's expedition
|| Pliny, viii. 40. IT Smith's Gall. Ant
** Seethe " Cynegeticon"of GratiusFalisiua, p. 74, &c. ed. 1728, for the
of dogs in wai and the chase.
" Twa noweltyes that day they saw,
That forouth in Scotland had been nane ,
Tymrrieris for helmys war the tane,
The tothyr Crakys were of wer." *
Guns succeeded the ancient catapultse, formerly termed gynes. The
appellation was retained, the gyne became gun, and the gynour the gun
ner. The Gaelic gunna seems but a variation of guineach, an arrow,
or dart, which is derived from guin, a sharp and sudden wound. The
Highlanders seem never to have made much use of cannon, although
some castles were provided with them, and the rebel army in 1745 had
several pieces. Their firelocks were chiefly obtained from the continent,
for the manufacture does not appear to have been encouraged among
themselves. The guns of the old Highlanders were long, and of a pecu-
liar construction, like that represented in the hand of the Gordon in the
engraving, which is drawn from one of those taken in the last rebellions,
and now preserved in the armory of the Tower; where is to be seen
that which belonged to the unfortunate Earl of Mar, curiously and richly
ornamented with pearl, &c. It is of the time of James VI., and was
originally a match-lock.
Of PISTOLS, the Highlanders have long had a peculiar and very beau-
tiful manufacture.! They are formed entirely of metal, and differ in
several respects from those of other nations', as may be seen in the en-
graving. Both were carried on the left side, one being suspended in the
belt which secured the breacan, and the other in one fastened across the
right shoulder, to which they were attached by means of a long slide,
but many now erroneously carry one on the light side. The Highlanders
were accustomed, after they had. discharged their pistols, to throw them
forcibly at the heads of the enemy, and it must be allowed that a blow
from so hard a weapon would make no slight impression, but the policy
of relinquishing either pistols or musket, during an engagement, may
well be questioned. The Gael alleged that they were relieved of encum-
brances, and that if they won the battle, they could easily regain their
arms, and, if defeated, their loss was not of so much consequence, where
their possession could only incommode them, and retard the sp~ed of
* The Bruce, B. xiv. 392.
f Piostal, seems a compound of pios, a piece, the Italian pezzo, Sp.r-.ega,
ik also a common Gaelic name for a pistol.
retreat. This reasoning, I am afraid, is not altogether satisfactory, but
the practice was observed at Preston Pans, and at Falkirk, in 1745.
The manufacture of pistols was introduced in Doune, a village in
Perthshire, about 1646, by Thomas Caddel, who had acquired the art
at Muthil, a place in Strathern, from which he removed to Doune, where
he settled. Caddel taught his children and apprentices, one of whom,
called John Campbell, was a proficient in his trade; and his son and
grandson carried on the business, successively, with great advantage
The last-named person, who retired from the concern, manufactured
these pistols to the first nobility of Europe. Prince Ferdinand of Bruns-
wick, the hereditary Prince of Brunswick, the Duke of Cumberland,
and others, provided themselves with these elegant articles. John Mur-
doch, who succeeded Campbell, carried on the manufacture with equal
credit, and furnished his pistols to many of the nobility and gentry, but
the demand was much reduced, and Doirne has lost its former celebrity
for the fabrication of Highland pistols, which, at one time, had a superior
reputation in France, Germany, and other countries. A pair sold at
from four to twenty-four guineas. A tradesman, who was taught in this
celebrated school, fabricated a pair, superbly ornamented, which were
purchased by the magistrates of Glasgow, and presented to the Marquis
Campbell and Murdoch's pistols are common; Shiel and Caddel's are
less so; but all are of excellent manufacture. Many pistols bear the
name of Bisell, and those in the Tower appear all of this person's work,
which is plainer and less neat than the others. I have observed some
of the Highland pattern, which bore the names of foreign artisans, as
Petit Jean, Liege, &c. They are sometimes highly ornamented with
silver, gold, and even precious stones, the owner's arms, crest, or motto,
being usually engraved. The little knob between the scrolls is the top
of the pricker, which is made to unscrew.
It is surprising that the pistols and shot pouch, so essential and elegant
adjuncts to the costume, should not now appear in the dress of Highland
officers. The policy of depriving them of these useful and ornamental
appendages to their uniform, is not by any means apparent.
About seventy years ago, shooting at a mark was a favorite recreation
of the Highlanders. It was much practised in Aberdeenshire, especially
about Christmas, and it was the usual method for the decision of all raf-
fles, or lotteries; but the disarming act brought these amusements to
decay. The Highland Club of Edinburgh, which cherishes the sports
and pastimes of the Gael, has annual competitions in various athletic
and manly exercises; and, at the last meeting, the first prize for rifle
shooting was awarded to Cluny Mac Pherson, chief of Clan Chattan.
The Highlanders advanced to an attack with rapidity, and reserved
their fire until within musket length of the enemy, when they gave a
general discharge, and threw them down. They then drew their swords,
* Stat Account, xx. 86.
240 FIXING OF THE ARMS.
and, grasping their target, darted with fury on their adversaries, and
fought in the manner before described. They frequently used the dirk,
also, in their left hand, in which case the target was borne on the wrist
An officer of great military experience, in 1745, suggested some means,
practised by Count 'Munich against the Turks, to counteract the effect
of the Celtic weapons and mode of attack, which he thought much supe-
rior to those of the regular troops.
On the passing of the disarming act, after 1715, the Highlanders were
ordered to deliver up all their arms; but it was not difficult, in many
to evade the operation of the law. Tho loyal clans were allowed to re-
tain arms to protect themselves from the rebels, who, when obliged to
lay down their weapons, brought all those that were useless, and retain-
ed most of the serviceable part, which enabled them to take the field, in
1745. General Wade was appointed to receive the arms and submission
of the disaffected, in 1724; and, as the Mac Kenzies had been most ac-
tive in the rising of 1715, they were first called upon, and the inhabit-
ants of eighteen parishes summoned. They expressed their willingness
to submit to his Majesty, but requested that their surrender should not
be in presence of any other clan, but to the King's troops only. Their
desire was complied with, and they were also allowed to name the place
where they chose to make their submission. Having selected Castle
Brahan, the principal seat of their chief, the Marshal proceeded thither
with 200 men, and was there met by the chieftains of the several tribes,
who, with their followers, "marched in good order through the great
avenue, and, one after another, laid down their arms in the court yard
in great quiet and decency, amounting to 784 of the several species
mentioned in the act." The number of weapons of all kinds collected
during the year was 2685; 230 drovers, foresters, &c. being licensed to
In concluding this description of the Celtic weapons, some singular
customs of the ancient Scots may be noticed. It was usual to exchange
arms with guests for whom they entertained particular respect, or they
did so as a testimony of sincere friendship, and a pledge of lasting peace.
Those arms were long preserved, in the different families, as monuments of
former transactions. " Nor forgot did my steps depart: the chiefs gave
their shields to Carul; they hang in Col-amon in memory of the past. 1 '
To tell one's name to an enemy, is said to have been deemed an evasion
of combat, because, when it was known that friendship had formerly
subsisted between their ancestors, the fight ceased. " I have been re-
nowned in battle, but I never told my name to a foe. Yield to me, then
shalt thou know that the mark of my sword is in many a field."
When a warrior became old, or unfit for the field, he fixed, with cer-
tain formalities, his armor in the hall or house; and this impressive peri-
od was called the time of fixing the arms. The last of a race resigned
his arms to the tutelary guardians of his house. These weapons, with
the spoils of war, formed the chief ornaments in the dwellings of the
TOWNS, OR FORTS. 241
ancient Celts: they continued to grace the walls of castles in after ages,
and are still displayed in the mansions of those who preserve the ancient
and imposing style of decoration. The favorite weapons of the Celts
were distinguished by appropriate appellations. The sword of Fingul
was called " Mac an Luin," from its celebrated maker Luno. Others
were denominated " the bird of prey," " the flame of the Druids," &LC.
This practice was common to the Northern nations: in Suhne's History
of Denmark, the names of several famous swords are preserved.
The British tribes, at the period of the first Roman descent, appear to
have been all more or less advanced beyond that state, in which mankind
are but little superior to the animals with whom they contend for the do-
minion of the woods, and whose destruction they pursue as a chief means
of subsistence. Those who, either from choice or ignorance, neglected
the cultivation of the fertile earth, were not likely to have made much
advance in architecture, domestic or military.
In the most early state of society, a natural cave, or an artificial exca-
vation, is a sufficient protection from the severity of climate, or the pur-
suit of enemies.* In mild weather, and in the security of peace, the
savage beings repose and shelter themselves like the animals of the
forest, on the verdant bank, or beneath the umbrage of the leafy grove.
When mankind begin to domesticate the wild herds, their condition
becomes greatly meliorated. In those primitive ages, the cattle and
their owners partake of nearly the same accommodation, but the flocks
their only riches and means of subsistence are guarded with the utmost
solicitude, and in times of danger are protected with the most anxious
care. For this purpose, fortifications or strongholds are constructed,
sufficiently large to receive the whole tribe, and the cattle, when threat-
ened with danger.
The acquisition of the riches of numerous flocks leads to the division
of land, and induces the settlement of a tribe in one place, which is, in
some measure, restrained from roaming, by the opposition of others, jeal-
ous of encroachment on their territories. This early association soon
begins to cultivate a portion of the ground, and hence arises a stronger
attachment to one position, and a greater necessity for securing the addi-
tional property that may be acquired, which offers so strong a temptation
for the attacks of less fortunate, or more ferocious tribes. Thus, in the
most early ages, arise those places of strength, which are the towns of
a rude people. Before the epoch of Christianity, the Southern inhab-
itants of Britain were in this state of civilisation, and, about a century
afterwards, the Northern clans were found in nearly the same condition
From the commentaries of Caesar, it has been inferred, that there
were no towns in this island when he visited it; and from the words of
Tacitus, who says that the Germans did not live in cities, but settled just
* Some barrows, or cairns, in Scotland, having been found to contain
skeletons in an
opright posture, they are supposed to have been hiding places for
as a field or a fountain might invite, it is supposed that tha people were
equally destitute of towns. The Celtic race were not, indeed, partial
to a residence within walls, but they were sufficiently careful to con-
struct many fortifications which received the name of cities, and, from
their strength and magnitude, deserved the appellation. Josephus says,
there were twelve hundred cities in Gaul;* and Ptolemy enumerates
ninety in Germany. The Semnones inhabited one hundred towns, the
Suessiones had twelve, and the Nervii had as many.f In Spain, were
three hundred and sixty; J and at the period of the first settlement of the
Romans in Britain, its Celtic tribes, in England and Wales, possessed
upwards of a hundred.^ Dio Nicaeus, who flourished in the beginning
of the third century, says, neither the Caledonians nor Meats had towns,
or walled forts. They may not, in his meaning; but Tacitus informs us,
that beyond the Forth were " amplas civitates." There is every reason
to believe, that, even among the rudest of the Caledonians, there were
many of those strengths which, in other places, have been dignified by
the name of cities. The Celts, who constructed their forts as places of
retreat, were not likely to discover them to enemies, whom they always
endeavored to meet in the open field; and it is to this principle that we
must ascribe Caesar's ignorance of those astonishing places, which were
undoubtedly in existence previous to his arrival in the island. " What
the Britons call a town," says this accomplished writer, " is a tract of
woody country, surrounded by a vallum and ditch, for the security of
themselves and cattle, against the incursions of an enemy; for, when
they have inclosed a very large circuit with felled trees, they build with-
in it houses for themselves and hovels for their cattle." In this descrip-
tion, he is less satisfactory than on other occasions; for it gives no just
idea of those places. Some were, no doubt, of a rude construction,
from having been formed in haste, or for temporary occupation; in which
cases, the thick forests afforded a ready and well-adapted means of rais-
ing a strong barrier of prostrate trees with an accompanying ditch; but
the Celtic fort was a work of regular and judicious design, and must
have been executed with prodigious labor.
The Nervii protected themselves from the attacks of the Roman cav-
alry by a fence of young trees, bent, and interlaced with brambles and
thorns. These continuing to grow, and the breadth of the whole being
considerable, it was a fortification which could not by any means be en-
tered, or even looked into. || We find Ambiorix, when unexpectedly
attacked, taking refuge in an edifice environed with wood, which, sa\ 3
the same intelligent writer, was the case with most of the dwellings of
the Gauls, who, in order to avoid the heat, resorted to the neighborhood
of woods and rivers: hence the Romans carefully avoided the forests,
where they suffered so much from ambuscades. ^T
* By the Notitia Imperil, there were only 115. Gibbon, i. c. i.
t Bello Gall, ii 3. * Pliny. Whitaker.
Bello Gall. ii. c. 17. f Polybius, iii.
The Celtic towns were sometimes placed on peninsulas, or construct-
ed in marshes, difficult of access; but the favorite positions were the
summits of precipitous elevations, where the natural strength was in-
creased by ditches and ramparts, sometimes of astonishing magnitude,
and, notwithstanding Cresar's sarcastic remark, the British and Gallic
fortresses resisted the continued assaults of the Roman troops the best
soldiers in the world; and, although these places were rude and incom-
modious, compared with the elegant cities of Italy and Greece, yet the
conquerors themselves repeatedly acknowledged that they were excellent
fortifications. The Britons, according to Dio, either inhabited the tops
of barren mountains, or resided in plains, rendered secure by surround-
ing marshes. These last do not retain much visible marks of ancient
inhabitation: * the vestigia of Celtic castramctation are most conspicu-
ous on the summits of hills, where nature assisted the labors of the
architect and engineer. In the formation of these intrenchments, the
plan generally coincided with the figure of the hill, and hence the form
was usually circular or oblong. Sometimes there were several ditches,
or embankments, that increased in number and strength where the sides
were naturally weakest ; and the area has frequently one or more divi-
sions, which are reasonably presumed to have been intended for the
separate reception of the cattle and inhabitants. The Celtic towns were
not protected by wooden ramparts only, nor did they occupy a small spot
of ground. Alesia and Gergovia are represented as surrounded with
walls of great strength, that appear to have been erected about mid-hill,
six feet in height, and composed of great stones.j
It being in contemplation among the Gauls to burn Avaricum, the
Bituriges fell on their knees, praying that they should not be compelled,
with their own hands, to set fire to a city, the most beautiful nearly of
Gaul, and equally an ornament and protection to the State. They rep-
resented that, from the nature of the place, it could be easily defended,
being surrounded on all sides by a river and marsh, except where there
was but one very narrow entrance. After much discussion, their petition
was granted, and proper persons were appointed to conduct the defence
of the place. J
In Britain, the valla are most commonly of earthwork: sometimes
they are composed of stones, piled up without mortar; and sometimes
there is a mixture of both. The renowned Caractacus, or Caradoc, we
are told, reared huge ramparts of stone around his camp. In Scotland,
where this material is plentiful, the walls of the ancient forts are most
commonly built of it. There is sometimes only one entrance; more fre-
quently there are two; and not seldom, several are observed; all con~
trived with much art, being rendered secure by traverses.
* Ambresbury banks, in Essex, aie the remains of a Lowland town. Cough's
den, ii. p. 49. t Bello Gall. vii. 43.
J Bello Gall. vii. 14 Balk, Gaelic, a wall.
Tiie Herefordshire Beacon, situated on one of the highest of the
Malvern hills, is a remarkable specimen of a British hill fort. A steep
and lofty vallum of earth and stones, with a wide and deep ditch on the
outside, enclose an irregular oblong space of 175 feet by 1 10. Attached
to the principal area are two outworks, lower down the hill, evidently
adapted for the reception of cattle, horses, or chariots, and several banks
and ditches guard the acclivity of the hill. In King's Munimenta An-
tiqua, Stukely's Itinerarium Curiosum, and Hoare's Ancient Wiltshire,
will be found extended notices, with views of various British towns and
earthworks. In Scotland, the two Catherthuns in Angus, Barra hill,
Aberdeenshire, and many others, are singular monuments of the skill of
the Caledonians, in fortifying the summits of el&vated hills, with formi-
dable earth-works. The magnitude of these valla excites astonishment,
and we wonder by what means they were raised. The labor of forming
works so vast, in those rude ages, must have been great, and could only
be accomplished by the united exertions of whole tribes. A curious ac-
count of the operation is given by Cresar. The Nervians surrounded
their camp, with a line of which the rampart was eleven feet high, and
the foss fifteen feet deep, and having no other implements, they cut the
turf with their swords, and digging the earth with their hands, carried it
away in their cloaks. In less than three hours, they completed a circuit
of fifteen miles!*
On a hill, in the parish of Echt, in the county of Aberdeen, is a well
preserved fastness, the walls of which are formed of stone, without the
addition of any cement. This fortress is called the Barmekin, a term
derived from the old word, barme, or bawn, a bank or wall, for the purpose
of defence, applied, in many instances, to the outer ballium of a fortress,
The term is used by Gawin Douglas, and in 1509, a charter, given to
John Grant, of Freuchie, of the lands and fortalice of Urquhart, enjoins
him to " big the houses with Barmekin walls. "| It will be seen, from
the engraving, that these remains consist of five concentric ramparts
and intermediate ditches, inclosing an area of 347 feet diameter, accord-
ing to a measurement I took some years ago. The inner wall is the
most perfect, and is about five feet high, and ten or twelve thick at the
base. The others appear to have been of nearly similar dimensions, and
the exterior was formed with large flat stones, pitched edgewise, in man-
ner of a casing, to strengthen and secure the smaller ones in the body
of the wall. Large stones are also observable on each side the open-
ings, by which access was obtained to the interior, and which are six
or eight feet wide. Extended lines, the remains of walls, run a con-
siderable way towards the north, accompanied by tumuli, and the ves-
tigia of stone circles. (See engraving on next page.}
In Ireland similar remains are found. On the top of Gauir Conrigh,
a high mountain near Tralee, is a circular inclosure of stones, piled on
* Bello Gall. v. c. 34. t Harl. MS. 4134.
CONSTRUCTION OF WALLS.
each other, some of which measure ten cubical feet, and the hill being
very steep, it is matter of wonder how they could have been conveyed
to *tw olevated situation.
In Gaul, the art of fortification was well understood. The Celtoe,
when they contended for their liberties with the Romans, were not al-
ways actuated by that feeling which leads a rude and gallant people to
despise artificial protection, and prefer contention in the open plain. In
Gaul, were numerous towns, constructed as in Britain, on the summits
of the steepest and most inaccessible heights, and they were formed with
so much care and strength, that they seemed impregnable, and cost the
Roman Generals exceeding trouble to reduce. A description of the walls
is given by Caesar, who does not hesitate to bestow his unqualified praise
on their skilful erection. " The valla arc formed," says he, " of long
beam^ driven into the ground, at two feet distance from each other,
which are bound together in the inside with stout planks, and farther
strengthened by an earthen bank. The intervals on the outside, or
face of the wall, are filled up with several courses of large stones, well
cemented with mortar, a way of building beautiful and efficient, that
resisted both fire and the battering ram, and could neither be broken
through nor drawn asunder."*
In Celtiberia were a sort of walls reared by filling a wooden frame
* Bello Gall. <rii. c. 12.
with earth or clay.* When Caesar led his army towards the Alps, the
inhabitants of Larignum, trusting to the natural strength of the place,
and the efficiency of their fortifications, refused to surrender; the empe
ror, therefore, ordered it to be assaulted, and, after an obstinate defence,
the city was finally reduced. That which the inhabitants chiefly relied
on, when they resolved to resist the Roman arms, was a tower, said to
have been erected before the gate of the castle, and constructed of al-
ternate beams, raised in manner of a pyre, and carried so high that it
commanded the whole place. From this tower stakes, stones, and other
missiles, were unremittingly hurled on the besiegers, who, on their part,
strenuously endeavored to set it on fire. This mode of attack having
no effect, it was stormed ; when they learned that the fort was huilt 01
certain trees, very difficult to be burned, that grew plentifully in the
neighborhood, and were called larigna, from which the place received
Those singular remains, known in Scotland by the name of Duns, are
curious monuments of the skill of the ancient inhabitants in military
architecture. I do not here confine myself to those round towers of
admirable .structure, distinguished by this appellation, which, although
undoubtedly erected as places of defence, will more appropriately be
described in the following Chapter. The vestigia of the aboriginal for-
tresses are called Raths by the Irish, and both terms anciently denoted
a precipitous elevation, the natural site of Celtic strongholds. In like
manner, the Latin arx signified both the top of a hill and a castle; and
ban, that denoted a wall for defence, is still applied by the native Irish
to a mount.
The term dun, originally applied to the site of a fastness of whatever
construction, was given to those astonishing works peculiar to Scotlafld,
and distinguished by their formation from all others.
The VITRIFIED FORTS have excited a great degree of curiosity, and
must continue to be objects of wonder, from their magnitude and singu-
lar construction. The dry stonewalls of the original hill fort were, by a
process of vitrification, rendered a mass of impregnable rock; but the
means used to effect this change, can only be guessed at. These forts
appear to have been first noticed, in a scientific manner, by John Wil-
liams, mineral surveyor, in 1771, since which time various essays have
appeared, in different publications, with a view to determine the manner
by which the singular appearance of these remains was produced. The
walls, or masses of rampart, consist of stones, of various sizes, that have
been at one time in a state of semi-fusion, and are consequently so very
hard, that it is necessary to use force to detach any part. This mode
of building, which seems confined to Scotland, is so different from all
others, that it could not fail to engage the attention of antiquaries; and
the difficulty of accounting for the formation of these walls, led many to
Pliny, xxxv. 14. t Vitruvius Archil, ii. c. 9.
believe them produced by lightning, while some have considered them
the craters of exhausted volcanoes; * and others have concluded that
they were vitrified hy accidental conflagration.'!" It seems agreed that
the people who raised these works, were ignorant of the use of lime or
other cement; and it is not improbable, that accidental conflagration may
have at first given the hint for so peculiar a mode of architecture; but
whether a process like the burning of kelp, or the addition of any par-
ticular substance to the part exposed to the heat, produced the fusion of
the mass, is not known. It has been conjectured, that vast defences of
wood may have surrounded the ramparts by the casual burning of which
they were vitrified; but this supposition is as objectionable as others,
even although, in some instances, the walls may have been exposed to
the heat on one side only. In no buildings that have been destroyed by
fire, are effects observable at all similar to these vitrifications.
A letter appeared in the Edinburgh Magazine, for September, 1787,
written, as Pinkerton tells us he was informed, by the learned George
Dempster, on the authority of Gordon's MS. History of the Sutherland
Family, which Sir Robert Sibbald seems to have seen,J and its tenden-
cy is to reduce the supposed antiquity of these forts by many ages. It
is there said that Dun Criech, in Sutherland, was built by one Paul
Mac Tyre, between 1275 and 1297, a hero whose history is allowed, even
by the writer, to savor more of fable than reality, the stories concerning
him being believed only "amongst the vulgar people." He is said to
have used a " kynd of hard mortar." It would be more satisfactory
were it proved that he had any hand in its erection.
The Castle of Dun'a deer, in the district of Gariach, Aberdeenshire,
is a curious vestige of vitrification. Dr. Anderson, who bestowed con-
siderable attention to the investigation of these remains, says the mas-
ses in this Dun are the firmest he had ever met with. He accompanies
a long and minute description with accurate plans and views, j adhering
to the belief that vitrifications were produced by artificial process. The
opinion that this ruin, and the more wonderful ramparts on the summit
of Noth, several miles westward, are volcanic remains, is scarcely en-
titled to notice. The rock, on which Dun'a deer stands, is a sort of
slate which, I believe, is never found in decayed craters. The ruins
cover the summit of a beautiful green hill, and formerly consisted of a
double court of building, inclosed by a massy rampart and two wide
trenches, strengthened with additional works where naturally weakest.
These latter parts are now very imperceptible; but forty-two feet of the
western wall, in the interior building, is about thirty feet high, and ten
01 twelve thick. So complete a fragment induces Dr. Anderson to think
* Phil Trans. 1777, Part ii. No. 20. Robert Riddel, Esq. F. S. A. Archzeo.
Hon. Daines Barrington. Ibid. vi. 101.
t Chalmers in " Caledonia." Titler in Phil. Trans. Edin.
J Vera Scot. Descript. MS. in Lib. Advoc. Edin.
Arcliseo. and The Bee, Vols. ix. and x.
that the upper part was built on the site of a more ancient structure; yet,
from personal observation, I am inclined to believe that all the walls are
of equal antiquity. A heat, sufficient to vitrify the base of the walls,
might not affect the upper part in a similar way; but if it was a later
erection, it is difficult to account for the appearance; for the building is
square, a form, I believe, unknown in any other vitrification; in some
parts, also, we perceive ashler work, and portions of other good mason-
ry. If this building was submitted to the above process, it is, perhaps,
one of the latest instances: Dun 'a deer was a royal residence, and it is
a historic fact, that Gregory the Great died here in 892.
The following extracts from Dr. Anderson's communication to the
Society of Antiquaries, in 1777, respecting these most remarkable of
all Scotish Antiquities, will be found interesting; but his curious theory
is not quite satisfactory.
The first fortification of this kind, which he examined, is situated on
the top of a steep hill, called Knockferrel, two miles west of Dingwall,
in Ross-shire; and, as he observes, an idea of others may be formed from
a description of this one: it is, in most respects, applicable to that of
Noth. The fort is placed on the ridge of an oblong shaped hill, very
steep on three sides, the walls being raised on the edge of a precipice
all round, except the end where you can enter the area; the inclosed
space of nearly an acre being almost level. It is to be observed, that,
in all these forts, the places where it is possible to approach the walls,
are strengthened by additional lines of rampart, and here both ends had
been so guarded. "Those at the entry," says the doctor, "had ex-
tended, as I guessed, about one hundred yards, and seem to have con-
sisted of cross walls, one behind another, eight or ten in number; the
ruins of which are still plainly perceptible. Through each of these
walls there must have been a gate, so that the besiegers would have
been under the necessity of forcing each of these gates successively
before they could carry the fort: on the opposite end of the hill, as the
ground is considerably steeper, the outworks seem not to have extended
above twenty yards. Not far from the further end was a well now filled
up. The wall, all round from the inside, appears to be only a mound
of rubbish, consisting of loose stones; the vitrified wall is only to be
seen on the outside. It appears, at first sight, surprising, that a rude
people should have been capable of discovering a cement of such a sin-
gular kind as this is; but it is no difficult matter, for one who is
ed with the nature of the country where these structures abound, to
give a very probable account of the manner in which this art has been
originally discovered, and of the causes that have occasioned the know-
ledge of it to be lost. Through all the Northern parts of Scotland, a
particular kind of earthy iron ore, of a very vitrescible nature, much
abounds. This ore might have been accidentally mixed with some stones
at a place where a great fire was kindled, and, being fused by the heat,
would cement the stones into one solid mass, and give the first hint of
the uses to which it might be applied. The wall of Knockferrel al! "ound
is covered on the outside with a crust of about two feet in thickness, con-
sisting of stones immersed among vitrified matter: some of the stones be-
ing half fused themselves all of them having evidently suffered a con-
siderable heat. The crust is of an equal thickness of about two feet,
from the top to the bottom, so as to lie upon, and be supported by, a
backing of loose stones, forming, in section, an acute angle. Within
the crust of vitrified matter, is another stratum, of some thickness, paral-
lel to the former, which consists of loose stones, which have been scorch-
ed by the fire, but discover no marks of fusion." The doctor believes,
that the wall being raised, and the interstices filled full of the
ore, " nothing more was necessary to give it the entire finishing, but to
kindle a fire all round it sufficiently intense to melt the ore, and thus to
cement the whole into one coherent mass, as far as the influence of the
By whatever process the walls were thus strengthened, all these
works are, in every respect, except the vitrification, similar to other hill
forts ; both are situated on eminences, both have the usual appendages
of wells, circles, tumuli, roads, &c., and both have ramparts formed of
stone, without cement.
In the elaborate work of Mr. King, various castles in England, of un-
known antiquity, are asserted to be the work of ages long anterior to the
Saxon invasion. This writer indulges his favorite hypothesis in assign-
ing several of these structures " to Phoenician settlers, or some other
foreigners from the east," but he allows that the Britons may have also
erected them. The instances which he adduces are unlike all castellations
of the Romans, or any other known invaders of this island; and we may
safely believe that they were constructed by the Celtic inhabitants while
they retained their independence. These buildings are generally situ-
ated in secluded parts of the country, on elevations difficult of access,
and it may be consequently presumed, that they would long escape the
destructive assaults of the sordid spoliator. To demolish bulwarks so
solid and massy, would have been a work of labor equal to that of their
erection. In assigning any building to the early Britons, it must in-
deed be observed that no positive demonstration of the fact can be giv-
en, nor any certain date ascribed to a ruin, yet the peculiar style of
these castellations, different from all the varieties adopted in known pe-
riods, gives them a reasonable claim to high antiquity.
Before dismissing the subject of the military erections of the Southern
Celts, it may be desirable to describe some of those castellated remains
that are supposed to be of British origin, but are of unknown date.
Of these, Launceston castle, in Cornwall, described in the Beauties for
that county, is a curious example. On the top of a conical hill of great
height, is a round keep or tower, the walls of which are ten feet in thick-
250 METHODS OF DEFENCE.
ness, while the clear area does not exceed eighteen feet and a half in
diameter. This tower is surrounded by three concentric walls of stone,
a fourth having been carried round the base of the rock on which the
castle is placed. The erection of this edifice must have been attended
with much laborious exertion.
Castell Corndochon, situated on the summit of a high rock, near
Snowdon, and some remains at Caerleon, in Wales, are attributed by
Mr. King to British attempts, in imitation of Roman architecture; and
Carn-bre in Cornwall, is supposed to have been erected by the natives
before the conquerors had finally evacuated the island. Brynllys castle,
in the county of Brecknock, being situated in a district which does not
afford a rocky elevation like that on which Launceston is planted, is
built of peculiar strength, its base assuming the appearance of an artifi-
cial mount of stone. It is to be observed, that in most of the ancient
castellated buildings throughout England and Wales, innovations have
been made by successive occupiers, which the architectural critic can
easily distinguish from the original work. A perusal of the " Introduc-
tion to the Beauties of England and Wales," or the study of Mr. Brit-
ton's works on English architecture, will enable any one to discriminate
the styles that prevailed in different ages.
The vast intrenchments which the Celts threw up, and the massy walls
which they reared in places the most difficult of access, which still re-
main the wonderful monuments of their skill and labor, attest the care
which they bestowed on the construction of strongholds, capable of re-
sisting the assaults of an enemy. These people had, indeed, an aver-
sion to a residence in towns, yet were they not inattentive to their utili-
ty, and sometimes, by necessity, they were compelled to retire to the'm,
where they defended themselves by various means, with desperate reso-
lution, raising walls, towers, galleries, and other works, which struck
their enemies with admiration. When besieged in the city of Avaricum,
or Bourges, where the Romans assaulted them with incredible bravery,
they behaved with a resolution and activity that long baffled the attempts
of their enemies. With long ropes they turned aside the hooks of the
besiegers, and when they caught them, they drew them into the town by
means of engines. They also endeavored to undermine the mount
which was raised against the walls, and by various contrivances and in-
cessant exertions, rendered the efforts of the Romans ineffectual. They
raised towers on all parts of their ramparts, and covered them very
carefully with raw hides, to prevent their combustion; and, continuing
their sallies, day and night, they either set fire to the mount, or frll on
the workmen and put them to flight. As the Roman towers increased
in height, so they diligently raised those on the walls continually add-
ing one story after another, to prevent being overtopped. They also
counterworked the mines; sometimes filling them up with large stones,
sometimes pouring scalding pitch on the miners, or attacking them with
DISLIKE TO TOWNS. 251
long stakes burned and sharpened at the ends.* Caesar observes, that,
from working in their mines, they were very dexterous in sapping and
overthrowing the mounts and towers which were raised against them.
With that ingenuity and aptitude to learn, by which they were charac-
terized, they soon imitated the Romans, and began to understand
this part of military tactics. In the time of Vitellius, says Tacitus, the
Germans used the battering ram, an expedient altogether new to them,
but a people who could fortify their towns with such admirable art, were
not likely to be altogether deficient in the practice of assaulting them.
The Celtae and Belgce, we learn from Caesar, used the same methods in
attacking a town; they surrounded the walls, and never ceased throwing
stones by means of their numerous slingers, until they had swept the be
sieged off the walls; when, casting themselves into a testudo, they ap-
proached the gate. The Caledonians had long hooks wherewith they
dragged the unhappy soldiers from the wall of Severus. When the
Gauls, under Ambiorix, attacked Cicero's camp, they threw hot clay
bullets and heated darts among the Romans.
Notwithstanding the remains of so many intrenchments, constructed
with amazing strength, and dispersed all over the island, it is certain
that the Celtae placed more dependence on their personal valor than
the strength of ramparts. Towns were objects of aversion with these
oeople, as places of permanent residence; but the safety of their wives
and their children, and the security of their flocks, required fortifica
tions. In these retreats, the warriors must have spent the time, which
was not occupied in war, or hunting, along with their families, and de-
posited the property which they possessed; but society was too barba-
rous for a settled life, and when their territories were invaded, the war-
riors marched out with alacrity to repel the aggression. It was an
unfortunate circumstance, if surprised in their retreats; and, to prevent
this, they used every precaution. "They avoided the towns as dens
and places beset with nets and toils, f conceiving, that, to trust for
in the defence of fortifications, was inimical to personal valor", and in-
jurious to warlike renown. When the Tencleri sent ambassadors to the
people of Cologne, exhorting thorn to resume their ancient manners,
from which the Romans had induced them to depart, " Demolish the walls
of your city, these ramparts of your servitude," say they; "for even
beasts, that are naturally wild and savage, if confined, are brought to for-
get their boldness and vigor." J In a general council of Gauls, it was
determined to destroy their towns, and in one day more than twenty of
those in the state of the Bituriges were burned. The use of machines,
without which places of strength cannot be attacked, or well defended,
increases in proportion to the declension of personal valor, of which the
Romans furnish a striking example. The Celts despised these means
* Bello Gall. ii. t Amm. Mar. xvi. 1.
I Tuc. Annals, iv. Bello Gall. vii. ]4
<252 DUNS, OR SIGNAL TOWERS.
of conquest, although they had sufficient ingenuity to construct them
The Muc of the Gael was like the Pluteus; it was moved on three
wheels, and was covered with twigs, hair cloth, and raw hides
As the Celts, however, disliked standing a siege, so they had no great
inclination, and seldom much success, in attacking a city. On one occa-
sion, they closely invested Agrippina, in which the Ernperor Julian lay,
with only a few troops; but this part of the science of war required more
time than their impatience would allow, and, after thirty days, they retir-
ed, " muttering quietly among themselves the regret, that vainly and
foolishly they had ever thought of besieging the city."* The army of
the heroic Bonduica studiously avoided attacking the Roman forts.
The Duns in Scotland were generally constructed within sight of each
other, that an intimation of danger might be speedily conveyed through-
out the country. The signal was fire, which was also kindled on cairns,
or heaps of stones raised on eminences for that purpose. According to
Irish chronicles, certain persons were appointed to attend to these fires,
that were also lighted for the guidance of mariners. Martin speaks of
numerous cairns in the Isles, on which the " warning flame" was raised
by burning heath, a sentinel being stationed at each, to give notice of
invasion or other danger; and the steward of the Isles made frequent
rounds to inspect these stations. If he found any of the watchmen
asleep, he stripped them of their clothes; but their personal punishment
was the prerogative of the chief.
In the Duns, a sentinel, called Gockman, was placed, says Dr. Mac-
pherson, who called out at intervals to show his vigilance; and, accord-
ing to the Celtic practice, he was obliged to deliver all his information
in rhymes: a large horn, full of spirits, stood by his side, probably for
the inspiration of his muse. Martin describes Mac Niel's castle, in the
isle of Kismul, near Barra, on the top of which one of these watchmen
was stationed night and day. There was, besides, a constable who ex-
ecuted his trust so faithfully, that Martin could not, by any entreaty,
gain access to the building. These men had their perquisites very
punctually paid at two terms, and it is not above a century since the cus-
tom was disused.
Thus much it has been thought proper to say in this place of the Cel-
tic methods of constructing their strongholds. The arts of castrarneta-
tion and architecture are so closely allied in that state of society in
the Celts so long remained, that it was impossible entirely to disjoin them
in the foregoing notices. With a rude, martial, and unsettled people,
architecture can make but slow advances, and its origin is the effort of
untutored man, to defend himself from the rage of his enemies. The
Celts fortified the summits of precipitous elevations by earth works, by
rude stone walls and wooden ramparts, before they were able to raise
* Amm. Mar. xvi
the skilfully-constructed walls which surrounded the towns of Gaul and
Britain. The Gael piled up a bulwark of rough stones, before they
could form tne vitrifications and circular duns which so powerfully excite
our admiration, and they exerted their architectural skill as military en-
gineers, and for the general welfare before it was employed for domes-
tic purposes or personal comfort.
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