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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - Aug/Sep 2002
Claymore or Baskethilt Swords

by Dick Lucas who owns The Scottish Armoury.

When I travel about the country I often hear the big two handed sword with the quillons ending in an open work quadtrefoil formed of four short tubes welded together called a Claymore.

I also hear others saying, "no", the Claymore is the Baskethilt broad sword and the two-handed sword is just that, a two-handed sword.

So who is right?

Lets look at some of the expert's opinions. In the summer of 1996 an exhibition of swords was held at Culloden commemorating the battle there in 1746. There were some swords on display that had never been seen by the public before and The National Trust for Scotland published a book called "The Swords and the Sorrows" with many of these swords pictured in the book. The sword pictured in the book with the quadtrefoil described above is called a two-handed Highland sword and under those words are "claidheamh da laimh."

I do not speak Gaelic or attempt to but I am told those Gaelic words mean, two-handed sword. There are other pictures of big swords of different style quillons with these Gaelic words under them. [This is the correct translation, if you want to add them there are accents: d lmh. d = two, lmh = hand. Information supplied by Barry Bennett]

Other two-handed swords with different quillons do not have the Gaelic term under it and is simply called a two-handed sword and they are considered lowland Scottish swords. This style sword was also commonly used in Ireland. A Glossary of the Construction and Use of Arms and Armor by George Cameron Stone has pictured a sword with the Highland style quillons and they call it a Claymoree. Stone also uses Gaelic words to describe the sword (claidheamh-mor and/or claidhmichean-mhor). Stone also says in the book that name is usually used for the later Scotch broadsword which is actually the Venetian schiavona.

Now lets look at the Baskethilt.

The Baskethilt comes in many hilt styles but are usually known by two common names, the Basket-hilted broadsword and the Basket-hilted backsword.

The Swords and the Sorrows has Gaelic written under the broadsword (claidheamh mor) and the backsword has (claidheamh cuil) written under it. The broadsword is double edged while the backsword is edged only on the edge facing away from the open side of the hilt and was preferred by the calvary. The baskethilt with the curved blade was called a basket-hilt sabre (claidheam crom). The term baskethilt is not used by Stone but lists all baskethilts under the broad category-broadswords and also described them as single edged.

These swords commonly associated with the Scots were used worldwide and even most of the Scottish baskethilts were made on the continent.

So who is right about the swords? I have seen both swords in museums all across the UK and the big sword in called a Claymore.

The master armourer that makes some of my swords calls the big sword a Claymore and the small sword a Baskethilt.

Weapon displays in many of the castles I have visited call the big sword a Claymore and the small sword a Baskethilt.

Personally I am going to call them what my friends in Scotland call them - the big sword is a Claymore and the small sword is a Baskethilt.

I am sure I will hear from some of you about what these weapons were called and I hope some Gaelic speaking person will clarify the Gaelic terms for all of us.

If anyone would like more information on these or other medieval weapons I can be reached through The Family Tree.

Return to August/September 2002 Index


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