The Shillelagh


An Ancient Weapon
A shillelagh (pronounced “shi-LAY-lee”) is now thought of as a walking cane. In Celtic Ireland, it was a stick weapon, usually made of blackthorn wood or strong oak.

The name comes from the blackthorn of the Shillelagh Forest, although the weapon may or may not have originated there. A primitive shillelagh had a hard root on the hitting end of the stick. A more refined shillelagh had a hollowed out end filled with molten lead. It was a deadly weapon in close combat.

The Irish used the shillelagh in combat for centuries. The gallowglass warriors of ClanDonnell may have perfected its use. They could be as nimble as martial arts nunchucks or stick fighters.

The Shillelagh Forest is in County Wicklow, or at least it used to be. Tomnafinnoge Woods is that last surviving fragment of the oak woods which once filled south Wicklow. These woods supplied timber for King’s College in Cambridge, Westminster Abbey in London, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College in Dublin, as well as the great ships of the English (and later British) Navy.

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Shillelagh loaned to ClanDonnell by the Bun Brady Ancient Order of Hibernians for the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

March 28, 2015

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