View Single Post
Old 31st January 2010, 03:33 PM   #5
Jim McDougall
Jim McDougall's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,695

Cathey and Chris thank you so much!!!! This is absolutely wonderful, I've been hoping to get something going on Scottish basket hilts, and you both come in with Black Watch examples!!!!! Magnificent examples both, and Cathey, thank you for the comprehensive and detailed bibliography on the subject.
Its great to know that another book on Scottish baskethilts is in process, and this is long awaited, especially on those developmental styles up until the '45. Naturally after that and the proscription, most baskethilts fell into the military classification. As noted, the Mazansky reference is probably one of the most comprehensive resources on typology to date.

Cathey, thank you for sharing the outstanding example of these very early basket hilts. There has always been a great deal of confusion concerning the development of the Scottish baskethilt, and I think Claude Blair has done a great job on clarifying much of it in his work in the David Caldwell book.
Naturally much of the nonsense that was once held, such as the ancestry of the baskethilt deriving from the schiavona of the Dalmatians in Venice, which arose in the romanticized notions of some early collectors, has been put to rest.

One thing I would really like to learn more on, and hopefully we can develop here, is perspective on the symbolism often imbued in the work in these Scottish hilts. Whitelaw was probably the first to suggest that Jacobite symbols were covertly emplaced in the piercings and styling in these hilts, and to my knowledge this subject has not been approached in any depth since.

I recall years ago the subject intrigued me, and I set out on a course trying to discover more on this esoteric symbolism. One of the most interesting to me at the time was that of the heart shaped piercings in the saltires of the hilts. I contacted a number of sources including Professor Zygulski in Poland and Mr. Blair himself, and while they considered the subject interesting, conceded it had not been sufficiently researched to comment. As my search continued even Dr. Mazansky, whose notably important book was in progress at the time, pointed out that his interest was more in classification and typology.

Some time ago there were some discussions brought up concerning Jacobite symbols, one being the five point star, but stalled far before productive ideas gained impetus. The subject has since been dormant to the best of my knowledge.
I am hoping that here might look into the development of the Scottish hilts, the styling and forms as well as the symbolism I have mentioned.

With these outstanding examples of these Black Watch baskethilts, it is interesting to consider the profound influence of the heirloom Scottish hilts to the swords used by this incredibly important Scottish regiment.

The military swords in the 1750-70 period were typically produced in England by makers such as Jeffries and Drury in Birmingham if memory serves, and were faithfully designed with Scottish style baskethilts, as seen with the example shown by Cathey, but clearly with heirloom blade as seen with ANDREA FERARA markings. If I am not mistaken, these type hilts were often attributed to the Black Watch, as her excellent example supports.

Manolo, absolutely fascinating to hear of these Black Watch baskethilts there!!! I hope you can find more on them. It seems this regiment was quite represented in the America's, and it would be great to know more on thier presence there in San seems I once saw an article about them in Georgia (USA).

It should be noted that during the 18th century, the basket hilt sword was favored for the cavalry, and prevalent with dragoon regiments such as the Royal North British Dragoons (who became known as the Royal Scots Greys).
An interesting feature on many of these hilts is an oval aperture in the hilt which is still debated as to its purpose.

The outstanding example of Black Watch baskethilt that Chris has shared here with regimentally marked hilt, appears to be a heirloom sword, which is a distinct rarity considering the confiscation of weapons after the '45. There is a lot of history here!

It is important to note that the name 'Black Watch' has nothing to do with dark colored tartans or any of those type associations. In the parlance of the times, the term 'black' referred to semantics such as hidden, covert or unknown, and this unit evolved essentially from secret police type groups within the clans. This same application is seen in the term 'skean dubh' for the small knife hidden traditionally in the Highlander stocking. The term 'dubh' in Gaelic = black, literally, but again meant hidden or unseen...skean= knife.
It is said that after the treachery at Glencoe, where Highlanders who had laid down thier arms in a visit were slain, that a small knife kept them armed even after thier regular arms were surrendered.

Thank you again Cathey and Chris!!!!! Fantastic thread and examples!!!

All the very best,
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote