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Old 13th February 2008, 03:59 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Scottish basket hilts and edged weapons

Over the years there has been occasional mention in discussion of certain Scottish weapons such as the sgian dubh or the Scottish dirk, with several instances of the distinct Scottish basket hilt sword brought in as well. In the comprehensive study of ethnographic edged weapons, those of Scotland are distinct and intriguing, yet are typically not included in this category, and examples of the weapons as well as information on them are equally difficult to find.

It has many years since I actually worked on any research on these, and recently I have become interested in learning more on the development, history and identification of these fascinating weapons. I am hoping everyone might join here in a study of these weapons that will bring together the knowledge and research skills of the membership and readers in learning together about them.

One of the most intriguing of Scottish edged weapons, to me, is the famed basket hilt sword. It is generally held that these fully developed basket guards most likely evolved from similar hilts in North Europe, as well as basket type hilts in England, though the exact progression seems unclear. In the identification of the Scottish hilts, there seem to be two primary forms, named for regions of production; the Glasgow hilt and the Stirling hilt. Naturally, there are numerous variations, and I would like to learn more on the key identifying features of these hilts.

Another feature that is fascinating about the Scottish basket hilt is the symbolism incorporated into the elements of the hilt itself. Often in the saltire plates, there are designs pierced as well as geometric devices inscribed, which in many cases are believed to be the secretive symbolism of the Jacobites, faithful to the Stuarts. It would be most interesting to discuss these symbols, the designs with imbued symbolism constructed into the hilts themselves (such as the 'S' in Stirling hilts) .
The shape, and designs on the pommels would also prove interesting in identifying and dating these hilts.

We have often discussed the prevalent use of trade blades in previous threads, and the basket hilt swords of Scotland are a key case in point. The blades of these swords seem to be predominantly from Germany, though many carry spurious inscriptions and names of Spanish makers. One of the most curious mysteries in the history of famed swordmakers is of course that of Andrea Ferrara, which appears on a majority of Scottish blades, and I would like to address that case as well.

With this being the basic outline for the course of the thread, I hope we can establish an initial guide to the study of the basket hilts, and learn more on some of the associated topics I have mentioned. I know that a number of members have Scottish basket hilts (very nice examples as I recall!) and hope they will join in posting these.
Mr. Paul MacDonald of Edinburgh, who as many here will know, is an outstanding authority and restorer on these Scottish basket hilts, and who has joined us recently on a concurrent thread, has indicated he will join us here in discussion. Mr. MacDonald, as many are probably also aware, did the restoration on what is undoubtedly one of the most historic of these Scottish basket hilts, that of the Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor.

I very much look forward to learning more on these weapons, and as always, to the great discussions that bring together the outstanding knowledge that is proudly hallmarked here with all of you.

With very best regards,
Jim
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Old 13th February 2008, 07:47 PM   #2
Norman McCormick
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Hello,
From my name you've probably realised that if not from Scotland I'm certainly of Scots/Irish descent. I actually live in the West End of Glasgow not far, luckily for me, from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum the place which as a child first gave me an interest in Arms and Armour. You will all also know that genuine Scottish antique arms are on the somewhat pricey side and as as result, unfortunately, I've not been able to bag a sword, dirk etc., yet !!! A number of months ago my son asked me if I had a sgian dubh he could borrow, I didn't, I had lost the last one years ago and hadn't bothered to replace it. I decided to do something I had been thinking about and make one. Whether a son was being nice to a dad or not after I gave him the sgian he asked me to make him a dirk as well. True to my roots, some would say, for both pieces I rummaged about in the garage for bits and pieces, wood from an old Victorian wardrobe, various bits of metal including a shovel handle and an angle bracket and luckily a bit from the middle of a badly damaged sword blade. The results, see photos, are not the the most decorative of pieces being plain and to the point, no pun intended, but are strong, sharp and pointy in all the right places. I don't know if this is the right place for modern pieces but I think, and hope, they conform to the spirit of Ethnographic weaponry.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th February 2008, 04:41 AM   #3
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Hello Norman,
Thank you very much for posting, and especially for showing us these very beautifully done examples with indeed do reflect, in the beautifully written words of Paul MacDonald, the 'heart' put into these weapons. As you have noted, the true early examples of Scottish weapons are indeed hard to find, and typically quite high priced. While the objective here is to identify the forms and identifying characteristics of these early forms, your outstanding work certainly reflects the spirit imbued in these most important weapons.
Thank you again for sharing these!
All the best,
Jim
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Old 14th February 2008, 06:41 AM   #4
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Default Scottish Basket hilts

Invariably, someone will mention the Italian schiavonna being a predecessor to the baskethilt, but I've always failed to see the true similarity. True, though, that the basket hilt wasn't in Scotland in the period pre-1600, making one wonder if there might be some connection. The claymores of William Wallace being the fancy in those earlier times. Still, I don't think that a surrounding hand guard/hilt was found only on schiavonna (the so-called Sinclaire saber comes to mind). What I do wish to know, however, is did these swords truly originate in Scotland or more in England. English baskets seem to have been around for the same time period and of the basic pattern. Likewise, I'm interested to learn more on the significance of the backsword (single-bladed, for cavalry??, horse-back?) vs the broadsword. Excellent to see this thread on what I deem to be an ethnographic sword (certainly the ones whose decoration/symbols and individual forging make them unique, not the latter Regiment models)...
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Old 14th February 2008, 12:29 PM   #5
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Hi Mark,
Its great to see you in on this one! and the questions and notes you bring up are exactly those I hope we can resolve in some degree here. The old schiavona chestnut was contrived back in the Victorian collecting days by one of the sages of that time. I need to find the notes on who that was, as well as on the schiavona, which developed independantly and I believe later than the earliest basket hilts. The 'Sinclair' sabres were indeed similar in the surround basket guard form in variation, but as you note, the basket hilt existed in England as well in these early times, and I believe the term exists in Shakespeares work .

Good suggestion on the broadsword vs. the backsword, and if I am not mistaken the Scottish basket hilts were typically broadswords, as they were for fighting on foot. From what I understand of Scottish fencing, these double edged blades were most effective in the distinct method they were used (and I look forward to more on this from Mr. MacDonald, who is not only a professional restorer, but a Master of Arms).
The single blade backswords, as you note, were I believe cavalry weapons that came in about mid 18th century, and although many of these carried Scottish style basket hilts, they were actually English swords.

In any case, I would like to know more specifically on these questions as well, and I'm glad you brought them in here. Thanks very much Mark.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 14th February 2008, 01:12 PM   #6
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Jim McDougall wrote:
Quote:
the basket hilt existed in England as well in these early times, and I believe the term exists in Shakespeares work .
Thanks to the Internet, such things are much easier to find than in the days long ago when I was a struggling English major
Shakespeare wrote:
Quote:
Away, you cut-purse rascal! you filthy bung, away! By this
wine, I'll thrust my knife in your mouldy chaps, an you play
saucy cuttle with me. Away, you bottle-ale rascal! you
basket-hilt stale juggler, you! Since when, I pray you, sir?
God's light, with two points on your shoulder? Much!
-Henry IV, Part II; Act II, Scene 4.
Footnote to The Yale Shakespeare indicates the term is used literally: "referring to the basket-shaped steel hand-guard on the hilt of Pistol's sword".
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Old 14th February 2008, 06:16 PM   #7
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A most interesting thread. I hope to learn a lot from it.
Norman, a lovely sgian dubh and dirk. Thank you for sharing.

I really hope to see more beautiful artifacts from Scotland.
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Old 14th February 2008, 07:27 PM   #8
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Hi,
Thanks for the kind words. I have seen many examples of both the broadsword and backsword indeed the museum I mentioned in a previous post has quite a collection of these artifacts. The one item that is seldom mentioned is the Claidheam Crom or basket hilt sabre. Although in the minority as regards Scottish swords it appears to have been in use alongside its more normal straight bladed contemporaries. It has been difficult to find any definitive statistics with regard to the basket hilt sabre and this has led me to wonder if this variant is more of a sword of opportunity rather than anything else i.e. a captured or purloined weapon rehilted. It appears reasonable that a perfectly servicable blade should not be disposed of or drastically altered, remember Scottish prudence and thrift, but altered to suit a new owner. I have read somewhere of a sea service sword being rehilted with a basket at the request of a British Naval captain but what type of sword or when escapes me at the moment. As to the origin of the basket hilt I don't think there is any one answer. Scotland in the 16/17th cent. had many, probably more so than now, and varied links with Europe and I believe that most armies of the time, as far east as Russia, had Scottish mercenaries or indeed full time soldiers as in the case of France. It doesn't seem unreasonable that ideas and fashion should filter back to Scotland through these links and that a basic basket type hilt, which with the loss of armoured gauntlets was an obvious progression, should be adopted and enlarged upon and taken up by so many that it developed into an archetypal Scottish feature. Many cultures have taken outside ideas and made them into their own I don't see any reason to doubt that various forms of basket type hilts were in use throughout Europe and that the Scots just took the form to a greater degree than anyone else. Of course this is conjecture on my part but in my experience a lot of highly individual and stylized forms tend to evolve from a lot of different influences rather than just happen. Anyhow I am eager to hear more from other members on this most interesting subject.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th February 2008, 07:34 PM   #9
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Some baskets.
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Old 14th February 2008, 08:56 PM   #10
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WOW! Norman, now thats what I'm talkin' about! Very nice photos that show detail beautifully. Very well thought out observations on the origins and development of these swords, and it really would be difficult to draw a direct line of progression. All we can do is look at the provenanced and dated forms from the various regions. I have been trying to recall where it was that it was noted that the 'schiavona' connection was discounted and it was shown which early writer had begun that theory, I think it was the article in Caldwell by Blair on the baskethilts that referred to the misperception, and if not mistaken, it may have been Guy Laking that suggested the schiavona origin. According to what I have read, it seems that Drummond in "Ancient Scottish Weapons" (1881) illustrates several schiavona in his book, and possibly that may have insinuated a connection.

It seems that the developing basket type hilts for the schiavona, the Germanic forms including that of the Landsknechts, so called Sinclair sabres, and English forms were all contemporary in the mid to latter 16th c.
( thank you Berkely for that Shakespeare reference! Thats one of the exact references I recall!
The baskethilt found in the "Mary Rose" wreck (1545) is a great example of early English basket hilts, another I think was the one found near the Bahamas in the wreck of the "Sea Venture" used in Shakespeares "the Tempest".

Found an interesting note on the schiavona. The term has always been noted to refer to the Slavonian guards of the Doge in Venice, but a note I found suggests that the a ending the word refers to a Slavonian woman. This is meant in the parlance that the sword is often termed 'queen of weapons' and a painting titled 'portrait of a lady' in Venetian Italian is titled 'La Schiavona'.
Nothing to do with the Scottish basket hilts, but I thought it interesting just the same

Thank you for the kind note Henk! I hope to learn a lot here too on these weapons. I have of course a good working knowledge from research years ago, but working here with the pro's will greatly solidify the bits and pieces.


All the best,
Jim
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Old 14th February 2008, 08:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Some baskets.


Norman, are any of these captioned or noted on identification? Are they from the museum you mentioned?
Thanks very much again, these really are amazing!

Best,
Jim
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Old 14th February 2008, 09:35 PM   #12
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Hi Jim,
These are some from the collection at Kelvingrove, I will go back with my notebook and do things a little more properly. The Arms and Armour Curator has left recently and a new one appointed but he has not yet taken up his post. When he does I'll see if I can get better access and photos, I can't promise anything but I'll try. In the meantime give me a few days and I will get info to go with the baskets.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th February 2008, 09:51 PM   #13
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Hi,
With regard to the origin of the Scottish basket hilt. Ewart Oakshott the respected arms expert regarded the Scottish basket hilt, Walloon sword, Sinclair hilt, Mortuary sword and the Schiavona all to have had a common ancestor in the mid 16th century Germanic basket hilts although each developed independently according to influences unique to individual type.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 14th February 2008, 11:57 PM   #14
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Aye, a good thread that`s nice and close to home, folks

From the photos posted, the one second from top appears to be a Walter Allan hilt from Stirling. The top one appears to be a Glasgow hilt in the style of Walter Allan, but I`m not sure if it is made by himself.

Norman, you are pretty bang on about the European development of the basket. Each style of basket hilt (English mortuary, Scottish ribbon or Glasgow pattern, `Sinclair` style, Italian schiavona, Walloon, etc.) is the result of indigenous artistic expression in craftsmanship and Art from any one country.

The function of the basic weapon is the same Europe-wide. A solid cutting blade with a protective basket, and we start to see this development as a unique European weapon from early - mid 16th century.

Its reason for emerging stems from the development of the civilian sidesword from 1500`s onwards. Civilian single handed sword development split into two basic sword forms at this time, the cutting and thrusting sidesword and the back or broad sword, designed mostly for cutting actions.

The reason for hilts developing from simple cross hilted forms of the C15th to basket hilts in the C16th is that prior to this period, swords in Europe were primarily weapons of war, and soldiers wear armour as a matter of course, so in-built hand protection was less of a neccessity in weapon construction.

The overthrow of feudal society from the early C16th onwards saw civilian society adopt many cultural specifics that previously were the trappings of nobility and men-at-arms only. The wearing of the sword was the most distinct symbol to distinguish the identity of a new self-righteous society.

Given that the sword was now being created as a civilian sidearm, hand protection becomes a primary consideration in construction, as the wielder in either duel or streetfight was likely to be wearing a thin leather gauntlet at most, and more likely a bare hand.

A reasonable sword cut will take a wrist to the bone and a good cut sever the hand entirely. These were the simple reasons for the basket hilt being developed throughout Europe at this time, and as said, in distinctive styles in specific countries, though very much at the same time, as social change sweeps throughout all Europe.

As for blades and their forms and function as broadsword and backsword, that`s an interesting subject in itself for another post, as it`s getting late now and time for a late night dram

All the best,

Macdonald

www.historicalfencing.org/Macdonaldacademy
http://www.historicalfencing.org/Ma...rmory/index.htm
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Old 15th February 2008, 01:59 AM   #15
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Outstanding Paul! as you agree, what Norman has said notes that these basket hilts developed rather convergently to accomplish the same goal, the protection of the hand from the very aggressive and stylized fencing techniques developing throughout Europe.
Norman, thank you again for the Kelvingrove examples, and will look forward to the notes.
It is great to welcome Paul here with us on this very important topic, and I feel fortunate that we have both of you in Scotland in studying these magnificent weapons. With the basics of the origins of the Scottish basket hilt among the other types of these swords at hand, it will be most interesting to move on to the identifying characteristics of the hilts.

Drambuie tonight!!!!!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 15th February 2008, 12:09 PM   #16
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On the "Sinclair" sabre

Since we are discussing the early development of the Scottish basket hilt, I wanted to do a bit more research on the so called Sinclair sabre. These of course are often suggested as sources for influence as many have developed basket type hilts, and have been associated/romanticized by 19th century collectors to an ill fated Scottish force ambushed in Norway in 1612.

Actually these 'Sinclair' sabres are a form of Northern European dusagge which typically have heavy basket or shell type hilts, and there seem to be a number of vague perceptions of how these came to be given this term. Many suggest the Sinclair term is spurious, misapplied or even that the tale of this event is fictitious.

In 1612, during the Kalmar War between Denmark and Sweden concerning trade control of the northern coast of Norway, a contingent of Scots headed for Sweden to join with the forces of Gustavus Adolphus. Apparantly there were three companies of troops in the force, which in some cases has been termed the 'Sinclair Expedition', and erroneous by that title. The force overall was commanded by Lt.Col. Alexander Ramsey, and one of the subordinate companies was commanded by Lord George Sinclair, who was the Chief of the Clan Sinclair at the time.

In what has become known as the Battle of Kringen, August 26,1612, virtually the entire Scottish force was ambushed and killed by Norwegian peasants and militia near Otta, Norway. While a number of the Scottish troops survived the battle, most of the remainder were summarily executed the next day. It is said that Sinclair was one of the first to fall, and ironically he and his ancestors were well known to the Norwegians. With this being the case, he became the focus of the 'victory' symbolically, which is why his name has superceded that of Lt. Col. Ramsay who actually led the overall force.

In some accounts it is noted that the Scots were only lightly armed as they were to be armed in Sweden on arrival there, however this seems rather unlikely. It must be remembered however, that the weapons probably were primarily lochaber axes and some broadswords. We have established that types of basket hilts were in use in England as early as mid 1500's and we know that this force did not return to Scotland carrying Northern European basket hilts. It is unclear of course whether any of the Scottish forces had either English type basket hilts or the Northern European dusagge type weapons, but it is known that Sinclair and many of the Scots in the force were very familiar with these Norwegian regions having been there often for timber.

In any case, this tragic event became somewhat associated with Sinclair's name,;in Norway because he was well known there and the battle celebrated for Norways defense of its sovereignty, and in Scotland since Sinclair was the Chief of thier clan. The guarded hilt dusagge being established in use presumably at this time in these regions and later associated with the event by collectors in the 19th century seems to have added the name Sinclair to the distinct sabre type. The idea that these must have been adopted as weapons of choice by Scottish mercenaries, as suggested by collectors of Victorian times also likely led to the thoughts of these being the source for the Highland basket hilt.
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Old 15th February 2008, 12:30 PM   #17
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Great post on the history of the Sinclair hilt Jim!

I also wanted to say nice work Norman. Looks like you have taken your time over all aspects of creation there. It would be great to meet up someday, seeing as you are just along the road.
You are welcome to visit the armoury and we can catch up over a pint or two (you see, we always have a way of getting round to the drinking part )

All the best,

Macdonald
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Old 15th February 2008, 09:14 PM   #18
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Thanks so much Paul! That was on my mind last night (after the Drambuie!) and I woke up at 4AM to put together the material....so I'm actually surprised it came out with a degree of respectable lucidity!

Norman, I agree with Paul, you've well laid out the overall development of these weapons in basic and nicely explained the various aspects.
Now we need to identifying the hilt forms.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 15th February 2008, 09:34 PM   #19
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Hi,
Enjoyed the Sinclair story Jim, I think in this case Victorian collectors tended to be over simplistic in their attributions.
Paul, glad you liked the 'pure gallus chibs' ( sorry folks Glasgow humour ), would love to see the Armoury sometime but you've just asked the only teetotal Weegie this side of Byres Road out for a pint, yes a Scot who doesn't drink what's the world coming to.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 16th February 2008, 02:52 AM   #20
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Hi All,

Question for the experts: Have you ever seen a left-handed or symmetric basket-hilt?

I've always admired basket-hilts, but as a southpaw, I've never bothered with them. Why get something you can't wield properly? I'd be happy to find out that such weapons exist.

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Old 16th February 2008, 03:00 AM   #21
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Thanks very much Norman You're right, arms collectors and scholars in the Victorian period indeed loved to embellish and romanticize, and the colloquial terms and folklore they applied to many weapon forms have remained firmly in place to present times. The term 'claymore' has brought considerable attention as well, and it has often been argued that the word referred to the huge two hand swords in use before the development of the distinct basket hilt swords. Claude Blair (in "Scottish Weapons and Fortifications", ed. D. Caldwell) has noted that in actuality the large two hand sword was termed 'claidheamh da laimh', while the basket hilt was called the 'claidheamh mor' or loosely 'claymore'.

The basket hilt with curved blades I believe were termed 'turcael' (presumably referencing the curved blades on Turkish sabres the Scots saw when on campaigns in Eastern Europe) and did of course exist, though it seems relatively sparingly. Obviously the inspiration for these basket hilt sabres may well have come from the Northern European heavy sabres described in the 'Sinclair' reference, though probably from the regular interaction in these regions by Scots. I agree that it would be more than difficult to draw any line of progression from any specific source of influence for either the basket hilt, or for these curved blade types.
In the 18th century, when basket hilts of Scottish style were being made for the British cavalry, there was a standard form hilt with conical pommel, and I remember one of these mounted with a British M1788 light cavalry sabre blade.

Interesting reference to the use of the basket hilt on sea service swords, and I have long believed that these would have been ideal for protecting the hand in close quarters melee aboard ships. Contrary to modern ideas of the basket hilt being shiny bright metal in those times, the hilts were typically russet brown or japanned, to protect the metal in the dampness of the Highland climes. These would have added to favorability.
As mentioned on the "pirate weapons" thread, the notorious Blackbeard actually met his end by a Highlanders basket hilt in shipboard combat...not at the hands of the British officer given credit for his death.

I think you make a very good observation in noting that these varying types of swords were probably all very much contemporary, and the huge two handers were still seen in use in minimal degree through the 17th century. As the baskethilt developed, the earlier sword forms certainly remained in use as well . There were no means for mass production of swords, and they were certainly expensive and beyond the means of many clansmen. I often wonder if many of the heavy blades from Germany on the earlier baskethilts might have come from Scots returning from campaigns on the Continent, and led to the predominance of these blades through ongoing trade.

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 16th February 2008, 11:23 AM   #22
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Hi Fearn,

Scottish basket hilts are either symmetrical or asymmetric in form.

If asymmetric, then when you are looking at the basket from the open or back side with the blade pointing down, the left side of the basket is made slightly larger to accommodate the knuckles and back of the hand.

Here`s MacGregors sword (more on this and others later), which is made in this way -





The asymmetric hilts are undoubtedly individually crafted, while the symmetric hilts can also be cast or more easily mass produced (as in military hilts that followed the Scottish basket patterns).

To be honest, I have yet to see a specifically made left handed Scottish basket, which of course would be larger on the opposite side.

There is nothing to stop you wielding a symmetrical basket though, which many originals were

All the best,

Macdonald
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Old 16th February 2008, 03:04 PM   #23
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Thanks Paul, now I have something to go looking for. Great!

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Old 16th February 2008, 07:30 PM   #24
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That was a most interesting question Fearn, something I hadn't thought of, and great explanation Paul.
Paul, is this the Rob Roy sword?

All the best,
Jim
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Old 17th February 2008, 01:37 AM   #25
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No problem Fearn,

And aye Jim, that`s MacGregor`s sword. That is, before restoration.

The top and middle scabbard mounts were still fused to the blade, the rest of the scabbard leather gone, and the sword rusted overall.

It`s taken a lot of work to restore as far as possible and is still ongoing.

More pics and stories soon,

Macdonald
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Old 17th February 2008, 03:25 PM   #26
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Paul,

The MacGregor sword is very interesting.
I have a great big question;
How could such an important sword bw allowed to get into such condition? I am a bit out of touch....but could you fill me in on how and where it came to light?
I do not want to take up your time, but would be very intrested to know.

One more question if I may;
Was the basket hilt always lined?
I was of the opinion they originally had a leather, velvet or some other lining, but the person I discussed this with, was of the opinion that the lining was a 19th century idea.

Thank you for your time Sir.

Jim,
Thank you too for bringing up this topic!

Richard.
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Old 17th February 2008, 09:40 PM   #27
Paul Macdonald
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Hi Pukka,

I`m happy to answer your questions.

Regarding the discovery of the sword, this came about after I received a commission to restore the original basket hilted backsword of Charles Stuart of Ardshiel, the Jacobite commander of the Stuarts of Appin at Sherrifmuir and Culloden.
This sword has been passed down in the same family for generations, and it`s continued provenance was that this was the sword used by Ardshiel to face and defeat Rob Roy MacGregor in single combat.

It was on the back of receiving this sword that I chased a local legend from my original Highland homeland of Moidart. I was years before told of the story that a local family possessed the (or an) original sword of Rob Roy MacGregor. The provenace is like most Highland traditions and oral in nature, handed down from generation to generation. That is, MacGregor in his last days gave the sword to one of the MacLarens, from whom MacGregor rented his croft.
It was then passed from that family to the MacRaes of Moidart a couple of generations ago.

I have found but one contemporary description of MacGregors sword, which was described as a `broad and stout blade`. That which I received from the MacRaes is certainly that. It is noticeably broad, and overall on the heftier end, but well balanced all the same.

The sword has been in the hands of a private family and was treasured by the father, who passed away around 10 years ago. Since that time, many of his possessions, including the sword, were put into a byre beside the crofthouse, and no doubt much of the corrosive damage has been caused during this time. As far as the mother was concerned, it was just an old sword.
Unfortunately, the elements corroded away the original leather scabbard and basket lining, and likely also some of the grip material, as well as causing surface rust over the entire blade and hilt.

I visited Abbotsford house to see the Rob Roy sword there and other weapons that were purchased by Sir Walter Scott in the C19th. To be sure, the blade on Scott`s MacGregor sword does not match the contemporary description, and his `Rob Roy sgian dubh` is clearly early - mid C19th.

Check out the following threads for further pics and info. regarding the swords of Ardshiel and MacGregor -

http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=80549

http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=82635

Regarding basket linings, there is plenty of evidence of original Jacobite baskets being either fully or partly (base of hilt only) lined in leather. This provides a rudimentary protection for the knuckles and thumb against the hilt. This is not so much because the hilts are restrictive. If the hilt does not allow full and free movement to hand and wrist, then it is best melted down to make something that is serviceable!

The basket hilted sword is primarily a cutting weapon, and cuts require sufficient blade movement to be effective. Full and free hand and wrist movement is essential for this and any good basket is of size and form enough to allow it.

Both grips were used on the Highland hilts, either with the fingers and thumb curled around the entire grip, or with the thumb running along the back of the grip, fingers slightly back to allow a fingers and thumb only grip. This may not sound as stong, but in the hands of a trained swordsman is just as strong and more accurate and responsive than a wrap-around grip.
Hilts allowing the thumb-back grip tend to be slightly longer in the hilt and grip and sometimes with a flat back to the grip.

The leather lining protection is more to protect the hand if any bars break or bend in towards the hand during use.

This was fairly common with Highland baskets, as the individual bars and plates have to be quite thin, otherwise, the whole hilt would simply weigh too much. This is easily evident with many mass produced basket hilts today, that may look the part but are far from serviceable, with too-thick baskets and muckle thick blades.

I have also handled and seen many original early - mid C18th military basket hilts with full leather lining, usually white on the inside and red on the outside. This is as much for show and matching the weapon with the redcoat uniform as it is for practical use.

The red lining became almost a standard feature of regimental basket hilt swords since that time, and is seen on most C19th Scottish military baskets, which are still made and used as the current pattern.

I hope that the above details are helpful for now

All the best,

Macdonald
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Old 17th February 2008, 10:18 PM   #28
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Thanks Jim for starting this thread, and what a treat to have the expertise of Paul Macdonald here!
Here a a few examples of Baskethilts in my collection.

This is a Stirling hilt that I have posted here before.
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Old 17th February 2008, 10:19 PM   #29
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This is a S-hilt. I would love to here what the most current theory on the significance of the S. (Stirling?, Stuart? simple protection?).
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Old 17th February 2008, 10:25 PM   #30
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Here is a English basket. Also called "Irish hilt" or "Twysden style". Although classically these are English I believe they were also made above the border.
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