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Old 15th September 2021, 08:27 PM   #21
Jim McDougall
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Location: Route 66
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Default Rob Roy MacGregor

Some years ago while researching Rob Roy, I found that the swords actually used in the fight between Rob Roy and an opponent much younger , Charles Stuart of Ardshiel, had been restored by an Edinburgh master of arms. I have yet to find notes but what I can find so far,

While Rob Roy was born in Stirling regions, he was primarily in Highland regions in Argyll, where his now legendary 'cattle' enterprises took place. He was born in 1671, and was very distinctly Jacobite, participating in the early uprisings in 1689, and years later in 1715 and 19.
His sword was of 'Glasgow' form, and from what I have seen of pictures of it (pending) the styling, and more importantly, the piercings, are remarkably similar to those on Mark's example.

I had thought the rough apertures on the right guard were holes drilled too close to the edge, but as seen on the MacGregor sword, were intentional designs. The curious pierced device with two holes and triangular figure below are interestingly similar to the MacGregor sword also.

The Jacobites apparently had numerous 'secret symbols', oak leaves, thistles, etc. and it has been my opinion that in many cases, these were cryptically stylized for covert recognition. This may account for the difficulty in accurately describing these devices. In some cases authors will 'suggest' what these are for the sake of a working term in discussion, but more history of them are wanting.

It has been suggested that the Rob Roy sword (owned by a West Highland family in Moidart) dates from late 1680s-90s).
The Stuart sword is from a Borders family and is a later backsword.
The duel concerned the mens' activity in the Battle of Sheriffmuir 1715, and while it concluded with no fatality, Roy was wounded, and that wound eventually caused his death in 1734.

Therefore I suggest this is a Highland basket hilt, in the Glasgow manner, dating from 1690-1710. It is unlikely this was a 'garrison' make, and probably by a regional 'sword slipper' imitating the well known makers in Glasgow. Walter Allen (later Stirling) was a Glasgow maker who used these kinds of pierced devices, so clearly these were around before the '15 as his family were active there since 1680s.

The absence of the wrist guard seems to fit as well, as these period of 1680s-90s precedes the addition of the wrist guards (called a 'backward').

While the Allen hilts were signed, this one unsigned was probably by perhaps a journeyman working toward 'hammerman' status. The blade being unmarked may suggest it could be local if the Whitelaw theory of Walter Allen producing his own blades is correct, as it shows some blade activity in these regions probably existed.

The photos are:
A 'Glasgow' basket hilt c.1715+ ...note more conical pommel
This is from "Early Scottish Edged Weapons and Militaria" H.Menard, in 'Book of Edged Weapons", 1997, ed. George Weatherly, p.178,
it is noted "...it appears that Scottish armorers within a geographic area usually fabricated similar style guards like Pennsylvania rifle makers".

Next is of course, Mark's fantastic example of a Glasgow type hilt with early type pommel latter 17th c. and resemblances to the Rob Roy sword of that period. Notice how the stylized 'thistle' (?) in his example is completely pierced as one aperture (as per Mazansky, family A example) while the later Glasgow form is two holes above a triangle.
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 15th September 2021 at 08:43 PM.
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