Walking Sticks & Canes.

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by Biltmore Bob, Jun 21, 2005.

  1. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,801
    Location:
    London, UK
    Shillelagh. (pronounced 'Shi - Lay-Lay). Traditionally made from blackthorn or oak (though blackthorn is the norm: oak was much rarer). They originated as a shorter stick, about two feet long, as a weapon - a club. There was a specific fighting style (and acknowledged "rules") for fighting with them. The c.1840 folk song Arthur Macbride contains a reference to the use of a shillelagh club by an Irishman on a British army recruiting sergeant; they were still known to be in use for some time later. The walking stick version supposedly evolved as a way of passing off a weapon as a necessary walking aid, though being markedly longer it would presumably affect the fighting technique. By this point in the early 21st century, you mostly only see them produced for the tourist industry, and they're more likely to be seen hanging on the walls of the diaspora rather than anyone actually Irish.

    The Cold Steel brand do one in whatever fibreglass compound it is they use, which looks nice.
     
    Sonero likes this.
  2. Bonefish Jim

    Bonefish Jim New in Town

    Messages:
    19
    Well, I'm Irish and on our last visit we saw several older people walking with the aid of their shillelaghs, and I doubt that they were tourist trap goods or fibreglass repops.
     
    Bushman and Sonero like this.
  3. robrinay

    robrinay One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,413
    Location:
    Sheffield UK
    I’ve had a few silver topped canes pass through my hands but I’ve sold them on as generally they were designed for shorter people. However in (sensible?) preparation for my old age I’ve kept hold of this carved stick which fits me just right. I picked it up in a charity shop for two pounds.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,801
    Location:
    London, UK
    It may, of course, vary regionally. I was actually born and grew up in Ireland, but I've not lived there permanently for twenty years (I left at twenty-four); in our area, when I visit now, a lot of these old traditions are largely gone, but to be fair I'm generally only there to visit family and I don't much head out of the local area. Could well still be in plenty use in places like Buckna up behind Cushendall and Carnlough - sort of place that appears out of the mists only every few years. The stick that were popular with my grandparents' generation from the seventies onwards tended to be planed smoothe, usually with a simple curved handle. Shop I worked in in a small market town in the 90s sold those, though the most popular ones had a handle on an odd looking shape almost like a moose antler, but which was shaped to fit the palm perfectly.

    Actually considered one of the cold steel ones myself, given the extra strength and that they won't crack, though I'd probably get more use out of the city stick type. I like the one with the pistol grip. It's amazing how many walking sticks I see advertised carry the caveat that they aren't capable of supporting any real weight.
     
    Rmccamey likes this.
  5. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

    Messages:
    800
    Location:
    Flanders, NJ, USA
    May that handsome stick forever only be required for the pleasure and comfort it affords as it accompanies you upon your strolls.

    When I began acquiring sticks forty years ago, never did I think one would become a daily companion, I simply liked the look of them. The hubris of youth ignoring the lessons of my arthritic ancestors.

    Your description above so perfectly describes the handle of my stick. Perhaps resembling a goose neck, no other of my dozen, or so, sticks has a handle that fills my hand so comfortably or securely.

    Irish goods shops and catalogs were once more popular in the U.S. than they now seem to be, and when I purchased mine roughly 30 years ago it was a common and inexpensive article advertised in many such catalogs. Not planed, but debarked, it was then painted with a tough black lacquer in an attempt to imitate its original handsome bark.
     
    Edward likes this.
  6. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,801
    Location:
    London, UK
    Interesting it would be debarked and then painted to imitate it, but I suspect that may have been for practical reasons - it must be trickier to varnish and keep the bark on ?

    The hook handle is interesting in how it became such a norm - as distinct from the knob end of the shillelagh, which if course was the striking end of the club!
     
    Zombie_61 likes this.
  7. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

    Messages:
    800
    Location:
    Flanders, NJ, USA
    I think your reason for the debarking is almost certainly right. At the time, these sticks were comparatively common, and were made in significant quantity, and not attempting to retain the bark likely made the process easier and less costly.

    My stick, aside from use to chase away the odd aggressive dog left to run off lead, might offer some protection if attacked in person, but is not a serious weapon, though its retained thorn sockets may make it look more harmful than it truly is.
     
    Zombie_61 and Edward like this.
  8. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,801
    Location:
    London, UK
    I think most any stick waved wildly enough can at least keep someone from getting too close! ;)
     
    Zombie_61 likes this.
  9. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

    Messages:
    800
    Location:
    Flanders, NJ, USA
    It can!

    And I'm interested in how most dogs seem to instinctively understand that a stick in a man's hand is a weapon, and react accordingly. In youth I would regularly run for exercise, and the unruly neighbor dogs would often harass me for sport. I took a 18" piece of pine about an inch thick and fashioned a handle on it, and I could comfortably carry it without hinderance while running. But this truly harmless bit of wood when waved at most dogs would quickly warn them off.

    While gifted as a joke sometime ago with a deliberately shoddy sword cane, the only stick I have that might be a serious weapon was the first I purchased around 45 years ago. It was simple and handsome having a handle of solid brass ending in a round knob about 1 3/4" across that I estimate in excess of one pound. This is attached at its 1 1/4" bottom to a tapered ash shaft and perfectly balanced with about 75% of its weight in your hand. I purchased it for its looks and comfort, but if swung from the tip, it would generate fearful force.

    But sword canes such as the handsome Cold Steel line you reference are those most truly lethal. And in that, there are many considerations, not least that they are illegal to carry in most jurisdictions in the U.S.A. But also that any lethal weapon may be taken from the victim and turned against them by an attacker.

    Among such canes, I've long been fascinated by Burger Canes from South Africa. Fashioned from fiber glass and employing fine sword steel for their blades, they can be intricate works of art as much as weapons.

    https://www.swordcane.com/models.htm


    Burger01.jpg


    Burger02.jpg


    Burger03.jpg


    Burger04.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
    Harp, Sonero, Edward and 3 others like this.
  10. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

    Messages:
    800
    Location:
    Flanders, NJ, USA
    Possibly apt, from Esquire October 1945.


    Esq104506.jpg
     
  11. Zombie_61

    Zombie_61 I'll Lock Up

    I don't disagree, but I have one cane with a carbon fiber shaft that is so light that I'm absolutely certain I'd run out of energy from repeatedly swinging it before I'd cause any actual harm to an attacker. :oops:
     
    Edward likes this.
  12. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,801
    Location:
    London, UK
    Some nice pieces. I love the craftmanship involved, but it's not something I'd be bothered to own here in the UK, owing to them being illegal to possess. You can own an antique (over a century old) one as long as you keep it at home, but, having dealt with a hoarding issue, I'm trying very hard not to buy more stuff that I have no practical purpose for.

    Quite so. I've been told that's a particular problem with knives for those untrained in knife fighting. Always the danger with a stick of any sort too, I suppose - the trade off against using it to keep an attacker at a distance. I should think not letting them get a chance to grab it is part of the issue. I hope never to have to need to deal with a mugger! (Made it to forty six without it, so fingers crossed!).
     
  13. Sonero

    Sonero Practically Family

    Messages:
    756
    Location:
    San Diego / Tijuana
    From Jamaica
    20210207_011326.jpg
     
  14. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

    Messages:
    800
    Location:
    Flanders, NJ, USA
    Sonero likes this.
  15. Sonero

    Sonero Practically Family

    Messages:
    756
    Location:
    San Diego / Tijuana
    Thanks. I purchased this last March in Negril. Jamaica is such a cool place to visit. I hope to return soon.
     
  16. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

    Messages:
    800
    Location:
    Flanders, NJ, USA
    A unique bit of folk art, and very well done I think!
     
  17. Being interested in Victorian walking canes I am intrigued by this one. Knotty blackthorn like a shillelagh perhaps. A fine stick!

    IMG_3949.JPG

    IMG_3953.PNG

    It almost reminds me of worm wood.

    IMG_3736.jpg
     
    Zombie_61, Bamaboots and Bushman like this.
  18. Cornelius

    Cornelius Practically Family

    Messages:
    513
    Location:
    Great Lakes
    I was last in Ireland in October of 2019, and similarly spotted an elderly gentleman on the island of Arranmore (Árainn Mhór) legitimately using one as a walking support. But that was also the sort of very rural Irish place where families still cut turf from assigned plots to heat their homes, and where schoolchildren are sent in the summers to learn Gaeilge. Strong time-travel vibes there, certainly.

    Indeed their origins lie in carrying a weapon which could be explained away as a walking aid, as the English government banned native Irish from owning weapons under the Penal Laws. Sometimes the knot/handle end was drilled out and filled with molten lead to add greater weight for striking.

    Here's one family which still makes Shillelaghs in the proper manner; though, yes, their bread & butter unsurprisingly appears to be the tourist/diaspora trade, with a smattering of obscure martial arts enthusiasts thrown in.
     
    Edward likes this.
  19. Sonero

    Sonero Practically Family

    Messages:
    756
    Location:
    San Diego / Tijuana
    This is my Irish War Stick.
    20210314_152850.jpg
     
  20. Victorian Stag handle with hallmarked Sterling silver caps & joint ring. Not mine.

    IMG_3984.JPG
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.