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Walking Sticks & Canes.

Edward

Bartender
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London, UK
^ is that an Irish Walking Stick....Shiloh ? Are those usually lightweight or do they come heavy as well ?

Thanks

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.
 

robrinay

One Too Many
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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.
 

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Edward

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London, UK
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.

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.
 

Flanderian

Practically Family
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833
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Flanders, NJ, USA
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.

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.

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.

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

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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!
 

Flanderian

Practically Family
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833
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Flanders, NJ, USA
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!

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.
 

Edward

Bartender
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Location
London, UK
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.

I think most any stick waved wildly enough can at least keep someone from getting too close! ;)
 

Flanderian

Practically Family
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833
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Flanders, NJ, USA
I think most any stick waved wildly enough can at least keep someone from getting too close! ;)

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:
Messages
11,468
Location
Southern California
I think most any stick waved wildly enough can at least keep someone from getting too close! ;)
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

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Location
London, UK
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.

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.

But also that any lethal weapon may be taken from the victim and turned against them by an attacker.

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!).
 

Cornelius

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Great Lakes
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.

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.
 
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