The Scottish Gael
Of the arms and military accoutrements of the Celts THE armor of the Celts may not inappropriately be considered their
dress, inasmuch as they apldotn laid aside their arms of defence, and
never appeared abroad without some part of their military weapons.
Respecting these, we have to express the same regret that was occasion-
ed by the subject of the preceding Chapter: there are few monuments
of antiquity that can, with certainty, be pronounced Gallic, and of these
few, scarcely any display the military attire; the Romans, according to
Montfaucon, repressing any desire to represent a subjugated people as
independent warriors. It was a particular honor conferred on two Cel-
tic legions, and a tribute to their unparalleled bravery, that statues of
them in their arms were set up at Edessa, as before recited.
The Gauls, in general, sought no other defence than what nature sup-
plied, despising artificial means of protecting their bodies;* but, when
fully accoutred, they had both helmets and shields, breast-plates, and
coats of mail, the common use of which was, apparently, confined to the
nobles; the vassals, or clients, being unable to procure these articles,
or, perhaps, denied the privilege of wearing them. The German foot,
in the days of Tacitus, were either naked, or dressed in light cassocks,
having few coats of mail, and fewer helmets. The ancient Britons are
described as going generally almost naked, disregarding all defensive
armor, except the shield. f
It does not appear whether the plates of iron with which they covered
their necks and bellies, J were used as ornaments or for protection.
Mela savs, the Britons wore the same armor as the Gauls, but, like
t Herodian, iii.
186 CELTS' CONTEMPT FOR DEFENSIVE ARMOR.
them, they relied on their dexterity and physical strength rather than on
any defensive armor, which they considered as an incumbrance, if not an
indication of cowardice. "I wear no armor," said an Earl of Strath-
erne, at the battle of the Standard, 1138; "yet they who do, will not
advance beyond me this day." Giraldus Cambrensis says, the Welsh
fought naked, or used very light armor, that it might not impede their
exertions, the Irish despising it altogether. At the battle of Telamon,
the Gesata? stripped off their dresses and stood before the army naked,
carrying their weapons only, that they might not be entangled by the
bushes or otherwise obstructed. Polybius describes it as terrible, and
astonishing to see those men marching naked, and to observe the motion
of their big bodies; conduct, however, more fool-hardy than discreet, for
they were dreadfully galled by the Roman archers, and, finally, beaten
back with dreadful slaughter. On other occasions, we find this practice
of denuding themselves noticed. The Gael retained the same custom
until almost the last century, the chief being the first to set the example.
However creditable this was to their heroism, and however advantageous
it might be in allowing a perfect freedom of action, the want of defen-
sive armor must have, on many occasions, been severely felt. The peo-
ple of the Low Country were, in this respect, superior to the Highland-
ers, who, as the song says,
" Had only got the belted plaid,
While they were mail-clad men."
Or as was observed of their scanty covering in a later age,
" The Highland men are clever men, at handling sword or bow,
But yet they are ower naked men, to bide the gun, I trow."
However much the Celts may have valued themselves on their con
tempt for armor, they were not ignorant of its utility, nor deficient in its
fabrication. They were dexterous in the manufacture of military wea-
pons, and careful, even to nicety, of their warlike accoutrements. Their
greatest delight was in the excellence and beauty of their arms; the
ancient Irish appearing, from Solinus, to have been remarkable for this
attention to their appointments.
To the Gauls the honor of inventing CHAIN MAIL appears due, which,
from being at first made of leather, according to Varro,* acquired the name
of Lorica. It is called, in Gaelic, luirich, and was the usual body covering
of the Scots and Irish, who wore armor, the plate being almost unknown
among mem; and it seems to have been worn of considerable length.
"The armor wherewith they cover their bodies," says the old Chronicle
before quoted, " in time of war, is an iron bonnet and an habergion side
almost even to their heels." Throughout Scotland, the jaque de inaill
was chiefly worn, according to a French author, who describes it in the
sixteenth century; and the person who furnished Holinshed with his ac-
count of Scotland seems to prefer it, as he regrets that his countrymen
should use heavy armor. The Irish full armed troops, in the seventeenth
* De lingua Latina.
MAIL AND HELMETS OF THE CELTIC NATIONS.
century, wore shirts of mail that reached to the calf of the leg, and
which were sometimes of leather, stuck with iron nails.* They also
had girdles, that were proof against shot.|
The Cimbri wore iron breastplates ;J and some of the Gauls, accord-
ing to Diodorus, had a sort of cuirass of similar metal, formed in rings,
or hooked, resembling chain mail, as some think. They had also a
kind of interlaced wicker under their vests.
HELMETS were more general, it would appear, among the Gauls than
the Germans, who, from various sculptures, are seen with a piece of
cloth wrapped round their heads. In the form and ornaments of the
helmet, the Celts had an opportunity for indulging their passion for dec-
Among the Gauls, the Lusitanians, the Celtiberians, and all of the
same race, they were made of brass. The former sometimes fixed on
them appendages resembling horns, or the wings of Mercury, of the
same metal, or embellished them with the figures of birds and beasts.
The tribes in Spain and Portugal surmounted them with red plumes, ap-
parently of horses' hair, and the Cimbri had them formed like the jaws
and muzzles of various wild beasts, adorning them farther with plumes,
like wings, of a prodigious height. || Chonodomarius, a celebrated hero,
is described as riding about in glittering armor, with a flame-colored
wreath or tassel on his helmet.lT
In the preceding cut, the two helmets on the right are from the sculp-
tures at the church of Notre Dame, Paris; the upper one on tne left is
from Dr. Mey rick's work on armor, as is the one in the vignette, the
lower is from a figure engraved in Montfaucon's Antiquities; and that
in the centie from a German on the column of Antoninus
The Massagetce had their helmets and breastplates ornamented with
* Spender. Ware. t Barn. Riche.
Diodorus. || Plutarch, ut sup.
t Plut rch, de Hello Cimb.
H Amm. Mar. xvi. 10.
i&a CELTIC SHIELDS.
gold. The Thracians, in Xerxes's time, had caps of foxes' skins.* l\
is probable the ancient Caledonians had a covering for the head, of a
similar material; little Oscar, in Smith's version of "Cathula," being
represented with his little helm of the fur of fawns.
The helmet, clogaid, literally the apex, or ceann-bheart, a headpiece,
is mentioned by the oldest bards as not uncommon amongst the Gael;
and from these authorities we find that they were adorned with the feath-
ers of the eagle's wing, perhaps the whole pinion, by which Ossian
appears to have recognised an Irish chief, it. being a mark of distinction,
for we find the "gray feather " always worn by a hero. We must make
allowance for the privilege of the poetical historians to embellish their
recitals by national imagery, every individual figuring in these tales be-
ing a hero, if not a cean-tigh,^ and consequently entitled to wear a
helmet and its proper crest. Whether helmets formed of metal were very
numerous in Caledonia during the Fingalian dynasty, may be doubted;
but the eagle's feather has ever been the peculiar badge of Highland
A skull cap, in times less distant from the present age, protected the
chieftain's head, and does not at any time appear to have been worn by
those under the degree of a Galloglach. Among the Irish, the glibe,
or matted hair, served the purpose of a helmet, but they also used a
head-piece covered with hide. The Scots were long but ill provided
with armor. At the battle of the Standard, the infantry had nothing for
defence but a target of leather.
The SHIELD of the Gauls, according to Strabo and Virgil, was usually
long,J and the Ligurians carried one of the same form. In sculpture,
we perceive the Germans with an oval shaped buckler of ample dimen-
sions. Tacitus admits it was large, but suited to the size of the bearer.
From the plates in Cluverius's work, we^nd it was at first formed of the
rough wood, or bark of a tree, sometimes retaining the natural curve, but
at other times appearing flat, and nearly the length of the boq\y ; in several
instances it appears formed of straw, or rushes, something resembling
the work of bee-hives.
A small round shield seems, however, to have been the favorite of the
Celtne; and Schoepflin notices the remains of some discovered in Ger-
many.^ Several of the Celtiberi used the light shield of the Gauls, and
others bore round targets, the size of bucklers ;|| but, at Cannee, Poly-
bius says they both carried the same kind, which he describes as weak. 11
The Roman shield was, at first, square; but in their wars with the
Tyrhenians, a people of Gallic origin, they adopted the round form used
by thit people.** From the spoils that were taken at Thermopylae
.vhere the Gauls had no other weapons of defence, and deposited in the
* Herodotus, vii. 75. t Head of a house, chieftain.
t Lib. iv. p. 299, ed. 1707. lEneid, viii., v. 6(50, &c.
Alsatia illustrata, i. 67. || Diodorus.
TI Lib. ii. 2. ** Diodorus, Fragmenta xxiii.
CELTIC SHIELDS. 139
temple of Apollo at Dclphos, Pausanias describes them as similar to the
wicker targets of the Persians, called Gerrha.* Those Celts called
them thur^oi, or thyreos; the Welsh still use tarian, and the French retail,
thiros.f In the Gaelic, tearmun, protection, or defence, is applied to a
shield, as well as targaid, from whence comes the Saxon targa and Eng-
lish target: but sgiath is the usual term, and is applied to a buckler from
its supposed resemblance to a wing, denoted by the same word. The
most ancient and most common shields of the Caledonians were, proba-
bly, made of interwoven twigs covered with hide. In the poem of
Cathula, a sword is said to pass through the folds of a shield; and
young Oscar, in Duthona, is represented with one formed of woven
reeds.J Cresar describes the Aduatici, who occupied the country about
Douay, as having targets of wicker, covered with a tough hide; and
Tacitus says those of the Germans were either a sort of basket work, or
of board, painted, but seldom bound either with leather or iron, 5} like
that of the Romans. The Scots of Ulster, in the time of Spenser, car-
ried long wicker shields, which were quite unknown among the Southern
Lucan says some of the Celtiberi used a small shield, called Cetra,
which the Romans afterwards adopted. I find that C'etra, in Gaelic,
means something intervening, a term very applicable to a shield. The
Lusitani carried shields of a peculiar form, resembling a half moon, and
composed of the sinews of animals, so strongly interwoven, that, for
lightness and strength, they could not be excelled; being, besides, man-
aged with admirable skill, and whirled about so dexterously that it was
scarcely possible to wound the person who bore them. IT They were cal-
led Peltce, and four are represented on the shield of the Vesontes in the
engraving. Among the Etruscans it was round, and not fixed to the
arm, but held in the centre by the hand.
The shield of the ancient Caledonians, according to Herodian, was
oblong, resembling those assigned by Cluverius to the continental Celts;
but numerous discoveries prove that this was not the only form, if it was
at all common. Dr. Meyrick, indeed, exhibited lately to the Society of
Antiquaries, a curious remain of a shield of this shape, but the original
British target was circular. The figure of Britannia on Roman coins is
represented with one of this form, and apparently of the dimensions of
those which the Highlanders, during their independence, continued to
use. The bards invariably speak of them as round, and they appear to
have generally resembled those used in the last century, the poetical ex-
pressions "dark brown," "shield of thongs," alluding to their cover-
ing of leather. The targaid of the Scots' Highlanders was always orbi-
cular, and formed of one or two thin 'pieces of wood, covered with one
or more folds of thick leather, fastened by numerous nails, usually of
brass, but often of iron, and sometimes of silver, according to the cir-
Lib. x. 19, 20. t Holmes. J Smith's Gallic Ant.
$ Annals, ii. !j View of Ireland, p. <tl fl Diodorus.
90 CELTIC SHIELDS.
cumstances of the party. These nails, or knobs, served to strengthen
the targaid, and were rendered highly ornamental to it, for they were
sometimes formed into representations of armorial badges, by means of
the different metals. The most usual style was an arrangement in eon-
centric circles, which had a pleasing and rich effect. The one repre-
sented in the plate is in the armory of the Tower of London, and mea-
sures one foot nine inches in diameter. The one shown in the vignette,
p. 185, is taken from a portrait of a Highland nobleman in the Trius, in
the possession of Mr. Donald Currie, Regent street. The circular ar-
rangement of the nails is singular; for a bronze target of nearly the
same dimensions, found in Cardiganshire, and represented in Dr. Mey-
rick's excellent history of that county, exhibits, in relief, sixteen circular
lines of knobs, exactly resembling the nails on the shields of the High-
landers. It is difficult to determine whether the metal buckler was an
imitation of the wooden, or its model. Like the Scots' target, this curious
relick was carried by a single hold, a piece of metal being placed across
the boss, or umbo, which afforded room for the hand; and, in numerous
cases, those parts have been discovered of iron and brass, when the
wooden shield has been long perished. This method of wielding the
shield was common to all Northern nations.*
The small round target, covered with leather, common to both Scots
and Irish, was always retained by the Highlanders, who signalized them-
selves by its adroit management. So early as the first century, their
ancestors excited admiration by the dexterity with which they used it in
eluding the missiles of the Roman army."f The single hold, by which
the targe was grasped, enabled the bearer to use it with advantage; and
of so much importance was it deemed, that, in the last unfortunate rebel-
lion, it was the first care, after the battle of Preston Pans, to provide a
large supply for the army. By receiving the points of the bayonets on
their targets, they were able with their swords to assail the enemy, who,
by this mode of attack, were almost defenceless. Nor was this all: the
shield had often a spike fixed in the centre; and they were accustomed
to carry the dirk along with it, and thus were doubly armed. " When
within reach of the enemies' bayonets, bending their left knee, they, by
their attitude, cover their bodies with their targets, that receive the
thrusts of the bayonets, which they contrive to parry, while, at the same
time, they raise their sword arm and strike their adversary. Having
once got within the bayonets, the fate of the battle is decided in an in-
stant, and the carnage follows; the Highlanders bringing down two
men at a time, one with their dirk in the left hand, and another with the
sword. These are the words of one who served in the campaign, and
was well qualified to give an opinion. J This superiority in tactics en-
gaged considerable attention at the time of the rebellion, and various
plans were suggested to enable the regular troops to resist the furious
onset of the Highlanders.
* Keysler. 1 Vita Agric. t Mem. of Chev. Johnstone, p. 8G
USES OF THE SHIELD. 191
The targe was usually hung on the left shoulder; and, on a march, it
was sometimes borne on the arm: hut, except in actual war, it was not
carried about the person. It was reckoned the greatest disgrace among
the Germans, to quit their shield in battle. He who did so was not per-
mitted to join in sacrifice, or attend the public assemblies; and many
who were so unfortunate as to lose this part of their arms, hanged
themselves, to avoid the shame of appearing under a circumstance so
disgraceful.* The Gael did not carry this feeling so far, yet the High-
lander never willingly parted with his targe,
"Whose brazen stndds and tough bull hide,
Had death so often dashed aside." t
The shield of the Celtic chiefs was frequently of metal, or, like the
above, was covered with it. An iron shield, round, and weighing nearly
twenty pounds, is mentioned by Pennant as preserved at Dunvegan
Castle, in Sky. That of the Earl of Mar, in the engraving, is of steel,
ornamented with gold.
The shield was sometimes raised in bosses, ctlled, in Gaelic, copan,
which, from being hollow, could be made to emit a sound, and, by
means of these, it served other uses of some importance among the an-
'cient Caledonians. It was either suspended on a tree, or between
spears, near the king or commander of an army; and, when at sea, it
hung on the mast, "the dismal sign of war," and being struck with a
spear, was a signal for assembling the army, or preparing for immediate
battle. Hence it was poetically named "the shield of alarms," "the
warning boss," &.c.
The Celts did every thing in a grave, solemn, and peculiar way. It
seems to have been a privilege or duty of the leader of the war "to
strike his shield at times," and the warriors appear to have done so
occasionally, " when their rage arose," either to keep alive their ardor,
or as an indication of their readiness and anxiety for the contest. It
was also the practice, at least during the war, of awakening the chiefs
by these means. I cannot, however, very well conceive how the sound
emitted could be sufficiently loud to be heard through the whole army,
as the expressions of the poets seem to imply, although they had been
formed of the most sonorous materials; and such a mode of directing the
military operations of the troops appears unnecessary, where there were
horns for the express purpose. A people that were able to fabricate the
other ingenious parts of their military accoutrements, could certainly
form a shield of iron capable of producing a certain tone; but the extra-
ordinaiy effect that is said to have attended the loud clang of these
bucklers, can only be set down as a poetical embellishment.
The shield of Cathmor, a chief of Ireland, as described in the seventh
book of Temora, seems too artificial to be reconciled, with satisfaction,
to the rude state of the arts at that time. It had seven bosses, each of
* Tac. de Mor. Germ t Sir Walter Scott.
192 USES OF THE SHIELD.
which was ornamented with a star, representing a constellation,* and
conveyed by its sound a particular order from the king. I should cer-
tainty be inclined to doubt the existence of such a singular article, did
we riot know, from discoveries, that the bosses were sometimes of silver,
or other metal, of very ingenious workmanship, and were it not possible
to attempt a rational explanation of this traditional account. Shields of
metal were certainly of limited use among those tribes, and were con-
fined to the chief men, giving rise to the expression of "blue-shielded
kings," 8tc. That of Fingal was evidently of this sort; and the follow-
ing passage will throw considerable light on the manner in which this
curious custom was observed. " On two spears hung his shield on high ;
the gleaming sign of death: that shield which he was wont to strike, by
night, before he rushed to war. It was then his warriors knew when
the king was to lead in strife; for, never was this buckler heard, till the
wrath of Fingal arose." This shield, formed of metal, or covered with
a plate of iron, was of a more simple construction than that of Cathrnor.
The term " bossy," applied to these bucklers, was expressive of the
little convex plates with which they were ornamented. Some were, no
doubt, fabricated with superior ingenuity, divided into several of these
bosses, or knobs, a blow on any one of which might have be^en the
method by which the commands of the General were conveyed to the
army. This is perfectly agreeable to the symbolical and figurative man-
ners of the Celtic race, and the method was less strange than at first
The seven bosses on Cathmor's shield were "the seven voices of the
king, which his warriors received from the wind, and marked over all
their tribes." Here we are not told that the sound of the particular
boss which he struck was so loud as to be heard by all the army, but the
different clans were informed by means of the warriors. In the former
extract we also find that it was the warriors, i. e. the uasal, or those
above the commons, only, who knew when the engagement was to com-
It may be further observed, that the King of Morven, on one occa-
sion, having struck his shield in the night, many of his host were awak-
ened, and thought it was a signal for them to get under arms, which,
from other passages, we are led to believe it must have been; but
receiving no further intimation, they again went to sleep. It is impossi-
ble to believe that these shields could have sounded so loud as the Bard,
by poetical license has given us to understand; and if the bosses of
Cathmor's had rung with the noise of tenor bells, the army would,
nevertheless, have been liable to misunderstand their import: but the
king's determination being indicated by his giving a certain number of
knocks on a particular boss, his warriors or attendants instantly retired
and conveyed his orders to their respective clans. The shield was the
only part of the warrior's armor appropriate for the purpose of announc-
i/The shield of Achilles was, likewise, ornamented with celestial signs.
ORNAMENTS OF THE SHIELD. 193
ing the resolutions of the chief; and, as that of Cathmor was different
from Fingal's, perhaps each tribe had their peculiar signals.
The king is defender of his people, and the shield, used as the defence
of the body, denoted his presence, by being always suspended beside
him. It was also used figuratively, to denote this office of defender, in
being carried by bards in front of the army after a victory, as we find
from a Gaelic poem which refers to the era of the Caledonian Bard.
Those who besought assistance, also presented a shield covered with
blood, to denote the death of their friends or defenders.
The use of the shield as a tablet, whereon the glory and renown of
heroes and their ancestors were set forth, is not its most ancient appro-
priation. The origin of coat armor is, more probably, to be traced from
the practice of displaying the intentions or determination of hostile par-
ties. If the ancient warriors wore the skins and other parts of the
animals they killed, or adorned themselves with the spoils of their van-
quished enemies, they did so to inspire terror, by this means of showing
no less their power and valor than their inclination to support their
prowess. Nations and individuals have frequently assumed certain
symbols and borne them on their shields or ensigns, to demonstrate to
others the designs on which they were engaged.
The very meaning of the word herald signifies the champion of an ar-
my; and to declare war is still his province. The Bards were the her-
alds of the Celtse, and they carried the shields of the chiefs, as the
herald of succeeding ages bore the arms of his country or patron.
The marks impressed on the leather covered targaid resembles the
intertwining of sprigs, a favorite ornament among the Celts, being imi-
tated in the hilts of the dirks, and introduced in their brooches and other
ornaments. This intricate tracery, which formed, for so many ages,
their common pattern, is seen in the rude sculptures of monumental
stones, and appears to be derived from the mysterious woven knots of
the branches of trees, under which the Druids concealed their know-
ledge, and of which more shall be said hereafter.
The Gauls, says Diodorus, had often the brazen figures of animals on
their shields, which served both for ornament and strength; those of the
Cimbri being bright and glittering, adorned with the figures of beasts.*
The Celtae wer also fond of painting their shields, a practice which they
had in most ancient times, and which, being adopted for the purpose of
distinction, is clearly the origin of the science of heraldry, about which
its professors and antiquaries are so ill agreed.
At Thermopylre, the Gauls had their shields painted in a certain man-
ner, and the night being so dark as to prevent them from perceiving the
figures, they were unable to recognise their own troops, and consequent-
ly fell into complete confusion."f
When society is rude and unsettled, it is not to be expected that indi-
* Plutarch, vita Marii.
t " Nee scutorum signa possent agnoscere." Pausanias, ed. Francofurti, 1583, p. 287
viduals will have distinctive symbols or marks; a whole tribe adopts a
general recognisance: but the origin of coat armor is to be traced to a
much more remote period than the era of justs and tournaments. Dr.
Henry very ingeniously supposes that the introduction of clothing led to
the transfer of the figures which characterized nobility, from the body
to the shie.d.* This is, probably, in some degree true, for the skin was
gtained for a mark of distinction;! but insignia, I apprehend, were first
exhibited on standards and shields; and it is probable that the practice
was, at first, connected with a religious feeling, the figures being, per-
haps, the symbols of gods. In proof of this, we find that the jEstii car-
ried the images of boars, to indicate the worship of the mother of the
gods; and by this mark they were recognised and protected among their
enemies.^ The Gauls carried the images from their sacred groves to
battle. The princes of Milan, on Hannibal's descent into Italy, took
the ensigns of gold from the temple of Minerva, which ensigns they call-
ed immovable, and marched with them against the Romans. That
people did themselves retain something of this ancient custom; the
eagles and other military ensigns being deposited in a sacellum with the
tutelar gods, and, when displayed, they were placed together in the same
The Celtic tribes of Britain had standards, or banners, figuratively
termed sun-beams, in the bardic poems, each leading chief being pro-
vided with one. That of Fingal, of which Dr. Smith, of Campbelltown,
gives a description, was much respected as the king's ensign; but the
flag of Diarmid, who led the right wing of the army, seems to have been
superior.ir In the original Gaelic, the description of those of the seven
principal chiefs is very particular, and "so inimitably beautiful, that I
cannot imagine," says an intelligent writer, "how Mac Pherson has
omitted it in his translation."**
The materials of these banners it is not easy to discover. In the poem
of" the Death of Fraoich," conjectured to be of almost equal antiquity
with Ossian, bratach sroil, a silken flag, is mentioned, but it is doubt-
ful whether this be not an interpolation. It is probable that the term
now applied to silk, formerly meant only something of a very fine tex-
The Caledonian chiefs had hereditary standard bearers, and the office
was reckoned one of much honor, to which a salary in land and other
perquisites were attached. They continued to enjoy their trust and
emoluments, under Sir Donald Mac Donald, of Slate, in the last centu-
ry, and were retained by some chiefs to a more recent period. The
Celtic name, Vergasilanus, is Fear go saelan, the man with the stand
ard A superstitious importance was, in many cases, attached to par-
* History of Britain, i. p. 351.
I Isidore calls that of the Picts an infamous nobility. }: Tac. de Mor. Germ
Polybius, lib. ii. || Lipsius Milit. Roman, quoted by Gibbon.
tf Fingal, book iv. ** Letter of the Rev. Donald Mac Leod to Dr. Blair.
COAT ARMOR. 195
ticular banners, which may at first have arisen from the religious venera-
tion hefore alluded to. In. the island ofOronsay, near the tomb of Mur-
chard Mac DurFaidh, an abbot, who died 1509, is, or was lately, a long
pole fixed in memory of the ensign staff of his family, on the preserva-
tion of which depended the fate of the race. Clan na Faiter held three
lands in Bracadale, Isle of Sky e, for preserving the Braotach-shi of Mac
Leod, which, tradition asserted, was only to be produced on three oc-
casions. Pennant, who relates this story, says the third time was to
preserve his own life; but we are not informed whether any other effec.
was to follow this last display. To owe his life to its appearance, was
matter for lasting gratitude to the " fairy flag."
The colors of the ancient banners, or their devices, are not distinctly
known. " The dark wreaths of Erin's standard,"* the blended colors of
Mac Druivel's bratach, the beauteous green colored banner of the King
of plains, t and the red and green meteors, as others are termed, do not
give a very definite idea of their appearance. The banner of Gaul, a
companion of Fingal, was called Briachail bhrocaill.
The Celts did not confine their distinguishing badges to their flags;
they had, we have seen, long before the commencement of the era of
Christianity, depicted them on their shields. The Germans are cele-
brated for the taste with which these were painted, the various colors
being much admired. J Tacitus speaks of the Arrans, one of their tribes,
as having been distinguished by black shields, but he describes them
generally as ornamenting them with figures of animals, bears, bulls,
wolves, deer, oxen, horses, dogs, and lynxes, being enumerated. The
accompanying print, engraved and colored from the descriptions in the
" Notitia Imperii " of Pancirollus, and the " Hieroglyphica " of Pierius,
will show that the Gallic and German auxiliary troops bore various de-
vices on their shields, which were certainly, to all intents and purposes,
coat armor; and in a tasteful arrangement of colors and design the Brit
ish legions did not yield to their continental friends.
In the compositions of the bards we often find allusion made to paint-
ed targets. Sometimes they are called red, at other times spotted, vari-
ed, or chequered. S)
It is singular that the term breac, applied to the party-colored shield,
should be given to the coat or covering which became the family recog-
nisance of the Gael!
In the time of Spenser, the Irish also painted their round leathern
targets "in rude fashion."
Some of the figures depicted on the Celtic shields bear a close resem-
blance to those in modern coat armor We recognise the star, the gy-
ron, the carbuncle, the lozenge, the crescent, the griffin, the pall, the
tressure, &c. that appear in forms as rude as in many old works on her-
* Darthula. t Dargo. t Tacitus, Seneca, &c.
Drs. Mac Queen, Mac Pheraon, &c. &c.
In this branch of the subject the crests or badges of those nations
come appropriately under potice. That they bore various figures on
their helmets has already been shown: that they were for tribal and pa-
ternal distinction, cannot be doubted. Pausanias informs us that Aris-
tornenes bore an eagle displayed, Agamemnon a lion's head, Menelaus
a dragon, Stc. The Dacian symbol was also a dragon, and the Scy-
thians, according to Guillirn, bore a thunderbolt. The first Gauls who
exhibited at Rome as gladiators had a fish for their crest, and were
BADGES were borne on the helmet, and displayed on the shield and on
the banner; hence modern arms often contain representations of those
things anciently carried as marks of distinction. Bruce had three holly
branches, which were, no doubt, borne on his ensign, as he bestowed
them on Irvine of Drum, who was his banner bearer, and whose pos-
terity still carry them."j~
The lion, according to Gebelin, was the general badge of the Celtic
tribes; the national arms of Scotland are, consequently, of great an-
tiquity. It is true that Aldred describes the animal, at the battle of the
Standard, "ad similitudinem Draconis figuratim; " but the rude form
might very naturally occasion the mistake, for it is well known that the
heraldic figures had formerly extremely little resemblance to the real
objects. The science has indeed advanced in the march of improve-
ment, but it is not long since it was otherwise. A member of the col-
lege of arms once visited the menagerie in the Tower, where the lions
being pointed out to him; "Lions!" he exclaimed, " I have tricked J
too many, not to know what like they are!" actually believing the ani-
mals before him were another species!
There are many Scots families who bear animals, or parts of them,
that are not found in Britain or in Europe. It would be a very unrea-
sonable stretch of conjecture, to fancy that, such as carry figures of
creatures, which although long extinct, are known to have once lived
here, are of so remote extraction; but may we not be allowed to believe
that those charges were derived from the common practice of the ancient
Celts? The bearing of hereditary arms, or marks, is usually derived
from the Goths; but do those who say so, inquire from whom that people
acquired the practice? " In Celtic Scotland," says the laborious author
of Caledonia, " no chivalry, nor it zmiioluh. ルブタンシカゴs attendant arms, were known in
1076. " The chivalrous spirit of the Gael was always the most striking
trait in their character, yet if the science of heraldry, as refined by othei
nations, was not studied by the primitive race of Scots, it was retained
by them in its original simplicity, and its nice distinctions and peculiar
regulations were preserved with rigid exactness.
In ancient families not manv instances occur where the supporters are
strange animals. The Highlanders had less fancy than others for these
* Festus. t Sir George Mac Kenzie.
I A term applied to arms that are drawn with a pen. Vol. i. p. 761.
BADGES OR CRESTS. 197
uncouth defenders of their arms. At tournaments they let their clans-
men stand by their shields in naked fierceness or in their native breacan.
The painted shields, the crests, or badges, worn on the head, the
standards, and strictly regulated patterns of their garments, were the in-
signia by which the Celtic warrior was distinguished and his tribe recog-
nised. Of the badges, as worn by the Scotish clans, the following is a
list, the correctness of which, as far as it extends, may be relied on.
For carrying these marks of distinction, after 1745, some Frasers and
Mac Kenzies were subjected to the penalties of the disarming act.
BADGES, or SUIACHEAMTAS, of the Highland Clans, with the Gaelic,
English, and botanical names.
Buchannan, Dearcag Monaidh, Bilberry, Vaccinium uliginosum.
Cameron, Dearcag Fithich, Crowberryj Empitium nigrum.
Campbell, Garbhag ant-sleibh, Fir-club rnoss, Lycopodium selago.*
Chisholm, Raineach, Fern, Filix.
Colquhon, Braoileag nan con, Bearberry, Arbutus uva ursi.
Cummin, Lus mhic Cuimein, Cummin wood, Cuminum.
Drummond, Lus mhic High breatuinn, Mother of thyme, Thymis
Fergusson, Ros greine, Little sunflower, Helian thymum mari-
Forbes and Mac Aoidh,"|" Bealuidh, or Bealaidh, Broom, Spartium
Fraser, luthar, Yew, Taxus baccata.
Grant, Mac Gregor, Mac Kinnon, and Mac Quarie,- Giuthas, Pine,
Gordon, ladh shlat, Eitheann, Ivy, Hedera helix.
Graham, Buaidh craobh, na Laibhreas, Laurel spurge, Laureola
Hay, Uile-ice, Misletoe, Viscum album.
Logan and Sinclair, Conis, Whin or furze, Ulex europaeus.
Mac Aulay and Mac Farlane, Muileag, Cranberry, Oxycoccus
Mac Donald, Mac Alastair, and Mac Nab, Fraoch gorrn, Common
heath, Erica vulgaris.
Mac Dougal, Fraoch dearg, Bell heath, Tetralix.
Mac Kenzie and Mac Lean, An Cuilfhionn, Holly, Ilex aqui-
Mac Lachlan, Faochag, na gille-fuinbrinn, Lesser periwinkle,
Mac Leod, Gunn, and Ross, Aiteann, Juniper, Juniperis communis.
Mac Naughtan, Lusan Albanach, trailing Azalia, Azalea pro-
Mac Niel and Lamont, Luibheann, Dryas, Octopetala.
*Many of this name assert that the Dutch myrtle, Roid, is the proper badge,
'93 WAR CRIES, OR
Mac Pherson, Mac Intosh, Mac Duff, Mac Bean, Shaw, Farquharson,
Mac Gillivray, Mac Queen, Clark, Davidson, Elder, and several
others, as branches of Clan Chattan, Lus na'n Crairnsheag, nam
Braoileag, Red whortleberry, Vaccinium vitis idea.*
Menzies, Fraoch nam Meindarach, Menzie heath, Menziesia
Munro, Garbhag an gleann, na crutal a mada ruadh, Common club
moss, Lycopodium clavaturn.
Murray and Sutherland, Bealaidh Chatti, Butcher's broom, Ruscus
Ogilvie, Boglus, Evergreen alkanet, Anchusa.
Oliphant, Luachair, Bullrush, Scirpus.
Robertson, Dluith fraoch, Fine leaved heath, Erica cinerea.
Rose, Ros-mairi fiadhaich, Wild rosemary, Andromeda Media.
Stewart, Darach, Oak, Quercus robur. They also carry the
Thistle, Cuaran, as the national badge."]"
LTrquhart, Lus-lethn't-sarnhraidh, Wallflower, Cheiranthus.
The three pinion feathers of the native eagle is the distinguishing
badge of a Highland chief, two of a chieftain, and one of a gentleman.
This mark of nobility was well known in the time of Ossian. Had
Prince Charles succeeded in his enterprise of 1745, it was intended to
institute a military order of the mountain eagle.
Connected with the means of recognition by badges and symbols, WAR
CRIES, or watch words, were in use by the Gael, with whom they were
fixed, and peculiar to districts and tribes. The remarkable shouting and
chanting of these nations in making their attacks is referable to this
custom, the particular exclamation forming the Welsh Ubub, the Irish
Ullulu,J and the Caledonian Cathgairm, or Slogan. A band of warriors
often used their own name as a war shout. One of the Cimbric nations
in the invasion of Italy, in this manner advanced, singing Ambrones!
Ambrones! and the Scots at the battle of the Standard, 1138, made a
great shout, crying Albani! Albani!
The names of leaders seem well adapted for incentives to battle or
rallying words for combatants. They were used simply by some as a
Douglas! a Douglas! a Gordon! a Gordon! or they were accompanied
by appellations, as Hainault the valiant! Milan the Noble! Sec. 'on the
continent. To some again were added expressions of incitement, as
Avant Darnly, by the Dukes of Lennox. Rallying cries often refer-
* To avoid trouble, the Box, from its close resemblance to the above, was occasional-
ly substituted, whence arose a belief that it was the Mac Intosh badge. There is also
an opinion among some Seanachies, that the Craobh Aighban, Boxus sempervirens, a
tree said to be found in the Highlands, is the true Suiacheantas.
t The oak not being an evergreen, the Highlanders look on it as an emblem of the
fate of the royal house. The badge of the Pictish kingdom v/as Rudh, Rue, which i
seen joined with the thistle in the collar of the Order.
t The Greek Eleleu and the scriptural Alleluia ! Hoveden
WATCH WORDS 199
red to the armorial badge, as with the Counts of Flanders, who gave
au Lion. Some, from piety, called on the name of their patron saints,
and many, from the cause of strife, made use of particular sayings.
Among the Scots' cries are those of Buchannan " Clareinnis," an Isl-
and in Loch.omond. Campbell, " Ben Cruachan, a noted mountain, in
Argyle, Farquharson "Cairn na cuimhne," the cairn of remembrance,
in Strathdee. Fraser, anciently " Morf haich," afterwards "Castle
Downie," the family seat. Grant, "Craig Elachaidh," the rock of
alarm, of which there are two in Strathspey. The division of this tribe,
railed Clan Chirin, have properly " Craig Ravoch," to which they add
"stand sure," the others saying "stand fast." Mac Donald, " Fraoch
eilan," the Heathy isle.* Mac Farlane " Loch Sloidh," the Lake of the
Host. Mac Gregor, Ard choille,"| the high wood. Mac Intosh,
" Lochmoy," a lake near the seat of the chief, in Inverness-shire. Mac-
kenzie, "Tulach ard," a mountain near castle Donnan, the ancient strong
hold of the clan. Mac Pherson, " Creag dhubh chloinn Chatain."J
" Munro, Casteal Fulis na theinn," Foulis castle in danger. Forbes,
anciently Loanach, a hill in Strathdon. Clan Rannald, "A dh' aindeoin
cotheireadh e! " in spite of all opposition.
Border clans, and others now reckoned Lowland, had also their slo-
gans. The Maxwells cried, I bid ye bide ward law, i. e. the assemblage
of the clan on the hill of meeting; and the Logans rallied to the shout
of Lesterrick low. The Scots of Buccleuch had Ale muir. The John-
stone's, Light thieves all. The Mercers of Aldie, the gryt pool.-^
Hepburn, bide me fair. Seton, set on. Cranston, a Henwoodie, &c.
Certain districts had also their appropriate places of rendezvous, the
name of which sounded an immediate alarm. The people of Glen-livet,
in Banffshire, had Bochail, a well known hill. Where Celtic institutions
prevailed, these names became the fixed war cry, which was not confin-
ed to the period of mustering, but continued as the mode of recognition
and intimation of danger, during war.
The French had anciently "Monte joye, St. Denis," which was
changed to " Tue! Tue! " The kings of Scotland used, as the general
exclamation, " St. Andrew." The ancient Irish had " Farrah! Farrah!"
which is stated to be farrach, violence, but is rather "Faire!" be
watchful. It was customary with the Gael of that country to add the
interjection bua, or abu, to their particular cries, which is said to be
equivalent to business or cause, as Butler abu, the cause of Butler.
This interpretation is made in the same ignorance of Gaelic which is
seen in that of the motto of the Earls of Kildare, now of the Duke of
Leinster, so often denounced by the Anglo Irish parliament as the
watchword of rebellion. Crom-aboo is translated, I burn: it is Cuiram-
buaidh, I shall obtain the victory. The O'Neals had Lamh dearg, abu,
* Craig an Fhithich, the Raven's rock, is claimed as the peculiar slogan of those who
call themselves Mac Donel.
1 Ard Challich, Chalmers t Seal of the present chief.
200 FIRST WEAPONS OF MANKIND
the red hand, victorious! O'Briens, Mac Carthys and Fitz Maurices
Lamh-laider abu, the strong hand of victory. O'Carrol, Shuat-abu, stir
to victory. O'Sullivari, Fustina stelli abu, (Fostadh steille,) stoutly
securing victory. Clanriccard, (the Bourks) Galriagh-abu, victory to
the red Englishman, from the second Earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgo,
called the red. Earls of Desmond Shannet-abu. Mac Gilpatrick,
Gearlaider-abu, cut strong to victory Mac Swein, Battalia-abu, the
noble staff, victorious, from the battle-axe which they bear in their arms.
The Knight of Kerry, Farreboy-abu! the yellow-haired men victory!
Fleming, Teine-ar aghein-abu, fire to the bomb, victory! Hiffernan,
Ceart na suas aba, right and victory from above. Hussey, Cordereagh-
abu, hand in hand to victory.
War cries were anciently used by none but princes or commanders.
They were proclaimed at tournaments by heralds, and became the mot-
toes of families. One of the oldest in record is that of Gaul Mac Morn,
" First to come and last to go."
The effect of the ancient rallying shout is still strong in the north of
Scotland. The exclamation of Cairn na cuimne! is yet sufficient to
collect the Dee side men to the assistance of their friends in any brawl
at a market or otherwise. A friend informed me that, passing through
the braes of Moray, he suddenly heard the shout Craig elachie, stand
fast! and could perceive many people hastening towards a certain point.
On inquiry he found that a fair was held at a little distance in which
the Grants had got involved in a quarrel with their neighbors.
The most savage of human beings are found able to fabricate rude
implements wherewith to procure game for subsistence, or as a means
of protection against the attacks of ferocious animals. From the neces-
sity also of resisting the aggressions of neighboring tribes, much atten-
tion is paid to the formation of instruments of destruction and defence.
As mankind advance in civilisation, their ingenuity in all manufactures,
both necessary and ornamental, increase; but nations become sooner
proficient in the construction of implements of war than of those used
for any other purpose. In the armies of nations that have not emerged
from the first stages of society, each individual is obliged to provide
himself with such weapons as he can most readily procure, and, on
emergencies, other articles than regular arms are converted into instru-
ments of destruction.
A simple, ready, and sometimes fin effective mode of assailing an
enemy, is by means of stones thrown by hand, a method of fighting much
practised by the Celtic nations, who had numerous bodies of troops so
armed. Many figures of these people in Roman sculpture show the
warriors carrying a number of stones in the loose folds of their ample
cloaks, and Ammianus bears record to their violent and destructive as-
saults.* From Tacitus it appears the Germans sometimes used leaden
* Montfaucon, torn. iv. pi. 52, &c. To drop stones on besiegers has been often
SLINGS. CLUBS. 201
balls as missiles.* Round stones in shape like an egg, and some larger
and of the same globular form, have been found in France, which it is
supposed were used for throwing by the early inhabitants."}"
The Irish, until comparatively recent times, continued this primitive
mode of fighting, at which Cambrensis says they were extremely dex-
Besides projecting stones by hand, SLINGS were also used. The in-
habitants of the Balearic isles, who were of Celtic origin, were the most
famous slingets of antiquity, and are believed to have acquired their
name from this celebrity. They carried three slings, one being tied
round the head, another fastened about the middle, and one held in the
nand. They were excellent marksmen, and could throw stones of three
pounds weight to a great distance. J The sling represented in the fig-
ures of ancient sculpture is plaited in the middle, where it is considera-
bly thicker than at each end. Cliar, now applied to a brave man, is an
ancient Gaelic term for a sling, ^ but Tabhal is the word now used. At
the battle of Largs, in 1263, the Scots commenced a furious attack with
stones and darts. The British tribes used a sling with a wooden shaft,
like those used afterwards by the Saxons, which was called crann tab-
huil, the staff-sling. The has relief at the commencement of Chapter
first, composed from figures on Trajan's column, shows the Celtic throw-
ers of stones, both by hand and sling.
A CLUB is another simple implement of destruction. In cases of ne
cessity, combatants will avail themselves of any thing that can be con-
verted into arms, and, at all times, those who can find nothing better will
provide themselves with a good stick. Three or four hundred of the
king's army went to the battle of Edgehill with nothing but a cudgel. |]
When the Highlanders joined Prince Charles, when they fought at
Gladsmuir and even afterwards, many had no better weapon, but
" Wijh heavy cudgels of good oak,
They vowed to kill at every stroke."
The Gauls, long after their subjugation, continued to fight with this
weapon, and on various remains of Roman architecture, figures of these
nations are seen wielding with vigorous arms, heavy knotted cudgels. IF
The ^Estii, one of their tribes, had scarcely any arms of iron, but chiefly
fought with clubs, which were hardened by being burned.** From dis-
coveries made in France they are found to have been short and thick,
and sometimes pointed with metal. The club of the old Britons here
represented was four-edged, of massy thickness at the end, and was call-
ed Cat. "ft The Jedworth staff, pointed with iron, which Major describes,
was a serviceable weapon to the hardy inhabitants of that border town.
* Annals, v. t Montfaucon. t Diod. Sic. v.
Urnigh Ossian, a poem. || Clarendon, ii, p. 40, ed. Oxford.
II Montfaucon, pi. 55, 56, &c. A club is by no means a contemptible weapon
We even read of desperate fighting with teeth and nails ! Beloe's Herodotus, iv. 153
** Tacitus Annals. tt Dr. Meyrick. t| Lib. v. c 3
It would appear from Tacitus, that the Catti, besides thfcir other arms
carried certain iron instruments.
The arms of the ancient Gauls, and of the British tribes, have been
found deposited in the grave with the mouldering relics of their original
owner, or dug from the site ofthe Celtic strong holds. They are often
discovered to reward the laborious researches ofthe zealous antiquary,
and are not unfrequently turned up by the plough or spade of the indus-
The first implements of untutored man are formed of stone, a material
which is often moulded into suitable form with the nicest care.
The simple, and sometimes rude, but frequently ingeniously fabricated
weapons ofthe aboriginal Celt, are found in all those countries which
he inhabited; and along with those formed of stone are occasionally dis-
covered articles of bone, in some cases perforated, and evidently adapted
for purposes of war.*
A singular implement frequently met with throughout Britain and Ire-
land, has attracted the particular attention of antiq-uaries, who have been
at some loss to conceive the use for which these mysterious articles were
intended. They are not exclusively formed of stone, but are also found
of brass, or mixed metal; the presumption, however must be, that the
former are most ancient, although the manufacture may not have been
given up after the working of metal became generally practised. The
name of CELTS, by which they are known, has itself excited many con-
jectures. It is supposed to have been adopted by antiquaries for want
of any more appropriate term; but is, probably, according to Whita-
ker, the British word Celt, which signifies a flint stone. They are gen-
erally about five inches long and one or more broad, are sometimes very
plain, and in many instances are formed with much ingenuity. The
most simple are merely tapered towards each end, but others are varied
in shape, and nicely perforated for the insertion of a handle, which was
perhaps secured by small wedges.
It has been imagined that Celts were used in the Druidic saci'/ices,
and it has been observed from Livy, that even the Romans, in early
ages, killed their victims with flint stones. |
It has also been said that they were used as implements of carpentry,
which is not only probable, but some positive proof of the fact has been
* Hoare's Ancient Wiltshire ; Archaeologia. &c.
t Lib. xxiv, Ap. the Rev. J. Dow in Trans, ofthe Ant. of Scotland, ii. 199.
discovered. A writer in the " Archnsologia," on this subject, has ac-
companied his remarks with representations of a Celt fixed in the han-
dle when employed for the different uses of an axe, a chisel, and an
adze.* Their appropriation for domestic purposes is perfectly consistent
with their use in battle. With them the natives must have cut down the
trees of the forest, on the trunks of which the marks are often discerni-
ble, for no other description of axe has ever been discovered. In the
vignette at the end of Chapter III, some of these implements are repre-
sented, in the form in which they were evidently used by the ancient
wood-hewers and carpenters. The one on the left side shows the method
by which the most simple form, both in *tone and metal, was used. Be-
sides the ligature, a slight ridge may be observed on some, apparently to
prevent their being forced out of their proper position.
In the more improved manufacture of metal Celts, which are common
to North and South Britain, they are formed with a hollow for the in-
sertion of the handle, and, in several instances, part of the wood has
been found remaining in the socket. "f From this circumstance, and
their peculiar formation, it has been inferred that the shaft and blade
were in a line, making, as it were, a bludgeon; "f but was it not possible
for the Celtic warrior to find boughs of trees bent naturally to a right
angle, or that could be readily made so and adopted as an efficient handle?
The lower figure on the dexter side of the trophy, forming the vignette
to this Chapter, represents the method in which it is believed to have
been fixed when used as an axe. The metal Celts are usually provided
with a ring, as represented in the engraving, supposed to have been for
the purpose of suspending them by the side or over the shoulder. They
are often found with a mould, or case, into which they exactly fit, which
was either adopted for their preservation, the mould in which they were
formed, or itself adapted for service. It has, however, been observed
that all brazen instruments, from their value, were kept in cases of wood
lined with cloth. Celts have also, not unfrequently, a ring attached, with
sometimes a bit of jet or other ornament appended.
In some tumuli that were opened near the Cree, in the parish of Mon-
igafF, where, according to tradition, the Picts and Romans had fought a
severe battle, several stone Celts were found. One was in the form of
a hatchet, and resembles a pavior's hammer in the back part, like the one
represented in the engraving, and another was broad and flat, both hav-
ing an aperture for the shaft. J It may be observed that not only are
many of these implements formed at one end like the above, but hammers
are often found buried with the primitive inhabitants of these Islands.
The Gauls consigned similar articles to the graves of their relatives, and
in several sculptures they are represented carrying them in their hands. ^
There is no very positive authority to believe that the axe was a weap-
* Vol. xix. t Whitaker's Hist, of Manchester, &c.
t Stat. Ace. vii. 60, xvi. 227, xviii. 186, &c. See also Gordon's Itin. Seutentrionale.
Archaeologia. xvii. 120. &c. See the plate.
on in common use, either by the Continental or British Celts, but Ma)
cellinus speaks of it as carried by the former, and in 538 the Frank*
used it. By the Welsh, when formed of flint, it was called Bvvyelt-arv.
In a Teutonic romance of the eighth century, it is said that after the
iavelins had been thrown, "they thrust together resounding stone axes.'
The word used for these is stain bort, from stein, a stone, and barte, an
axe, and.it is thought to be the only name by which they are recorded.*
Hengist, the Saxon, calls a sword an axe."}" Among the Danes, who
used it double, it was called bye, and when fixed to a long staff, it is said
to have acquired the name of all bard, or cleave all.
This weapon, when used by the Highlanders, was known as the Loch-
aber axe, called, in Gaelic, tuagh-chatha. The heavy armed soldier in
Scotland and Ireland carried it, until very lately, from whom it was call-
ed the Galloglach axe. It was usually mounted on a staff about five
feet long, but another sort was wielded with one hand, the thumb being
extended along the shaft, and so forcibly that no mail could resist it. In
the Tower of London were formerly shown some weapons called Locha-
ber axes; but since the recent excellent arrangements of Dr. Meyrick,
it appears they were English arms, no real Lochaber axes being in the
armory. They are, indeed, unaccountably rare. One, in this gentle-
man's admirable collection, is of a ruder form than the one here repre-
The figure on the right is from the axes formerly borne by the town
guard of Edinburgh, that in the middle from those of old Aberdeen, and
the other is an ancient form of the Highland tuagh.
* A reprint by Dr. Jamieson in a work on Northern Antiquities. Edinb. Journal oi
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