IMA Source Catalog

Gathering all the sources for historical Irish martial culture in one place.

Giraldus Cambrensis

From Louie again:

Giraldus Cambrensis who was in Ireland in the late 12 century 
speaking of the weapons of the Irish, he says, ” they use pikes, 
javelins, and great battleaxes, exceedingly well tempered;” and, 
that ” they wield the axe with one arm, their thumb extending along 
the shafts, and guiding the stroke, from whose violence neither 
helmet, nor coat of iron mail, arc sufficient protection; whence it 
has happened in our days, that a single stroke has severed a heavy-
armed horseman in two, thorough his massy covering of iron armour, 
one side falling one way, and the other a contrary way.” 
How powerful must the arm be, and how well tempered the weapon., to 
achieve what is here related by an eye-witness and an enemy! ” These 
hatchets’ he says, ” they always carry in their hand, as walking-
staffs, ready instruments of death, not requiring to be unsheathed 
like a sword, or bent like a bow ; without further preparation than 
raising the arm, it inflicts a deadly wound.”

An impartial history of Ireland, from the period of the English 
invasion to the present time: By Dennis Taaffe 1811


February 22, 2009 Posted by | 12th century, Historical descriptions, Period illustration, prowess | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A View of the State of Ireland as it was in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth: By Edmund Spenser

More from Louie:

“Also their short Bows, and little Quivers, with short bearded Arrows, 
are very Scythian, as you may read in the same Olaus. And the same 
sort both of Bows, Quivers, and Arrows, are at this day to be seen 
commonly amongst the Northern Irish-Scots, whose Scottish Bows are ‘
not past three quarters of a Yard long, with a String of wreathed Hemp 
slackly bent, and whose Arrows are not much above half an Ell long, 
tipped with steel Heads, made like common broad Arrow Heads, but much 
more sharp and slender ; that they enter into a Man or Horse most 
cruelly notwithstanding that they are shot forth weakly”. 

A View of the State of Ireland as it was in the Reign of Queen 
Elizabeth: By Edmund Spenser


February 22, 2009 Posted by | 16th century, archery, Gallowglass, Period illustration | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Irish “Glibbes” Hairstyle

Also from Louie Pastore

The Irish “Glibbes” Hairstyle – The original helmet hair? 

The Irish style of having long hair over the eyes and short hair at 
the back which can be seen in Durer’s pic of Irish Kern/Scot 
galloglas may have been considered as a form of head protection by 
the Irish… was it practical, was it similiar to native American 
ghost shirt that were supposed to guard against bullets or was the 
comment by Spencer merely mocking the Irish?


“their going to battle without Armour on their Bodies or Heads, but 
trusting to the Thickness of their Glibbs, the which (they say) will
Sometimes bear off a good stroke”
Spenser’s View of Ireland (1596) 

Spenser also writes about his dislike of the mantle because the 
Irish are hiding weapons and armour underneath them, he also 
comments on the glibb hairstyle – outlaws can cut it off so that 
they look nothing like themselves or pull it low over their eyes!
Worst of all some English are adopting it….

“But what Blame lay you to the Glibb ? take heed (I pray you) that 
you be not too busie therewith, for fear of your own Blame ; feeing 
our Englishmen take it up in such a general Fashiuon to wear their 
Hair so immeasurably long, that some of them exceed the longest 
Irish Glibbs.

Iren. I fear not the Blame of any undeserved Dislikes: but for the 
Irish Glibbs, they are as fit Marks as a Mantle is for a Thief. For 
whensoever he – hath run himself into that Peril of Law, that he 
will not be known, he either cutteth off his Glibb quite, by which 
he becometh nothing like himself; or pulleth it so low down over his 
Eyes, that it is very hard to discern his thievish Countenance, and 
therefore fit to be trussed up with the Mantle.” 

A Father Walter Talbot, chaplain to an Irish Regiment in the Spanish 
service serving in the Low Countries, who saw Durer’s sketch of the 
Kern mercenaries in the Low Countries mentioned that the glib 
hairstyle and moustache were ‘forfitured’ at home and the price would 
be their heads! 

Another source mentions – “the English authorities took a strong 
dislike to the
Irish “glib”, a thick lock of hair worn over the forehead and
eyes: “I have caused all the Irishry in this province to forego
their glybbes” (dated 1570 in OED).

An article by Katherine Simms argued that certain Irish tonsures and 
hair styles were associated with a revival of a pagan warrior cult
sometime after the Norman invasions. She specifically mentioned the 
hairstyle known as cúlán as being a mark of a díbergach.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Gallowglass, Period illustration | , , , , , | 3 Comments

MacGregor’s lecture on the Art of Defence, Paisley 1791

Dug up by Louie Pastore:

“I am told that a number of the Irish are very good at fighting with 
two sticks, viz. a short one in their left hand to guard with and a 
long one in their right, which they manage with amazing dexterity. 
This is practicing sword and dagger, the same as the evolutions of the 
backsword are performed with cudgels”
MacGregor’s lecture on the Art of Defence, Paisley 1791

February 20, 2009 Posted by | description of sticks, grip, knife, prowess | , , , , , | Leave a comment