IMA Source Catalog

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

Ottawa Valley Stickfighters

This incredible photo was dug up and shared by John Sullivan of the MSP

Here is the info he has given…

Unfortunately there is not much known about the men in the photo. The museum
where that photo sits is kind of on the boundary between the Shiner territory
and Walter Beckwith’s crew which would mean that there is a very very good
chance that these guys were Shiners. Beckwith’s faction was immediately down
river of ours and there was a close relation between the two that seemed fairly
civil. Beckwith (a Roman Catholic) was the man to hire Shiners exclusively as
the muscle for his interests on the river known as The Madawaske Roarers. There
were other factions in the area but as you noted there seems to be some pride in
those sticks which leads me to believe that these boys might be part of our old
crew. The fighting stick was very much part of our identity.

That being said you might put this quote by a media observer took a trip along
the “Whiskey Road” from Ottawa to Pembroke, as far as Foresters Falls where this
photo is from. If you google map “RocherFendu Ontario” you will see Foresters
Falls as well as Sullivan Island sitting in the river immediately to the east of
the town. not five miles further up the road was one of our hotels build by my
Great uncle Thomas in 1867
Taken from The Perth Courier Nov.29 1872 describing his observations of that
notorious road .
“A lumbering village of some twenty houses eight of which are hotels. No church
or meeting house but red rum in great abundance..murder is the business of the

Or maybe this one , but I cant find who wrote this, Memory says it was taken
from a court transcript as evidence given in court.

“In those days the only patent to a timber limit was a gang of fighting men, and
the operator who had the most formidable men got the timber. It was in 1836
that the Shiners became the terror of all the lumbermen.”

This image has been cropped. Please see the Modern Shillelagh Project page for the full image and to find out other information.


July 8, 2010 Posted by | description of sticks, Historical descriptions | Leave a comment

A few Australian stickfighting manual pics circa?

I am not sure of the source for these two pages. I received them via email in 2005 and was told they were from an Australian combatives manual. Now I am not saying that these depict Irish martial arts but I just thought I would put them up since the grip is similar and there might be some interest.

July 8, 2010 Posted by | Historical descriptions | 1 Comment

Some NY Times quotes 1857, 1861, 1878, 1895, 1924

Contributed by Stephen Logan:

December 5, 1857 p. 1 (excert from a longer, extremely interesting article that is well worth a read)

NY Times

ERIE RAILROAD STRIKE. Two Hundred Men Discharged at Peirmont – They Drive Off New Employees. Twenty-Five Metroploitan Volunteers Dispatched to the Scene of Riot. THE RIOTERS ARMED WITH MUSKETS AND CANNONS.

…Heedless of their threats, however, the Superintendent came to the city and hired two hundred laborers, who were got together and sent ip to Piermont on Thursday. They found upon their arrival the whole place up in arms and ready to give them a warm reception. They attempted to land but were warned off, but being placed alongside the dock by the steamboat there was bo alternative but to land and vindicate their claim to hold the place against the rebels. Clubs, stones, and missles of all kinds were now put in requisition, adnt he invanding and repelling forces were joined in a fierce contest. The new comers were seized and pitched into the dock, they were pummeled with shillelaghs and fists until they were obliged to beat a retreat. They entrenched themselves on board the boat, put their wounded under the care of the surgeon, (the cook,) and waited for thte steamer to carry them back to the City…

July 8, 1861 p. 4

European Emigration to this Port for the Half Year

…Of course no son of Erin would ever think of going over to America or New York – which is about the same thing – after he heard that; for, Pat is proverbially of a beligerent turn of mind, and has lately shown himself as happy to wield a rifle in Virginia as heretofore a shillelagh at Donnybrook, it could hardly be expected that he would emigrate with his wife and his brood of young ones to a country where a general scrimmage ended in a universal flight for life…

January 20, 1878 p. 4

A BRAVE TROOPER – When gallant Ponsonby lay grievously wounded on the field of Waterloo, he forgot his own desperate plight while watching an encounter between a couple of French lancers and one of his own men, cut off from his troop. As the Frenchmen came down upon Murphy, he, using his sword as if it were a shillelagh, knocked their lances alternately aside again and again. The suddenly setting spurs to his horse, he galloped in hot pursuit, but not quite neck and neck. Wheeling round at exactly the right moment, the Irishman, rushing at the foremost fellow, parried his lance and struck him down. The second, pressing on to avenge his comrade, was cut through diagonally by Murphy’s sword, falling to the earth without a cry or a groan; while the victor, scarcely glancing at his handiwork, trotted off whistling “The Grinder.” — Chambers’s Journal.

November 10, 1895 p. 30

IRISH FACTION FIGHTS – From the Westminster Review. The Origin of these senseless, brutal, and cruel conflicts is more or less shrouded in obscurity. It is abundantly clear that neither politics nor religion had anything to say in the matter. They probably originated in ‘hurling matches,’ a species of hockey, once a favored amusement among the youth of Munster on Sundays and holidays after “last mass.” These matches were generally played between neighboring parishes or counties, in some large convenient field or on a bit of “commonage.” The matches naturally caused a good deal of rivalry and jealously; disputes, of course, were inevitable, and it was only natural than a hot-blooded Tipperary gorsoon, finding himself getting the worst of an argument with a Limerick logician, should have recourse to the unanswerable and readier argument of the stick. The “hurley,” “common” or crooked stick used in the game was especially adapted for this species of argument; and judiciously applied, as a rule, immediately silenced an opponent. A ponderous “shillelagh” waved aloft, a piercing “whoop,” a dull thud, and a groan were the signals for a general scrimmage. In a twinkling, the whole filed was a seething, yelling mass of ferocious, wild-eyed, skull-cracking demons.

Such contests took tremendously and grew rapidly in popularity. By degrees a petty quarrel become a matter of well neigh national importance, and whole parishes and baronies took it up and vindicated their champion’s honor whenever opportunity permitted and then fates were propitious. Every male, and, indeed, may old ones, too, were members of some faction or another and thus year after year and generation after generation, the feud grew and throve, and not a man knew what on earth he was fighting for. The leading factions in County Limerick were the “Three-Year-Olds,” and the “Four-Year-Olds,” so called because of a petty dispute as to the age of a bull in the remote past. In County Waterford the factions were called the “Shawnavests” and the “Corrawats,” while in Tipperary the “Magpies” and the “Blackhens” were the most notorious. Although, of course, the women were non-combatants, never the less they belonged to one faction or another, and, did an opportunity present itself for wreaking vengeance, neither sex nor age afforded the least protection. Chivalry, sad to relate, was conspicuous by its absence.

March 13, 1924 p. 7

IRISH CENTENARIAN LIVELY – He Jumps a Fence and threatens a Neighbor With a Shillelagh. LONDON, March 12, — The dangerous age in the case of Owen Connelly of Laskey, County Sligo, Ireland, seems to be an even hundred years. Connolly, hale and vigorous centenarian, walked nine miles to the court house recently to answer a charge of having “used threatening language and abused,” one Patrick Brady. He jumped over a fence and threatened me with a blackthorn,” declared Brady. The magistrate dismissed the case.

July 8, 2010 Posted by | as crime, grip, Old Newspaper clippings, other weapon, prowess | , | Leave a comment