IMA Source Catalog

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

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

“Autobiography of an Irish traveller ” 1835

Summited by Chris Amendola

” Oh !’ said he, ‘ I have my scouts and my spies every where, who give me immediate warning. I can go in two hours, across the country, to places which they would be as many days in reaching; so ignorant are they of the bye-roads, and places we frequent. Besides,’ added he, ‘ one of our stout-hearted fellows is worth a dozen of your trained soldiers, who only fight by rule; we, squire, fight with a stick better than they with a sword. There,’ he continued, pointing to a stout, well-built young fellow, about twenty-five years of age,—’ if there be a man in Ireland who can beat down his cudgel with a cutlass, then I’1l give my head for a foot-ball.’
” Being a skilful swordsman myself, and always very cool and deliberate in my play, I answered, that if they had a good strong broad-sword, I would play a match after breakfast, for the sake of amusement.
“‘ With all my heart,’ said the young man, ‘ we are near of an age and of a size;’ and when the breakfast was finished, a cudgel and broadsword were produced.
” ‘ Comrade,’ said I, ‘ before we begin, remember we are not to strike each other ! I shall either cut your cudgel out of your hand, or you will beat down my guard; and whoever does this three times in succession is the conqueror.’
” At it we went accordingly, and, in truth, I never saw a cudgel played in such style before. He kept on the defensive, and parried all my cuts for fifteen minutes, without having his guard broke in upon. After this, changing his method, he began upon the offensive; and, in the course of ten minutes more, my sword had been three times nearly struck from my grasp. I now threw it down, and gave him my hand, satisfied of his unrivalled dexterity; for, when at Berlin, I was considered the best broad-swordsman in the college. The lads were all pleased with our trial of skill, and not less so with the good humour I exhibited on being defeated. I am convinced no swordsman could have resisted my antagonist. His cudgel moved like lightning; the inner part, from his hand to his elbow, covering his body in a half circle, or otherwise, according to the blows aimed at him.”

December 15, 2009 Posted by | As sport, Historical descriptions, other weapon, prowess | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake poem and artwork 1825

Found by Maxime Chouinard

Drinking, dancing, fighting and carrying on at an Irish wake! Looks to have the rare image of a woman holding a shillelagh…and smoking a pipe.

December 15, 2009 Posted by | Faction fight descriptions, grip, Historical descriptions, Period illustration | , , , , | Leave a comment

Political Cartoon Faction Fight 1846

Found by Maxime Chouinard

John Doyle 1846
Listed Personalities (left to right)
Herbert of Lea, Sidney Herbert, Baron, 1810-1861 #5914
Graham, James, Sir 1792-1861 #5740
Aberdeen, George Hamilton Gordon Earl of 1784-1860 #4221
Wellington, Arthur Wellesley Duke of 1769-1852 #696
Peel, Robert Sir 1788-1850 #589
Sheil, Richard Lalor 1791-1851 #5823
O’Connell, Daniel 1775-1847 #574
Russell, John Russell, Earl, 1792-1878 #5597
Palmerston, Henry John Temple 3rd Viscount 1784-1865 #5598
Grey, Charles Grey, Earl, 1764-1845 #5606
Bentinck, George, Lord 1802-1848 #5732
Disraeli, Benjamin Earl of Beaconsfield 1804-1881 #204
Embedded text
I’m for the fellow with the whiskers. – I’ll break a head or two before it’s all over. – Die game, Bob. – We must give in. There’s no standing against such odds

December 15, 2009 Posted by | Faction fight descriptions, grip, Historical descriptions, Old Newspaper clippings, Period illustration, political cartoons | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Knife and Bata a blow up from the Harpers Weekly 1871


January 28, 2009 Posted by | knife, political cartoons | Leave a comment

Harpers Weekly 1871


January 28, 2009 Posted by | as crime, Faction fight descriptions, political cartoons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment