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Garrett Hazen




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Aug, 2009 9:09 pm    Post subject: Earliest Claymores?         Reply with quote

I was thoroughly attached to a "biography" concerning William Wallace by James Mackay -- the real guy, so please subtract any notion of Mel Gibson from your mind (the real stories of him are much cooler as well -- and there was a passage that suggested the Claymore as being a "favorite weapon" of William Wallace.

Now, William Wallace was around in the years roughly 1275-1305 (the last year being the only correct year) - and everywhere I turn I only read or hear of Claymores beginning in the 15th century on.

Last time I checked, 1305 was not a part of the 15th century. So I pose these two questions:

Question # 1 - Is there such thing as a Claymore or anything similar to it dating back to the time of William Wallace?

Question # 2 - If not, then what would he likely have used in reality? Also taking into consideration that Wallace was a giant of a man by many accounts.

Thanks

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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 3:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not an expert on such things, just trying to apply a little knowledge with some (hopefully logical) postulating. While "Claymores" with the sloped quillons and langnets and whatnot do not show up till the 15th c, Oakshott type XIIIa blades are certainly around in the 1290s. "Claymore" apparently comes from the Gaelic "claidheamh mr" which apparently means "great sword" (I don't speak a word of Gealic, so this is pure recieved wisdom). Now, my understanding is that the XIIIa's were known as 'grete svarts' in England.
Hypothosis: Although William Wallice could not have been using a "Claymore" in the specifically Scottish, 15th C, quatrafoil slanted crossgard sense, he may well hae used a type XIIIa great big whacking sword, which locals may have used the local words for "Geat (big f*$*k off) Sword"
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The use of the term "claymore" to describe a two handed sword seems to date no earlier than the late 18th c. A gentleman named Thomas Pennant visited the Hebrides in 1772 and wrote a book about his travels. He refers to a two handed sword he saw there as a Cly-more and the detailed description plainly refers to such a sword. He takes some liberties with history when he implies, in the same breath, that these swords were used at Culloden and at Mons Grampius, against the Romans. A year later, in September, 1773, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson visited Dunvegan Castle on Skye and saw a two handed sword which had belonged to Sir Roderick Macleod in the early 17th c. Boswell referred to the sword as a Glaymore. These may have been the earliest references to the two handed sword as a Claymore. Boswell's account of his tour of the Highlands was widely read at the time and it, more than anything else, may have resulted in the attachment of the word claymore to the two handed sword.

However, the term claymore is not found in writings contemporary with the use of the two handed sword. It is found regularly in reference to the basket hilt sword most often thought of as the Highlanders' weapon of choice. Modern writers have taken the stance that it can be used to describe both swords and it is regularly. However, historical evidence abounds that the term, prior to the 18th c. referred only to the basket hilt.

Now to your question.

MacKay wrote an excellent book on Wallace, but he was not immune to falling into the usage trap like so many modern writers. Certainly two handed swords were around during Wallace's time, and some may have been put to use. It is my personal theory, however, that most of these swords were "bearing swords" AKA "swords of state" which were not intended to be used beyond ceremonial events. Many of these swords have survived, in large measure because they were not used as weapons. One can hardly visit a Scottish castle without seeing one or more hanging on the castle walls. The Sutherland Sword of State hangs in what was once a lavatory in Dunrobin castle!

Did Wallace actually use one? I doubt it. During most of his career he was undoubtedly a horseman. To command troops in battle he had to be mobile and able to easily view the field. Assuming he spent most of his time in the saddle, you have to believe that he wore a single handed or hand and a half sword. Anything larger would have been very difficult to carry, much less use on horse back. Wallace was purportedly a large man although the number of contemporary accounts of Wallace cannot be described as "many". There are actually few accounts of Wallace and Blind Harry's poem, which is the largest, probably contains considerable fantasy and speculation.

Finally, we have the sword on display in the Wallace Monument at Stirling. This sword is probably not from Wallace's time. It has a murky history and there are records which show that the hilt has been replaced at least three times since it was first located. There are also records indicating that at some point a baldric and sheath were produced for the "Wallace Sword". My opinion is that the sword of William Wallace, taken when he was captured, was probably a nondescript single handed sword which was tossed aside after he was taken to England. Certainly had been carrying a large or unusual sword, it would have been taken south with him, as a trophy of his capture, but there is no mention of a sword in the contemporary record, sparse as it is. The Wallace Monument sword was probably found at a later date at the same location which housed his real sword and, because of its size, assumed to be his. But that is pure speculation on my part.

Lin Robinson

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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nat Lamb wrote:
"Claymore" apparently comes from the Gaelic "claidheamh mr" which apparently means "great sword" (I don't speak a word of Gealic, so this is pure recieved wisdom).


ah, growing up in the highlands, and going to a primary school where they still taught in gaelic finally pays off...

mr, or mhor, simply means "big"

"big sword".

it's a really technical terminology... Same way Skian Mhor means "big knife".

however, Wallace, and the large majority of his forces were lowlanders, not highlanders, and therefore were predominantly english or doric speakers, not gaelic-speakers. there's a pretty good chance that Wallace himself was speaking a form of french, much of the time.

Lin Robinson wrote:
The Wallace Monument sword was probably found at a later date at the same location which housed his real sword and, because of its size, assumed to be his. But that is pure speculation on my part.


almost a certainty. I know of at least one other weapon with a similar provenance, which I suspect suffered the same fate, of having its pedigree transposed to the bigger, more imposing weapon by someone in the 17th-20th centuries.

and for Lin Robinson's comment on the sword in the wallace monument "is probably not from Wallace's time", if it is Wallace's sword, then Wallace was secretly Dr Who...
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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 7:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with Lin. In fact, every word of it! Can't tell you how frustrating it is to have to explain why twa' handers aren't Claymores, and when the term was in use, even to members of various Scottish Clubs and clan groups WTF?! ! When I set up my historical display at the various living history events I attend, I now have a stack of little pamphets outlining pretty much what Lin details, and even with the historical evidence on the table (literally), you'd be surprised how many will STILL argue the point.

I DO like Mel's "Braveheart" to this day, I just wish he'd sprinkled in a bit more historical accuracy - It would have made the film just as exciting, and saved a lot of arguing. Razz

Christopher Gregg

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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JG Elmslie wrote:
and for Lin Robinson's comment on the sword in the wallace monument "is probably not from Wallace's time", if it is Wallace's sword, then Wallace was secretly Dr Who...


This would explain quite a lot! Wink Laughing Out Loud

Christopher Gregg

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Couple of comments, and a question.

It's interesting to try to get to the bottom of this and I'm glad to see some folks trying to tease out the threads of reality from this tangled skein Happy.

I agreee that the scenario outlined above for William Wallaces sword is plausible. However, one flaw in the logic: a greatsword may not have been 'brought south' simply because it may not have been particularly unusual at that time and place. I don't think they really were very unusual in the early 14th Century at least not on the Continent.

Also, Oakeshott types XIIa and XIIIa which were around in the late 13th / early 14th Century were not exclusively infantry swords. To the contrary I think they were more commonly associated with heavy cavalry. I think there is also some confusion here of thinking of very large swords as infantry swords in the sense of the zweihander type used by Landsknechts and Swiss Reislauffer in the16th Century. Greatswords and longswords were used by cavalry fighting mounted, they could cut with one hand while mounted, or be used two-handed when dismounted. The larger "Claymores" have sometimes been linked to mercenaries from the British Isles fighting on the continent and being influenced by these huge six foot zwiehander and flammard type weapons, but that may be just another legend. The traditional or cliche Claymore seems to fall in between the six foot zwiehander and the very roughly four or four and a half foot longsword, but that may again be a modern classification with little to do with the reality. I have seen greatswords in Marozzo (among others) which look to be about five feet long.

I am not convinced that the majority of large swords found around Scotland are actually bearing swords, though it would be very interesting for someone to do a survey of them both for length and weight - the latter in particular would tell us a lot about their possile use. I suspect you may be going to far in the direction of debunking here though. There is considerable historical evidence that Galloglass (whatever term you want to use for them) mercenaries from the Hebrides who played a significant role in fighting both in Scotland and Ireland, carried and fought with large greatswords of various styles as well as the large two-handed axe or "sparth axe", a weapon which I believe was also supposed to be associated with Robert Bruce, or is that a legend too? Galloglass fought as infantry but contemporary British heavy cavalry also carried longswords, some of which were quite formidable in size.

My question: Was there a contemporary term which shows up in the pre-15th Century literature for a large sword in Scotland, or did they just call them 'swords' like in most literature.

To be honest, "big sword" doesn't seem like that much of a stretch to me, though whether that was an actual specific term or not is hard to tell. Just because someone was from the low-country doesn't mean they might not pick up quite a few "loan-words" from Gaelic. Here in New Orleans almost nobody speaks French anymore but we still use many French, Spanish and even Native American words for many things in our every day speach.

J

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I've read, it sounds probable that Wallace carried a single handed sword, perhaps something like the Laird, although a Type XIII or XIIIb wouldn't be out of the question either.

However, there's something else I'd like to ask: where did the idea of Wallace carrying a massive sword originate? Because my guess is that there's actually no reliable historical sources or indications whatsoever of the size of sword Wallace carried. If this is so, then our attempts to find plausible great swords that Wallace might have carried are little more than us trying to find a historically valid sword so that it fits in with our modern, anachronistic idea that Wallace carried a large sword.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The common types in this period included both longsword and greatsword types: type XII, XIIa, XIII and XIIIa. Assuming Wallace was a knight, he is as likely to have carried a greatsword as a single sword. Several formidable greatswords seem to have been found in Scotland from 1250-1350 according to the articles here on myArmoury.

And like I said, Galloglaich infantry which were also active in area during this period, were also associated with the use of greatswords.

Then again, over his carreer, I doubt Wallace carried or used only one type of weapon. We know swords tended to be semi-disposable when heavily used in combat. I suspect it's quite likely Wallace used both single handed and two handed or hand-and-a-half swords, and probably a variety of other weapons, axes, spears, lances etc.

J

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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:

My question: Was there a contemporary term which shows up in the pre-15th Century literature for a large sword in Scotland, or did they just call them 'swords' like in most literature.

To be honest, "big sword" doesn't seem like that much of a stretch to me, though whether that was an actual specific term or not is hard to tell. Just because someone was from the low-country doesn't mean they might not pick up quite a few "loan-words" from Gaelic. Here in New Orleans almost nobody speaks French anymore but we still use many French, Spanish and even Native American words for many things in our every day speach.

J



from my experience, there is, and to the best of my understanding, has always been a disctinct boundary of the highland, and scots english dialects. to generalise, if you take a map of scotland, and draw a line from around Oban or Islay in the south-west, up to inverness in the middling north-east, you have pretty much a boundary line, where everything north is gaelic influences, and south and south-east of there is scots or doric - the boundary has of course moved with time, and there is a good degree of crossover into the south, particularly the grampians and strathclyde regions, but there is little transposition of gaelic terms into the south, particularly the lowland areas south of an imaginary line from glasgow to dundee.

in terms of cultural influence, the flow has for centuries been one predominantly of southern influences entering the highlands, rather than the opposite. the largest outflux of scots gaelic culture can be traced to the mid 18th C clearances, and the enforced migration of a significant proportion of the population to the New World. Far fewer moved to the south of scotland, and fewer still brought the cultural and linguistic traditions to those regions.

The Highalnders were, are, and pretty much have always been the ethnic and cultural minority in scots history. By the time of wallace, the Lords of the Isles were in decline in terms of political influence, and gaelic cultural dominance waned in equal measure.


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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 2:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean...

Wallace was such a figure of fear to the English, had he been carrying anything like the sword that is housed in the Wallace Monument, I think it would have been brought with him to England for certain. I am not arguing that it would taken with him just because it was unusual, but because it was HIS and worthy of being made into a trophy. While I agree that there were long swords in use during his era, and perhaps carried by mounted troops, the single hand or hand and a half would be far more practical to carry and use, as I state. I have also had the opportunity to handle replicas of the Wallace Monument sword, which were made to the same dimensions as the original. These swords weighed only six pounds but were extremely unwieldly. I realize you cannot be sure that a replica will exactly duplicate the original, but I believe these came close. They would not be the swords of horsemen. In fact, they were so blade heavy as to be almost unusable by infantry.

Good debate going on here. Lots of fun.

Lin Robinson

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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 2:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
From what I've read, it sounds probable that Wallace carried a single handed sword, perhaps something like the Laird, although a Type XIII or XIIIb wouldn't be out of the question either.

However, there's something else I'd like to ask: where did the idea of Wallace carrying a massive sword originate? Because my guess is that there's actually no reliable historical sources or indications whatsoever of the size of sword Wallace carried. If this is so, then our attempts to find plausible great swords that Wallace might have carried are little more than us trying to find a historically valid sword so that it fits in with our modern, anachronistic idea that Wallace carried a large sword.


Craig...

The idea may stem from the Wallace Monument sword, which was housed there during Victorian times.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin Robinson wrote:

The idea may stem from the Wallace Monument sword, which was housed there during Victorian times.


still is.

a lot of the misconceptions about my country can be traced back to victorian romantics whose grasp of history and reality were tenuous...



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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig, big = impressive. Big man -> big sword.

JG Elmslie, how do you pronounce claidheamh mr? I'm afraid that here in Maryland nobody teaches Gaelic.

M.

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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Craig, big = impressive. Big man -> big sword.

JG Elmslie, how do you pronounce claidheamh mr? I'm afraid that here in Maryland nobody teaches Gaelic.

M.


Badly.
I grew up in inverness, but my accent nowadays is more English RP, a bit of edinburgh with hints of cambridge. Even the sheep are'nt scared by it Happy

but roughly "klaydam- mhor" hard k, layed is soft, as in "lay" of lay an egg, the d or dh is very soft, a "dha" sound I'm not sure of any english language equivalents to, and the m at the end is a very soft mh . the same with mor or mhor, it's pretty much the mor of morning, with a little bit more of an h in it... ghood mhorning...

it's a bit of a bugger to work out an phoenetics for a language that pretty much sounds like a cross between gargling and impersonating a particularly quiet coffee machine...
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 4:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JG Elmslie wrote:
Lin Robinson wrote:

The idea may stem from the Wallace Monument sword, which was housed there during Victorian times.


still is.

a lot of the misconceptions about my country can be traced back to victorian romantics whose grasp of history and reality were tenuous...


Yes...I know it is still there. I should have said was FIRST housed there during Victorian times.

Lin Robinson

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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 4:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

no worries. text is always easy to misinterpret.

and I probably pounced on it, given my dislike of victorian tartan-tat interpretations of scots history....they really get on my tits. Happy
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 4:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Am I the only one who thinks that the idea of Wallace fighting mounted when majority of his troops are infantry is a bit weird? I mean, he would be vulnerable as the only mounted figure among foot soldiers... And in his bigger battles cavalry didn't have much part as far as I know? Robert Bruce fought dismounted in a schiltron at Bannockburn during the battle although he came to the battlefield mounted and he was mounted before the battle started (when he fought de Bohun)...
Btw, during the 13th and 14th century it seems that longer XIIIa and XIIa version was more common than XIII or XIIIb. XII and XIV are the single handed swords of the era.
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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 5:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Earliest Claymores?         Reply with quote

I agree with what Lin and the other guys have said

Is there such thing as a Claymore dating back to the time of William Wallace?
no

Is there anything similar to it dating back to the time of William Wallace?
yes, Type XIIa and XIIIa swords

what would he likely have used in reality?
truth is we really don't know

I think it is a mistake to look at swords used in Scotland in the 14th c as somehow being uniquely different than what one would have seen throughout Europe at that time. I think there is plenty of evidence that people of status throughout Europe used similar weapons during that period and that many of the sword blades used in Scotland England and Ireland during that time were imported from Italy France and Germany. tr
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 6:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Am I the only one who thinks that the idea of Wallace fighting mounted when majority of his troops are infantry is a bit weird? I mean, he would be vulnerable as the only mounted figure among foot soldiers... And in his bigger battles cavalry didn't have much part as far as I know? Robert Bruce fought dismounted in a schiltron at Bannockburn during the battle although he came to the battlefield mounted and he was mounted before the battle started (when he fought de Bohun)...
Btw, during the 13th and 14th century it seems that longer XIIIa and XIIa version was more common than XIII or XIIIb. XII and XIV are the single handed swords of the era.


Luka...

Wallace, at least at Stirling Bridge and Falkirk, does not seem to have been involved in the actual fighting. He was the commander in both instances and except in cases of dire necessity would have been unlikely to draw his sword. At Stirling Bridge at least, the English did not employ their archers and no English cavaly was able to approach Wallace during the battle.

At Falkirk, where he seems to have realized that he was facing a far different foe than he did at Stirling Bridge, he apparently observed from some distance the actions of his troops. He was certainly not in the army that was annihilated during the battle. He is supposed to have killed Brian deJay, the master of the English Templars in a wooded area near Callendar after the battle and, if that did occur, he was most assuredly fighting on horseback.

I do not know of any account which puts The Bruce on foot at Bannockburn. His role in the battle, aside from overall command, was to direct the reserves, the fourth battle, which came to the fight late, although it was on the field at all times. He would have to remain mounted to be an effective commander, and that was the case in all medieval armies. I think you must say that he fought deBohun DURING the battle, as the action took place over two days, and he was, of course, mounted at the time.

Lin Robinson

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Last edited by Lin Robinson on Tue 01 Sep, 2009 8:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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