Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1544 Highland duine-uasal
Subjectduine-uasal 'man of pride' clan warrior
Culture: Highland Scottish Gael
Setting: clan warfare, Scottish Highlands 16-17thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Henderson 2000 p72
"To some extent, the reasons for the emerging division [between Lowland and Highland Scotland after 1300] are obvious.  The Highland region was where Gaelic (called 'Scottish' by John Fordun) speaking and the geographic differences between northern and southern Scotland made a handy physical dividing line.  As time passed, the idea developed that the Highlands were a far wilder place than the Lowlands, socially as well as physically, Though the Lowlands were never adverse to feuding, warring and general bloodshed, the highlanders gradually gained a reputation for being far more excessive in these departments.
    "This view was reinforced by cattle raids on the south and some truly horrific clan feuds.  In 1544, for instance, 400 members of the clan Fraser engaged 700 members of Clan Ranald at the 'Battle of the Shirts'.  They fought from noon till dusk until, it was said, only 12 men were left alive.  Though this may be a slight exaggeration of the carnage, stories of this ilk prompted the lowlanders to leave the highlanders well alone.  Resigning themselves to the occasional cattle raid, they viewed their uncivilized northern neighbours with deep distrust and kept contact to a minimum."

* Livingstone 2000 p115
"The Highlanders often raided the Lowlands to demand money and cattle.  If these were not willingly given they set fire to the crops and on occasions even burned down the farmhouse.  This protection money was known as blackmail."

* Reid 2000 p27
"The fighting methods of the Highlander were by no means as straightforward as might at first appear and were once again a product of history and culture.  The Caledoni were predominantly spearmen or rather pikemen, and there is no reason to suppose that they did not fight in schiltrons -- a term which literally translates as moving thickets -- just as their descendants were to do in the middle ages.  Similarly, medieval West Highland effigies often depict spearmen rather than historic swordsmen.  Yet by the 17th century, a rather different fighting style had come to predominate.  In the anarchy which followed the long War of Independence, the Highlands became alienated from what might be regarded as mainstream or Lowland Scots society.  The clans went on their own and fell back on their old Celtic ways.
    "Gaelic culture centred around the warrior or individual fighting man.  It is important to appreciate the differing levels of clan society.  The gentlemen were quite literally heroic figures.  In a large scale conflict, they would be expected to lead their men in the battle-line, but otherwise their function was to engage in formal if not ritual combat -- duels -- with men of similar social standing.  For this, they did not require the long schiltron spear, but a sword and shield, or a two-handed sword, according to preference."


* Trevor-Roper 2008 p194-195
"Before the sixteenth century there is no evidence of distinctive Highland dress.  Medieval writers, like Froissart, who refer to the sauvages d'Écosse, say nothing about any peculiarity of garb.  But in the sixteenth century evidence of such peculiarity begins to accumulate. ...  All of these sixteenth-century accounts are in substantial agreement.  They show that the ordinary dress of the Highlanders was a long 'Irish' shirt (in Gaelic léine), which the higher classes -- as in Ireland -- dyed with saffron (leni-croich); a tunic or failuin; and a cloak or plaid, which the higher classes had woven in many colours or stripes, but which in general was of a russet or brown effect, as protective colouring in the heather.  In addition, the Highlanders wore shoes with a single sole (the higher classes might wear buskins) and flat soft caps, generally blue.  In battle, the leaders wore chain mail, while the lower classes wore a padded linen shirt painted or daubed with pitch, and covered with deerskins.
    "This was the normal Highland dress. However, there was also a variation used, probably, only by the chieftains and great men who had contact with the more sophisticated inhabitants of the Lowlands.  This was the trews, a combination of breeches and stockings.  The trews could not be used conveniently out of doors in wild country and all weathers except by men who had attendants to protect or carry them.  It was therefore a mark of social distinction.  Both trews and, probably, plaid were made of tartan.  The origin of tartan -- both name and substance -- is disputed.  The name is generally supposed to be of French origin -- tiretaine -- and the substance, or the method of weaving it, to have been imported from France to Flanders.  If so, it presumably acquired its peculiar character in the Highlands.  It is first mentioned in Scotland in the 1530s, and was by then already associated with the Highlands."

* Norris 1997 p253
"It is interesting to find a record of HIGHLAND DRESS at this early date, 1538.  When James V went hunting, we are told, he wore a short 'heland' coat of velvet in various colours lined with green taffeta; hose of 'heland tertane,' and 'heland sarkis' of Holland cloth.  No further description is forthcoming so we must imagine the shape of the complete costume.  The coat and hose, according to the national custom, were striped down and across -- tarstin, and the highland shirt or sarkis of Holland cloth were doubtless embroidered.  A general practice was to dip or smear a shirt in wax, tallow, and even tar, to make it damp-proof. ... The ordinary highlander wore coats of skin[;] ... in place of military equipment he would wear a skin coat over his striped tunic or shirt, with a bonet [sic] of fur or cloth."

* Sadler/Walsh 2006 p24
"Highlanders would probably go barefoot and barelegged with a long shirt dyed saffron.  Over this their gentry would wear a padded aketon and perhaps a full-length mail shirt.  For the most part, the rank and file would be armed only with bow and spear.  The chronicler John Major has left us with a description of the highland warriors of his day, which, though later in date [1521], could equally apply to the early 16th century:
From mid leg to the foot they go uncovered; their dress is, for an overgarment, a loose plaid and a shirt, saffron dyed.  They are armed with a bow and arrows, a broadsword and small halbert.  They always carry in their belt a stout dagger, single edged but of the sharpest.  In time of war they cover the whole of their body with a coat of mail, made of iron rings and in it they fight.  The common folk amongst the Wild Scots [highlanders] go out to battle with the whole body clad in a linen garment sweed together in patchwork, well daubed with wax or with pitch, and with an overcoat of deerskin."

* Reid 2000 p23-24
"As to the breachan or tartans themselves, in 1581, George Buchanan noted: 'They delight in variegated garments, especially stripes, and their favourite colours are purple and blue.  Their ancestors wore plaids of many colours, and numbers still retain this custom, but the majority now in their dress prefer a dark brown, imitating nearly the leaves of the heather, that when lying upon the heath in the day, they may not be discovered by the appearance of their clothes.'  
    "Camouflage aside, the dull colours were probably in large part by the availability of dye-stuffs which may well have encouraged the development of local patterns or setts, traditional to a particular area.  These may in turn have come to be associated with the clans who were resident in those areas.  But it is still a long way from the heraldic exactitude of the modern concept of clan tartans.  Many clan tartans do not in fact predate the Victorian period, but while they are based on setts worn by the various chiefs, it does not follow that all their clansmen imitated them."

​* Young/Miller 2017 p31-32
"While we don't typically associate shirts with Highland dress, most early references to native clothing refer to 'over-shirts' or tunics worn until the end of the sixteenth century by both sexes. By this time the 'leine' had evolved into a more flamboyant, full-sleeved garment often undyed but occasionally coloured with saffron, known as a 'Saffron Shirt'.
      "A wollen wrap or 'plaid' was worn over the tunic to protect the wearer against the extreme Highland weather. Bishop Leslie wrote in 1578: 'They made also of linen very large shirts, with numerous folds and wide sleeves, which flowed around loosely to their knee. These, the rich coloured with saffron and other smeared with grease to preserve them longer clean among the toils and exercises of a camp'.
      "If we are to accept the accounts of other sixteenth-century writers, it appears that tartan was not worn in relation to a specific clan at this time. It was the fabric's colour that identified social standing, with chiefs in coloured plaid and their clansmen in neutral brown. The Highlanders themselves preferred natural colours that allowed them to blend into their surrounding environment. In his myth-damning book The Emperor's New Kilt, Jan Andrew Henderson conceded that 'a range of clean bright colours was possible' but that the colours were nothing like modern tartan with 'varying shades pretty much out of the question'."


* Calizzano 1989 p62
"La Claymore (dérivant d'un terme gaélique signifiant Espadon) est une ... arme provenant de l'Espadon à deux mains.  Sa caractéristique principale est la forme de sa garde cruciforme dont les bras sont inclinés en direction de la lame et se terminent en trèfle à quatre feuilles.  Cette arme, d'origine écossaise, fut produite de la fin du XVe siècle au début du XVIIe siècle."

* Stone 1934 p181
"CLAYMORE.  Originally the Scotch two-handed sword of the 15th and 16th centuries.  The claidheamh-mor or claidhmhichean-mhora.  It had a long, heavy blade with a straight grip with a small pommel and straight quillons slanting towards the blade.  Usually the ends of the quillons have pierced ornaments of three or four circles."

* Wilkinson 1971 p130
"Possibly the weapon which everybody connects with Scotland is the claymore.  Strictly speaking, a claymore was a large, two-handed sword used by the Scots during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  A long, straight blade was fitted to a straight hilt, also very long, with two shortish, downsloping quillons terminating in a pierced shamrock pattern.  In the seventeenth century the quillons were more curved, and a large shell-plate was fitted at the side to protect the hands.
    "This, then, was the true 'great sword', the claymore or, in Gaelic, claidheamh mòr, but for the last 200 years the term has been applied to the basket-hilted broadsword."

* Reid 2000 p27
"[T]he claidheamh da laimh, or great two-handed sword ... was popular for a time in the 16th and early 17th centuries.  Elsewhere in Europe, the two-handed sword was a specialist weapon and there is no reason to suppose that this was not also the case in Scotland.  Ultimately most of them were cut down into broadswords or preserved as ceremonial bearing swords, though Woodhouselee claimed to have seen some carried by the clansmen who occupied Edinburgh in 1745."  [NOTE: See also Reid ill. McBride 1997 p53]

* Evangelista 1995 p113
"CLAYMORE.  From the Scottish claidheamah mor, meaning 'great sword.' 
Originally, the claymore was a two-handed sword used by the Scots through the 1400s and 1500s.  It had a heavy, straight blade up to sixty inches long.  The quillons (cross guards), slanting toward the blade, were straight.  The grip, often bearing an interwoven Celtic pattern, was also straight.  The weapon was noted for its fine balance.
    "Sword hilts for the claymore were manufactured on the island of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland."

* Hradský/Habáň 2000 p 40
"Do mieczy użyawanych przez kilka stuleci należy także dwuręczny miecz z okresu starożytnej Szkocji.  Był to poprzednik znanego miecza claymore rozpowszechnionego w XV i SVI wieku.  Nazwa ta powstała od galijskiego claidheamh mór -- wielki miecz.  Miał on długą szeroką głownię i wydłużoną rękojeść ze stosunkowo małą głowicą.  Raimona prostego jelca skierowane były w kierunku głowni.  Jego końce miały ozdobę w kształcie kwadratowych krążków, służących wyłaywaniu ciosów przeciwnika.  Ze środka jelca wyprowadzony był na głownię kolec, którego koniec po połączeniu a obydwoma końcami jelca tworzył romb."

* Armstrong/Turner 2002 p30 caption
"The double-handed 'claymore' did not come into use in Scotland until around 1500." [CONTRA Calizzano 1989, Stone 1934,  Evangelista 1995]

* Weapon 2006 p102
"The Scots developed their own tradition of 'hand-and-a-half' weapons, derived from earlier medieval Scottish and Irish longswords.  This Highland sword (Claidheamh da laimh) has a blade just over 3 ft (1 m) long, and was shorter and lighter than German doppelhander weapons.  The forward-sloping quillons ending in quatrefoils were a common feature."

* Fryer 1969 p64
"Claymore  The Scottish two-handed sword used in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The down-drooping quillons had pierced trefoil or quatrefoil terminals.  The name 'claymore' is often erroneously given to the more recent basket-hilted broadsword."

* Boeheim 1890 p264
"Eine besondere Schwertform mit langem Griffholz für andertalb Hand, geraden, nach abwärts gerichteten Parierstangen und schmaler, zweischneidiger, etwa 90 cm. langer, spitzer Klinge tritt uns in den schottish-englischen Herren vor Augen, wo sie claymore, auch glaymore gennant wird.  Im späten Mittelalter in Aufname gekommen, verliert sie sich schon am Beginne des 17. Jahrhunderts."


* Reid/McBride 1997 p53
"Highland axes are almost invariably referred to as 'Lochaber' axes, but there were several types.  The true Lochaber axe ... was essentially a form of halberd comprising a spiked head fixed on a pole.  According to contemporary illustrations from both sides of the Irish sea, they varied in length between four and six feet and probably corresponded to the height of their owner.  On one side of the head was a curved blade -- initially quite small -- and on the other a curved spike, traditionally used to dismount cavalrymen or cut their reins.  Appropriately enough, the Scots word for this feature was cleek, which can mean 'hook' but is more accurately translated as 'claw'.  In time the blade increased in size, the cleek became more pronounced and the spike disappeared entirely. The 'bits of sythe upon a pole with a cleek' noted by Woodhouselee may actually have been variant styles of Lochaber axe rather than hasty improvisations."

* Trosso 1988 p32
"Ascia di Lochaber  Ferro asimmetrico constituito da una lama convessa a un filo (scure), per lo più arrotondato all'estremità, che viene fissata alll'asta per mezzo di due staffe.  Dalla staffa superiore all quale è spesso incorporato esce un uncino o un raffio rivolto in direzione opposta al tagliente della lama.  Azione fendente.  Effetto tagliente e strappante."

* Cannan 2009 p32
"[The Lochaber axe] was a type of glaive or halberd, and is first mentioned in 1501 when James IV ordered 'ane batale ax maid of Lachabirt fasoun.'  Only the staves actually came from Lochaber, then a thickly wooded area.  This is certainly the weapon Major has in mind when he speaks of Highlanders being typically armed with 'a small halbert' -- a weapon he claims was in use at Bannockburn.  The 'Lochaber axe', he informs us, 'is employed by the wild Scots of the north', and is distinguished from other pole-arms by being 'single-edged only'.
    "The advantage of the Lochaber was its long cutting edge, which could slice through the thick layers of plaiding that most Gaels wore.  Its hook was also useful, not only for pulling men from their horses, but for ripping clothing apart and pulling opponents to the ground."

* Fryer 1969 p78
Lochaber Axe  A Scottish polearm, with elongated, single-edged blade, usually having a hook at the top end."

*Boeheim 1890 p368
"Eine ausschlaggebende Bedeutung hat aber die Streitaxt nur als Waffe des Fußvolkes und bei den Völkern des Nordens erhalten.  Es spricht sich dieses schon in den eigenartigen Formen aus, die bei bestimmten Völkern auftreten, so die Lochaberaxt bei dem schottischen Bergvolke, die dänische, schwedische, die Schweizer-Axt, jene der Polen und Russen etc."

* Stone 1934 p418 (quoting Campbell 1899 p98)
"LOCHABER AXE.  'The blade is long and thin, carried on a shaft by two collars, of which the upper is forged with the blade and the lower riveted on; the upper end of the blade waved while the lower is merely curved; the edge curved with the ends considerably beyond the length of the back of the blade.  A stout recurved hook is inserted in the upper end of the shaft and the butt is protected by a conical ferrule, with a knob on the end.'  It was a favorite weapon with the Scotch in the 16th century."


* Wilkinson-Latham 1973 p46-47
"The Scottish dirk, evolved from the 14th century 'Ballock' knife, seems to have already taken on a special form in Scotland as early as 1512.  A contemporary account of that year stated that Highlanders were noted for their 'large daggers sharpened on one side only, but very sharp'.  Early examples did not usually carry a companion knife and fork in the scabbard but a few instances of this are known.  The grips of dirks were made from bog oak, a particularly hard and dark wood, and usually topped by a brass or iron pommel." 

* Wilkinson 1971 p131
"The Scots also carried a large dagger which became known as a dirk, although in the seventeenth century the term was used for some other weapon.  The dirk probably developed from the older ballock dagger.  Hilts were simple, with a flat top pommel and two lobes at the base where the blade joined the grip.  The wood was often carved with typical Celtic, interwoven strap decoration.  Blades were usually straight, tapering to a point; many early examples utilized cut-down sword blades."

* Weapon 2006 p131
"In the 16th and 17th centuries, Scottish Highlanders armed themselves with long, unadorned daggers called dirks.  Like the dudgeon, the dirk evolved from the ballock knife."

* Cannan 2009 p79
"Wyntoun's mention of 'Knyf' [around 1420] is echoed by Major a century later in a clear reference to the dirk or 'a strong dagger, single edged but of the sharpest', a weapon Highlanders 'always carry'.  The Gaelic sgian for knife is anglicised to 'skeine' by Dymmok when he states it to be a standard side-arm of the galloglass.  Daggers 'scharp onlie at the on syde' are also mentioned by Pitscottie in his own broad-brush portrait of Highlanders, confirming that this was a universally carried tool, even if the actual term 'dirk' does not appear to have been used much before 1557, when Mans McGillmichell was charged with assaulting Andrew Dempster around Inverness with 'ane dowrk.'"