Subject: ceann-cinnidh clan chief
Culture: Scottish Highlander
Setting: Jacobite Rebellions, Highland regiments, Scotland late 17th-18thc
* Barthrop ill. Embleton 1982 p17-18
"The feudal nature and rigid structure of the Highland clan, under a chief with absolute power over life and death, allied to the warlike nature skill-at-arms and fierce pride of every member from the highest to the lowest, made it an organisation rapidly adaptable to war. When the call to arms came, the clan turned itself into a regiment: the chief became its colonel, his sons and kinsmen, who were his tenants or tacksmen, its officers, their tenants its NCOs, and their sub-tenants the rank and file. When the clan formed for battle it faced the enemy according to the social standing of its members, with the officers leading, the superior men in the front ranks, grading back to the impoverished and landless -- the common 'humblies' -- in the rear. This ranking by comparative wealth and status ensured that the better-armed and those most likely to posses powers of leadership would always be in front."
* Reid 2000 p12
"At the head of the clan stood its ceann-cinnidh or chief, who might or might not bear a feudal title as Lord, Earl or Marquis, in addition to his name and territorial designation. Originally his single most important function was to lead his clan into battle. ...
"For the most part, the clan chiefs possessed what were regarded as the clan lands by means of a charter from the Crown. A 'piece of sheepskin' was rarely regarded as adequate title and was often required to be backed up with armed force. This was particularly the case where the lands comprised in the charter included territory occupied by members of other clans. ... This sort of behaviour was hardly conducive to good order. Sometimes a feud might result, ... but more commonly the tenants played piggy in the middle to competing demands from both masters, even as late as the 1790s. "The chiefs possessed considerable powers, both as landlords and as the head of their 'name', which were generally exercised paternally, but were all too often characterised by outside observers as tyrannical. 'The chief generally resided among his retainers,' wrote Stewart of Garth. 'His castle was the court where rewards were distributed, and the most enviable distinctions conferred. All disputes were settled by his decision; and the prosperity or poverty of his tenants depended on his proper or improper treatment of them. These tenants followed his standard in war, attended him in his hunting excursions, supplied his table with the produce of their farms, and assembled to reap his corn, and to prepare and bring home his fuel. They looked up to him as their adviser and their protector.'"
* Spada 2002 p151 (Paul Wagner, "Highland swordsmanship" p150-170)
"As with all Celtic societies, the Scottish Highland warriors were a highly trained and educated social elite. Combat was their primary right and responsibility, and even though the clan armies were bulked out with lower-class clansmen, most of the actual fighting was done by the front ranks of sword-armed clan elite, the 'gentlemen' or daoine uaisle ('people of pride'), and the professional warriors or ceathernach. From the age of 10 they spent the summer in 'martial academies' where they were taught how to use bows and muskets, dirks, swords and targes. Strength and agility was [sic] built in sword dances, wrestling, throwing the stone, tossing the caber and playing camanachd (shinty). The emphasis was on physical toughness, fieldcraft and individual weapon skill, rather than drill or mass manoeuvres, and the warriors so trained were proud and independent, and primarily concerned with their own individual prowess, honour and glory."
* Barthrop ill. Embleton 1982 p29-30
"During the 50-odd years of the Rebellions the basic dress of the Highlander was the belted plaid, a rectangle of tartan cloth about six yards by two, which was belted round the waist so that the lower portion hung to the knees as a roughly pleated skirt, leaving the mass of material either to be wrapped round the upper part of the body, or draped up and fastened near the left shoulder to leave the arms free. To this, according to his means, the Highlander would add a woollen bonnet, a shirt, waistcoat, jacket or short coat, hose and shoes. A feature of Highland upper garments in the 17th and early 18th centuries was the slashing of sleeves and breasts of the coat. Alternatively, and sometimes additionally, he might wear close-fitting trousers, or trews, a garb more usually favoured by the upper classes out of doors, since it was more convenient for riding. From around 1725 some Highlanders began to wear the 'little kilt', which was simply the plaid with the upper and more voluminous portion cut off. This was the forerunner of the modern kilt, though it must be remembered that Highland dress was banned for nearly 40 years after the '45, except in Highland regiments, and did not regain its popularity until after 1822, by which time it was very different from that worn before proscription. "... [I]t is enough to say that the notion of a particular clan being distinguished by its own sett did not apply during the Rebellions. Members of a clan recognised each other by the badge in their bonnets. In the 18th century the only uniformity of setts was to be found in the Government's Highland regiments, and the clan tartans of today originate from no earlier than the 19th century, as indeed do such items as large and highly decorative sporrans or purses, ornate plaid brooches and 'sgian dubhs' stuck in the hose-tops. The earlier Highlander's purse was a small leather pouch suspended from his waistbelt, while he fastened up his plaid either with a bodkin or a loop and button."
* Reid ill. McBride 1997 p32
"Highland, or rather Scottish, firearms were distinctive in form. Most notable were the all-metal pistols, made chiefly at Doune, which had cast steel (or less commonly brass) stocks in place of the conventional wooden ones. This permitted a considerable variety of styles and decoration, particularly engraving and inlay."
* Byrd 1996 p55
"The word 'dag' refers to the shape of the pistol's butt. These pistols were stocked with brass or iron stocks. They had tapering barrels of large caliber (.58-.69). They had no sights. They were flintlocks and had a belt hook on the left side. There was no trigger guard. It had a round ball styled trigger and a thin metal ramrod.
"Being a 'Highland' item it was manufactured in the Lowlands. The Armory at Doune made thousands for highland military units. "In battle these were used after the first volley was fired from the Brown Bess musket. The pistols were drawn and held at the ready for the charge of infantry or cavalry. The massive wave of lead from these pistols disrupted the charge. The Highlanders followed with a charge using broad sword and dirk."
* Reid 2000 p27-28
"The pre-eminent Highland sword remained the claymore in its ultimate form as the basket-hilted broadsword. Appearing in the mid-16th century, it did not supplant the two-handed sword but was simply a logical development of the quilloned weapon which appeared in the early Middle Ages. Normally the blade was double-edged, but single-edged backswords became quite common in the 18th century, as did a couple of quite bizarre variants. One was the Turcael or curved Turkish blade. Few survive, apart from those carried in the 19th century by the Light Company officers of Highland regiments, but a good example can be seen in Wait's portrait of Alasdair Mor Grant, the Laird of Grant's champion, and a surprisingly high proportion of the clansmen drawn by the Penicuik artist in 1745 carry curved blades. Another, less common variant, also illustrated in the same sketches, featured a straight blade with serrated edges, like some 16th century rapiers and Landsknecht swords." [NOTE: See also Reid & McBride 1997 p53]
* Metropolitan Museum of Art > Stone Gallery of Arms and Armor
"Basket-Hilted Broadswords Early forms of basket-hilted broadswords were known in England and Scotland during the sixteenth century. In the beginning of the seventeenth century, a distinctive type of basket hilt became the characteristic hilt of the Scottish Highlands, where it remained an integral part of Highland dress until the mid-eighteenth century. The Highland hilt was fashionable in England throughout this period. Various forms of basket-hilted swords were also carried by British colonists in North America."
* Barthrop ill. Embleton 1982 p18
"[D]uring the 17th century they [claymores] were generally superseded by the basket-hilted broadsword, the blades of many being cut down from old claymores. The basket hilt originated on the Continent, whence it was adopted in England during the Civil War for use by cavalry, and indeed continued as the cavalryman's sword until well into the 18th century. Whether the Scots took it up through contact with Cromwellian horse, or acquired it straight from the Continent, seems uncertain. In any event, it had become the Highlander's prime weapon by the late 17th century. He confronted his foe with broadsword in right hand, dirk in his left, and targe on his left forearm. In the '45 a much greater proportion of clansmen than before had muskets, the best of which were of French or Spanish manufacture, the native variety often being old and unserviceable. Even so, due to the overall shortage of ammunition, each man on average having only 12 rounds, the clansman still relied on the sword, rather than musketry, to overcome his enemies."
* Reid ill. McBride 1997 p52
"Notwithstanding the widespread use of firearms during the '45, Highlanders are traditionally associated with edged weapons and, in particular, the basket-hilted broadsword, commonly (and accurately) referred to as the claidheamh mor or claymore. In practice, the use of swords was probably quite limited, confined largely to the 'gentlemen' who formed the front rank of a Clan regiment. Although literary sources dwell on the more romantic weapons such as blued steel blades, often bearing the entirely spurious signature of Andrea Ferrara (most blades appear to have been German in origin), more prosaic records and some contemporary illustrations reveal that the ordinary Clansmen standing behind them normally had bows, spears or axes, and later firelocks and bayonets."
* Reid 2000 p28
"With the sword went the targe, a round shield usually made of plywood and covered with leather. The most detailed description of one is provided in a letter written by Henry Fletcher in 1719, although it is unlikely that all were so elaborately constructed: 'The outward form of ane Highland targe is a convex circle, about 2 foot in diameter, but some have them oval; the innermost part of it nixt the man's breast is a skin with the hair upon it, which is only a cover to a stell plate, which is not very thick, for the whole is no great weight; on the inner side of this Steel plate the Handle is fixed, which hath two parts, one that the left arm passes throw til near the elbow, the other that the Hand lays on: without the Steel plate there is a cork which covers the Steel plate exactly, but betwixt the Cork and the Steel plate there is Wooll stufffed in very hard: the Cork is covered with plain well-wroght leather, which is nailed to the cork with nails that have brass heads, in order round, drawing thicker towards the centre. From the centre sticks out a Stiletto (I know not the right name of it, but I call it so, because it is a sort of short poignard) which fixes into the steel plate and wounds the Enemy when they close: about this Stiletto closs to the Targe there is a peece of Brass in the form of a Cupelo about 3 inches over and coming halfway out on the stiletto and is fixed upon it. Within the brass there is a peece of Horn of the same forme like a cup, out of which they drink their usquebaugh, but it being pierced in the under part by the Stiletto, when they take it off to use it as a cup, they are obliged to apply the forepart of the end of their finger to the hole to stop it, so that they might drink out of their cup.'" [sic...]
* Stone 1934 p605
"TARGET, TARGE. A round shield with loops on the back through one of which the arm was passed while the other was grasped by the hand. This name as applied to a shield goes back to 12th century and was used, especially by the Scotch, as last as the early 19th. Targets vary considerably in size but most are about two feet in diameter, through some of the early ones were much larger. In the 16th century some were oval.
"The typical Scotch target was about twenty inches in diameter, and was made of wood covered with leather studded with brass bosses. It had a central spike which was sometimes as much as ten inches long and could be unscrewed and carried in a pocket in the deerskin lining. It usually had two handles, but sometimes three, or a long leather sleeve covering the entire forearm, and having a handle at the end." [reference omitted]
* Spada 2002 p161 (Paul Wagner, "Highland swordsmanship" p150-170)
"The Highland 'targe' was a stout round shield of which the earliest surviving examples are from the 16th century, but are referred to in an Act of th Scottish Parliament in 1456. They typical Highland targe was constructed of dense, strong wood, either oak or Scots pine, with two layers of 1/4 inch planks glued together at right-angles, forming a strong cross-ply. The front was covered with tough cow-hide and further strengthened with brass studs and metal plates on the front and sides, and the back was covered with cow, goat or deer skin, and stuffed to absorb blows. Some targes also had a 10 inch spike that could be screwed into the central boss.
"The 17th and 18th century Highland targes were a unique form of shield. Most were only 18-21 inches in diameter, and thus significantly smaller than the large round targets described by Renaissance masters like di Grassi and Agrippa. However, they were also somewhat larger than the small buckler's use in I.33, and instead of being held with a 'punch-grip', they were fitted with an arm loop and iron or leather hand grip, giving a sturdier hold against the impact of a thrusting pike, bayonet or heavy musket-butt, and also allowing a dirk to be held in the left hand and wielded offensively."
* Stone 1934 p209
"DIRK. A dagger, especially that carried by the Scotch Highlanders. The Scotch dirk has a very heavy blade, thick at the back, single-edged and tapering uniformly from hilt to point. It has a barrel-shaped grip with a conical, flat-topped pommel, and no guard. The hilts are generally decorated with strap work." [references omitted]
* Calizzano 1989 p18
"[L]es Highlanders ... avait pour habitude de porter un couteau, le Dirk, comprenant une gaine agrémentée de deux accessoires: un couteau et une fourchette. Il se composait d'une lame droite, à un tranchant ou un tranchant un tiers, montée sur une poignée en bois, cuir ou ivoire. La forme de cette poignée est caractéristique et particulière: en diamètre supérieur, se rattache à la deuxième suivant une ligne ogivale. Celli-ci se rétrécit vers le pommeau selon un profil en amphore dont le col soutient la troisième section constituant le pommeau de diamètre égal, ou presque, à la premère section.
"Certains auteurs ont voulu voir dans la forme ainsi décrite un symbole phallique vraisemblanblement lié à des vestiges de cultes ou de croyances celtiques. La poignée, ornée de motifes entrelacés, témoigne également de l'influence de cette culture. Le pommeau at la virole du manche sont en métal (laiton ou argent) et le fourreau comporte, sur sa face intérieure, deux logements superposés destinés à recevoir un couteau de dimensions réduites et une petite fourchette. Ces deux accessoires sont fabriqués <<en suite>> avec le plus gran couteau. Des pièces extrêmement riches, ornées d'or, d'argent e de pierres semi précieuses, aux lames finement gravées datent à peu près de la fin du XVIIIe siècle et du début du XIXe siècle."
* Cannan 2009 p37
"Despite its bucolic origins, the dirk emerged as a thing of considerable craftsmanship during the seventeenth century. With a long, flat blade, the dirk formed an important part of the Highland fighting technique, and was probably used to parry blows, and to hook away enemy blades. Effectively a short sword, it was also kept ready in one hand in case the broadsword should fall from the warrior's hand or be broken."
* Capwell 2009 p156
"The distinctive Scottish dirk evolved from the early style 'kidney dagger', which in turn had been developed from the 'ballock knife'. Two bulbous kidney-shaped lobes in the place where the quillons of the guard might exist were a characteristic feature. The knife was originally intended as an all-around survival and utility item, and some early examples had a serrated back edge. In later years, this feature became a symbolic series of indentations on the back of the blade, rather than being a serviceable sawtooth."