“But Kelly himself, his arms akimbo stood calmly over his enemy.” From The Party Fight and Funeral (Carleton’s Irish Peasantry by William Carleton, George Routledge & Co, 1854)
The myth of the violent Irish hooligan, perpetuated through popular culture representations authored, most frequently, by their British rulers, hinges on the Shillelagh, a weapon that is as ancient and enigmatic as Ireland itself.
Ireland is an old country, settled thousands of years ago and becoming a bastion of Christianity in the formerly pagan Europe. In the Annals of Ulster, a historic text that covers the operation of the country of Ireland from Saint Patrick’s arrival in the mid-5th century A.C.E. to 16th century A.C.E., the people who occupied Ireland, known as the Celts, maintained an agrarian lifestyle frequently interrupted by both local skirmishes and international warfare. In the 9th century, the Vikings began their invasion of Ireland, intermingling with the now occupied Irish, until they were defeated and essentially driven out of Ireland by Brian Boru, famed Irish King, in 1014.
Irish autonomy would be short-lived. In the 12th century, the Normans invaded Ireland, beginning the reign of the English in Ireland. Henry VIII named himself King of Ireland in 1541, and less than one hundred years later, under the reign of his daughter, Elizabeth 1, the country was ripped apart through harsh penal laws and the persecution of Catholics. As rulers changed, politics evolved that continued to reduce Irish autonomy on a grand political scale, yet, as is so often the case when comparing history on a micro rather than a macro level, individual Irishmen and women asserted their individuality not in their politics, but in their fighting.
Ancient Irish warriors used a great deal of weapons, including swords, spears, and sticks, which were in common use by all their neighbors. In ….View full article