SUNDAY’s Sampler Platter – (imagine that).
Shillelaghs are traditionally made from blackthorn (sloe) wood (Prunus spinosa) or oak. The wood would be smeared with butter and placed up a chimney to cure, giving the Shillelagh its typical black shiny appearance. Shillelaghs may be hollowed at the heavy “hitting” end and filled with molten lead to increase the weight beyond the typical two pounds; this sort of Shillelagh is known as a ‘loaded stick’. They are commonly the length of a walking stick (distance from the floor to one’s wrist with elbow slightly bent). Most also have a heavy knob for a handle which can be used for striking as well as parrying and disarming an opponent. Many shillelaghs also have a strap attached (hence the Irish name), similar to commercially made walking sticks, to place around the holder’s wrist.
Although originally used for settling disputes in a gentlemanly manner (like pistols in colonial America or Japan), the shillelagh eventually became a symbol of stereotypical violent Irish behavior. Modern practitioners study the use of the shillelagh for self defense and as a martial art. Of the practice, researcher J. W. Hurley writes:
Methods of Shillelagh fighting have evolved over a period of thousands of years, from the spear, staff, axe and sword fighting of the Irish. There is some evidence which suggests that the use of Irish stick weapons may have evolved in a progression from a reliance on long spears and wattles, to shorter spears and wattles, to the shillelagh, alpeen, blackthorn (walking-stick) and short cudgel. By the 19th century Irish Shillelagh-fighting had evolved into a practice which involved the use of three basic types of weapons, sticks which were long, medium or short in length.
In modern usage, the shillelagh is recognised (particularly in an Irish-American context) as a symbol of Irishness. For example, the Fighting 69th regiment of the United States Army National Guard carry shillelaghs as rank badges in parades. The Bostn Celtics logo has a leprechaun leaning on his shillelagh. In San Diego, Padres broadcaster popularized the shillelagh as a rally call, by using terms like “Shillelagh Power” to describe late game heroics by the Padres.
Shillelaghs are sometimes referred to in a similar context in folk songs, such as in ” Finnegan’s Wake,” in which the term “shillelagh law” refers to a brawl.
Enjoy some Shillelagh Sisters! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlszPkhQkKI
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