The Cateran Society

An Comunn Ceatharnach

Scottish Twohanders & Archery

Various sources describe Highland battles in the 16th century as a  frequent use of bow and arrows for skirmishing and when all arrows are  spent, the warriors attacking each other with twohanders, battle-axes etc.

About the way the Highland Greatsword was carried there is some  discussion. We know that sheats existed and that the sword could be  carried in a baldric on the side. Even though some texts mention the  twohander being “slung on the back” or “carried on the back” it is not  known if this was true or is a popular misconception. Maybe carried on the back in this context meant what Albrecht Dürer shows in his depiction of Galloglass and Kerns from 1521: The sword (with no sheat) rested on the shoulder, just like we see it on many paintings and sketches of Landksnechts and other warriors using twohanded greatswords.

It is also not clear if the lighter armed warriors were doing the  archery or if the heavier armed fighters were fighting with their bows  first and then used their swords and axes. The latter seems to have been  the common way, but also light armed archers existed too.  I.e. the  famous Dürer sketch shows Irish warriors and Galloglass, one of them in chainmail and helmet armed with a twohanded sword and bow and arrows. Also we need to keep in mind as my buddy Stephen Curtin pointed out correctly, that Highland Warriors and Galloglass had what was called an “harness bearer”, so similar to a squire, who would carry the equipment and provisions of the higher ranking, heavier armed warrior. This could be even two young warriors who would support their superior warrior in battle.

So I decided to do a little field test of how practical it is to carry  the twohander in a baldric on my side and doing archery with it. This  video shows my first experiment and my conclusions.

More to come in future 🙂

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