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Thread: Claymore???

  1. #1
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    Claymore???

    I have come across conflicting information regarding the "claymore". Just about everywhere you go the two handed sword with angled quilllons and quatrefoil tips is called a "claymore". Conversely, others say that this is not a "claymore, that the single-handed sword with a basket hilt is the "claymore". Which is correct? Just from the names claidheamh da laimh and claidheamh mor it would seem that the basket hilt would be the real "claymore". Please advise. thank you in advance.
    Insperata Floruit! - Flourished Unexpectedly!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Balaamsass51 View Post
    I have come across conflicting information regarding the "claymore". Just about everywhere you go the two handed sword with angled quilllons and quatrefoil tips is called a "claymore". Conversely, others say that this is not a "claymore, that the single-handed sword with a basket hilt is the "claymore". Which is correct? Just from the names claidheamh da laimh and claidheamh mor it would seem that the basket hilt would be the real "claymore". Please advise. thank you in advance.
    There is no definitive evidence that the two-hander was called a claymore. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that the reference was to the basket hilt sword. However, the name has become so associated with the two-hander that trying to change it now would be futile.

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    The translation to Scots Gaelic for "great sword" is "claidheamh mòr".
    "Two-handed sword" is "claíomh dhá-láimh".
    "Basket-hilt sword" is "claidheamh basgaid-fèileadh".

    So, I suppose it would depend on how one describes the two-handed sword: as 'two-handed' or 'great'. Personally, I don't think I would call a basket-hilt a great sword, though. Just my opinion.

    I have also read somewhere - the source escapes me at the moment - that there were two-handed swords cut down and re-hilted to the smaller-sized basket-hilt swords to be used in regimental service and the name 'claymore' stayed with the cut-down sword.

    That may have been purely speculation.
    John

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    Webster says the mor makes it "great sword", which might well indicate the two handed, but also goes on to say that both usages are correct.
    It does indicate the basket hilt would be the double edged version. Single would be the backsword. Webster also notes the earliest usage as
    1527. The large two handed with quatrefoil tips, IIRC, is a copy of an extant gallowglass sword, or extant drawing of the sword, and the gallowglass
    troops go back into the late 1200s. So, which is the chicken, which the egg?

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    John...that is interesting speculation but that is all it is. There have been a very few basket hilts found with what appear to be two handed blades but the overwhelming majority of pre-Culloden basket hilts were fitted with purpose made blades from the continent. If this refers to the blades issued to the Highland Regiments, formed after Culloden and serving in the British army, then starting about the time of the Seven Years War they were all of English manufacture, at least for enlisted men, while officers carried heirlooms to battle or acquired new swords from custom makers.

    The connection between the two hander and "Claymore" may have its genesis with the tour of the Highlands in 1773 by Boswell and Johnson. They referred to the antique two handers found in most Scottish castles of the time as claymores and, being trendsetters, their nomenclature was taken to heart by the masses. At least that is my personal opinion.
    Last edited by MacRob46; 14th November 19 at 10:26 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tripleblessed View Post
    Webster says the mor makes it "great sword", which might well indicate the two handed, but also goes on to say that both usages are correct.
    It does indicate the basket hilt would be the double edged version. Single would be the backsword. Webster also notes the earliest usage as
    1527. The large two handed with quatrefoil tips, IIRC, is a copy of an extant gallowglass sword, or extant drawing of the sword, and the gallowglass
    troops go back into the late 1200s. So, which is the chicken, which the egg?
    Nope, nope. The basket hilt was a claymore, whether single edged or double edged - i.e. a broadsword - and they were made in both edge configuations. Galloglass, like so many other European and British fighters, adopted the two hander, which was usually produced on the continent. Blades were also sent to Scotland for hilting. But the Galloglass two hander does not go back to 1200 as they did not really gain popularity until the early 16th c. Some confusion has arisen from the production of some very large swords prior to the 16th c. but these were likely "bearing swords" for ceremonial use as they are much too large and heavy to be used in combat.

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    Thank you

    Thank you all so much for your input. A basket hilt is a claymore, the large two-handed weapon is not. My original information was correct. A "solidly entrenched misnomer".
    Insperata Floruit! - Flourished Unexpectedly!

    KABOOM; Kilted Christians; Kilted In Carolina; Matt Newsome Kilt Owners Group; R Kilts are Awesome; SEKS - The Great Southeastern Kilt Society; The Order of the Dandelion

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    Like much that has gone before, not a lot of clarity in the murk. I911 Encyclopedia Brittanica is cited as saying two hander is, basket not so much.
    It does note the term was at that time much used for both, though incorrectly applied to basket hilt. Don't know, don't own that edition. Couple
    of sources note that American English says the term is accurate: great sword is the big one, Scots English favors basket hilt. I don't have a dog
    in this hunt, was merely citing dictionaries as they are typically the arbiters of language questions. It may just be two peoples divided by a
    common language.

    Some think basket hilt may have become called big as it was larger and thicker (therefore more manly) than the swords used by English troops.
    As with much history, much myth and differing opinions. In language, usage determines reality over time, so hold your own course.

    I will note in passing I did not say the term went back to 1200; rather, gallowglass troops go back to latter half of that century. When they began
    using two handers I don't know, but I think before basket hilts. Earliest I recall of illustrations is fairly early 16th century. Do not recall if claymore
    was used as descriptor. I have doubts. What I have read indicates basket hilts began appearing later that century, I'm pretty sure McRob will
    have a better idea than I about the timeline of arrival and usage in Scotland.

    I know I will understand your basic intent whichever usage you choose.

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    Mooar means big or great. Why are there lots of Americans saying that it didn't refer to the two handed sword? If anything the basket hilt took its name from the earlier two handed swords to become what people now call the Claymore.

    Anyone with a basic knowledge of gaelic can figure it out.

    Oh and Basket hilts were originally Cavalry Swords which became in vogue in the highlands. Which probably lead to the cutting down of two handers to form single handed basket hilts.
    Last edited by Allan Thomson; 18th November 19 at 01:21 PM.

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    This is a linguistic difficulty that will probably not go away. "claidheamh" is generally taken to be cognate with English "cleaver" and, obviously, a basket-hilted sword is a thruster rather than a cleaver. But both words go back to the Proto-Indo-European word *kladiwos , meaning any kind of sword, the English form having come via Proto-Germanic, German and Dutch. Gaelic/Irish kept the rather vague original meaning of sword whereas English/Scots changed the meaning from a two-handed affair to a basket-hilted sword around 1620
    "The true claymore came into use probably late in the fifteenth century and continued until the early part of the seventeenth century, when it was replaced by the single-edged broadsword with a basket hilt, to which the name “claymore” was transferred."
    ( W. R. Kermack, The Scottish Highlands: A Short History (Edinburgh and London, 1957).

    I'm not sure that that helps you very much!

    Alan

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