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  1. #1
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    What exactly is a mattucashlass?

    I hope this post doesn't run afoul of the rules, but I have a question. What exactly is a mattucashlass?

    In my reading about sgian dubhs, I have come across references to a mattucashlass, or "armpit dagger", which was apparently sometimes carried in Scotland in days gone by. But what exactly is it and how was it carried? If it was just held under the arm, it would seem to me that it would be easily and quickly dropped, so there must be more to the story than that. Did those who carried them also carry a sgian dubh, or was it one or the other, but not both??

  2. #2
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    This is my armpit dagger. As you can see, the hook allows it to sit under the arm. But you have to of course wear a waistcoat.
    armpitsnip.JPG
    The Skene Dubh is a relatively new invention if you will, positively modern. I think the first image of someone wearing one is 1807? Saying that makes me bad, as Im quite literally taking food out of the mouths of children of Ren Fair vendors LOL

  3. The Following 4 Users say 'Aye' to Luke MacGillie For This Useful Post:


  4. #3
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    Thanks, Luke! (As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.)

    So why did the mattucashlass fall out of favor?

  5. #4
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    I suspect very few people in Scotland would have any idea what a "mattucashlass" was. The word is a corruption of biodag-achlais which Gaelic speakers would at least understand (= armpit dagger).
    Alan

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  7. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by tuathanach View Post
    Thanks, Luke! (As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.)

    So why did the mattucashlass fall out of favor?
    I dont know how much "In favor" it actually was. Plenty of dirks and their sheaths survive. This one is loosly based on a smaller dirk with a slightly angled handle that was pictured in Wallace. There are no surviving mid sized dirks with the sheath arrangement like I posted. That was just one modern makers way of making it work. Im not so sure that it is really not just a product of crazy stories made to make folks fear the Scots?

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  9. #6
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    I agree with Luke as far as the hideout knife was concerned. I, too, have a replica of this knife as illustrated in Wallace's "Scottish Swords and Dirks", p.77 (Luke, is your sgian one of Glenn McClain's blades? It looks very much like mine). With the scabbard worn hooked over the arm opening of a waistcoat (or secured within the sleeve of a jacket in some other manner), it would make a most effective concealed secondary weapon in case the Highlander were disarmed of openly-carried weapons. When I studied Gaelic, I never ran across the term "mattucashlass" for this weapon. I've known it as a "sgian-achlais" (armpit knife, from Dwelly's Gaelic-English Dictionary, p. 822). I also agree with Luke that the sgian dubh did not appear as an item of Highland dress (for those who could afford it) until the very end of the 18th century-beginning of the 19th century, and probably evolved from the gralloching knives carried by huntsmen. After all, who needed a little sgian dhu when one had a biodag (dirk) and maybe a sgian-achlais?

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  11. #7
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    I am not a scholar in this area, but I've carried knives for 65 years or more. In my working life it was not unusual for me to have four or more on me,
    depending on the project and my various functions therein. As I have seen the term gralloching knife, it has usually applied to deer hunting, and having
    never field dressed a deer, am unfamiliar with the size. As it was not legal (in my understanding) for the average guy to take a deer, he'd not need such.
    He would, however, want a small blade to scale and gut fish and/or rabbits and other small game. Thus the sgian dhu. Maybe? I certainly would
    never have thought of using something the size of a dirk or sgian achlais for fish; my pocket knife, or my mother's paring knives if I brought the string
    back home before cleaning.

  12. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orvis View Post
    I agree with Luke as far as the hideout knife was concerned. I, too, have a replica of this knife as illustrated in Wallace's "Scottish Swords and Dirks", p.77 (Luke, is your sgian one of Glenn McClain's blades? It looks very much like mine). With the scabbard worn hooked over the arm opening of a waistcoat (or secured within the sleeve of a jacket in some other manner), it would make a most effective concealed secondary weapon in case the Highlander were disarmed of openly-carried weapons. When I studied Gaelic, I never ran across the term "mattucashlass" for this weapon. I've known it as a "sgian-achlais" (armpit knife, from Dwelly's Gaelic-English Dictionary, p. 822). I also agree with Luke that the sgian dubh did not appear as an item of Highland dress (for those who could afford it) until the very end of the 18th century-beginning of the 19th century, and probably evolved from the gralloching knives carried by huntsmen. After all, who needed a little sgian dhu when one had a biodag (dirk) and maybe a sgian-achlais?
    This is one of Glen's and early one. I got it from him using my HS Graduation money! So its one of his earliest. He has borrowed it back from me more than once. Its been on the Cover of Muzzle Blasts, and I think also in Muzzleloader and the Contemporary Longrifle Association magazine.

  13. #9
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    Beautiful knife, Luke. My sgian achlais is also one of Glenn's and I'm very pleased with it.

  14. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tripleblessed View Post
    I am not a scholar in this area, but I've carried knives for 65 years or more. In my working life it was not unusual for me to have four or more on me,
    depending on the project and my various functions therein. As I have seen the term gralloching knife, it has usually applied to deer hunting, and having
    never field dressed a deer, am unfamiliar with the size. As it was not legal (in my understanding) for the average guy to take a deer, he'd not need such.
    He would, however, want a small blade to scale and gut fish and/or rabbits and other small game. Thus the sgian dhu. Maybe? I certainly would
    never have thought of using something the size of a dirk or sgian achlais for fish; my pocket knife, or my mother's paring knives if I brought the string
    back home before cleaning.
    If you would like to PM me your email address I will send you a picture of my gralloching knife. I would post it here but rule 11 would be broken. Gralloching knives are not large and not a particularly special design, with a strong but sharp edged 2.5 to 4 inch blade and a heavy duty full tang, usually without a particularly pointed point. But like many things in life they vary in design and size and its down to personal choice more than anything else.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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