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What the heck is a Shillelagh?

What the heck is a Shillelagh?

Even if you can spell it without spellcheck, you might not know what a shillelagh is. If you’re going to call yourself a true Celt, you may need to study up!

Shillelaghs are clubs or walking sticks crafted from the stout, knobby branches of trees which are shaped into a heavy “hitting” end with varying lengths of handle. Blackthorn and oak, especially the root, are commonly used to craft shillelaghs. The wood is honed into the perfect shape and then treated with butter or lard and placed in a chimney to cure. Some shillelaghs have molten lead added to the hitting end to increase the weight of the club.

It’s not the size of the shillelagh, it’s how you use it:

The shillelagh was originally used as a gentleman’s weapon in duels and disagreements. Shillelagh fighting is much like sword fighting in that the wielder must skillfully parry and disarm their opponent. Shillelaghs used in modern sparring are split into short, medium, and lengths.

Modern use:

The shillelagh is one of the most recognizable symbols of Irish heritage, especially in America. Sports teams, musicians, and even military groups reference the symbol of the shillelagh, including:

  • The officers of the US Army National Guard’s Fighting 69th regiment, who carry shillelaghs as rank badges in parades,
  • The Boston Celtics’ leprechaun mascot, who leans on a shillelagh,
  • The San Diego Padres, who call late-game rallies ‘Shillelagh Power,’
  • A jeweled shillelagh given as a trophy to the winner of the USC Trojans/Notre Dame Fighting Irish rivalry game,
  • References in the songs ‘Finnegan’s Wake,’ ‘Rocky Road to Dublin,’ and ‘Arthur McBride,’
  • and even Dungeons and Dragons, in which 'shillelagh' is a low-level spell used by casters to make wooden clubs into powerful bludgeoning weapons.

A shillelagh of your own:

Feeling inspired to sport a piece of Irish symbolism? View our in-store selection of shillelaghs in a variety of sizes, including a miniature key-chain version!

Take 15% off in-store during Earth Week.

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