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The Shillelagh Story
We produce it so you can pass it on
What is a Shillelagh?
Throughout history there have been many styles of stick which have been referred to as a Shillelagh. The earliest known reference dates back over a millennium ago. These sticks were a club which became associated with the people who used them extensively for warfare and personal protection.
Later during the periods of Celtic migrations & English plantations the previous inhabitants of Ireland who were not assimilated into settlements were increasingly pushed back into mountainous and forested areas. Due to Penal laws outlawing the use of these weapons a new style of Shillelagh began to emerge. These were longer than a typical club and were used as faux-walking sticks.
Choosing Your Shillelagh
We produce many varieties of Shillelagh, each with their own unique origins and stories that are inextricably woven into the history of Ireland. From grand staffs, walking sticks and clubs to smaller items such as our wands, good luck charms and casual clubs.
If you are unsure about what style you would be interested in continue reading this page to get an idea of the products and options we offer.
Customising your Shillelagh
Most of our sticks can be custom inscribed to add your own personal message or information. Inscriptions can be placed on the shaft or on the head of the item (where space allows). You can also choose to have no inscription if you so desire. Walking sticks can be fitted with a removable rubber tip that fits directly on top of the standard brass-tipped ferule finish.
All of our Shillelaghs are crafted from locally sourced Blackthorn. Treated & seasoned for 3-5 years in our unique fashion and expertly finished to preserve them in the modern environment. All of our sticks are inscribed with two markings: "Made in Shillelagh, Ireland." and our stamp of authenticity - "O'Caidhla"
Liam O'Caidhla - Head Stickmaker
Made from the extremely durable Irish blackthorn wood, these sticks make a truly wonderful walking companion. A lighter stick will be ideal for a brisk stroll - great for controlling a dog and pushing away wild brambles. Whereas a heavier stick can be a serious means of self-protection. All our walking sticks are finished with brass tipped ferule and a gloss varnish finish which fully seals the wood and protects the stick from loss of moisture. Should you ever scuff or mark your stick this finish can be easily repaired using common materials found in any hardware store. Some sticks are listed as being lead loaded meaning that the head is filled with lead for the purpose of granting a superior walking experience and unrivalled balance.
Classic Grip (O'Caidhla)
Our signature O'Caidhla line of walking sticks are our traditional family style pioneered by Liam's great grandfather and passed down and improved upon for four generations. These sticks were classically crafted with a ball or knob style grip which are primarily designed to be a comfortable walking companion for a user that is twice the height of the stick. With a focus on using these items as a walking aid they also retain the self defence capabilities of a traditional Shillelagh club.
Handle Grip (O'Caidhla)
Choosing a style of head for your walking stick is mostly based on personal preference. Our Handle grip walking sticks are produced using the same general techniques as our Classic style sticks. However, these handle style grips are rather more suited to the unstable user, and offer a more supportive grip.
We also offer a more common style of Shillelagh walking stick akin to the style of Shillelaghs made by amateur and DIY stickmakers throughout Ireland. While they seldom provide the smooth movement and comfortable grip of the O'Caidhla line these sticks make a good walking companion and all round tool for everyday country life.
Our fighting sticks are styled on the sticks actually used in martial arts stick fighting. They undergo a different seasoning process to our other sticks, necessary to produce a balanced, fast, and accurate weapon. Although they can look like walking sticks they are not always suitable for use as a walking aid due to the different grip and feel of the stick. They are designed to be carried by holding the shaft about a third of the way down. "With your shillelagh under your arm." These sticks are finished with an oil based finish for those who would like to spar with their stick or a matt varnish finish which requires no maintenance for those who do not intend to use their stick for sparring.
- Sticks that are primarily crafted for use in stick fighting martial arts.
- Requires routine maintenance in regards to re-applying oil to prevent the stick from losing it's moisture.
- Inscriptions are now generally available on items with varnish finish.
- Finished in a low lustre, matt varnish for easy repair from strike marks (as compared to gloss varnish).
- For those who like the look/style of a fighting stick without wanting to maintain the oil finish.
Shillelagh Staffs are rather hard to come by because as blackthorn grows longer it tends to get thicker and this allied to the density of the wood can make them quite heavy to manoeuvre. Traditionally, more a symbol of status or power, our specifically harvested Blackthorn makes an incredible heavy duty staff.
Battle clubs are modelled on the original Shillelaghs going back over a thousand years. Primarily used two-handedly in a melee situation or in open warfare. These clubs are usually made in the more recent blackened style and they are sometimes available in the natural bark finish.
Before and during the famine period sitckfighters were often hired as auxiliaries to backup the constabulary at large gatherings, evictions, and in the collection of rents and taxes. Though Irish people were not permitted to carry weapons these auxiliaries were issued a more standardised blackened version of their fighting sticks rather than a firearm. This was era when lead loading was popularised.
These pieces are the little brother to our Shillelagh Clubs. Unlike our larger clubs these pieces are never lead loaded and are much small, lighter, and consequently, less dangerous. These clubs make great gifts at an affordable price. Each piece comes with "Made in Shillelagh, Ireland." written on the head and can have an inscription included on the shaft.
Quite similar to a club the cudgel is more-so designed to deliver a single telling blow. Often used in conjunction with a longer stick in the fashion of a sword and dagger. They range from 12" - 18" and are ideal for personal protection and also find use as gavels.
We offer a selection of "Lucky Shillelaghs", available in 3 sizes which are ready to order. Each piece comes with "Made in Shillelagh, Ireland." written on the head and can have a standard or customised inscription included on the shaft. Makes a perfect gift.
After the conversion of the Irish kings to Christianity, pioneered by St. Patrick, many of the old spiritual leaders (druids) privately continued to practise their old rituals. These holy men held positions of power and influence and resisted the idea of being on an equal status with mere priests or monks. Many used their influence to garner elevation to the status of Saint. Fiach seems to have been a term used for a holy man and many took this title as their sainted name, rather than using their given name or a christianised one, so the name came to be recorded as St. Fiach. Made from blackthorn, our 'Druid' wands have been treated with the waters from St. Fiach's Well, continuing the ancient tradition and connecting with the spirituality of nature.
From the earliest times, blackthorn thickets provided sanctuary, its woods was an excellent fuel source and made the most formidable weapons, and the timing of its flowering indicated the ideal time for planting crops. It came to be revered as a 'holy bush'. With the introduction of Christianity, the old pagan traditions came to be seen as anti-christian and even reviled as witchcraft. This was alluded to by J.K. Rowling when Harry's wand was destroyed in The Deathly Hallows and was replaced with a blackthorn wand, mentioning that blackthorn wands are suited to warriors and practitioners of the Dark Arts. Made from blackthorn, our 'Wizard' wands reflect the connection to ancient Irish peoples, their association with alchemy and the link with the Harry Potter story, and are finished in plain black or adorned with basic alchemic symbols and the signature 'lightning flash'.
View some of our more unusual or spectacular pieces that we have on display in our store and at exhibitions.