[Scottish National Memorials Contents]
f the various weapons of offence which have been used in Scotland, the two which are most distinctively national in character are the Lochaber Axe and the Basket-hilted Sword with Ferrara blade. The Scottish Broadsword is distinctly derived from the sixteenth century Schiavone of Venice; but what may have been the origin of Ferrara blades, and why they became the distinctive weapons in Scotland in the seventeenth century, are still matters of profound mystery. In his notes to Waverley Sir Walter Scott has the following:-
‘The name of Andrea de Ferrara is inscribed on all the Scottish broadswords which are accounted of peculiar excellence. Who this artist was, what were his fortunes, and when he flourished, have hitherto defied the research of antiquaries; only it is generally believed that Andrea de Ferrara was a Spanish or Italian artificer, brought over by James IV. or V. to instruct the Scots in the manufacture of sword-blades. Most barbarous nations excel in the manufacture of arms; and the Scots had attained great proficiency in forging swords as early as the field of Pinkie, at which period the historian Patten describes them as “all notably broad and thin, universally made to slice, and of such exceeding good temper that I never saw any so good, so I think it hard to devise better.” – Account of Somerset’s Expedition. It may be observed that the best and most genuine Andrea Ferraras have a crown mark on the blades.’ The above note arises in connection with the expression:- ‘We’ll put in bail, my boy; old Andrea Ferrara shall lodge his security.’ – Waverley, chap. I.
The legend that Ferrara was a Spanish or Italian artificer brought over by James IV. or V., who worked his magnificent blades in a dark Highland cave, and who killed his son for attempting to pry into his secret of tempering steel, may at least be dismissed; for it is obvious that, be the source what it may, the production of Ferrara blades extended over a period far beyond the limits of one life, and, indeed, certainly more than one century. The name may have begun with a single individual, and it has been pointed out that a family of armourers bearing that name practised their art during the 16th century in northern Italy, one of whom, said to have been born about 1555, was named Andrea. The name, it is certain, continued to be used largely in the manner of a trade-mark either by persons of the Ferrara family or by others who succeeded the original in the secrets and excellence of his craft. An Andrea Ferrara must have been a very common possession in Scotland during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the number still preserved in the country is very large. In certain rural districts, the term ‘Andrea Ferrara’ is to this day a recognised synonym for sword. In this collection alone the number of Ferrara blades shown exceeded forty, and without the least difficulty that number might have been very largely increased. In name and what we may term trade or maker’s marks, in the flutings and channellings of the blades, in length and breadth, and the whole ornamental treatment of the elaborately worked basket-hilts, no two were alike. Mr. G. Vere Irving, F.S.A., in a paper descriptive of Ferrara swords in the Transactions of the British Archæological Association for 1865, from twenty-five weapons described and classified fifteen varieties, in which was comprised seven variations of the spelling of the name. The most frequently recurring mark is the orb and cross but sometimes combined with that and sometimes separately there is a mark The running fox is another mark of frequent occurrence on excellent Ferrara blades, and this may be a mark imitated from the more ancient wolf blades of Passau which came to be known as Foxes in England during the sixteenth century. From the works of the old dramatists it is obvious that this mark was so familiar that a sword was popularly known as a Fox. ‘What would you have, sister, of a fellow that knows nothing but a basket-hilt and an old fox in it?’ (Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, ii. 6). This incidental expression of the dramatist suggests that old blades may have been fitted into basket-hilts, a very probable circumstance, and one which would lead to some of the confusion which has arisen in connection with the identification of certain Scottish broadswords. While the making of Ferrara blades has not been traced to any locality in Scotland, there can be no doubt that at the time when the weapons came into common use there were armourers of sufficient skill for their fabrication in the country, as shown by the splendid pistols of Dundee, Doune, Inverness, and other places. It has been suggested that the name originated in connection with the town of Ferarra in the province of Corunna in Spain, and in support of that suggestion it is pointed out that the finest existing collection of Ferrara blades is contained in the Armeria Royal of Madrid. A blade mentioned by Mr. Irving as being in the possession of Brodie of Brodie is marked ‘Andrea Ferara en Lisboa.’ Mr. C. N. McIntyre North in his Book of the Club of True Highlanders (vol. ii., plate xlviii.), has figured the markings on twenty-two old Scottish swords, principally Ferrara blades. Among these is a claymore preserved in Cluny Castle, on which occur the fox and the globe marks, with a date 1414, but without any name. In another, the property of Major Graham Stirling of Craigbarnett, with the fox mark, the date is 1499. Mr. North also figures three Ferrara blades in which the name occurs in conjunction with a series of punched crowned heads, a type of which the sword of Graham of Claverhouse (Fig. 178), now owned by the Duke of Montrose, is an example. There is also an excellent blade, similarly marked, in the United Service Institution Museum in London.
HIGHLAND SWORD, having the triangular multi-lobed pommel, and quillons bent towards the point, as seen in the lona sculptured stones. The grip is of walrus ivory finely ornamented with bands of Celtic interlaced work. Extreme length 38 inches: blade 31 inches long, and 1 ¾ inches broad. This form of sword was in common use anterior to the introduction of the basket-hilted variety, and to it rather than to the latter weapon should be applied the term Claymore. See Drummond and Anderson’’ Ancient Weapons, p. 20. (See Fig. 183.)
(1497) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
TWO-HANDED SWORD. This fine sword, of Swiss or German type, is figured in Drummond and Anderson’s Scottish Weapons (plate xii. 6). About 9 inches from the guard the blade expands into a pair of crescent-shaped spikes. The guard is provided with ornamental side rings, and the quillons curved forward terminate in three convoluted scrolls. The length of the weapon is 5 feet 10 inches. This sword was in the collection of the late W. B. Johnstone, R.S.A.
(1495) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
CLAYMORE or TWO-HANDED SWORD, of the sixteenth century, guard curved towards the point, and terminating in open rose-formed ornament: length, 4 feet 8 inches.
(1494) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
TWO DOUBLE-HANDED SWORDS. The first has a guard curved towards the point, and terminating in an open-work quatrefoil ornament; the second has a shell-guard, and quillons curved into an S form.
(1462) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
TWO-HANDED SWORD, traditionally regarded as having been used at the historic battle of Harlaw, in which the citizens of Aberdeen, under Provost Sir Robert Davidson, offered a determined resistance to Donald, Lord of the Isles.
(1477) Lent by DEACON GEORGE ROSS.
A HIGHLAND BROADSWORD, with silver-mounted hilt, bearing Dublin silver mark ‘1738’; Andrea Ferrara blade, having three flutings continued to near the point, and marked on both sides
(1512) Lent by the MARQUIS OF BREADALBANE.
HIGHLAND BROADSWORD, with three channels running along the blade and an elaborate basket-hilt. No maker’s mark.
(1496) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
HIGHLAND BASKET-HILTED SWORD, by Ferrara, having a long and very broad blade, and an early form of the basket-hilt. The blade measures 36 inches in length by 2 ⅛ inches in breadth. It is marked ‘ANDRIA’ on the one side, and ‘FERARA’ on the other, with the globe and cross on both sides. The weapon was taken from the field of Falkirk.
(1498) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
ANDREA FERRARA BROADSWORD, marked ‘Andria Ferrara,’ with globe and cross on both sides.
(1499) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
HIGHLAND BACK-SWORD, marked ‘Andria Ferara x’ and ‘H.I.’
(1501) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
SWORD, of the time of Charles II., with inscription on both sides of the blade – ‘In Te Domine speravit.’
(1502) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
ANDREA FERRARA SWORD. A remarkably fine specimen, with three grooves continued to near the point. It is marked on both sides ‘ANDRIA FERARA,’ with bow, crosses, arrow-heads, and initials ‘I S I’ twice repeated in each of the outer grooves.
(1489) Lent by COUNCILLOR CUNNINGHAM.
ANDREA FERRARA SWORD; blade very much hacked. It was the property of Sir John Grant, and is dated 1562.
(1464) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
TWO ANDREA FERRARA BROADSWORDS. These have each the globe and cross mark, one has three short deep grooves, the other a broad shallow channel bounded by deep grooves.
(1519) Lent by ANDREW HEITON.
BROADSWORD (Ferrara), The pierced work of the hilt is in the form of thistle-heads. It has ‘ANDREA’ on one side of the blade and ‘FARARA’ on the other.
(1473) Lent by A. C. McINTYRE.
A HIGHLAND BROADSWORD, with silver-mounted hilt bearing Dublin silver mark ‘1738.’ Andrea Ferrara blade.
(1512) Lent by the MARQUIS OF BREADALBANE.
BROADSWORD (Ferrara). This sword is remarkable for its great length (39 inches) of blade. It has ‘ANDRIA’ on one side and ‘FARARA’ on the other, followed by the running fox on each side. It was found about 100 years ago in the thatch of Smithston Old House, Croy. The family of Anderson, now represented by Mr. John Anderson, Dullatur, were continuous occupants of Smithston for more than 500 years.
(1474) Lent by A. C. McINTYRE.
BROADSWORD (Ferrara). This sword belonged to the family of Glassford of Dougalston. It is double fluted, and has on each side ‘ANDRIA FARARA,’ with two crosses before and after the name in each fluting, and nine-dots arranged triangularly. The running fox is also on each side.
(1475) Lent by A. C. McINTYRE.
ANDREA FERRARA SWORD. A fine weapon, with ‘Andrea Ferara’ twice on each side. The blade has globe and cross marks, and it is otherwise very elaborately marked on both sides.
(1482) Lent by J. B. GREENSHIELDS.
ANDREA FERRARA BROADSWORD, having a double groove, and marked X ANDREWA X
X FARRERA X
(1514) Lent by MISS COPLAND.
SWORD, known as ‘Hal o‘ the Wynd’s Sword,’ preserved in the family of Robertson of Buttergask for 200 years. It is however a Ferrara blade, and is marked ‘Ferara’ with running fox. The hilt is richly chased with quaint figures, heads, and rude foliage, etc., in relief
(1523) Lent by the baroness WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY.
A TROPHY OF HIGHLAND WEAPONS, having in the centre a Highland target of wood and leather, with central boss pierced for a spike. Round the boss is a circle of interlaced work tooled in the leather. In the extreme space are six equal circles, each with a centre stud of brass, and round it three smaller circles, the spaces between being filled with interlacements. The spaces between the large circles are fitted with segmental plates of brass, fastened with nails and studs. This target is of great antiquity, and it is believed to be almost the only one in Scotland that has the spikes preserved. (Fully described in Drummond’s Ancient Scottish Weapons, plate v., fig. iii.) The trophy contains, further, a pair of pistols, a two-handed sword, with scabbard, said to have been used by Stewart of Ardvorlich, who killed Lord Kilpont in a duel during the Montrose wars (see Legend of Montrose); and six Highland basket-hilted swords, with Andrea Ferrara and other antique blades, which were used by members of the Stewart family in the wars of Montrose. There are also two Highland dirks (one richly silver-mounted), with knives and forks in sheath, on the outside of dirk sheaths. All these weapons have been preserved in the House of Ardvorlich, and were used by members of the family of Stewart of Ardvorlich in the wars of Scotland in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Several of these weapons are reproduced in McIntyre North’s Book of the Club of True Highlanders.
(1471) Lent by COLONEL STEWART, C.I.E., R.A.
TWO LOCHABER AXES, of the type provided with a hook at the point of the shaft. The Lochaber Axe was a characteristic Highland weapon of the middle ages. Pennant notices it, and regards it as a terrible weapon, ‘better to be expressed by a figure than by words.’ He considers it to be of Norwegian origin.
(1493) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
CALTHROP, found at Pinkie, (See also page 36.)
(146) Lent by ANDREW DAVIE.
AN OLD HIGHLAND DIRK AND SHEATH, from Kilchurn Castle, given to Lord Breadalbane by Miss Campbell, one of the family retainers. This is a fine example of ancient Celtic ornamentation, both in the carving of the hilt and the pressed pattern on the leather sheath.
(1517) Lent by the MARQUIS OF BREADALBANE.
A DIRK, found some years ago at Stronclachan. Killin, where, in the middle of the sixteenth century, a battle was fought between the Campbells and the Macdonalds of Keppoch. It is a short blade furnished with a wrist-guard and a deer-horn handle.
(1518) Lent by the MARQUIS OF BREADALBANE.
HIGHLAND DIRK, Solingen blade, with silver-mounted hilt of wood carved with Celtic tracery; the blade is channelled to the point and marked ‘V. E. XX FECIT SOLINGEN.’
(1504) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
HIGHLAND DIRK, in sheath of lacquered leather brass-mounted. The dirk handle is characteristically engraved. The blade is channelled and ornamented along the back with small circles, in semicircles of dots.
(1503) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
PRODD OR CROSS-BOW; the bow of steel; stock of oak, square in section, inlaid with engraved plates of iron; maker’s name, Green Prescot, on latch-guard. The prodd was a light form of cross-bow employed for projecting bullets.
(1454) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
PRODD OR CROSSBOW, of the time of James VI., elegant square stock inlaid with engraved ivory, and with brass; butt plate of steel pierced with holes; length 2 feet 2 inches. (See Fig. 184.)
(1509) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
CROSSBOW, of the fifteenth century; a strong steel bow, heavy iron-mounted stock, with foot stirrup, and moulinet or windlass for winding.
(1510) Lent by ROBERT GLEN.
CROSS-BOW, with foot stirrup and moulinet or windlass. The stock is elaborately carved with leaf and flower scrolls.
(1520) Lent by ANDREW HEITON.
ANCIENT SPEAR, with yew-tree handle, found on taking down an old house in Edinburgh.
(152S) Lent by THOMAS BOSTON.
TWO PIKES. A store of these pikes is still preserved at Castle Grant.
(1468) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
TWO PIKES, 1805. Served out in Perthshire during the agitation regarding the projected invasion by the Emperor Napoleon. The wooden portion is new.
(1470) Lent by T. W. GREIG.
HUNTING KNIFE, with narwhal ivory handle, and hunting subject etched on the blade, seventeenth century.
(1478) Lent by A. C. McINTYRE.
THE GLENLYON STAFF. The body of this implement consists of an iron tube 5 feet in length, covered with leather, in the top of which is concealed a steel pike which can be ejected and fixed with a sudden jerk. The pike issues between a pair of expanded wings of chased iron, inlaid with dots and points of silver. The staff is in reality a musket rest and ‘Swin-feather’ or Swedish-feather combined, an instrument much used in the equipment of musketeers in the early part of the seventeenth century, being stuck into the ground while loading to keep off the enemy’s horse. An example is figured in Grose’s Ancient Armour, Plate 31, and described as having a ‘tuck’ which issued from a hole in the top. Other specimens are given in Skelton’s edition of Meyrick.
The Glenlyon Staff is described by Pennant (Tour in Scotland, 1769, p. 85):- ‘Saw at a gentleman’s house in Glen-lion a curious walking staff, belonging to one of his ancestors: it was iron cased in leather, five feet long; at the top a neat pair of extended wings like a caduceus, but on being shook a poniard two feet nine inches long darted out.’ (See Fig. 185.)
(353) Lent by COLONEL GARDEN CAMPBELL.
GUN, inlaid with silver, inscribed, ‘DOMINUS JOANNES GRANT, MILES VICE COMES DE INNERNES, ME FECIT IN GERMANIA, ANNO 1434.’ The barrel, in addition to the foregoing legend, which is inserted on a silver plate, bears another plate with the Grant arms, three coronets and the initials ‘S. J. G. of Frevchy, K.’ The butt-plate of brass has a similar inscription. The stock is fluted and inlaid in silver, with figures of horseman, hound, hare, and fish; the lock-plate is of brass, engraved scrolls and initials ‘A. P.’ The gun cannot have the antiquity indicated by the inscription. A chromo-lithographic drawing of it is given in Sir William Fraser’s Chiefs of the Grants, vol. i. p. 59, and in Drummond and Anderson’s Ancient Scottish Weapons, plate xxix. 3.
(1459) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
WALL-PIECE, in form of a flint-lock musket, with inscription, ‘CLARK TO LAIRD OF GRANT, ANNO 1676.’ The lock-plate bears the name ‘Ridgen Niewenhausen, Utrecht.’ This weapon is fitted with a strong iron pin under the fore-part of the stock, which, inserted into a socket, formed a rest and enabled the piece to be sighted in any direction when about to be fired.
(1458) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
GUN, represented in Alister Mohr’s picture. The gun has a richly-carved and channelled stock forming a fine curve with the barrel: the lock-plate is engraved with ‘Bellachastel, Gulielmus Smith,’ showing that this fine piece is the production of a local gunsmith: the lock is elaborately chiselled, and the barrel is inlaid with plain shields of silver.
(1460) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
GRANT’S ‘POCKET PISTOL,’ a heavy short blunderbuss, with engraved brass barrel of large bore. Near the breech there is engraved, ‘Grant’s Pocket Pistol, D. Waacken de Leuw. D. Lapenia.’ Lock richly engraved, and on the lock-plate ‘Jan Van Hussen, Rotterdam.’
(1465) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
TWO BRASS BLUNDERBUSSES. These and many other of the examples of arms lent by Lady Seafield are enumerated in an inventory made in 1720, which is printed in Sir William Fraser’s Chiefs of the Grants, vol. i. p. xli.
(1466) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
GUN, ‘57’ ‘G. R. Tower,’ and Bayonet of the Grant Fencibles. It is a flint-lock musket of the type used in the army when this regiment was raised by Sir James Grant. The first muster was in 1793, and thereafter the corps was quartered in various towns of Scotland, and after a rather inglorious career it was finally disbanded in 1799. The appearance of the Grant Fencibles is well illustrated in Kay’s Portraits, vol. i. p. 277.
(1469) Lent by the COUNTESS-DOWAGER OF SEAFIELD.
THE GUN ‘BREACH’D,’ or ‘Spotted Gun,’ which belonged to Major James Stewart of Ardvorlich, the hero (Allan McAulay) of Sir Walter Scott’s Legend of Montrose. (See Introduction to Legend of Montrose.) The piece is a flint-lock musket, with a plate of silver inlaid in the barrel. Trigger-guard and butt mounting are of chased brass.
(1472) Lent by COLONEL STEWART, C.I.E., R.A.
CURIOUS SEVEN-BARRELLED CARBINE of the period of George I., bought at the sale of a farmer’s effects in Kilwinning Parish. Its history is unknown, but it is supposed to have been used on board ship. A carbine of the same pattern was used on board Nelson’s flag-ship, ‘The Victory.’
(1522) Lent by JAMES DICKIE.
FLINT-LOCK FOWLING-PIECE, by J. Haugh, Dumfries. The piece has a single barrel, but it has on opposite sides two locks, one further forward on the barrel than the other. It was intended to fire two shots in succession, a stout wad being inserted between the charges, and that in front being alone exploded by the foremost lock on the barrel.
(1516) Lent by MISS COPLAND.