All About Irish Shillelagh

All About Irish Shillelagh

The Irish Shillelagh has a deep history rooted in the areas of sports. In many places, parents even give it to children as they enter adulthood. In 1800, the most popular use of shillelagh emerged, where teams as a sport came together to fight each other in stick fights. Eventually, this sport became so popular that fathers started teaching their children how to fight with shillelaghs as a rite of passage. While this is an old and classic example of what an Irish shillelagh is used for, there are others. Let us first understand what a Shillelagh is. 

What’s a Shillelagh?

The word ‘Shillelagh’ comes from the Irish phrase sail éille, which in English means “thonged willow-stick.” The Shillelagh originated in the village of Shillelagh, County Wicklow, which was once surrounded by vast oak forests.

A shillelagh is a stick that is typically shorter and is not intended just for walking; it is useful for walking and defending oneself. The manufacturers usually use blackthorn wood to make the shillelagh. Usually, the shillelagh fighting stick measures somewhere between 18″ and 22″. The shaft of the walking stick is quite smooth, but they often have a few knots to give it a different form. 

You can find a large bulb of wood on the top of the shillelagh and the striking surface. Most also feature a strap to hang when not in use or wrap around the hand to block it from dropping.

Now that we know what they are let us see how they are made. 

How Are Irish Shillelagh Made? 

People usually use the wood from the root of the plant to make the knob at the end of the shillelagh, as it is tough and less prone to crack. They then place the wood in a chimney for several months to several years, thus, allowing it to accumulate soot and give its typical and signature black shiny appearance.

Now, let us see the history of this walking stick.

What Is the History of the Shillelagh? 

When Britain ruled Ireland, it was illegal to carry weapons, and the Shillelagh developed as a disguised alternative to self-defense. People commonly used it for fighting and dueling. Sometimes they filled the knob with molten lead for a more powerful strike. 

Now that you know a few things about it let us see how to buy an ideal Irish Shillelagh.

How to Choose The Best Shillelagh? 

These are the top 3 factors that you must consider while buying Shillelagh: 

  • Weight

Probably the first thing to look for is the weight, especially for a beginner. Starting with a heavy stick will result in a damaged rotator cuff or tendonitis. If you are a non-disabled adult, go for a stick around 300 grams and buy heavier ones as you progress.

  • The shaft

Ideally, a shillelagh should taper from the top down. The part closest to the murlán, the rather, should be the thickest as it is responsible for bearing the brunt of the torsion while dealing with blows and the impact of parries. 

  • The grip

The part of the stick where you grip it, the dorn, must be sufficiently small to allow the three bottom fingers to touch the palm. According to the rule, the thumb grip is not secure enough because anyone can easily disarm it. 

These are some factors you must consider while buying an Irish Shillelagh


The Shillelagh is a quite effective weapon that has existed since ancient times, and even today, it has proven to be extremely practical and effective. You can find many options for buying an authentic Shillelagh. 

So if you want to buy one, you can either go the traditional or modern route. Luckily there are still manufacturers that make authentic shillelagh in Ireland and abroad. A lot of what you will find tends to gear towards the walking stick crowd; however, the fighting stick has become more popular and better understood. By far, Blackthorn has proven to be one of the best materials you can get. It is because Blackthorn’s solidity to lightness ratio is one of the best on the planet.

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