DBA Resources

Army Notes

Medieval Irish (1300 - 1487 AD)

By Kevin Boylan

This list covers Irish armies in the period after the initial shock of the Anglo-Norman conquests of the late 12th and 13th Centuries had been overcome, and before the next serious attempt to fully conquer Ireland was made by the Tudors in the 16th Century. This was a time of recovery for the native (or Gaelic) Irish, as the introduction of new troop types and military institutions (and the general disinterest of the British monarchy) allowed them to gradually regain ground at the expense of the invaders. They were aided by the fact that most Anglo-Normans became thoroughly 'gaelicized', intermarrying with the natives and adopting most of the trappings of their culture -- including an innate disdain for the remote authority of the British crown. The result was that the region within which English law held sway steadily shrank until, by the end of 15th Century, it encompassed an area barely 50 miles square around Dublin. Within this Dublin 'Pale' was the 'Land of Peace' administered by the King's Justiciar or, later, Lord Lieutenant. "Beyond the Pale" lay the 'Land of War', where Irish and Anglo-Irish lords raided and battled one other in an endless series of petty wars and clan succession struggles characterized by a bewilderingly complex and constantly-shifting tangle of alliances. 

The 1315-1318 invasion of Ireland by Edward Bruce (brother of Robert the Bruce) was a key event in this Gaelic resurgence, as it left the English colony thoroughly devastated. It is unclear whether the invasion was intended primarily to rid Robert of a potential rival for the Scottish throne, or to exploit British weakness following his great victory at the Battle of Bannockburn the previous year. Edward (briefly joined by his brother in 1317) roamed at will throughout Ireland for four years and won many battles, but proved unable either to take Dublin or cement his authority over the fractious island. An assemblage of Irish and Anglo-Irish lords acclaimed Edward as king, but many others were no more willing to swear fealty to a Scottish king than to an English one. Edward's task was also complicated by the effects of the Great European Famine of 1315-1318, and his own foolishness in allowing his army to indiscriminately ravage the countryside. Mass starvation caused by the combination of crop failures and depredations of Edward's troops alienated many of the Gaelic Irish whom he needed to win over. As a consequence, relatively few Irishmen mourned when Edward was defeated and killed at the Battle of Faughart in September 1318.(1)

The only other major external intervention in Irish affairs during the period came at the end of the 14th Century, when King Richard II personally led two military expeditions to Ireland. These were prompted by a near total collapse of English governance in the face of rebellious Irish lords, and Anglo-Irish lords whom intervened in the conflicts of their Gaelic neighbors and warred upon each other in total disobedience of the authority of the crown. The most serious threat was posed by Art MacMurrough Kavanagh, self-styled King of Leinster, who grew so bold that he even burnt the city of Carlow, which was then the seat of British administration for all Ireland. In 1394-95, Richard II campaigned at the head of 8,000 to 10,000 troops -- the largest army Ireland would see in all the Middle Ages. Richard induced MacMurrough to submit by surrounding his fastness in the Wicklow Mountains with a chain of fortified garrisons and using small bodies of mounted archers to scour and devastate the area within the encirclement. This victory, and the sheer size of Richard's army, convinced nearly all the other Irish rebels to submit in exchange for full pardon and confirmation of their ownership of lands held since the Norman Conquest.

Richard's success proved to be short-lived, since fighting resumed almost immediately after he departed Ireland, and MacMurrough was soon in open rebellion once again. In 1398, the presumptive royal heir, Roger Mortimer, was killed in battle near Carlow, prompting Richard to return Ireland the next year. However, on this occasion, fiscal difficulties prevented him from fielding an army large enough to repeat his earlier success. Instead, he chased MacMurrough into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, but the canny Irishman avoided battle and harassed the British with constant ambushes, night raids, and attacks on stragglers. Worse yet, while Richard was campaigning futilely in Ireland, his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (afterwards King Henry IV), returned from exile and rose in rebellion. Richard hastened back to England in July 1399, but was almost immediately taken prisoner and deposed. The death of Mortimer and Richard II's distraction in Ireland thereby contributed directly to the rise of the Lancastrian monarchy -- and thus, to the Wars of the Roses that would wrack England for many years to come. This ensured that Ireland would be left to its own devices throughout most of the 15th Century.(2)

The Irish Way of War 

Throughout this period, the tactics employed by the Gaelic Irish generally resembled those used by Art MacMurrough in opposing Richard II's second expedition. That is, when confronted by a superior force they would refuse to fight in the open, and instead try to ambush the enemy force while it was crossing through a forest or mountain pass. When time allowed, a ditch-and-bank fortification surmounted by a palisade would be built across the narrows of the pass, and the trees on either side would be 'plashed' (interwoven) to prevent the obstacle from being flanked. These tactics were most often used against the far better armed British and Anglo-Irish; set-piece battles between Gaelic Irish armies were much more frequent.

However, seeking and winning battles was not the principal goal of strategy in medieval Irish warfare. Rather, the most common objective was to capture and carry off the enemy's cattle. In the semi-nomadic, pastoral culture of Gaelic Ireland, cattle were the virtually the only movable commodity of value, and a lord's wealth and influence were judged by the size and quality of his herds. Cattle raiding therefore played a central role in strategies to achieve local or regional predominance. A lord whose cattle had been stolen could have most of them restored if he submitted to his rival's overlordship - and provided hostages as surety for his new allegiance. However, cattle raiding could also be a simple exercise in grand larceny, particularly when the enemy was too powerful to be forced to submit.(3)

If the region that was the target of a raid had sufficient warning, its people would flee, driving their cattle to a safe refuge in the mountains or forest, burning their crops, and concealing their stored grain in underground granaries. The raiders, denied both plunder and any means of sustenance, would soon be forced to retreat empty-handed. They could destroy the inhabitants' dwellings, but these were typically nothing more than thatched stone or wattle-and-daub huts that were easily rebuilt. Needless to say, these Fabian tactics were even more effective against ponderous British and Anglo-Irish armies than they were against swift-moving Irish raiders. One Anglo-Irish squire who had participated in Richard II's first expedition to Ireland described the frustrations of Irish warfare to the French chronicler Jean Froissart as follows:

 "...Ireland is one of the worst countries to make war in, or to conquer; for there are such impenetrable and extensive forests, lakes, and bogs, there is no knowing how to pass them, and carry on war advantageously. It is so thinly inhabited that, whenever the Irish please, they desert the towns and take refuge in the forests, and live in huts made of boughs, like wild beasts; and whenever they perceive any parties advancing with hostile dispositions, and about to enter their country, they fly to such narrow passes, it is impossible to follow them. When they find a favorable opportunity to attack their enemies to advantage, which frequently happens, from their knowledge of the country, they fail not to seize it..."(4)

Due to the prominence of cattle raiding in Irish warfare, battles most often occurred either when raiders were intercepted before they escaped with the plundered herds, or a fleeing populace was caught short of its mountain and forest hideaways. Yet, even then, conventional battles rarely resulted. Instead, the retreating party would make a fighting withdrawal to cover the escape of its herds, so that the 'battle' would effectively consist of periods of movement punctuated by a series of ambushes and skirmishes. The centrality of these tactics in Irish warfare is revealed in the epic poem The Bruce, which was penned by John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, circa 1375. In his account of Edward Bruce's ill-fated campaign in Ireland, Barbour describes how, on the eve of the 1318 Battle of Faughart, Edward's Irish allies tried to dissuade him from fighting until nearby reinforcements had arrived. When Edward rejected this advice, the Irish warned him that they were not willing to fight, saying:

For our maner is, of this land (For our tactics are those of this land)
Till follow and ficht, and ficht fleand
(To pursue and fight, and fight while retreating)
And nocht till stand in plane melle
(And not to stand in open melee)
Quhill the ta part discumfit be.
(Until the other side is defeated.) (5)

The Irish were not alone in avoiding battle, since battle-seeking strategies were relatively rare in the medieval era. The only treatise on military strategy that was available at the time, the 4th Century De Re Militari of Vegetius, stressed the avoidance of pitched battle, with its attendant risks, at all costs. For most of the 100 Years' War, British strategy on the Continent relied primarily upon a combination of sieges and chevauchees (devastating mounted raids) to defeat the French. All three of their great battlefield triumphs at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt occurred when retreating British forces were forced to turn at bay by closely pursuing French armies.(6)

All this being said, the Gaelic Irish sometimes did fight set-piece battles -- both against each other and their 'foreign' enemies -- even though it was not their standard mode of warfare. Indeed, during the period in question, their ability to succeed in open battle increased considerably as a consequence of the introduction of better-armed troops and the development of new military institutions.

Medieval Irish Military Institutions

Before the advent of the Vikings, there were almost no standing military forces in Ireland. Each of the hundreds of petty Irish 'kings' had a handful of personal bodyguards, but when he wanted to raise an army, he had to summon a hosting of his tenants - which could apply only to landowners, or to all-shield-bearing warriors, or to every able-bodied freeman (the gairmsluaigh or 'general hosting').(7)  English observers generally referred to the troops mustered in this fashion as the 'Rising Out'. However, this rather haphazard system of raising troops proved inadequate when confronted by the unprecedented military challenge posed by the Vikings in the 9th century. The arrival of even more formidable Anglo-Norman invaders in the late 12th century drove the final nail into the coffin of Ireland's traditional military institutions. Simms cites the example of a contemporary account of the Norman conquest of Connacht, that

"…has a number of passages which serve to highlight the disadvantages of the old-style levy composed of sub-chieftains and their followers. When the whole province of Connacht was being overrun by the invading Normans, each leader's primary concern was for his own area and its inhabitants, his loyalty to the would-be provincial overkings coming in a poor second."(8)

In order to contend with the invaders, Irish 'kings' were forced to develop standing bodies of mercenaries that immediately began to supersede - and in time almost completely eclipsed - the traditional Rising Out. The process was gradual and did not proceed at the same pace across all of Ireland, but was inexorable, and had, by the close of the medieval era, revolutionized Gaelic Irish military institutions. 

"By the end of the 15th Century, mercenaries had become so predominant in Gaelic Irish armies that the troops that could be raised by the traditional hosting were considered of little account. Writing around 1515, an English chronicler explained that the armies of the greatest Irish lords did not exceed 500 'spears' (i.e., horsemen), 500 galloglass, and 1,000 kern, "besides the common folk." The average lordship could muster at most 200 'spears' and 600 kern, and the smallest just 40 'spears' and 200-300 kern, "besides the common folk." Since nearly all of the 'spears', galloglass and kern would have been professionals either in the service of the lord or his vassals, there was little need for the traditional hosting of the entire able-bodied population. It appears very likely that the 'common folk' were called up [only] in an emergency in order to help defend their homes against an invader."*(9) 

In order to maintain these new standing troops, the Gaelic freeman's traditional obligation for personal military service was gradually transmuted into one of contributing to the maintenance of his lord's mercenaries. This mirrored developments elsewhere in Europe, where the traditional feudal levy was being eclipsed by an ever-increasing reliance upon paid troops. However, the new military system that emerged reflected the unique circumstances of medieval Ireland: 

"In other parts of Europe the growth in the king's household and the use of professional armies during the thirteenth century led to new forms of taxation being devised, to a development of the exchequer and other institutions of central government. [In Ireland], however, the subsistence agriculture and predominantly barter economy made it impractical to collect taxes from the people in the form of coinage and pay the soldiers from a central fund. It was easier and more effective for each man to be billeted on a householder, to consume his provisions directly and to exact his wages in kind."(10)

The practice of billeting troops on the populace was first introduced in Ireland by the Vikings, but was soon adopted by Irish lords, and had become universal by the 15th Century.(11)  It was derived from the Gaelic customs of coinnmheadh (or 'coign') that obliged the well-to-do classes to provide hospitality for travelers, and periodic feasts for their lord's household. These customs were gradually perverted by both Irish and Anglo-Norman lords, until, by the mid-15th century, a new body of custom had emerged that was known as 'bonnacht' or 'coign and livery'. These customs (or taxes), which were applied universally to all of a lord's vassals and tenants, required the provision of food and lodging for his mercenaries (coign), and stabling and fodder for his horses (livery).(12)  In some cases, these obligations were fulfilled through agreements that the lord negotiated with his chief vassals requiring each to maintain a specified number of mercenaries. However, another common arrangement involved the lord authorizing his mercenaries "…to levy both their food and drink and their wages 'as well within his lordship as outside it.' Such casual patronage was an invitation to highway robbery, and ensured that not only were the lord's own tenants subjected to unlimited extortion, but other neighboring territories suffered in the same way, even church lands, which were normally entitled to immunity." (13)

All billeted troops, regardless of their arms and equipment, were referred to as Bonnachts. Thus, contrary to popular belief, there was no distinct type of soldier in medieval Ireland known as a 'bonnacht.' Dr. Gerald A. Hayes-McCoy -- the "father" of modern Irish military history -- wrote: "Bonnachts were not a distinct class of warriors; they were merely billeted men. Thus, although the galloglasses and the Scots mercenaries [i..e., 16th Century 'Redshanks'] were two distinct types of mercenary soldiers, they were both called bonnaghts when they were considered as troops quartered in the houses of a community."(14)  Indeed, as we have seen, the word 'bonnacht' was also used to describe the entire system of billeting soldiers among the population. (15)

Gaelic Irish Troops

Irish armies of the later Middle Ages were composed of three distinct types of Gaelic troops: horsemen ('spears'), galloglass and kern. These were sometimes augmented by Anglo-Irish men-at-arms and footmen, but the practice was a risky one because these mercenaries often used the opportunity to seize disputed lands, and were even known to turn on their erstwhile allies. Irish lords understandably came to prefer the more loyal and trustworthy Gaelic mercenaries.(16)

The horsemen were nobles who served in the personal retinues of Irish lords, and would often have been drawn from their master's immediate and extended family. In other cases, personal service in these military 'households' (teaghlach or lught tighe) may have been linked to tenancy on estates granted by the overlord. In any event, nobles who owed service due to ties of blood or vassalage could be supplemented by mercenary cavalrymen and, in the event of a hosting, by the wealthier members of the Rising Out. The mercenary horsemen were members of the Gaelic aristocracy who owned no lands, either because they were junior members of noble families, or had been dispossessed by the Anglo-Normans or rivals in clan succession struggles. They served in return for the right to graze their cattle on the employer's property, and appear to have switched patrons (whom included both Gaelic and Anglo-Norman lords) with considerable frequency.(17)  As the 16th Century chronicler Richard Stanihurst wrote: "These horsemen, when they have no stay of their own, gad and range from house to house like arrant knights of the round table." (18)

Regardless of their origins, the horsemen usually wore iron helmets and chainmail or akhetons (i.e., padded body armor), and were armed with javelins and spears wielded overarm - instead of couched underarm like lances. They rode light, unbarded Irish horses rather than knightly destriers, and, lacking both saddles and stirrups, instead balanced themselves precariously on pillows tied across their mounts' backs. Each such cavalryman was customarily accompanied by one or more unarmored 'horseboys' (servants or squires) who rode into battle on his spare horses. Irish cavalry was consequently incapable either of charging or standing against formed foot or heavier horse, and therefore employed skirmishing tactics. However, there are several indications in contemporary sources that Irish nobles sometimes dismounted to fight on foot. On such occasions, the well-armed nobles would have made a significant addition to the unarmored footmen that formed the bulk of medieval Irish armies.(19)

The galloglass (gall oglaich or 'foreign warriors') were mercenaries of mixed Norse-Scottish descent from the Hebrides and Isle of Man who had taken up residence in Ireland. Their first recorded appearance in Ireland dates to 1259, when 160 were given as a dowry for the daughter of the King of the Hebrides, Dubhghall MacRory, on the occasion of her marriage to Aedh O'Conor, King of Connacht.(20) However, the principal influx of galloglass came around the end of that century, when Islemen clans that had fought on the losing side in the Scottish War of Independence fled to Ireland.(21) The galloglass first settled in Ulster, and their presence was generally limited to the northern half of Ireland until the early 15th century. It is only then that they are first recorded in Munster, and they did not appear in Leinster until several generations later. The galloglass were initially freelance mercenaries who served the highest bidder. By the mid-14th century, however, galloglass clans had begun to evolve into hereditary retainers of particular Irish lordships - and, in time, some would even become land-holding vassals of their employers.(22)

In keeping with their Viking heritage, the galloglass fought as heavy infantry wearing iron helmets and chainmail or akhetons. They were armed with fearsome two-handed axes up to six feet long, supplemented with javelins and, possibly, bows. Each galloglass was accompanied by a servant who bore his armor, and a boy who carried his other gear. In the 16th century, a galloglass and his two servants were known as a 'spar', and in theory, 100 or 120 spars comprised a galloglass 'battle'. In reality, only 60 to 80 spars were usually present - the pay for the rest going to the unit's captain. The galloglass were renowned for their valor and steadfastness in battle - and an unbending loyalty to their employers. English observers universally considered them the mainstay of Irish armies, and describe them as the only Irish troops that could fight a pitched battle in the open (that is, before the advent of Irish pikemen at the end of the 1500s).(23)

The last, and by far the largest, component of medieval Irish armies were the Kern (ceitherne or ceitheirn -- 'a warband'). In 1950, Hayes-McCoy wrote "…the collective noun kern may be defined as that part of the rising out which fought on foot."(24)  However, he obviously had doubts on this score, since an accompanying footnote ponders whether "… kern were not 'extraneous to the normal forces' [i.e., the Rising Out] in the same sense that the galloglasses were?" - in other words, that they too were mercenaries. In the decades since, the latter interpretation has come to be accepted by nearly all authorities on the topic.(25)  Katherine Simms states this position most forthrightly, writing that "…by the opening years of the thirteenth century, we clearly are dealing with bands of Gaelic Irish mercenaries, sometimes called ceithirne congbhala, 'retained bands'."(26) It is speculated that, like the mercenary horsemen described above, some kern were recruited from elements of the Gaelic nobility that had been displaced by Anglo-Norman invaders.(27)

The theory that kern were mercenaries is supported by numerous references in contemporary sources (particularly those penned by clergymen) that decry their criminal habit of coercing 'hospitality' from all and sundry.(28) Some chroniclers make a distinction between 'household kern' (ceitheirn tighe) in the service of a lord and unemployed 'wood kern' (ciethearn coille)(29) -- or bandits -- but in many cases there was little real difference. For, as we have seen, many Gaelic and Anglo-Norman lords authorized their kern (and other mercenaries) to exact their wages indiscriminately from the inhabitants of both their own lands and neighboring territories. Thus, the individual householder was often as likely to suffer licensed pillage at the hands of his own lord's mercenaries as he was to be despoiled by invading troops. As Katherine Simms explains, "The dilemma in which the inhabitants of the [Anglo-Irish] Butler lordship found themselves was an unenviable one; without the protection of a standing force, they were certain to be pillaged by 'Irishe desobeysaunts' and English rebels; in practice, however, the cost of such protection amounted to the same thing."(30) Not surprisingly, the very word ceithirne came to be synonymous with 'brigand', and one chronicler even rendered it as cioth Ifrinn ('a shower of hell'). These expressions of revulsion only make sense if the kern were permanently embodied bands of mercenaries. If the kern were only mustered into service for brief periods when a hosting was summoned, then the churchmen would have had little to complain about. 

This being said, the mercenary kern were no doubt supplemented by the poorer, unmounted element of the Rising Out in the event of a hosting. However, as the importance of mercenaries grew throughout the late medieval period, the aim of the traditional hosting changed considerably. Instead of summoning all of his tenants to arms, a Gaelic overlord was now principally concerned with mustering together the standing forces of his chief underlings. As Katherine Simms puts it:

On the political front, an Irish lord at the end of the Middle Ages did not require personal military service from his subjects so much as taxation [in the form of coign and livery] to finance his professional troops … . The hosting summons was therefore primarily directed at those vassal chiefs powerful enough to maintain hired troops on their own.(32)

All contemporary observers agree that kern (and thus, most 'bonnachts') were unarmored footmen variously armed with javelins, axes, slings and bows. This interpretation is shared by virtually all modern historians, including Hayes-McCoy, who describes how first-hand English chroniclers "… define kern as lightly armed foot, as distinct from the galloglasses, who … had armour when they could get it, and carried battle axes, and who are classed by these writers as heavily armed infantry."(33)  These same sources describe the kern rushing into the attack, and then racing off so swiftly and nimbly that it was impossible for English troops to catch them. Needless to say, this hardly sounds like a description of armored troops. Now, it is true that most of these chroniclers were writing in the 16th Century, and thus had not witnessed medieval Irish armies, but are we to suppose that Irish armor had dramatically declined since the 13th and 14th centuries? Furthermore, if most Irish troops had in fact been armored, medieval Ireland would have needed an extensive iron-working industry - and in all likelihood, a widespread cash economy to support it. There is no evidence to suggest that it had either.

This point is significant, because at least one recent article argues that the bulk of the Gaelic troops (who could only have been kern) were armored.(34)  This argument seems to be based on Hayes-McCoy's widely-read Irish Battles, and particularly on the chapter dealing with the 1318 Battle of Dysert O'Dea, which asserts that Irish arms and equipment had improved sufficiently for them to fight pitched battles in the open.(35)  However, Hayes-McCoy's account of the battle was colored by an openly-stated determination to rebut British historians who asserted that Irish never progressed beyond 'primitive' tactics of skulking in forests and mounting hit-and-run ambushes. This motive leads him astray in at least one place after he describes how Irish reinforcements that appeared behind the opposing army was initially mistaken as a new body of enemies by their compatriots on the other side of the battlefield. Hayes-McCoy sees this as proof that both sides' arms and equipment must have been similar enough that Irish could not be distinguished from Anglo-Normans at first sight. The flaw with this logic is that the Battle of Dysert O'Dea was essentially a civil war between rival branches of the O'Brien clan - with a small Anglo-Norman force intervening on one side. Thus, it's far more likely that the 'Irish' mistook their friends for foes simply because most troops on both sides were Gaelic Irish.

DBA 2.0 Army List

1 x 2LH (Gen) + 2 LH or 3Cv + 4Bd  The 2LH stands are Gaelic Irish noble horsemen augmented by the wealthier members of the Rising Out -- both accompanied by their 'horseboys'. The 3Cv are Anglo-Irish men-at-arms, and the 4Bd are Galloglass. Or Scots 
or 1 x 3Kn (Gen) + 2 x 4Pk  This option represents Edward Bruce's army of 1315-1318, with Scottish knights and pikemen. 
1 x 4Bd or 2LH  The first option is for Galloglass, the second is more Gaelic noble horse. 
4 x 3Aux  Most full-time mercenary Kern plus the best-equipped footmen of the Rising Out. 
4 x 2Ps Younger, nimbler, and less well-equipped mercenary Kern, plus the bulk of the Rising Out.

Figure Guide 

Nobles:  These are armed with spears and javelins, wearing helmets and mail, and possibly carrying small round shields, riding ponies with neither saddles nor stirrups. The 'horseboys' (squires) would be completely unarmored and bare-legged, wearing tunics, cloaks and hoods, and armed only with javelins. I put one noble and one horseboy on each stand. The best figures available are Feudal Castings: Irish LC (I.6), Irish MC/HC (I.7), Scots LC (S.7), and Scots MC/HC (S.8). 

Galloglass: Should be depicted as a mixture of men wearing mail and padded armor; bare-legged, shieldless, and armed with axes and javelins. Essex has some excellent mailed galloglass (MER21), but for those in padded armor, use Feudal Castings Islemen/Galloglaich (G.1 and G.2). 

Kern: Unarmored footmen armed with targes, and a mixture of axes, javelins, slings and bows. Most would be bare-legged, wearing one-piece tunics and cloaks. Others would be dressed in tight-fitting trews extending down to the ankle, and secured by straps passing beneath the instep. Either could also be wearing tight, waist-length jackets. Essex's Ancient Scots Irish warband (SIA 3 & SIA 4) are a reasonable match, though many of these have wicker shields that were found only in Ulster during the late medieval period. The most accurate figures are again Feudal Castings: I.1 through I.4, and I.9 through I.11.

Anglo-Irish Men-at-Arms: At the beginning of the period, 'degenerate' or gaelicized Anglo-Irish men-at-arms would look a great deal like late Norman knights without the kite shields (though they might be carrying smaller round or heater shields). By the late 14th Century, they would look more like their Gaelic Irish counterparts, riding without stirrups on small horses, although they would be better armored. Yet, even at the end of the period, plate armor was still quite rare in Ireland, and virtually all of the Anglo-Irish would still have been wearing mail. Unfortunately, no manufacturer has yet produced a medieval Anglo-Irish cavalry figure, and I have been unable to find an accurate substitute. For the moment, the best solution is to use Feudal Castings Irish MC/HC figures mounted three to a stand.

Scots Pikemen: These should be depicted as a mixture of unarmored and lightly armored men. Some would be bare-legged, plaid cloak-wearing Highlanders, while others would have been Lowlanders of more conventional appearance in dress. Here too, the best figures available are by Feudal Castings. S.9 and S.10 are predominantly unarmored, with a few figures wearing mail, while S.13 has all figures in Akhetons (padded armor).


  1. Lydon, James, 'The Scottish Soldier in Medieval Ireland: the Bruce Invasion and the Galloglass', in Grant G. Simpson (ed.), The Scottish Soldier Abroad 1247-1956 (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd., and Maryland, USA: Barnes & Noble, 1992), pp. 1-5; McNamee, Colm, The Wars of the Bruces (East Lothian, Scotland: Tuckwell Press Ltd, 1997); and Ruth Dudley Edwards, An Atlas of Irish History, Second Edition (New York and London: Routledge Books, 1989). 
  2. Lydon, J.F., 'Richard II's Expeditions to Ireland', Journal of the Royal Society of the Antiquaries of Ireland Vol 93, Part II (1963), pp. 135-149, and A.J. Otway-Ruthven, A History of Medieval Ireland (Routledge Books, 1968). 
  3. Simms, Katherine, 'Warfare in the Medieval Gaelic Lordships', The Irish Sword Vol XII, No 47 (Winter 1975), pp. 98-108. 
  4. Froissart, Jean, The Chronicles of Froissart, The Harvard Classics, Volume 35, Part 1, translated by Lord Berners, edited by G.C. MacAulay (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909-14), Chapter LXIV. 
  5. Mackenzie, W.M. (ed.), The Bruce, by John Barbour (London, 1909), pp. 444-445.
  6.  Prestwich, Michael, Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996), and Nicholas Hooper & Matthew Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages 786-1487 (Cambridge University Press, 1996). 
  7. Simms, Katherine, From Kings to Warlords: The Changing Political Structure of Gaelic Ireland in the Later Middle Ages, Studies in Celtic History VII (Woodbridge, 1987), p. 116. 
  8. Simms, From Kings to Warlords, p. 121. 
  9. Simms, From Kings to Warlords, p. 127. 
  10. Simms, Katherine, 'Guesting and Feasting in Gaelic Ireland', Journal of the Royal Society of the Antiquaries of Ireland Vol 108 (1978), p. 82. 
  11. Simms, From Kings to Warlords, p. 118. 
  12. Empey, C.A. and Katherine Simms, 'The Ordinances of the White Earl and the Problem of Coign in the Later Middle Ages', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Vol. 75, No. 8 (1975), p. 161 and Simms, 'Guesting and Feasting in Gaelic Ireland', pp. 68-82. 
  13. Simms, 'The Ordinances of the White Earl', p. 180. 
  14. Hayes-McCoy, Gerald A., 'The Army of Ulster, 1593-1601', The Irish Sword Vol. I, No. 2 (1950-51), p. 107. 
  15. Otway-Ruthven, A. J., A History of Medieval Ireland (London, 1968), p. 216.
  16. Simms, From Kings to Warlords, pp. 119-120. 
  17. Simms, Katherine, 'Gaelic Warfare in the Middle Ages', in Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery (eds.), A Military History of Ireland (Cambridge, New York & Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996) pp. 99-100; and From Kings to Warlords, p. 125. 
  18. Simms, From Kings to Warlords, p. 125. 
  19. Simms, 'Gaelic Warfare in the Middle Ages', p. 107. 
  20. Lydon, 'The Scottish Soldier in Medieval Ireland: the Bruce Invasion and the Galloglass', p. 7; and Simms, 'Gaelic Warfare in the Middle Ages', p. 110. 
  21. McKerral, Andrew, 'West Highland Mercenaries in Ireland', The Scottish Historical Review Vol. 30, No. 109 (April 1951), pp. 1-14. 
  22. Lydon, 'The Scottish Soldier in Medieval Ireland: the Bruce Invasion and the Galloglass', pp. 7-8. 
  23. Lydon, 'The Scottish Soldier in Medieval Ireland: the Bruce Invasion and the Galloglass', pp. 6-13; and Kenneth Nicholls, Gaelic and Gaelicised Ireland (1972), pp. 89-90. 
  24. Hayes-McCoy, 'The Army of Ulster, 1593-1601', p. 107. 
  25. See, for example: Robin Frame, 'Military Service in the Lordship of Ireland 1290-1360: Institutions and Society on the Anglo-Gaelic Frontier', in Robert Bartlett and Angus MacKay (eds.), Medieval Frontier Societies (Oxford, 1989), pp. 117-120; Nicholls, Gaelic and Gaelicised Ireland, pp. 84-87; and Lydon, 'The Scottish Soldier in Medieval Ireland: the Bruce Invasion and the Galloglass', p.7. 
  26. Simms, 'Gaelic Warfare in the Middle Ages', p. 100. 
  27. Frame, 'Military Service in the Lordship of Ireland 1290-1360', p. 119, and Nicolls, Gaelic and Gaelicised Ireland, p. 86. 
  28. Empey and Simms, 'The Ordinances of the White Earl and the Problem of Coign in the Later Middle Ages'. 
  29. Nicholls, Gaelic and Gaelicised Ireland, pp. 86. 
  30. Empey and Simms, 'The Ordinances of the White Earl and the Problem of Coign in the Later Middle Ages', p. 175. 
  31. Harrison, Alan, 'The Shower of Hell', Eigse, No. 18, Part II (1981), p. 304. 
  32. Simms, From Kings to Warlords, p. 127. 
  33. Hayes-McCoy, 'The Army of Ulster, 1593-1601', p. 107. 
  34. Harbud, Nicholas, 'Irish Mist', Slingshot No. 201 (January 1999). 
  35. Hayes-McCoy, Gerald A., Irish Battles: A Military History of Ireland (London, 1969 and Paperback Edition --Belfast: The Appletree Press Ltd, 1990)

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My thanks to Kevin Boylan for this essay. Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.

Last Updated:  Dec. 02, 2001