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What Is Irish Blackthorn?

Thursday, 2 January 2020  |  Olivia

Irish blackthorn shillelagh are one of the most culturally significant variety of walking sticks, especially amongst Irish-Americans. What's the exciting history behind these beautiful canes? 

What Is Blackthorn Wood?

Blackthorn is a type of flowering plant also known as Prunus Spinosa. The plant gets its name from the dark colour of its thorns. Oak is less common in Ireland than it is in England, and for this reason the Irish used blackthorn wood in its place.

what-is-blackthorn-wood

What Is Blackthorn Wood Used For? 

The round berries are used to make sloe gin in Britain, and as the wood burns well with little smoke it is often used for firewood. It is attractive and takes on a fine polish, and has therefore been used to make walking sticks by the Irish. Blackthorn sticks are carried by commissioned officers of the Royal Irish Regiment in the British Army. 

What is an Irish Walking Stick Called? 

An Irish walking stick is traditionally called a shillelagh. The sticks first heralded from the Shillelagh Forest in the dramatically beautiful County Wicklow in Ireland. The word roughly translates to "thronged willow" in Irish.

What is a Shillelagh?

A shillelagh is a wooden cudgel, club or walking stick that is commonly made from a stout and knotted blackthorn stick with a large knob on the end. Nowadays they are available in a variety of woods like the one below. 

Stout Hazel Knob Handle Walking Stick

Stout Hazel Knob Handle Walking Stick

This Stout Hazel Knob Handle Walking Stick is a similar shape to the traditional Shillelagh. The knob makes it easy to hold in the palm of your hand, and the hazel wood provides a natural appearance. 


How Are Shillelagh Made? 

Wood from the root of the plant would be used to make the knob at the end of the shillelagh, as it is tougher and less prone to crack. The chosen wood would then be placed in a chimney for several months to several years to allow it to accumulate soot and give the typical black shiny appearance 

What Is the History of the Shillelagh? 

When Ireland was ruled by Britain it was made illegal to carry weapons, and the Shillelagh developed as a disguised means of self defence. They were commonly used for fighting and duelling, and sometimes the knob would be filled with molten lead for a more powerful strike. 

Why Is It So Hard to Find Blackthorn Walking Sticks? 

Blackthorn is one of the most sought-after woods for making walking sticks. Lengths of raw material long enough to make into walking sticks are rare to come by, and for this reason it is difficult to procure a blackthorn walking stick like the one below. 

Blackthorn Thumbstick Hiking Stick

Blackthorn Thumbstick Hiking Stick

The Blackthorn Thumbstick Hiking Stick is made from an extra long length of premium Blackthorn wood. The Thumbstick handle ensures a naturalistic and earthy appearance. 


Browse Our Blackthorn Selection

Visit our collection of blackthorn wood walking sticks, or if it's the Shilleglah that's caught your eye, why not try the knobstick handle category?

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