Fine Antique Arms & Armour

Very Fine Highland Scottish Dirk With Features Connecting It With The Jacobite Cause Ref: 12.67



Item Description:


A very fine example of an 18th century Highland Scottish dirk dating from circa 1720 to 1730. The tapering blade is finely fashioned from a contemporary British military backsword blade with a single pronounced fuller running below the spine from the base of the grip to a short distance from the tip after which it becomes double-edged.


As is usual on some British sword blades of this time, each side is stamped with a small crown. Another stamp of letters below, in proportion with the crown, have been almost totally and intentionally removed. These letters were almost certainly "GR" for George Rex, and the Hanoverian George II, who sat on the throne during this period. The letters seem to have been filed away by the owner, a Jacobite, and a supporter of the deposed Stuart line. A slight depression remains where the letters could once be read and of which only slight fractions now remain. Clearly the owner could not bear the thought of "GR" wearing a crown.


The swollen grip is of bog oak, finely shaped and decorated with three laterally cut bands of fluted Celtic interlace, with the intersections carved with small raised knops on the body of the grip, plus a further similar band underneath the pommel. Between the haunches at the base of the grip a flared panel either side in similar style has been carved. The brass mount at the base is formed from fine brass, is crescent shaped towards the blade and secured with brass pins either side. The circular pommel cap is of similar beaten brass. The threaded square-section tang button is of thicker brass filed with convex crescents along each side to create diamond shaped corners. Typically a small amount of the threaded tang protrudes above the button. Two brass side straps protect the haunches and are secured with brass pins.


The original scabbard, now fragile, is of leather moulded to the blade with a suspension loop at the rear. At the front of the scabbard at the top a brass six-petalled "Jacobite" rose has been mounted. Neil Guthrie, a renowned authority on Jacobite symbolism, comments in his book "The Material Culture of the Jacobites" (Cambridge University Press, 2013, page 61) with regard to "The very frequent device of the rose as used in Jacobite material almost always six-petalled, in contrast to the traditional five-petalled rose of heraldry."


Clearly the six-petalled rose in the early 18th century was a Jacobite emblem and could have been nothing else, being an intentional deviation from accepted heraldry. Interestingly, the rose is of rough cast brass. Typically, given the martial nature of the Scottish Highlanders of the time, the emblem is applied to a weapon, and formed through the means available in this remote region, rather than through those available to the developed craftsmen working in the towns and burghs that would for instance finely engrave wine glasses, manufacture metal niello snuff boxes etc with Jacobite heraldry for the gentry.


The dirk is in fine condition and joins a unique group of weapons whose association with the Jacobite cause is seen in the story told by the object itself rather than by hearsay association, which is more usually the case, to various Jacobite personages.


For other similar examples of dirks see "Scottish Swords and Dirks", Arms and Armour Press, 1970, figs 60, 61, 62 and 63. Overall length 18.5 inches (47 cm) blade length 14 inches (36 cm).


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