Monday, 1 January 2018

"Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied"



Something different to start 2018 off with, some Gaelic Irish. We have Kern and Galloglass, warriors who made it into Shakespeare's Macbeth they were so notorious by the very end of the 16th Century. A few Horseboys accompany them as well. Late Medieval/Early Renaissance Irish armies have been an interest of mine for a long time and when I was selling my old Elizabethan Irish army on Ebay I decided to start another one! Often the way with wargaming. The Claymore Castings figures helped sway my decision as despite the fact they are made for the 14th Century many of the Irish and Highland sculpts are perfect for the 1500s, even more so with a little bit of converting. Another reason I thought I would give this army another go is that the cattle raids and ambushes of Irish Warfare in this period are perfect for Lion Rampant games, this will be a great army to skirmish with my 1513 and 1540s Tudors. The Kern can also be used as mercenaries for my 1540s English (see the last photo). The fact that many of the figures can be used for quite a wide time span is another bonus.

Tudor Ireland is a theatre that does suffer a little from not having an entire really well sculpted range to support it. Lots of manufacturers make a few figures but some are quite old sculpts or the miniatures are very large which is a shame. With a bit of work and careful selection of figures most of the Irish troop types can be represented. I think only the very end of the 16th Century, Tyrone's Rebellion, also known as the Nine Years War would still be quite tricky to do well in 28mm at the moment. The traditional Gaelic troop types were rapidly replaced with Caliver and Pikemen and there aren't really any great figures for these troops yet. For most of the 16th Century, when Kern, Galloglass and Redshanks were used, there are figures available. 

Irish Gallowglass, Galloglaich, Galloglass or Galloglas!

The Galloglass

Gallowglass, Galloglass or Galloglas, this is one of those words you find a few different spellings for, comes from the Gaelic "Galloglaich". It is normally translated as meaning "foreign warrior" as to denote that they were not originally native Irish. Sean Duffy, in "The World of the Galloglass", states that the word is in fact short hand for "warrior from Innse Gall" meaning the Hebrides. Whatever the exact etymology is, these were heavy infantry who came from the Hebrides and West Coast of Scotland to Ireland in the latter part of the 13th Century. They settled in Ireland and became part of the social strata. By the 16th Century many were in fact native Irishmen and some may have even been Anglo Irish with only the Captains being from the main Galloglass families such as the MacDonnells or the MacSweenys.

The unit of organisation of the Galloglass was the Spar, a term deriving from the name of the traditional Galloglass two handed axe, the sparth. A spar was a Galloglass and his two servants (they will be dealt with below). The Spars were organised into companies, also known as battles. The sources seem to differ on how many Spars were in a company. Ian Heath, in "Armies of the Sixteenth Century" provides examples of them being stated at 60 to 100 Spars in a company, but argues that by 1575 a company was set at 100 men with 13 being "dead pays", that is men who weren't actually present so instead the captain would collect their pay as a kind of "bonus". This was a practice common in lots of later 16th Century armies.

So what did the Galloglass look like? If you read my ramblings regularly you will know that I like to try and get my miniatures looking as close to contemporary images or descriptions as possible. For the Galloglass I had already decided to use the excellent figures by Claymore Castings, but of course I could not resist a few tweaks as a nod to some of the original artwork and sources. Let's start with weaponry. Galloglass were of course famed for their two handed axes, know as Sparths. They are known to have had a very distinctive shape. John Dymmok in his "A Treatise of Ireland", written c.1600, stated "the weapon they most vse is a batle axe, or halberd, six foote longe, the blade whereof is somewhat like a shomakers knyfe, and without pyke ; the stroake whereof is deadly where yt lighteth". I take this to mean it would look something like the axes carried by the MacSweeny Galloglass in the third image below. Annoyingly I used to have lots of these style axes in 28mm from the Vendel Irish range but I sold them before I decided to start this army again. They aren't always depicted carrying this style of axe however, see the second image below, so I was happy to use some other variations of the two handed axes.

Interestingly in the famous Dürer image of the Irish soldiers, the Galloglass themselves don't carry axes at all, although their following attendants may of course be carrying their axes for them. These look more akin to Lochaber axes than those described above. It is hard to know if these chaps were drawn from life. It would be fascinating to know if there really were Galloglass and Kern fighting in the Low Countries during this period, perhaps in the Guelders Wars, and that Dürer encountered them. The soldiers drawn match other descriptions so well that it is tempting to think he did see them.  However if you have a look at Dürers Rhinoceros sketch which was drawn from a description and realise he had never seen a Rhino you start to think that maybe he was going by a second hand account rather than a first hand encounter. It's hard to tell!

What Dürers image does show is two huge Claymores, one carried by a Galloglass himself and one by an attendant. I could not resist rearming some of the Claymore figures with two handed swords as they look really impressive and are, rightly or wrongly, also seen as a classic Galloglass weapon. As a further point to this, there are a lot of modern Galloglass images, and miniatures, where a two handed sword is being worn in a back scabbard. Aside from this seeming very impractical and the fact that the Galloglass had servants to carry their weapons, I have been unable to find a single contemporary image or description of these back scabbards. All the images I have found show these large swords being carried, normally under the arm, as the attendant is doing in the image below. I will return to this point when I work on some "Redshanks" for this army. If anyone does know of any contemporary evidence for the back scabbards let me know, I would quite like to be proven wrong on this one as some really nice miniatures have back scabbards sculpted on and removing them is a real pain!

Another weapon carried by a Galloglass in the Dürer image is the spear. I have included a few of these among my figures. Interestingly in some of the 16th century poems to the MacSweeny Galloglass their spears are described as being used to make temporary shelters when they camp, something the Landsknechts did with their pikes and halberds in camp and shown in European pictures of sieges. In her essay "Images of the Galloglass in poems to the MacSweeneys" Katherine Simms translates one of these verses as "No surprise when Domhnall takes his rest after plunder sitting on the mountainside. Every man withdraws his spear from what constituted the sleeping-quarters last night". Simms also notes that the Galloglass Constables, may have in fact been mounted. In 1397 a Catalan Pilgrim stated he had met the Great O'Neill's Constable of Galloglass, Owen MacDonnell, at the head of a troop of one hundred horsemen. As a Constable was a prestigious position and horses were in plentiful supply in Ireland, the Irish Nobles normally took two or three to war, it would be of little surprise if some of the Galloglass did indeed travel on horseback and dismounted to fight.

Dürer's image of Irish Soldiers, 1521. There are some great details in this image: the unusual Galloglass helmets, the two handed swords, the horn carried by one of the attendants, the "jacket" and "brat" being worn by the attendants.

A "Royal" Galloglass from  Elizabeth I's Charter to Dublin c.1581. His helmet seems to be painted or cloth covered and to have an odd plume.

MacSweeny Galloglass from a Map of Ireland 1567. Note the crest or plume that the centre Galloglass has on his helmet.

Late 15th Century Galloglass from the Tomb of Felim O'Connor in Roscommon Friary.

Tomb Effigy of a Burke Warrior in Glinsk, Galway, second half of the 15th Century.

16th Century Tomb Effigy of a MacSweeny of Banagh. The image is not very clear but you can make out an odd crest on the helmet of the Galloglass on the left.

Other interesting little details I have noticed when looking at contemporary images of the Galloglass are the strange crests or plumes they sometimes have. In the images above the "Royal Galloglass" in Elizabeth I's charter, one of the MacSweenys in the 1567 map and the MacSweeny on the 16th tomb effigy all have variations of some kind of crest or plume. I couldn't resist adding a few of these to my Galloglass, see the two bases of them below. They are quite unique and really simple conversions to do that help to make the miniatures look the part.

In terms of armour at the very end of the 16th Century Dymmok described the Galloglass as "armed with a shert of mailc, a skull, and a skeine" with Edmund Spenser in 1596 stating they wore "a long shirte of mayle downe to the calfe of his legge". From looking at tomb effigies and based on these descriptions above it seems these specific Claymore Castings figures can be used to represent Galloglass from the 14th Century right up to the end of the 16th Century at a pinch. The only caveat I would add is that the two handed swords are probably more of a late 15th century onward weapon. While it would be nice to have some in Burgonets or Morions for the Elizabethan Wars I can always convert and add some of these later. If you look at the tomb effigies from Roscommon and Glinsk shown above you can see these figures match them really well. I like the fact not all of them are in mail, one of Dürer's Galloglass is depicted only wearing a long "cotun", and there are plenty of contemporary tomb effigies where Hebridean Warriors are depicted in cotuns and mantles of mail only.

Galloglass by Claymore Castings. I have added a crest to one of the helmets and a few moustaches to some of them with greenstuff. One carries a spear as in the Dürer image.

More Galloglass by Claymore Castings. The chap pointing with the axe is a converted Highlander and I have replaced one of the axes with a two handed "claymore", again as in the Dürer image.

The Galloglass charging into battle!

The Galloglass from behind - note there are no two handed swords in back scabbards!

Irish Kern or Kerne

The Kern

The term Kern or Kerne comes from the Gaelic "Ceithearn". The Scots Highlanders "Cateran" comes from the same source. These were the native Irish infantry, it seems some of the "Household Kern" or "Ceithearn Tighe" were full time soldiers or perhaps more accurately bodyguards or "police" who fought under hereditary captains. As with the Galloglass I wanted my representation of these soldiers to look as much like contemporary images as possible. For the 16th Century there are some really characterful images of these Irishmen as can be seen below. They wear the léine, a saffron coloured shirt made of linen with voluminous sleeves, and characteristic sleeved "jackets". I don't know when the "jackets" first appear, interestingly the Irish in Dürer's image don't wear them although one is in something similar. Is this perhaps evidence this wasn't an image drawn from a first hand meeting or did the jackets worn in the later 16th Century evolve from this more basic style? To me they look like a specifically later 16th Century fashion, the depictions of them seem to come from the 1540s onward, but I may be wrong. Perhaps they were worn earlier.

In the first three images below the Kern are shown armed with swords, javelins or "darts" as they were known, and skeans, a narrow Irish dagger. Interestingly in all of the images below one of the Kern has at least a gauntlet for his left arm, in the 1547 image one has his entire left arm covered. As this armour is always on the left it makes me wonder if these were worn as some kind of parrying armour for sword fighting, instead of a shield or buckler? Sadly no manufacturer has made any Kern with these gauntlets yet which is a shame as I would have like to included some in this army. Perhaps a conversion for the future?

What is odd about the images below is that none of the Kern are shown carrying shields yet in contemporary accounts they are often described as doing so. Kern saw service for Henry V at the siege of Rouen, 1418-1419, where they were used in considerable numbers to protect supply lines through forest and woodland. Monstrelet described them as such "This King of England had with him in his company a vast number of Irish, of who far the greatest part went on foot. One of their feet was covered, the other was naked, without having clouts, and poorly clad. Each had a target and little javelins, with large knives of a strange fashion". It seems nearly two hundred years later their armaments had changed little save for the adoption of firearms. John Dymmok in  "A Treatise of Ireland" c.1600, described them as such "The kerne is a kinde of footeman, sleigh tly armed with a sworde, a targett of woode, or a bow and sheafe of arrows with barbed heades, or els 3 dartes, which they cast with a wonderfull facillity and nearnes, a weapon more noysom to the enemy, especially horsemen, then yt is deadly ; within theise few yeares they have practized the muskett and callyver, and are growne good and ready shott".

Miniature sculpts often depict Kern carrying "wicker" shields. I presume this is based on their description by Edmund Spenser in "A View of the present State of Ireland", 1596, where it is stated "Moreover, their longe broad sheeldes, made but with wicker roddes, which are comonly used amongst the said Northeren Irishe, but specially of the Scottes". As Spenser states that only the Northern Irish used the Wicker shields I decided not to use them for this army (which is proving to be a real pain with the Cavalry I am currently working on as they all have wicker shields cast on them!) and to go for the wooden "targets" described by both Monstrelet and Dymmok. It does seem odd that the Kern never carry them in contemporary images though.

Lucas d'Heeres Irish, c1575. Note the gauntlet hanging on a cord.

Irish from the Códice De Trajes c.1547. Note the arm armour worn by the Kern with the Javelin or "Dart".

Irish Kern from Henry VIIIs reign. Again the arm armour can be seen worn by one of the central figures. Claymore Castings have done a nice sculpt of his leather helm on one of their figures.

Irish Kern Skirmishing.

Kern with a mixture of Javelins or "Darts" and bows.
I have converted the Kern in the red jacket by adding a léine with its characteristic long sleeves from green stuff.

For the two units of skirmishing Kern shown above I have used predominantly Claymore Castings figures, with a few tweaks of course. There are also a couple of Crusader Miniatures casts in the mix for added variety. I have used different shields for them and have made sure all of their léines have the characteristic baggy sleeves. Some of the figures come with them sculpted on but for those that don't its relatively simple to add them on with green stuff. A few extra moustaches and beards have also been added as well.

In Gaelic Irish society their large cattle herds or "creaghts" were of great importance to the Clans or Septs as they were known at the time. A few years ago I painted up some bases of cattle which fit in really well with these figures, remember that the cattle back in the 16th Century were much smaller than modern breeds. I wanted some Kern to accompany the "creaght" who weren't in quite as dynamic poses as most of the Claymore figures. The resulting unit is shown below and is made up of  Claymore and Crusader figures with the Piper being from Scheltrum Miniatures I think? Apart from the Claymore figures they have all had their weapons swapped and the Piper has had his baggy sleeves added with green stuff.

The unit was inspired by the two contemporary images below, one showing Kern in Henry VIII's employ during the Siege of Boulogne in 1544 and a later representation from John Derrickes "Image of Ireland" in 1581 showing Kern raiding cattle and horses. I wanted to create a small band of Kern that looked like those in these images being led by a Piper. I like the more relaxed poses of these miniatures and they work well carrying javelins and axes as in the Derricke image. At some point I would like to do some more Kern with swords and also arquebuses.

A band of Kern including a Piper guard the cattle. This unit was inspired by the two images below.

Detail from the Cowdray House Murals which depicted Henry VIII's siege of Boulogne in 1544. In the centre Irish Kern can be seen driving the cattle into the camp. They are armed with Javelins and lead by a Piper. Some appear to be wearing Morions. Henry used Kern in significant numbers in France and in Scotland during the 1540s.

Irish Soldiery from John Derrickes "Image of Ireland", 1581. Note the Piper and the Javelins and Axes they are armed with.

A lone Kern drives the cattle or "creaght" onwards. 

The Horseboys or "Daloynes"

The Horseboys or "Daloynes"

An interesting thing about the Gaelic armies of this period is that all of the different classes of soldier, the Cavalry, Galloglass and Kern, had attendants. The Cavalry had two or three Horseboys to look after their horses, each Galloglass two servants and for every two Kern it seems a page or boy was also present to carry their weapons, mantles and victuals. That the Kern had boys to accompany them is born out by the issues this caused the English Government who were hiring them in May 1544. During the 1540s the English engaged in warfare on an unusually large scale, helped greatly by the finances from the dissolution of the monasteries. Henry VIII was fighting on fronts in Scotland and in France and was in need of manpower. In May 1544 1,154 Kern were hired and rather than one boy for every two Kern it was requested that one for every four was hired instead. So of the 1,154 soldiers hired, 234 were in fact the accompanying boys, only 920 of them being actual Kern soldiery.

That being said it seems that the attendants did take part in combat sometimes. Returning again to Dymmok, he stated "Some will have the Dalonyes or horsboyes to be a fourthe sorte, for that they take them into the fight: they are the very skumme, and outcaste of the cuntrye, and not lesse serviceable in the campe for meatinge and dressinge of horses, then hurtfull to the enemy with their dartes". The word "Daloyne" is a corruption of the Gaelic "Diolmhainigh", meaning hireling. I am unsure whether the Horseboys ever fought mounted, it seem logical that they may have done if they were attending to the nobilitys other horses.

I wanted to represent these Daloynes in some way in this army and decided to use the Old Glory Kern miniatures for them. They work well to represent boys as they are quite slight figures and most of them don't have beards. I have even removed a few beards from some of the miniatures. It seems that some of the Galloglass and Kern attendants were in fact young men and not always boys but I wanted the unit to be distinctive so tried to make them all look as much like the young lad illustrated below in Derricke's "Image of Ireland" as possible! They are only armed with javelins, there are no shields or other weapons. Weren't they meant to be carrying everyone else's stuff anyway? I still have another unit of these to paint up, they are really easy to do and the handy thing is they can also be used as Kern if need be.

A Horseboy from John Derrickes "Image of Ireland", 1581.

Horseboys, these are Old Glory Kern without the shields. I also removed any beards to make them look younger!

So below is the Gaelic raiding party so far along with a picture of the Kern accompanying my Mid-16th Century English. I am currently working on the Irish Noble cavalry and will hopefully be able to post pictures of them up soon. As mentioned above I have another unit of Horseboys to complete as well as some Redshanks in the pipeline. I would like to add more to this army but as I said at the start Tudor Ireland is an area that I don't think has yet been done real justice by any manufacturers in 28mm. Here's hoping this will happen one day! The beauty of this army is that while the converting and green stuff may take some time the miniatures are really quick to paint, especially when you consider how much time I have spent painting Landsknechts!

Happy New Year.

The Irish raiding party so far.

And finally an image of the Kern accompanying my 1540s English. Henry VIII employed Irish Kern as mercenaries in Scotland and France during the 1540s and when the English Deputies campaigned in Ireland they regularly used Kern in their forces.



29 comments:

  1. Very cool figures, Oli. I had considered getting a few of the Claymore Galloglass for Bosworth. They have some nice sculpts. Great start to the new year!

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    1. Thanks Dean, the Galloglass would be more appropriate for Mortimers Cross, Piltown or Stoke but you can certainly use them with your Wars of the Roses collection.

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  2. A thoroughly comprehensive and enjoyable read there Oli. It's made me wonder whether the Perry Ansar could be of possible use as Kern or Horseboys?

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    1. Cheers Stuart, I have indeed looked at the Perry Ansar, and I have seen others do some great conversion with them.

      The thing is they are in poses that have already been done for Kern. I want some that are either at ease and can have swords, javelins or hand guns. The Ansar look to be attacking with spears.

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  3. Great write up. I love the use of contemporary prints. I had Irish auxiliaries in 15mm using old minifigs years ago, so have a soft spot for these guys.
    Your completely units look lovely.
    Cheers, Peter

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    1. Thank you Peter. The Khurasan range in 15mm for this period makes me envious as they have covered it better than it has been covered in 28mm!

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  4. A wonderful post, figures and historical background...Congrats!

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  5. Great article and promising project. I will be watching with great interest

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    1. Thank you, there should be a few more posts to come on this...

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  6. Wow, excellent post and very nice painting.

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  7. Another very interesting post. Keep on! (writing and painting)

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    1. Thanks you Jaeke;, not quite as characterful as your fantasy stuff but the history constrains me a little!

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  8. Great post, I do want to do Irish for this period and I think you've sold me on the claymore galloglass, like Stuart I was thinking of using the Perry ansar and also old glory kern , I've got some already I wanted to do highlanders for Flodden but I might just do them as Irish and use them as close enough stand ins, I haven't had much luck finding reference for highlanders at that period. Lovely conversions and great painting, inspiring post!
    Best Iain

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    1. Cheers Iain, there will a post on Highlanders or "Redshanks" to come in the future. There are a few pictures of them in this period - and they don't always look how you would imagine either!

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  9. Good post and some very nce work there. If you have a look at the contemporary picture map of the battle of the Yellow Ford you will see a large unit of Kern equipped with target, sword and morion.

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    1. Thank you, yes Tyrone and Tyrell made a lot of use of them in the 9 Years War. I would love to do a unit of Kern with swords and targets.

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  10. Like reading an Osprey militaria book! Well done!

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    1. Thank you, hopefully one of the better quality Ospreys! ;)

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  11. nice work on those - they look great! Michael Perry always says he's going to finish a pack of Irish for WotR, but they seem to be stuck in perpetual limbo.
    Simon.

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    1. Cheers Simon, I have heard of such intentions and would like to see Michaels take on these chaps - even one pack would be great!

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    1. Thanks Pete, I am going to use your excellent Irish flags for the Cavalry

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  13. Late to the party, but wow, superb post Oli.

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    1. Cheers Curt, I was keen to get some info up on the blog for what is quite a unique 16th Century area of warfare.

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  15. Wow these posts are fantastic! I am also thinking about getting into 16th century Gaelic warfare. Do you know anyone that makes two-handed swords that I could purchase to do weapon swaps with the claymore castings figs?

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    1. Thanks Sean, I used the two handed swords from the eureka miniatures gendarmes for my figures which aren't available individually but I reckon these from the assault group would work well http://theassaultgroup.co.uk/product/longsword-x-10/

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