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Scottish Regimental Dirk Sword Replica

Fork & Knife Sheath

Posted by JT Hats

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Scottish Regimental Dirk Sword Replica Thanks to a reader here I now know the history behind this combination Scottish Regimental Dirk and mess kit. This replica dirk isn't of the best quality, with fittings of cheap pressed metal and faux cairngorn of real colored glass. The matching knife and fork tuck into small pockets on the ornate sheath.

Many sizes and styles of dirks did find use in Scottish culture, both in military applications and ceremonial situations. This dirk resembles them in general terms and does match the details of a particular regiment's parade knife. Someone with knowledge of clan colors and patterns might be able to identify the inspiration. Most dirks were smaller, in the sjian dhub style of boot knife. Military versions of sword length were common naval sidearms with a plainer and more functional build. The mess kit style, with pockets in the sheath for a matching knife and fork, originated in the 1600's. Semi-precious jewels called cairngorn decorated the ceremonial versions, and the slight cant of the dirk's handle was intentional, put there to make the cairngorn pommel more visible.

In Scottish society, the dirk is a serious thing, something men swear oaths by. Even though the ceremonial versions worn as regimental dress today may not all be combat quality, people obviously still do take them very seriously. This particular knife is an economical and fairly accurate reproduction.

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5 Responses

  1. Tim of Angle Says:

    Dude, all proper dirks have a knife and fork in the handle. Check any place in Scotland that sells them. I got mine from R. G. Lawrie Ltd, who hold the Royal Warrant.

  2. JTHats Says:

    Thanks very much, Tim, with that info I was able to find this page:
    http://www.imagine.org.uk/details/index.php?id=TWCMS:N412&parent=random which verifies what you said. I had been looking this review over recently and wondering if I was wrong, now I know. At http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_spot_dirks.html there’s even a dirk in the same pattern, and apparently the canted hilt was intentional to show off the stone in the pommel. I’m still not sold on the quality of this reproduction.

    Now that I’m not blind, I’m finding all sorts of info on this, even where I looked before and didn’t. The mess kit version of the dirk seems to have been around since the 1600′s. Somehow I missed it.

  3. Tim of Angle Says:

    The cairngorm stone is a variety of quartz, traditionally from the Cairn Gorm mountains in Scotland; it looks a lot like topaz. (At least, I can’t tell the difference.) In addition to showing off the stone (hey, it’s a decoration), the cant of the pommel also helps the assembly lie flatter against the side than a more in-line placement would.

  4. Andrew Says:

    Tim – cairngorm is, in fact topaz so you are right in not being able to distinguish!

  5. Calum Leslie Says:

    Sup yanks. Clarifying things here:

    A sgian dubh (say it ‘skean doo’) is a small double-edged blade, around 6″ long inc. handle. It is completely distinct from the dirk. The name translates as ‘black knife’. It’s an important part of traditional dress and is carried in the sock. This is to give the Highlander an extra chance of stabbing an enemy once ‘disarmed’.

    The other weapons he’d carry included a single-edged basket-hilt broadsword (from mid-17th C on), which is distinct from the Claymore (Cleagh Mhor, ‘big sword’). A claymore is a two-handed, double edged sword used mainly in the Middle Ages. William Wallace did carry a claymore; this is about the only historically accurate point in the film ‘Braveheart’.

    The DIRK, of which you have an example here, is a side-arm. It was common among highlanders before they were organized into British army regiments, and standardized afterwards. It was used as a general purpose knife (no point in blunting your broadsword for day-to-day tasks) but also, in war, as an extra blade. It would be carried point downwards in the off-hand, by the arm that carried the ‘targe’ or shield, giving the highlander an extra ad often unexpected cutting and impaling weapon to use along with his sword. Targes were also sometimes fitted with a removable central spike, giving the warrior three sharp points to jab his enemy with. Plus the sgian dhu, if he was disarmed. Formidable, eh?

    THe knife and fork thing is probably down to standardization as an officer’s sidearm in the Government Army. Lower-class highlanders in the 17th and 18th centuries were much more likely to use a spoon for porridge and a knife and hands for meat when they were lucky enough to get it.

    THis replica is loosely based on the regimental dirks produced for the army in the 18th century; the insignia are meaningless patterns of a vaguely Scottish type. The sawback section is present in the originals, but the double-edge is not. Notice that the hilts of the dirk and the cutlery are shaped much like thistles: this is genuinely common to Scottish dirks going back to their Middle Age origins as ‘bannock knives’, similar implements to Saxon ‘scramaseax’ knives.

    And finally, “the dirk is a serious thing, something men swear oaths by”. In Scotland, men swear oaths ALL the time – we’re a nation of foul mouthed c***s – but I suspect that’s not what you meant. Very few modern Scots own dirks – although sgean dhu are much more common – and if we swear oaths of honour at all, it’s much more likely to be the Bible that we swear them on.

    - A Scottish history student