Experience the ancient craft of Shillelagh stick making in the ancestral home of this renowned Irish icon.
Learn its history and folklore and perhaps the secrets of what makes a real Shillelagh, while exploring the stickmakers yard.
The Shillelagh Stick
In the first millennium, the warrior stick fighters of the Shillelagh territories were so renowned for their martial arts skills and ferocity that their tribal name became synonymous with the weapon that they were so adept with . This ethnic people had survived the invasive influences of the Celts, Vikings, Danes and Normans until their last refuge, the great oak forests of Shillelagh, were finally felled in the 18th century.
The subsequent dispersal of these people throughout Ireland and onward on the famine ships brought the fearsome weapon of their ancestors to the greater Irish Diaspora.
The name originated from a king or clan chieftain, Ealach Mac Faelchon , who lived in the 7th Century A.D. , and who resisted the influences of other clans who were becoming too Celtic in their ways. His followers were known as the ’Siol Ealaigh’ meaning the seed ( or descendants ) of Ealach . Countless modern Irish family names such as Kelly, Kealy, Kiely, Kelleher, Callaghan , and variations of these, owe their origins to Ealach.
Over the generations the style of the ‘Shillelagh’ changed with the needs of its users. Battle clubs, walking sticks, cudgels, message sticks and good luck charms are some of the devices covered by the name ‘Shillelagh’, which were made from Blackthorn as only its unique properties deliver the correct blend of lightness and hardness which following a process of cutting, seasoning, fashioning and sealing, taking up to three years, produces high quality pieces which will last for generations.
Blackthorn was sacred in pagan traditions and its’ impenetrable thickets, which helped to protect the territories of the Siol Ealaigh from infiltration, led to the belief that the ‘Little People’ resided within. Thus originated the association of the blackthorn Shillelagh with the ‘Fairies and Leprechauns’.
Liam Kealy (Liam O’Caidhla) is the definitive Shillelagh stick maker, being born and raised in the area. He is a member of the Craft Council of Ireland and carries on a family tradition of quality Shillelagh Stick craftsmanship at his premises in Shillelagh village.
From ornamental keepsakes to walking sticks and lethal fighting weapons, which can also be personalised with ‘loaded’ heads and inscriptions, he now supplies enthusiasts the world over.
Discover the latent power within a ‘real’ Shillelagh, having gone through three years and 17 different processes in the making, yielding a lifelong companion and an heirloom for future generations.
Callers are always welcome to our store in Shillelagh village. Advance booking is recommended for talks, tours, etc