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NOTES ON A GOAD-SPUR FOUND IN THE CO. WICKLOW.
By The REV. J. F. M. FFRENCH, M.R.I.A., Fellow,
Hthe spur that I have to bring under your notice is what I may be permitted to call an unconventional spur. It is not of a wellknown type that, like silver bearing a satisfactory hall-mark, can be at once set down to a known and given period. No; it is one of those objects about which there is room for antiquarians to differ, as they so often
do, and which fortunately they can do, without producing disastrous effects, as their patients do not die. They live on in the most happy way, so as to enable successive generations of nntiquarians to devise theories, likely and unlikely, to account for their existence. I will not go so far as Sir Eobert Ball did before he became a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, and say that we antiquarians are never quite sure whether a given object should be dated B.c. or A.d., but I will say that it is most difficult to date many antiquarian finds. And why do such unlikely things turn up, in such unlikely places? Why should a lamp of Roman type be found under the well-known cromlech on Brown's Hill in the county Carlow? Why should porcelain seals bearing Chinese characters of ancient type turn up in the most out-of-the-way neighbourhoods? Why should a beautiful prick-spur be found in a prehistoric sepulchral mound in the county Louth? and why should it be of bronze when at the period when the prick-spur was worn in Ireland the age of bronze was long past and over? Why should a bovine mask of East Indian type be found in an Irish bog ? and why should a spur of Moorish type that^once was resplendent in its covering of polished silver and niello work be found among our Wicklow hiUs?
Goad-spur found near Tinahcly.
Why should stone Celts of New Zealand type have a known place among our finds? Can it he that the long-expected New Zealander has already arrived to meditate over our ruins, or have the Tuatha De Danaan, the fairy host of former days, returned to the green hills of Erin again, in order that they might carry out a well-devised plan to teach us antiquarians how little we know, and how hard it is to know that little well.
The spur which I have now to bring under your notice was dug out of the earth at Ballybeg near Tinahely in the county Wicklow. It certainly must have existed at a period that had not felt the influence of Martin's Act against cruelty to animals; for it is a fearful instrument of torture. The prick or goad of this spur is no less than five inches long, and projects from a circular shield or heel-guard which measures two and seven-eighths inches in diameter, and is nine inches in circumference. This shield is attached to the iron straps which lie against either side of the boot, by a stout circular iron shank about three-quarters of an inch in length; and beneath this shank, attached to it there is a square projection which seems to have fitted on something like an iron rivet which doubtless was inserted in the heel of the boot, and gave great stability to the fastening. The iron straps (or framework) by which the spur was secured to the boot are each seven inches long, and terminate in double square eyelet-holes or loops through which the leather straps were passed which went around the foot. The ornamentation of this „ . . , c , . „
, Heel-guard of Spur. Pattern in mello Spur was most gorgeous; it Was entirely work on silver. (Scale, J linear.)
overlaid with a thin plate of silver, and
that was again covered by a beautiful flower pattern with conventional foliage in black niello work. The flowers somewhat resemble a narcissus with six petals. If this spur was part of a whole suit of armour, similarly adorned, the knight, or gentleman-at-arms, who wore it must have been truly resplendent when the sun lit up his silver adornments; we can well imagine him glittering in the sunshine as he rode carefully, for fear of an ambush, through the passes of the Wicklow woods on his way to Dublin. Now let us try and date our spur, and give it a nationality. Is it an Irish spur, a true Celt racy of the soil? I think we must at once admit that it is not. On this one subject, if on no other, we agree, for all antiquarians are united in the belief that Irish knights did not wear spurs, while antiquarians of the Ledwich and Froude type would assure us that Irish knights did not wear boots—a statement which (like many others that they have made) is not true; for the ancient Irish wore several kinds of boots and shoes, not only of leather, but even made of thin sheets of bronze1 and of that highly prized metal Findruine. They wore a shoe called the Cuaran or Br6cc, also the Assai, and the Beirn Brocc which was the prototype of the Brog. We may safely conclude that the ancient Irish did wear boots, and did not wear spurs, and that consequently our spur cannot be of Celtic origin. Nor is the fact that the Irish did not wear spurs at all a singular or exclusive peculiarity of theirs; for neither the Etruscans nor the Assyrians wore spurs, nor are they figured on the Persian or Egyptian monuments; and the Greeks of the heroic ages are stated to have been ignorant of this appliance. Now comes the question, are these spurs Norman? and, if so, of what date? Meyrick, in his "Critical Inquiry into Ancient Armour," brings the use of the prick or goad-spur down to the days of Henry III. (1216). At that period he believes that the rowelled spur came in; at the same time he admits that it has been asserted that there are earlier specimens; for instance it has been stated that the effigy of Albericus de Vere, surnamed the Grim, Earl of Oxford, bearing date 1194, and the effigy of Robert Fitz-Hardyng, bearing date 1170, are arrayed in rowelled spurs. If this be the case our Norman invaders should have worn rowelled spurs; but, as far as Ireland is concerned, we hope to show reason why this should be called in question. Auguste Demmin, in his "History of Arms and Armour," page 49, says :—"The spur in use till the eleventh century had a straight point but no rowel: after that time the point was made so as to slope upwards slightly, while in the thirteenth century it was made with a bend or crook in the shank; but the rowel does not appear to have been used till the fourteenth century, when it generally had eight points. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the shank became longer and longer, till at last it was transformed through the fancy of the artist into a mere toy." The testimony of contemporary seals quite bears out this statement, and seems even to bring down the use of the prickspur to a later date. The seal of Sir Thomas de Beauchamp, x.o., bearing date 1344, represents him as wearing prick-spurs. Hume tells us that the prick-spur is figured on the great seals of Henry II., Bichard I., and John; and I have an engraving of the reverse of the Great Seal of Edward IV., and on it the king is represented as a knight on horseback with a pair of prick-spurs strapped on his heels. But let us see what evidence we can find in our own country. I think the most important evidence we can obtain as to whether our Norman invaders wore the prick or the rowelled spur is that supplied by a recumbent monumental effigy lately brought to notice in the churchyard of Timolin in the county Kildare, on which a Paper was written by Mr. Albert Hartshorne for the Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society. This monument he dates at the time of King John (1199 to 1216). He says:—"The mail of the Chausses is of large size, and characteristic,
like the treatment and style of the prick-spurs, of the sculpture of the extreme end of the twelfth century, the period to which the efflgy must be attributed. It will be noticed that the mail hood takes its particular shape on the head from the iron skull-cap worn under it. This arrangement was the immediate successor of the conical helmets which had been in use since the Conquest, such as may be seen in their latest forms, with or without a nasal, respectively, in the first and second Great Seals of Henry II. The Great Seal of John shows a headpiece like that on the Timolin effigy. Its precise period can therefore bo ascertained from the form of the headpiece alone." I think this Timolin effigy affords convincing proof that some, if not all, the Norman knights who invaded Ireland wore prick-spurs, although in this, as in countless other instances, the two periods may have overlapped one another. The Timolin effigy does more for us than even this, for it disproves a statement, which I quote from a good authority, who says that "the ancient equestrians wore the spur on one heel only; no instance appears to be known of Norman spurs occurring in pairs"; and the reason Hume gives for this habit is, that the Norman knights felt quite satisfied that if one side of the horse went on, the other was sure to follow. Now, the Timolin figure shows a pair of prick-spurs, and that ought to provide a very conclusive denial to that assertion. I think that the earliest definite proof we have as to the time when rowelled spurs were introduced into Ireland can be derived from the very fine "Cantwell" effigy which is to be seen at Kilfane in the county Kilkenny. The late Rev. James Graves says, in his description of that figure, that "probably it was sculptured in memory of Thomas de Cantwell, who, by a writ dated at Thomastown in the county of Kilkenny in the year 1319, was exempted from attending at Assizes, on the plea of being wor n out with age (Rot. Pat. 13 Edward II. No. 33). Tombs, it is well known, were occasionally erected by persons before their decease; perhaps such was the case in this instance. A suit of mail without any portion of plate defends the body; and the head, and throat are protected by a chaperon of mail which falls over the hauberk; this is flattened at top, presenting the appearance of a slightly elevated cone; the right leg is crossed over the left. The feet are supported by well carved clusters of oak leaves with acorns, and the spurs are broadly rowelled. The entire absence of plate-armour prevents us from assigning this effigy to the successor of Thomas de Cantwell, as the latter was not dead in 1319, but was an old man at that period. The broad rowelled-spur forbids us to assign it to his predecessor who must have died early in the thirteenth century, and the character of the oakleaf foliage would also point to about 1319, it being carved with the murked vigour and truth to nature characteristic of the decorated style which then came in vogue." I think that these extracts from the writings of known experts make it clear that we cannot much err if we place a prick-spur, when dating it, somewhere about the time of the Norman invasion. The next question that will arise is, can we say that our spur is of the usual Norman type? This question I must answer in the negative. Auguste Demmin, in his "Weapons of War," figures seventeen prick-spurs, hut none of them exactly resemble the spur which is now under our notice, while it almost exactly resemhles a spur which is depicted on a stained glass representation of Saint Louis of France to be found in Chartres Cathedral (dated between 1226 and 1270), and which is engraved in Lacombe's '' Arms and A rmour in Antiquity and the Middle Ages." That the spur is of eastern type may be admitted, but that scarcely tells for or against its antiquity; for as early as the reign of King John the Normans had come under the influence of the Crusades, and had learned to fashion their armour in resemblance to the Eastern mail which the warriors of Western Europe brought from the Crusades, and subsequently established among themselves. This is noticed in Boutell's notes on Lacombe's "Arms and Armour" ; and it can scarcely be doubted that they not only fashioned their armour in accordance with Eastern type, but also brought over specimens of that armour with them; so that the spur of which we are treating, and which Dr. Franks of the British Museum tells us is of Moorish type, and resembles two specimens they have from the Meyrick collection, may easily have reached Ireland from foreign lands in the days of Strongbow or one of his successors. "Strongbow lived at a time when the flower of English chivalry were bound by a vow to prosecute the war of the Cross in the Holy Land; and two of his sons by his first wife became Crusaders, and perished on their way to Palestine." This spur may be the trophy of a victory won over some Saracen knight in Palestine, and lost in one of those skirmishes that so often took place when the Norman knights wore fighting their way through the passes amid the woods that separated Wexford and Dublin, and in that part of the country which is now known by that somewhat modern name of the county Wicklow.
The niello work, Dr. Franks says, suggests a Turkish origin; but he continues—" Mahometan arms and appliances are much the same everywhere "—and to this I would add, at all periods ;—" The mail armour worn by the Sikhs, in their fierce but unavailing struggle with the English troops, and which is now preserved in the Tower of London, appears to be identical in manufacture and general treatment with the mail of the twelfth and following centuries which the warriors of Western Europe brought home from the Crusades." This spur may consequently be a trophy brought from the Crusades to Ireland in those early days. It may be truly stated that, if not the Saracens, at all events the Moors came much nearer to us than the Holy Land at a comparatively late period, for instance the well-known sack of Baltimore by a fleet of Algerine pirates took place in June, 1631; and during the seventeenth century these North African Moors seem to have hung about the coast, so that the spur might be attributed to that period were it not that it would