The Welsh and Irish Bows

Read Only - storage of past discussions of the authentic replication of historical bows.
Joined: 18 Feb 2010, 22:59

16 Mar 2010, 22:14 #81

I believe that too much emphasis's is being stressed on just one reference, and such references tend to turn up unreliable all too often. What I think should be done is if there is so much interest in the welsh bow is to hunt out every little bit of information possible and compare, there has to be something other than the geraldus quote...
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CraigMBeckett
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16 Mar 2010, 22:23 #82

Toomanyknots,
I believe that too much emphasis's is being stressed on just one reference, and such references tend to turn up unreliable all too often. What I think should be done is if there is so much interest in the welsh bow is to hunt out every little bit of information possible and compare, there has to be something other than the geraldus quote...
I believe there is no other contemporary description, I believe this has been said before. Don't you think those of us who argue over the size of the Welsh bow would seek out such other descriptions that are available, Even professional Historians only quote Gerald. However if you can find one I and I believe a considerable number of others would love to read it.

Craig.
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Joined: 18 Feb 2010, 22:59

16 Mar 2010, 23:51 #83

So many historical accounts add up to so many exaggerations or people from back then putting their own spin on things. I know of course that no one is likely to find any other reference, what I meant but by no means made clear was to look at all the "unreliable" sources, such as storys and legend, folklore, exc and include any findings since i'm just getting tired of this geraldus guy in general and wish he would make up his mind what the hell he said about the bow being able to shoot far or not, ( ), but by the way, although I have not so much to input I have really enjoyed reading this thread...

Edit: What about the bow of the welsh Drystan? Or Tristan, although supposedly of cornish origin?
Last edited by toomanyknots.paleoplanet69529 on 17 Mar 2010, 00:17, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: 18 Feb 2010, 22:59

17 Mar 2010, 00:29 #84

This is from "something" , or what seems to be a section on welsh archery in some book. There, that's not vague at all.

"A knowledge of the bow appears to have existed in Britain from the remotest antiquity. In one of the Triads, mention is made of a mythological or fabulous person, called "Gwrnerth Ergydlym," or Powerful Sharpshot; who slew the largest bear that ever infested his country with a straw arrow."

link:      http://www.archerylibrary.../chapter04/chapter4.html

(Actually a rather nice read)

SCP, I would bet with generation after generation after generation depending on and living off of bows and swords and spears, that a perfection would of been established as well as differentiating techniques that we might not be aware of today.  So I pretty much am on the same page as you...
Last edited by toomanyknots.paleoplanet69529 on 17 Mar 2010, 00:34, edited 1 time in total.
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17 Mar 2010, 03:24 #85

SCP
Even though I'm not against pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge,
it would be helpful if we know why we want to know the "normal" length of the Welsh bow.
In what way would it help you? You appear not to be interested.
I personally like to know the best way to make a whitewood selfbow
that is as short as possible but can shoot at least 180 yards.
You would have to decide on your arrow weight first but why don't you start making whitewood bows and doing trials on them? I suggest you don't make your usual shelf type arrow pass bows. Try a number of different styles, D bows and Flat bows, and let us know your results. Start long and shorten the bow up bit by bit, re-tillering as you go.

Toomanyknots,
Edit: What about the bow of the welsh Drystan? Or Tristan, although supposedly of cornish origin?
Intrigued, can you supply a link or more data?

Is this just a legend as opposed to Gerald's description of his travels?


Craig.
Last edited by CraigMBeckett on 17 Mar 2010, 03:28, edited 2 times in total.
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Joined: 18 Feb 2010, 22:59

17 Mar 2010, 12:28 #86

Yes, Drystan is what people call legend. Older than the christian-ized originally pagan arthurian sagas, (like the arthurian saga's themselves,). Supposedly he made a bow in the woods and named it "no-fail". I'm kinda curious what that bow looked like, (just kidding, ). I've looked but can't find either much mention of him or much mention of his bow,...

heres a good summury of Drystan : http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_d/drystan.html

-"There may be a conflation here between a real Pictish king (Drust) and a Celtic archetype, for in all the eraliest tales Drystan/Tristan is presented as a master of a triad of skills: hunting, harping and deception."-

There's probably some old piece somewhere describing him hunting with his bow, enless he choose a 22 or a compound bow...( ha ) .

I know I posted this before, but this link has some good sourced references on old welsh archery:

http://www.archerylibrary.../chapter04/chapter4.html

 
Last edited by toomanyknots.paleoplanet69529 on 17 Mar 2010, 12:52, edited 3 times in total.
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17 Mar 2010, 22:23 #87

scp,
To me, the more interesting question would be
the usual cross-section profile and size of the Welsh bow.
With that information I don't have to reinvent the wheel
and adjust the length of bow to my need.
Sorry mate you have all the info we have, effectively the wheel is roundish, now go and make one.

Toomanyknots,

Thanks for the link but have read the Badminton's Archery many times.

As for  Drystan, read that page yesterday when you first bought him up, pity it does not describer his bow.

Craig,
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ilium
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19 Apr 2010, 12:04 #88

I have no hard evidence to add to this discussion but look forward to looking into the waterford bows when I am home next. (I am from waterford)
I came across the following on-line, take from it what you will:

In the second half of the fifteenth century, Edward IV issued a curious statute, his fifth act. Referring to Ireland, it specified that every Englishman, or Irishman living with Englishmen, provide himself with an English bow of his own height plus a fistmele and with twelve shafts of the length of three quarters of the standard. [The word fistmele at this time referred to the width of a fist, the poignee, and now includes the extended thumb to determine a bow’s brace height]. This length of bow works out the same for me as the Roi Modus method, and also corresponds to an old rule that the bowstring should be the length of the shooter. Bows used by Scottish mounted archers in the service of Louis XI and his opponent Charles of Burgundy in the wars of 1475-1477 were equal to a man’s height.


The arrows are another matter. ‘The Standard’ is the 36” yard fixed in the ‘Statute of the Staple’. Three fourths of the Standard was 27”. No explanation is given for a variable bow measurement coupled with a fixed, and proportionally short, arrow measurement for anyone over 4’ 5” tall if the proportions above noted are here applicable. The arrow measurement would appear to be a standardization for military purposes in a land in which short bows [Irish bows] and arrows had come into use. Perhaps Edward wanted the Irish who had not learned longbow shooting in childhood, to at least become accustomed to long bows. Longbows and arrows were sent to Ireland to be sold to the king’s subjects but a statute of 1515 suggested that in default of long-bows in Ireland, the king’s subjects should apply themselves to the Irish bows.


Here short bows are referred to as 'irish' bows and seems to be referenced in legislation.

Liam

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Rod
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21 Apr 2010, 09:54 #89

I reckon far too much is made of the "Welsh" bow. And all because C.W.C. Oman made one or two thinly supported assumptions and is in any case often misread.

Geraldus only said that the archers of Gwent were "better than archers from other parts of Wales". 
This is not evidence for the presumption that the so-called "Welsh" bow was the antecedent of the English livery bow.
Nor does it mean thaty theWelsh were especially effective as military archers.
What it does show is that it took the experience of fighting the Welsh and the Scots to cause the captains of Norman heavy cavalry to revise their tactics and recognise the military potential of a pre-existing resource in the social classes who were the English practitioners of strong archery.


As for Durer being "unreliable" on dimensions, only someone ignorant of the history of art would even suggest this. 
He probably saw those kerns in the Low Countries around the time of the Emperor Charles' accession.

As to the comments about a short rough backed bow being unuseable. Not in Wych Elm if that is the unworked outside of the wood.
But it would be a short-draw weapon if it was as short as represented by the two sketches from the margins of the rolls which provide our only visual "evidence", if we can even call it that.
Do these drawings also "prove" show that the Welsh had very large feet?

Rod.
Last edited by Rod on 15 Sep 2015, 12:04, edited 3 times in total.
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Janek
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23 Aug 2010, 13:33 #90

Hey guys!

I have a question about possibilities of training longbow shooting in Dublin. I recently moved to Dublin because of my work carrier and don't know just nothing about ''Dublin bow society''. Could you please give me some hints where to get information? I googled only Ireland Amateur Archery Association but nothing else.
I have 80lbs and 100lbs bows I would like to continue training with.

I would be grateful for any information!

Thank you!

Jan
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zhxia
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25 Aug 2010, 05:48 #91

Let's put it this way: if you make a bow with the back as rough as a badger's behind, sooner or later you will be getting shards of it in your face when it explodes at full draw.
Last edited by zhxia on 25 Aug 2010, 11:15, edited 1 time in total.
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PaleoAleo
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15 Dec 2010, 21:49 #92

ttt
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Rod
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20 Dec 2010, 09:56 #93

As to the above comment, it begs the question of how much experience this gentleman has of making knotty self bows.
On the contrary, the fact that the back is not violated will make the draw less of a risk and the interlocking fibres of elm make it probably one of the safest choices of native wood in which to make a bow with a lot of character in the stave.

With regard to the Irish/Welsh bows and any role of the Welsh bow as a presumed English bow precursor:

Much of the controversy stems in the main from a very small number of sources and dare I say some questionable conclusions. Three of these of these (the well known naive drawing of a Welsh archer, Geraldus and the Bayeux Tapestry) are refered to (although secondary or tertiary at best) sources by the third (C.W.C. Oman), who was in his day and aferwards long considered to be the pre-eminent English authority on the history of mediaeval warfare, but who as far as I am aware did not have any experience as a bowmaker or as an archer.
Oman was classically educated and unlikely to make the schoolboy error of mistranslating "non tantum, sed etiam" , but like Geraldus he is also read carelessly by many who think to "quote" him as an authority and in doing so frequently represent as fact what was actually conjecture.

Oman was also a man of his time and social class at a time when it was generally held in polite target archery circles that bows of much above around 70 lb draw-weight were impractical, if not verging on the impossible to use in any practical application.
This we know to be nonsense and I think it fair to say that Oman may have known better, but some of his conjecture and conclusions are too often quoted out of the context of his qualifying remarks.
His speculative remarks about a "short bow" precursor, though reasonable in a very broad and long term context, is in narrower terms based almost entirely taking the Bayeux "tapestry" as being dimensionally precise with regard to showing archers and their equipment, which is, to say the very least, questionable.
Nor did he have the benefit of  research on the Mary Rose bows particularly with the experience of those archers who follow in the footsteps of Richard Galloway in shooting the heavy bow,  nor the even the benefit of being a competent archer or occasional maker of bows.


But Oman is still worth reading, if read carefully, in either the original abbreviated text ("The Art of War in The Middle Ages") or in the later more extended Volume 2 of "The History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages".
Having read these if we take the context of his speculation about longbow precursors and then read the conclusions in Part III "The Decline and Reappearance of the Self-Bow in North Western Europe" in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society for 1963 (new series Vol XXIX) and the dimensional comparisons adjacent to this section of the Procedures, we can see that Oman might have taken a different view; he might have seen changes in usage and military custom together with changes in what was written in the administrative and military record as being evidence of a change in usage of the bow from a useful ancillary weapon generally less well regarded by the warrior elite as a personal weapon to becoming, become an important tactical instrument, not by borrowing a weapon from the Welsh, but by changes in the appreciation and potential application of a pre-existing common weapon.
I also think it important that we should consider this in the light of how the economics of elite armament in the Bronze Age would have impacted upon usage and martial custom, and how this carried over into the Iron Age and even into the military and chivalric customs of the first half of the mediaeval period.

When Oman writes conjecturally of a "short" bow, he is not necessarily referring to what we would consider to be a short bow and we should also remember that many subsequent readers and sources who selectively quote Oman all too often make the error of reading and passing on his conjecture as gospel.
Reliance for the Welsh short-bow as a precursor theory relies completely upon the well known drawing of the Welsh archer and  misrepresenting the comments of Geraldus.
Even if I were to accept the proportions of naive artwork as being sufficiently precise, which I do not without reservation, I have then to ask how it was that Welsh archers turned out shooting longbows for the Anglo -Norman captains unless they either, (1) had adopted the English bow, or (2) already had longbows of their own.

More useful perhaps than an over reliance upon such weak evidence is to look at known dimensions, for example:
( From comparative dimensions of some Mary Rose bows and Ballinderry bow)

Mary Rose (shorter example)
187 cm long    3.20 cm thick   3.50cm wide   1 : 1.1 thickness/width ratio
Ballinderry 1
185 cm           2.86 cm thick    3.80 cm wide  1 : 1.3 thickness /width ratio

There is no doubt that the longbow was already common enough in England, it having been a common type throughout Europe and the British Isles for millennia.
In the early days of organised military use by the Anglo-Norman captains it is likely that troops may have commonly been equipped with their own bows but that the issue of bows and arrows  in quantity very quickly became the rule.
And I wonder what Geraldus would have reported if instead of journeying through Wales he had journeyed through England.
To paraphrase the comment on iron made by one of the foes of Charles Martell, "longbows wherever I look, longbows everywhere!"

And, by the way, it is the Picts who may be related to the same or a similar racial and linguistic group as the Basques, not the Brythonnic Welsh in Gwent who were "stronger than the archers from any other part of Wales", a nation which by all accounts, did not trouble the Anglo Normans overmuch with their archery.
And "sais" is the celtic root in "saessenach".
The Picts are known to have used two languages, one of Celtic form (probably assimilated) and another older and  somewhat obscure evidenced in some ogham fragments which appears to be non Indo-European.

Rod.
Last edited by Rod on 22 Jan 2011, 09:47, edited 8 times in total.
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24 Jan 2011, 13:16 #94

Rod,
with regard to Oman you say
When Oman writes conjecturally of a "short" bow, he is not necessarily referring to what we would consider to be a short bow and we should also remember that many subsequent readers and sources who selectively quote Oman all too often make the error of reading and passing on his conjecture as gospel.
and
His speculative remarks about a "short bow" precursor, though reasonable in a very broad and long term context, is in narrower terms based almost entirely taking the Bayeux "tapestry" as being dimensionally precise with regard to showing archers and their equipment,
I have to disagree with you over this, the sections from The Art of War in The Middle Ages, which concern the short-bow are on page 97 and are as follows : 
If  we are to trust the Bayeux Tapestry – whose accuracy is in other matters thoroughly born out by all contemporary evidence – the weapon of William’s archers was in no way different to that already known in England, and used by a few of the English in the fight at Senlac. It is the short bow, drawn to the chest and not to the ear.

He uses the Bayeux Tapestry purely to compare the Norman archers bows with that of the English archer not to determine the size the bow used by the English Archer. The only conjecture in this passage is of the type of bow used by William's archers not the weapon used by the English archers..

If you look at the latter part of the first sentence and the second sentence, which states:
already known in England, and used by a few of the English in the fight at Senlac. It is the short bow, drawn to the chest and not to the ear.
these are not conjecture but instead are a clear statement of his belief in the short-bow and how it was used. This belief is confirmed later in the same page when he says:



It is therefore rational to conclude that the weapon superseded by the arbalest was merely the old short-bow, which had been in constant use since saxon times.
Which is a clear statement of his belief. Where and how he came to his conclusions of the use of this short-bow by the English is not explained in the essay. 

I must add I have not read "The History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages" and it is possible that Oman changed what he wrote when he extended the original text.(have searched the net for a "free" copy, but have failed to find one.) 




EDIT ***

Success, of a sort, have found a copy of Oman's 1898 edition of The History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages, this is a single volume of some 740 odd pages, it is a precursor of the 2 volume set referred to by Rod.  In Book VIII page 557 Oman again covers the short bow. he slightly re-words the passages used in the Art of War in the Middle Ages as follows:


If we are to trust the Bayeux Tapestry, the weapon of William’s archers was in no way different to that already known in England, and used by a few of the English in the fight oft Senlac. It was the shortbow, drawn to the chest and not to the ear.
and




The conclusion is inevitable that the weapon superseded by the arbalest was merely the old shortbow, which had been in constant use since saxon times.
As can be seen from a comparison of the texts Oman has removed the reference to the accuracy of the Bayeux Tapestry, and changed short-bow to shortbow, but otherwise the texts and their meaning remain the same.


With regard to your statement
Oman was classically educated and unlikely to make the schoolboy error of mistranslating "non tantum, sed etiam"
You are correct Oman did not make that "schoolboy error", in the copy of The History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages he actually states that Geraldiusdescribes the bows of Gwent as :

 neither made of horn, ash, nor yew, but of elm: ugly unfinished-looking weapons, but astonishingly stiff, large, and strong, and equally capable of use for long or short shooting.

Craig.
Last edited by CraigMBeckett on 25 Jan 2011, 07:40, edited 7 times in total.
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Rod
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25 Jan 2011, 14:36 #95

Which is all well and good, but the key phrase is "if we are to trust the Bayeux Tapestry".
Slender evidence indeed for such a sweeping conclusion which has left us the legacy of the "short bow" myth.
Whilst it is logical that long bows would become somewhat longer as draw weights increased, there are European longbow precursors enough to give the lie to the "short bow" theory.
As for the style of shooting, drawing to a low anchor (to the breast) was a common enough practice for a very long time and was a practical method for lobbing arrows over the shield wall.
If we were to apply as much common sense based upon knowledge of practical usage as is too often applied to ill-founded literal pedantry, we would be less troubled by such a canard.

Rod.
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Fauna
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19 Mar 2011, 10:22 #96

Enjoyable topic here folks...I have read through with interest (though i don't think much of it has been taking in lol, will have to read through again).

History etc ain't my strong point. I live in the Valleys where the Silures once roamed, i'm the other side of the valley from the Tegernacus stone.
Is there any information/evidence that the Silures where using a bow (hunting/warfare) at anytime. Or could they have adopted a Bow of some sort from the invading Romans?

Sorry for my ignorance here, but just curious.
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20 Mar 2011, 23:23 #97

As far as I am aware history does not inform us as to the use of bows by the Silures, but as I have said before they essentially are the same people as lived just across the Severn in Somerset and left us the Mere Heath and Ascot Heath bows and I doubt that such an important weapon/food gathering tool was completely unknown to them.The area in which they is of course the same area as later became Gwent , Monmouthshire etc all areas where Welsh archery was predominant.
..could they have adopted a Bow of some sort from the invading Romans?
Anything is possible, we simply do not know, but as most if not all, "roman" bow finds are from eastern composite bows said to have been used by their eastern archer auxiliaries (?? hopefully if I am wrong someone will step in here and tell us about finds of Roman simple bows), the probability is small.

Craig
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HJH
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30 Mar 2011, 16:26 #98

Is there any replicae of this bow anywhere?
here another shortbow XIIth century mosaïc: can be seen at cathedral Lescar south west France (64)
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31 Mar 2011, 00:59 #99

HJH,

There are people, even commercial enterprises, who claim to have made "Welsh Short Bows" but as it is almost a certainty that such bows are figments of the imagination.

No extant  bows exist, unless you believe that the small complete bow found at Waterford in Ireland is both Welsh and for an adult. 

Craig.
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HJH
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31 Mar 2011, 12:20 #100

and what gives such a short bows? Are they useable?
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