Rob Roy's Sword
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He has studied most styles of historical European combat and revived the methods and techniques of several lost systems, such as the medieval duelling shield,
spada in arme, dusack and backsword. In 1998, Maestro Macdonald founded the British Federation for Historical Swordplay (BFHS), serving as its President from
1998 to 2004. Maestro Macdonald received his Master-at-Arms certification from the Italian Ancient and Historical Federation (FISAS) in 1999 and established the
Macdonald Academy of Arms in 2001. In early 2008, Maestro Macdonald founded the Commando D Living History Group with Mike Smith, specialising in WW2
combatives. When not making swords or teaching, Maestro Macdonald enjoys gliding, for which he holds a solo pilot`s licence.
Here is his story.
I was recently contacted by an elderly Scots lady and asked if I could restore an old sword that had "been in the family for some time". This turned out to be the
sword of a renowned Jacobite who had survived the battles of Sherrifmuir and Culloden, commanding the Stuarts of Appin there. He also was regarded as one of
the greatest swordsmen in Scotland in his day and during his life of adventure had an encounter with another legendary Scot, one Robert Roy MacGregor. The
sword I was to work on was that which he had used to face MacGregor and as a result became the only swordsman to successfully defeat Rob Roy by the sword.
What is more, MacGregor eventually succumbed to infection of this wound and died as a result. This was the sword that had shed the blood of and ultimately killed
This particular piece has been kept in Ardshiels direct family to this day and carries full historical provenance. On the back of this, I decided to chase a local legend
back home in Moidart, West Highlands, concerning the whereabouts of Rob Roy’s own sword. This I also found and was able to work on its restoration. This has
been the first time the two swords have been together for nearly three hundred years. As a result of much research, the full and original story of the duel itself has
become known (as Sir Walter Scott had led historians to believe a different version over the years) and the two swords were re-united for a brief period again, this
time in peace. Both are typical pattern Scottish basket hilts of the period (MacGregors being a bit earlier c.1680-90), but with quite different blades, weight and
overall feel. So, here they both are (MacGregors on the left, Charles Stewarts on the right) - both legends still, and an honour to have known them both. May their
spirit yet inspire us all.
When I read this story I felt I needed to get in touch and meet with him. I was invited down to his workshop and shown round the place where he makes and restores
these masterpieces. When I was there I asked him a few questions and he in return showed me some great swords and helmets.
Shug: What is your favourite sword?
Paul: I have an affinity for all swords and if they are made well you can tell a lot just from the feel of them and how they are made. It would be like choosing your best
child out all your children. Each sword has its own personality and its specific uses.
Shug: How long does it take you to make a sword?
Paul: It can take from a few days to a few months. It all depends on what kind of decoration you require and the intricacies of the blade.
Shug: What is the hardest sword you have had to make?
Paul: That would be a rapier sword that had intricate engravings and semi precious stones set in it.
Shug: What did you do to the Rob Roy MacGregor and the Charles Stewart of Adshiel swords in way of restoration?
Paul: The Stewart’s sword was mainly cosmetic but the MacGregor Sword had been left in a damp place, was totally rusted and the leather on the scabbard had all
but perished save a small bit beneath the mounts on the scabbard. We meticulously cleaned all the rust off and re-leathered the scabbard keeping to the original
colour and type.
Shug: Do you prefer the history of the sword or the craftsmanship of the sword as you first encounter an old sword?
Paul: Good question, I suppose both. I love history as much as I love sword-making. When I stayed up north I had a metal detector myself and went detecting a lot. I
still have a metal detector to this day although I haven't been out lately with being so busy. When I see an old sword I always wonder where it has been and what it
has seen in action. Then I look to see how it was made and the methods used.
Paul has asked me to tell you all that if you want any old weapons you find identified, he would be more than glad to give you the experience of his vast knowledge in
Just contact him with pictures on his website at:
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