[Christine O’Keeffe’s Saint Patrick’s Day Customs : the Shillelagh]
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[shillelagh illustration - 6k]The Shillelagh

The shillelagh (pron. shi-LAY-lee) is the Irish word for oak club and is a Saint Patrick’s Day symbol. Shillelagh was the name of an oak forest that was in County Wicklow before it was cut down as part of the timber industry. A club cut from an oak was known as a sprig of shillelagh. Shillelaghs were/are carried by men and are commonly used as walking sticks or hockey sticks for hurling. (In gaelic this game is called cluich-bhal.) In older times they were used as fighting weapons. Serious fighters had two sticks: one to ward off blows and another to deliver. (A steel tipped shillelagh saved me from a rabid Doberman) Today shillelaghs are made of blackthorn, as oak is scarce. Souvenir ones have green ribbons and toy shillelaghs of green plastic are made for children on Saint Patrick’s Day. (1, 12)

[shillelagh illustration - 6k]

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