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Islay Grave Slab

by Sharon L. Krossa

©1997-2000 by Sharon L. Krossa. All rights reserved

Last updated 1 Jan 2000

This is a grave slab in Islay that depicts a soldier wearing what appears to be some kind of armour, along with a sword. It could be 14th or 15th century, based on Irish carvings of similarly attired soldiers, but I have yet to find any date indicators in the books that refer to it.

This shouldn't need saying, but I've learned from past experience: This is not a depiction of a belted plaid or kilt of any kind! Not all male skirts are kilts!


Somewhere on Islay.

H. F. McClintock, Old Irish and Highland Dress, with Notes on that of the Isle of Man. Dundalk: W. Tempest, Dundalgan Press, 1943.

A black and white photograph of a grave slab, with the caption "41. HIGHLAND GRAVE SLAB IN ISLAY". (opposite p. 51)

It is described in the main text as "A Scottish example showing a similar ribbed acton or cotún ... from a grave slab in Islay." (p. 51)

This appears in a discussion of Irish depictions of men wearing quilted armour. "Padded and quilted clothes of cotton, leather or linen were much used in the Middle Ages as armour in battle and afforded very good defence especially against sword-cuts. For present purposes the subject resolves itself into the consideration of one garment only, a long coat reaching to below the knees and quilted vertically, which can be seen on a number of mediæval tombs in Ireland as well as at Iona and other places in the Western Highlands of Scotland. It was often worn under, and more or less covered by, an over-coat of mail armour. A similar garment was worn under armour in England and was known as a "haqueton" or "acton" or as a "gambeson." Its name in Irish was "cotún," and implies that it was made of, or padded with, cotton." (pp. 49-50)

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