Thursday, 14 February 2013

Thomas Page and Authenticity

I ma currently writing a continually expaning piece on Gelic martial arts but thought I would bring together these two articles on Thomas Page. T.Page wrote a treatise on the backsword and the highlanders method of fighting in 1746.
 Bethan Jenkins wrote an interesting article on the treatises autheniticty here; from the invaluable Linacre School of Defence library. Ms Jenkins wrote; "I would also note that, though Loyalist armies protest themselves horrified by the devastation wrought by Highland swordsmen, swords were seriously in a minority of the weapons carried by the Jacobites." dear readers of this blog  know that the evidence suggests swords were far more common than is often thought.
 The rebuttal from Chris Thompson is very good but the link provided does not take us there anynore. Fear not for I have found it;
A Reply to "Contextualising Western Martial Arts" by Bethan Jenkins

By- Christopher Scott Thompson

There has been a lot of buzz lately on the Cateran Society list about the publication of a short paper by Bethan Jenkins, on the subject of Thomas Page's Use of the Broadsword from 1746. Ms. Jenkins' main point is certainly an important one: "martial artists also have a great deal to learn from an historical appreciation of manuals of fence - both from the body of the work, and from the peripheral material contained in the text".
I would like to state from the outset that although I do not agree with Ms. Jenkins' conclusions, neither her academic nor her martial credentials are in question. She has uncovered some fascinating details about the life of Thomas Page and the regiment he served in, and these details are very much to be welcomed. Her article raised some valid points, and they need to be considered carefully by anyone interested in the Highland broadsword manuals. However, there is additional information, which casts more light on the issue in question.
Ms. Jenkins is quite correct that the regiment to which Page belonged- the Norwich Artillery Company- was more of a private club than a genuine regiment. As I wrote to Paul Wagner in private correspondence several months ago: "This wasn’t a regular army regiment, but more of a home defense unit, formed only that year (1746) by Lord Hobart (to whom Page dedicates the book) to defend Norwich against a potential attack by invading Highland Jacobites... A Jacobite attack on Norwich was unlikely at this point anyway, because the Jacobite Army had already invaded England in 1745, getting as far as Derby before turning back. They were defeated in April 1746 at Culloden, only 3 months after the Norwich Artillery Company was founded, so possibly before the book was even printed. Page even refers to the Company as being “ornamental,” so perhaps it was more a case of “playing soldier” than seriously expecting that they would face an attack by Highlanders... Overall, it does not seem that this company was taken terribly seriously by anyone involved."
She also seems to have established that Page was not a professional fencing teacher, and that he sold Highland broadswords at his shop. Does this really imply, however, that he was not knowledgeable about his topic? I see no reason why it should.
Ms. Jenkins goes on to say: "In Page's book we see an example of the fear, which became the Romantic myth that the Jacobites were all Highlanders from a quasi-medæval society, all sword-wielding and kilt-wearing savages (noble or otherwise)." The Highlanders, according to this article, are portrayed as savages and troglodytes, a mysterious and threatening Other. She is definitely correct that this was a widespread image of the Highlanders in this time period. The only problem with this is that Page says nothing negative whatsoever about the Highlanders and even praises their skill and their merciful way of fighting single combats. He does indeed include a rather fanciful history of the broadsword with "Orientalizing" elements.
Ms. Jenkins mentions Page's footwork diagram, saying: "This latter section, as well as the diagram accompanying it, is found verbatim in Taylor's text at the end of the century[b]. This suggests two things - either straight plagiarism by Taylor (not at all uncommon at the time); or, Page's text itself is a plagiarism of a general swordsmanship manual. The tripartite structure lends itself to this interpretation, as the introduction and the "Highland techniques" added to the end read as discrete parts, and so could indeed be a body text with extras tacked on."
Taylor actually includes a number of techniques derived from Page, including the section on slips, and even goes so far as to include a long quote taken directly from Page in the section on "The Cut at the Advanced Leg or Thigh," describing him as "an able writer on this science." This implies that the footwork diagram found in Taylor is in fact a plagiarism from Page, and not from a hypothetical third document.
She also states: "This mainly involves fencing with the point of the sword forward - this is all well and good for fighting with a smallsword, which is an edgeless thrusting weapon, but of little use with Broadswords, as it does not provide a secure true cross in the parry, and wide-spaces the defender." Having fenced with point-forward broadsword guards for almost nine years now, I can state that parries with a true cross can in fact be made from these guards.
She also analyzes some of the specific techniques in Page's manual, comparing them both to other British broadsword manuals of the time and to the Penicuik sketches, a set of eyewitness illustrations of Highland warriors from the '45. Paul Wagner has already addressed this aspect on SFI, but to sum up briefly, a deep familiarity with Page actually reveals far more consistency with the Penicuik sketches than is generally assumed. Page's system is not nearly as similar to the English backsword manuals as it appears on reading it over. Only after practicing it for a good long time- in particular, Page's concept of Equilibrio and its ramifications- can one see exactly how unusual his method really is. As David Teague has stated, when the sword and targe techniques from Page are practiced according to his Wide/Narrow footwork method and his concept of Equilibrio, the result is something that looks rather like the Penicuik sketches indeed.
Is there any evidence this was actually a system used by the Highlanders? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. With apologies to anyone who already read the following passage on SFI, I would like to present the following facts:

1- Donald MacLeod (a famed Highland swordsman of the 18th century) was trained before 1700 on the Isle of Skye- i.e., in the clan system, not the Regimental system.
2- He was teaching broadsword in northern England between 1715 and 1725, and reviewing broadsword schools in England as late as the 1790s- thus, he was personally involved in the "Highland broasdsword" fad as it developed in England.
3- He was a founding member of the Black Watch. Specifically, he was a drill sergeant and broadsword instructor in the Black Watch. Early recruits were daoine-uaisle (members of the warrior elite), and thus already trained swordsmen, but after a certain point lower-ranking clansmen started to be recruited, and it was MacLeod's duty to teach them broadsword.
4- The only record we have of the Black Watch broadsword practice is Anti-Pugilism by Captain Sinclair, which was published within MacLeod's lifetime.
5- Anti-Pugilism has several key points in common with Page. The hanging and St George guards are identical with Page, and (if you look at the illustrations to Anti-pugilism) he uses the Equilibrio concept in a vestigial form- the hand is held in front of the body in the outside and hanging guards, and is thrown back behind the body when you cut; and it's held behind the body in the inside guard. This system is closely related to the one described by Page (although certainly modified for Regimental use).
(ed. Donald MacLeod could be generously described as unreliable)

There is, as Paul Wagner has pointed out, a thread of continuity between the various Highland broadsword texts, implying an ongoing tradition with certain features that are distinct from those found in the (otherwise closely related) English backsword manuals. Many of the unusual elements of Page still survive in some form in Highland broadsword manuals written fifty years later, such as the peculiar hanging guard with its close resemblance to Silver's Guardant Ward.
So, if Page actually did have some exposure to genuine Highland broadsword fencing, where and when could this have happened? Not knowing the details of his earlier life, it's hard to say. But the fact that one of the most illustrious swordsmen of the Highlands was actually drilling recruits in Newcastle in the 1720s, shows that it was by no means impossible that Page could have picked up such knowledge somewhere. Highlanders may have been perceived as frightening savages, but there were loyalist Highlanders (far more then rebels) (such as the Duke of Argyll) in the highest ranks of government and the military, and they sometimes kept retinues of Highland swordsmen around them. To give one example, the Norfolk Regiment (9th Regiment of Foot) was commanded from 1715-1717 by a celebrated Highland warrior and clan chieftain, Sir James Campbell of Lawers. He was a Lt General at the time. Norwich, of course, is in Norfolk, which isn't proof of anything but is certainly interesting. Lest it be assumed that such loyalist Highland chieftains would not have traveled with the traditional retinue of expert swordsmen, MacLeod's memoirs indicate that "Red John of the Battles," 2nd Duke of Argyll, "was an excellent swordsman himself, and kept a band of excellent swordsmen always about him." If we know that there were loyalist Highlanders like MacLeod and Campbell of Lawers, stationed at times in England and even training recruits in some cases, it does not seem far-fetched that Page could have had a chance to learn Highland broadsword.
To sum up, the "Highland" status of Page's manual cannot be proven outright with current evidence, but I think there is a fair amount of circumstantial evidence in favor of it. In any case, Ms. Jenkins is no doubt correct that much could be gained by paying more attention to the historical and social context of the manuals we study. 

Paul Wagners comments;
Although I can understand the sentiment, since at first glance Page doesn’t appear to be significantly different to any other British back/broadsword manual of the 17th, 18th or 19th century, my feeling is that Page does represent a genuine Highland tradition, particularly the biomechanics, which are central to the system.

One of the most interesting details of Pages’ system is his method of balance and power generation. It is clear from contemporary descriptions of Highlanders in battle that the Clansmen were delivering blows with considerably more power than was considered usual, and Lowland Scottish and English troops were always horrified by the damage done by the Highland broadswords. In comparison, the style of “Highland Broadsword” taught in the Highland Regiments was not really designed for cutting off limbs and cleaving heads, and Sinclair said clearly that “the motion of the sword is to proceed from the wrist only.”

Page's "equilibrio" provides us with a fundamental bio-mechanical Principle – in fact “Principle the First” - that explains how Highlanders may have utilised to generate substantially more power in their blows than was available in the normal manner. The use of the left arm in this manner would appear to be a fundamental use of biomechanics unique to the Page (or the Highlanders), and certainly not outlined by any other British manual.

A careful comparison between the techniques of Page and those later works claiming a "Highland" method reveals threads of similarity that are distinct for contemporary English texts. This suggests strongly that the art practiced by these Highland soldiers was part of a living lineage from traditional Highland methods.

The most obvious difference between the “Highland broadsword” manuals and earlier English backsword sources is that the English held their Guards high and extended, with stiff arms. Wylde described his Outside Guard as;

“Stand upon a true half Body, and extend your Sword-Hilt out at the Arms end stiff, without bowing the Elbow-joint, your Point leaning or sloping towards your left Shoulder, or your Opposer’s right Eye, lying as hollow as you can with your Body; then you may see your Opposer the inside of your Sword.”

Lonnergan noted that;
“our two sticks form two angles like unto a St. Andrews cross; therefore we must see each other’s faces through the lower angle, otherwise we cannot be well on Guard.”

The reason for holding the arm high and extended is to prevent a “cut within the Guard”, that is cutting to the outside of your opponent’s sword without disengaging and without opposition. However, despite the English preference for holding the arm extended with “your Sword-hilt out at the armes end”, the Highland masters carried the Outside and Inside Guards tucked into the body, with “your wrist on a level with your flank.” MacGregor explained;

“Many advise, always to keep a straight arm when engaged at back sword, which is a very bad advice indeed. The reason they assign for it is this; that if a man keeps his arm crooked, he is liable to be often hit in the elbow, on account of its being bent. But in this they err greatly; for, if a person always keeps his arm straight, it will soon become nervous, even although he had not a sword in his hand. Therefore I advise broad sword players to keep their sword arm bent, and perfectly easy, by which means they will be enabled to fence double the time they would do with it straight. But let them take care to straight their arm when a blow is aimed at them; this is the time to do it, but to do it always is exceedingly wrong.”

MacBane gave an equally practical reason, advising “keep your Guard low, for fear your adversary cuts you under your hilt.”

Another difference between those manuals of English and “Highland” tradition is in some Guard positions. The Medium Guard of the “Highland Officer” Sinclair is a relaxed position with the elbow bent and the point up at around a 45-degree angle, which also made a brief appearance in Hope’s The Scots Fencing Master (1689). This is quite distinct from the extended, point-threatening “Unicorne” used by Swetnam, Wylde and Godfrey. While the latter was used to keep the opponent at a distance, Sinclair’s “Medium Guard” is simply “between the inside and the outside,” and while having some offensive capability, it clearly had no real defensive value.

A second identifiable Guard that appears to have a Highland providence is Sinclair’s “Hanging Ward,” which is held on the Inside line guarding the left-hand-side, similar to the “True Guardant” ward described two centuries earlier by Silver. No other surviving fencing text since Silver shows this guard, all preferring an extended Outside or “Hanging Ward in Second,” which Silver had dismissed as “imperfect Guardant.” Even more remarkably, the “True Guardant” was not actually described in Silver’s only published work, Paradoxes of Defence. Sinclair’s Anti-Pugilism would appear to be the first British (and possibly the first European) fencing manual ever published to illustrate or clearly describe this guard, probably due to the retention of old clan techniques through a Highland singlestick tradition. It is also found in Macgregor, Angelo’s Hungarian and Highland Broadsword and Taylor.

Macgregor also mentions what he calls the Hanging Guard in Second, which he describes it as “another medium in the broad sword,” indicating that it closes neither the Inside nor Outside lines. Macgregor claims to be the inventor, saying it is “mentioned by none, so far as I know,” but the Guard is in fact the same one illustrated by McBane and used by Sir William Hope in the New Method.

The appearance of Hope’s Hanging Guard in “Highland” swordplay is particularly interesting. Hope devoted a surprising proportion of his early books instructing his students how to deal with broadsword-armed opponents, and warned them not to lunge, thrust or even “Stand not to an Ordinary Guard, for then he would Disable your Sword Arm.” As time went on, he developed an admiration for the back/broadsword, and declared “For without all doubt, the art of the back-sword, is the fountain and source of all true defence; and that of the small, only a branch proceeding and separat from it.” This opinion was formed under the influence of a “Professor of Both-Swords, in the City of Edinburgh” named William Machrie, who Hope considered one of the best fencing teachers to be found in Scotland. Hope’s entire New Method was derived from “the common hanging guard of the back-sword,” presumably as taught be Machrie. This Guard would thus seem to have a widespread Scottish, and possibly Highland, origin as certainly nothing like it is found in the English manuals.

One of the most distinctive elements of Page’s system is the use of both a conventional “Narrow” fencing stance, with the heels in line, and a square-on “Wide” stance. The traverse between these stances is used when circling around an opponent, and involves stepping from Wide to Narrow and back to Wide. More oddly, he states that since the Inside is only to be held on the Narrow stance, and the Outside on the Wide, every time you traverse between stances you must change Guards. As strange as this may sound, it would appear to be a key principle in the Highland method.

Taylor reproduces Page’s footwork scheme and uses the same traversing, with the difference that his does not stop at the Wide stance or change Guards; this is understandable as a modification necessary when utilising sabres. Mathewson, however, preserves the use of the Wide and Narrow stances with each change of Guard, though the foot is shifted a mere “three inches.” Both works also seem to have retained an echo of Page’s Equilibrio, holding the left arm extended behind and upwards “forming a semicircle, height of the forehead,” and swinging it down so as to place the “left hand on the left hip, thumb to the front” when adopting the Outside.

Of all the other sources, MacBane might be most expected to be influenced by the clans, being a native of the “Highland capital” of Inverness, and making occasional reference to his “Highland blood.” He was not a “Highlander” in the cultural sense of the word, but his manua was published in 1728, when native Highland swordplay was very much alive. He served for several years in a Scottish regiment at Fort William, and had experienced battle with Highlander first hand in a clan fight with the MacDonalds at Mulroy in 1688.

Taken in isolation, MacBane’s very brief instructions on the backsword, buckler and targe are insufficiently explained to say much of anything. However, with the help of Page it is obvious that McBane utilised the important elements of Highland swordplay. He advises to “keep your Guard low, for fear your adversary cuts you under your hilt” (unlike Godfrey and Wylde and Lonnergan). He also uses the traverses described by Page, talking about “Changing” Guards with “both hand and foot” when traversing, and noting that to “rise to your In-side Guard, bring up your right foot” to a Narrow stance, and “falling briskly back with your left foot” to change to the Outside Guard. He also echoes Page’s method of “Timing the Guard, warning “you must take great care your enemy does not cut you on your Change.

One element in McBane that is not obvious in Page, but appears to be distinctly Highland nonetheless, is to be found in MacBane’s use of his St. George of “Cross Guard.” From the St. George, MacBane instructs to “Slip foot and hand, and though to his head. Be very quick and guard your own head with St. George’s Guard…and return him the same”
The method of slipping back to charge the blow, throwing, and then recovering to the St. George is parallelled in Mathewson;

“The scholar at the inside guard will move his right leg back, behind the left, and form his hanging guard, step forward with his right foot a full three feet, and throw at his adversary's head; he will immediately recover with his right leg back, forming his hanging guard, and receive his adversary’s cut for his head…This is the most useful lesson in learning the Broad Sword, as it gives action to the body to move forward and backward as circumstances may require, and the leg being moved back in place of guarding with the sword, is allowed by the best fencers to be preferable.”

Likewise, McBane explains his throws from the St. George as “the first cut is to his head, 2d at his face, and 3d at his ribs,” noting that after each blow you should “come quick to your Guard and keep your Guard.” This is extremely similar to Angelo’s lessons, which typically throw from and recover to a close St. George Guard.

Then there are descriptions of Highland swordsmen. These generally give only a few hints of their technique. There are, however, detailed descriptions of how Highlanders dealt with pike-blocks and bayonet lines. There are many references to clansmen cutting off pikeheads with their swords before closing, and at Killiekrankie Donald Gorm, who commanded the MacDonalds of Glengarry, died with twelve pike-heads embedded in his targe, the poles having been severed by his broadsword. At Mulroy Hill MacBane reported;

“a highlandman attacked me with sword and targe, and cut my wooden handled bayonet out of the muzel of my gun; I then clubed my gun and gave him a stroke with it, which made the butt-end to fly off; Seeing the Highland-men to come fast upon me, I took to my heels and run thirty miles before I looked behind me.”

By the time of the 1745 Rebellion the thecnique was this:

“When within reach of the enemies’ bayonets, bending their left knee, they, by their attitude, cover their bodies with their targets, that receive the thrusts of the bayonets, which they contrive to parry, while, at the same time, they raise their sword arm and strike their adversary. Having once got within the bayonets, the fate of the battle is decided in an instant, and the carnage follows; the Highlanders bringing down two men at a time, one with their dirk in the left hand, and another with the sword”

"(They) stooped low below the charged bayonets, they tossed them upward by the target, dirking the front rank man with the left hand, while stabbing or hewing down the rear rank man with the right; thus, as usual in all Highland onsets, the whole body of soldiers was broken, trod underfoot, and dispersed in a moment”

The technique described above is extremely sophisticated and difficult to execute; approaching the bayonet line at a run, the swordsman must drop low with the left leg, deflect the front-ranked bayonet upwards with the targe, then pass forward, striking the second-rank soldier to the right with the broadsword while simultaneously dirking the front-ranked man in the chest. However, the technique of “stooping low” is recognisable from Page’s manual as “fighting below the Guard,” while the “tossing bayonets upward with the target” clearly described as part of Page’s broadsword and targe system where he instructs “with your Target, which will be then under his Hilt, throw up his Sword and Arm, that you may have a free Passage for your own Sword.”

In other stories give hints of technique can be gleaned from the exploits of famous Highland warriors. For example, in one tale from the Dewar Manuscripts (Thanks to Christ Thompson for these ones!) the Laird of Skipness and an Irish champion start their fray by “crossing swords,” suggesting an engagement in either the Outside or Inside Guard. In another tale from the same source a captured Jacobite soldier is forced to fight “an accomplished English fencer…as good as they thought was to be found in the English army.” If he won, he and his comrades would be freed, but “if the Englishman will kill the Highlander, every one of you here shall be put to death.” According to the story, “The Highlander closed up with the Englishmen then, and it was but a short time until he struck him with the sword and killed him.” This recalls the method outlines by Page, who says in single combat “The Highlander…runs up boldly to half Sword” to finish his opponent off as quickly as possible. More specifically, Page tells;

“He runs up boldly to half Sword, receives an Outside, and changing with his Adversary, drops his Blade below the Hilt on the inside, draws the Edge of his Sword cross his Adversary’s Wrest and springing backward saws it at the same Time.”

The recalls the tale of when Rob Roy was challenged by Ruari Dubh MacNeil of Barra. MacNeill was himself a proud swordsman, and challenged Rob to a duel simply to see if he was as good as his reputation. Rob at first refused, but eventually agreed to the duel, and in the first pass Rob cut MacNeill’s sword arm so deeply that he nearly severed it.

In another account of a famous Highlander, Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel is noted in a fight with an English soldier as having “tript the sword out of his hand.” This indicates the use of another series of techniques described by Mathewson in which;

“most likely the twist that you give will throw down the sword of your adversary, or if it should not be thrown from his hand it will give you an opening to throw in a cut, or that it may embarrass him and put him off his Guard”

The big issue is the difference between all this and the Penicuick Sketches, which, I am boldly predicting, will be the primary counter-argument for Page being genuinely representative of "Highland" technique in this article when it appears. Anyway, nearly all the figures are standing in Page’s widely-splayed “square Body” stance, with the “Legs crossing the Line of Defence at right Angles.” The majority are standing sword-foot-back, a stance not specifically addressed by Page, and generally the feet form the typical L-shape, with the rear foot roughly at right angles to the front foot.

The Guard positions depicted in the Sketches are varied and particularly revealing. Two figures are in Page’s only recommended Guard with the Targe, in which he says “advance to your Enemy with a Square Body, and always under an Outside Guard, with your Target advanc’d a little before your Sword, and in a direction levell with your Adversary’s Breast,” and four more are in the same Guard, simply held sword-foot-back instead.

Two figures are in a low Guard position Page records as held by a Highlander named Gorman, “Right Hand with the Hilt as low as he could reach towards the Knee, his Sword pointing towards the Ground and outwards,” though once again held sword-foot-back. Two are in a similar position on the Inside, ie “Underarm,” and another has adopted a low forward Hanging Guard similar to MacGregor & Hopes "medium" Hanging Guard.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Sketches come from a consideration of Page’s use of the left hand as a balance to the cutting action of the sword (maintaining “Equilibrio”).

Although Page (perhaps understandably) primarily maintains the targe in front of the sword and body as a protective device, the figures in the Penicuick Sketches certainly appear to be utilising the principle of “Equilibrio” and using the targe as something of a counter-balance to each other. In every single instance, the targe is held in a position either “Diametrically Opposite” to the sword, in such a position as to maintain the body’s balance. Given the weight of the Highland targe, this could well indicate an important and fundamental principle of targe use, at least in some circumstances.

The relevance of Page for understanding the Sketches is best illustrated in one instance where two clansmen are shown duelling with sword and shield in a very dramatic “action” shot. The left hand figure is shown with his shield edge-on by his side, with the sword in either an extended Hanging Guard or in the midst of launching a descending Prime thrust. The right-hand figure is lurching backwards and covering his head with his shield, with the sword swung (seemingly uselessly) low and to the right.

The position of the right hand figure’s sword can be easily explained as simply being “Diametrically Opposite” the shield, indicating that the sword and shield could be used to counterbalance each other; in this case the raising of the shield quickly was obviously of prime importance, and the dropping of the sword used assist the motion. However, it would seem to be an unlikely reaction to the left hand figure’s thrust if that were all that was happening. Page, however, provides a sequence that closely matches the illustrated scenario. According to Page, the right hand figure is “pitching to a Hanging” i.e. delivering a rising cut terminating in a Hanging Guard, which is intended to make the left hand Highlander “raise a Target to cover his Head.” This will then allow the right hand figure to “throw home an Inside at his Left Ribs underneath his Left Elbow,” a target which is indeed exposed in the illustrated example.

Really, the only major difference between Page and the illustrated depictions of Highland warriors is that Page uses an exclusively right foot forward stance, moving by stepping, traversing and lunging, whereas the majority of illustrated Highlanders are shown with the left foot back, indicating the use of medieval-style passing footwork. There are several possible explanations for this discrepancy between Page’s instructions and the iconography of the Penecuik Sketches and other sources.

Firstly, while the left-foot-forward Open Ward-like Guard so often depicted is not mentioned by Page, he does describe how raising the sword high, for example into a Hanging Guard, was sometimes “desgn’d only to give a Swing to your Arm.” This sequence of Page is reminiscent of Mathewson, and in fact effectively describes Swetnams “quarter” blow. This suggests the possibility that the illustrated positions with the sword foot back were merely used as transitionary positions, used “to give a Swing to your Arm” as you “compasses the blade about the head” and/or “Slip the Blow” by passing back, and not at static Guards.

The second possibility is suggested by Page’s note that “In the Field of Battle and in promiscuous Combat…[the Highlander’s] Attack begins at all Times with a full Throw at the outside of the Sword Arm” and “The Highlander has nothing regular in Field Attacks and generally chop Right down to an Outside; or with a swinging and low Inside.” This would seem to indicate left foot forward versions of the Outside Guard, akin to Open Ward and Zornhut, were restricted to battlefield combat, where they could make either of these attacks with equal ease. Given that the Highland custom was to duel only to first blood, while to cause bloody mayhem on the field of battle, this restriction of the use of blows on the pass may have been due to custom rather than utility, much as certain of the more lethal techniques were by custom omitted from the repertoire of English stage gladiators.

Finally, given the fragmented and warlike nature of clan society, it is certain that there existed many different schools and systems of swordsmanship throughout the Highlands. Assuming Page learned the fundumantals of a Highland swordplay from a Highlander, whoever taught Page may not have used the old left foot forward techniques, and Page does seem at pains to point out his is “the Method us’d be the modern Highlanders” and “the Principle destructive Methods of Wounding in Modern Use,” strongly suggesting the existence, perhaps contemporarily, of an “Ancient Use” as well.

Further, Page tells us that “there are many other artful Throws which safely Cut the Adversary, yet not commonly known or taught by every Master…but have kept inviolably secret by the very few to whom they have been imparted; and are commonly called Finesses.” The ease with which Rob Roy disabled MacNeill of Barra indicated that not all clans were familiar with the “Finesses” of others, and any Gael is more than likely to have kept his most effective techniques secret from interloping English soldiers. Page seems inordinately proud of revealing "Gorman's Throw" (Gorman being a Gaelic name, BTW), so it is entirely possible that Page was simply not privy to the Highlanders’ use of the "Open Ward" like High Guard or passing footwork.

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