Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures Tartan figures

Tartan Ferret

The Targemaker

An Targaid ~ the Targe (round shield) by Joe Lindsay, The Targemaker.
From the 1500s until the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the Scottish Highlander's main means of defence in battle was his targe.

This was a circular shield, ranging from 18" to 21" in diameter. It was made by pegging together two very thin layers of wooden boards, with their grains at right angles, and covering the front face with tough cow-hide. This leather face was nailed to the boards with up to a thousand brass ( or sometimes silver ) dome headed nails in various patterns. Occasionally, brass plates would also be nailed on for strength and decoration. Often the leather would be embossed or scored in intricate "Celtic style" designs.

About a quarter of the surviving targes show signs that they would have had a removable spike screwed into the centre boss. This would have converted the targe from defensive to offensive mode! The spike could be unscrewed and kept in a leather sheath on the back of the targe when not in use.
I am only aware of one spike, which I would say is genuinely original. It is with a targe, dating from the 1640s , which belonged to a Major James Stewart. This spike is of square section, very thin and sharp, and about 12" long!

Perth Targe

The backs of targes were usually covered in deerskin, or similar, and some, ( in Inverary Castle ) have straw padding behind this to cushion the blows.
Handles and arm-straps vary from metal drawer-type handles and adjustable leather-belt arm-straps, to two simple straps of leather. It can be seen that throughout the years, some targes have had many replacement handles.

In 1745, William Lindsay, a wright from Perth made hundreds of targes for Bonnie Prince Charlie's army. He charged five shillings for an ordinary targe, and ten shillings for an officer's targe.

Many people imagine that targes were made to "clan" designs, but this is unlikely, although there were certainly some popular basic patterns, The nearest I know to a " clan" design would be four identical targes which came from the family armoury of Castle Grant. They are now in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Many of the targes which remain in museums and private collections, are very intricate, and would have been preserved because they had belonged to important persons. A few of the most intricate have a special feature - a removable centre boss, which is lined with deer horn, and can be used as a drinking cup !
In the early days, a well made targe would have offered good protection from sword and bayonet thrusts, and maybe even the occasional musket ball ! A full clan of Highlanders charging with broadswords, targes and dirks would have been an awesome sight.

It is thought by some that the clansman would put his left hand completely through the handle and grip his dirk in this hand in order to use it on his foe. This is very unlikely as it would render the targe virtually useless for defence. This misunderstanding stems from a painting by David Morier, which he painted shortly after Culloden. The painting contains various doubtful details relating to the use of targes, and unfortunately these have been copied down the years.

It is much more likely that the clansman would have simply held his dirk and the targe handle both in his left hand, in order to instantly access the dirk should he lose or break his sword.

By the time of the Battle of Culloden, targes were virtually obsolete for the purpose of massed battles, as they were ranged against cannon, and ranks of muskets, which by that time were relatively powerful and accurate.

I show on this page, six reproduction targes from my range. Each design is closely based on an actual existing original targe.

The GORDON targe which belonged to the Duke of Gordon, in 1715 when he was Marquis of Huntly, and raised his clan in the Jacobite cause. Now in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Culloden Targe




The Gordon Targe





Graham Targe




Keppoch Targe




St. Martins Targe

© Scottish Tartans Authority
Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

Site By Radiator