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Sgian Dubhs +

Sgian Dubh is Gaelic for black knife and the name comes either from the traditional black bogwood that was used for the handle or for the original 'black purpose' of the knife as a weapon. In lawless times it was sheathed in the owner's oxter (armpit) and could be withdrawn in a flash if circumstances warranted. As law and order gradually prevailed in the Highlands, the hidden use of the knife diminished and it was brought into the open and tucked into the stocking top.

There is a multiplicity of sgian dubh designs on the market, ranging from day wear ones with stag horn handles to chrome fixtures and ones with solid silver butt-ends encrusted with jewels. The scabbards too can be very ornate as can be seen from our banner picture.

A range of day wear sgian dubhs.

 A matched set of belt buckle, sgian dubh and kilt pin all featuring a clan badge.

The Law and Sgian Dubhs

The legal position in these modern times is not hard and fast. It's true that, in the United Kingdom, as part of traditional ethnic dress, the sgian dubh is exempt from the knife law which, if transgressed - could result in the maximum penalty (for an adult) of four years in prison and a fine of £5000.

The police are trained to apply common sense in the case of sgian dubhs: if someone is in Highland dress which includes a sgian dubh with a blade and is going quietly about his business, then no crime is being committed. If however that owner, still in Highland dress, should wave his sgian dubh about or act in a threatening manner, then that sgian dubh immediately becomes an offensive weapon. Trying to board an aircraft in Highland dress with a sgian dubh is forbidden and it would be just as unwise to enter a night club similarly equipped.
The police forces in Scotland will no doubt be much more aware of the sensible interpretation of the law than their colleagues south of the border who may not be conversant with the sgian dubh or the common-sense approach. So . . . do exercise care and common-sense in other UK countries.
A word of warning on size - if your sgian dubh blade is longer than 3 ½ inches then it becomes an offensive weapon which is why a dirk should be left in the closet and never worn in public - the excuse that it's part of traditional Highland dress, although true, just won't cut ice.





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