Thursday, 18 April 2019

In search of the Shelmalier guns of 1798

What's the news, what's the news, oh my bold Shelmalier,
With your long barrelled gun of the sea?

Eighteenth Century Irish fouling piece (from contemporary auction listing).
Shelmalier or Shelmaliere is an area in County Wexford, and the farmers of east Shelmalier were accustomed to shooting wild fowl. In the 1798 Rebellion the Shelmalier men were renowned for their marksmanship, but what exactly were their "long guns" so celebrated in prose and song?

Somebody has probably written a history of the Shelmaliers, but if so I haven't so far been able to find it. Rather more information is available on hunting pieces in America. These were widely spread amongst civilians and could be used to shoot solid shot (for deer or to fend off Native Americans) or bird shot (for the general hunting of small game).

Superficially they resembled muskets or, more particularly, Kentucky Long Rifles and they were manufactured from the same components. But they weren't rifled. They were essentially long-barrelled smoothbore shotguns. They were not as robust as military muskets and they were not designed to support bayonets.

I don't know if any of the 28mm Trent Miniatures have long guns. It's not essential as there would have been a lot of variation and maybe not all fouling pieces were actually longer than muskets. I was just interested to track this down.

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