Scottish Dirk



19th Century REGIMENTAL SCOTTISH OFFICER DIRK SET affixed with cairngorm stones.

The Scottish dirk also “Highland dirk” is the traditional and ceremonial sidearm of the officers of Scottish Highland regiments. The development of the Scottish dirk as a weapon is unrelated to that of the naval dirk; it is a modern continuation of the 16th-century ballock or rondel dagger.

The traditional Scottish dirk is a development of the second half of the 18th century, when it became a popular item of military equipment in the Jacobite Risings. The 78th Fraser Highlanders, raised in 1757, wore full highland dress uniform; their equipment was described by Major-General James Stewart in 1780 as including a “musket and broadsword, to which many soldiers added the dirk at their own expense.

The modern development of the Scottish dirk into a ceremonial weapon occurred during the 19th century. The shape of the grip developed from the historical more cylindrical form to a shape intended to represent the thistle. Fancier fittings, often of silver, became popular shortly after 1800. The hilts of modern Scottish dirks are often carved from dark colored wood such as bog oak or ebony. Hilts and scabbards are often lavishly decorated with silver mounts and have pommels set with cairngorm stones. The blades measure 12″ in length and are single edged with decorative file work known as “jimping” on the unsharpened back edge of the blade. When worn, the dirk normally hangs by a leather strap known as a “frog” from a dirk belt, which is a wide leather belt having a large, usually ornate buckle that is worn around the waist with a kilt.  Many Scottish dirks carry a smaller knife and fork which fit into compartments on the front of the sheath, and a smaller knife known as a sgian dubh is also worn tucked into the top of the hose when wearing a kilt.