Friday, 27 January 2012

Armour




Armour,

Unlike his opponents at Harlaw, and unlike militaries across Europe the medieval highlander was a lightly armoured fighter.

John Major one of the best sources of material on highland Scots wrote in his 1521 work that;

Tempore belli loricam ex loris ferreis per totum corpus induunt et in illa pugnant. In panno lineo multipliciter intersuto et coerato aut picato cum cervinæ pellis coopertura vulgus sylvestrium Scotorum corpus tectum habens in prælium prosilit

In time of war they cover their whole body with a shirt of mail of iron rings, and fight in that. The common people of the Highland (lit. 'wild') Scots rush into battle having their body clothed with a linen garment manifoldly sewed and painted or daubed with pitch, with a covering of deerskin."

There is quite an abundance of material both written and iconographic to help us armour our hypothetical cateran. Mail armour is mentioned not only in Major’s work but also in accounts from 1322 (Donald of the Isles) 1498 (John 10th lord of the Isles) 1564 in an accounting of a Scots pirate’s loot. Irish mercenaries in 1545 John Leslie’s description of 1578 and of course the famous Athol muster rolls includes a chain shirt. It is clear then that a shirt of maille would be quite appropriate for any wealthy cateran for the entire medieval period. and the periods before and after with decreasing regularity into the 17th century.

Maille is of course one of the medieval period’s most amazing pieces of technology. The excellent article on chain defences at my armoury is available for those who would like to know more. Maille is of a reasonable weight and is pretty much impervious to edged weapons. Broad headed arrows, spears and sword thrusts are very unlikely to pierce through the armour. Modern reenactors state that mail is of no real use without a lower layer of padded material. While I simply refute that mail is of no use without a padded layer it would be entirely appropriate for a medieval fighter to have a thin padded garment worn under the mail.

The size and shape of the mail is clear to see from this tomb image and looks very much like the mail coat worn by Durer’s Galloglass. This armour would provide excellent protection from the vast majority of weapons on the Gaelic battlefield where even great axes had thin slicing sections. Even with padding a heavy blow would incapacitate a man but the maille would protect him from the real killers of the medieval world; infection (from an open wound) and blood loss. Maille would have also allowed considerable ease of movement over the rugged terrain particularly in comparison with mainstream European harness.

Later accounts talk of plate breastplates being worn, Paul Wagner says he has images of West Highland graves wearing plate. I have not seen these; by far the most common armour of the elite appears to be a long padded garment called a cotun. This is a departure from written accounts which talk of maille. I don’t really know how to account for this many of the effigies have names and they are clearly the elite of the Isles, it may be that the islesmen wore the cotun more than maille due to the corrosive effect on metal of their sea locked homes, but then as you can see above actual Lords of the Isles are described as wearing maille. It may be that the cotun is being worn over the mail (a very protective arrangement) as the Bishop of Ross wrote "For defence, they used a coat of mail, woven of iron rings, which they wore over a leather jerkin, stout and of handsome appearance, which we call aeton. Their whole armour was light, that they might the more easily slip from their enemies' hands if they chanced to fall into such a strait."

I can find no evidence of Plate or full harness, later on evidence can be found for breastplates, made of steel, leather or even MacIain’s rawhide (actually a buff leather coat)! We should not be surprised that full plate wasn’t worn in the mountains. Full Harness was forbiddingly expensive and while not particularly encumbering was still ill suited to being worn in the mountains and would have strained the poor highland garron past endurance.

The Bascinets worn by the effigies are almost uniform in appearance an elegantly conical bascinet which would have offered good protection, visors appear not have been worn though with (perhaps) no arrow storm or cavalry charges they may not have been necessary. Alternatively they may have been left off to reveal the features of the interred. The Lanercost chronicle relates that Scots suffered from their exposed faces during the arrow storm of Halidon Hill. There is no Scottish evidence for some of the helmet designs found on later Galloglass though it would be odd if there were no interchange given the cultural closeness of Ireland and the Isles.

The wise additions of couters (elbow),and gauntlets can clearly be seen on some effigies and many wear a mail coif to protect the ,rather exposed, arteries of the neck.

It’s pretty safe to characterize the armour of the highland elite of Scotland as light but offering a good compromise between movement and protection. The nature of the country and conflicts encouraging a greater emphasis on movement.

Paul wagner has an article on how he made a cotun here

Construction methods are pretty clear from the very few which have survived (not from Scotland) being two layers of a tough linen stuffed with wool or tow. Some examples are as Major says layers of linen “manifoldly sewn”. A garment with tubes stuffed with wool would fit the iconographic evidence more and be more economical in a country with less ability to produce flax. There appears to be no difference in thickness between arm and body from the grave slabs which is odd as the garment would either be less protective than it could, be or very encumbering. Mr. Wagner solved this problem by avoiding padding areas of the arm but in a manner that does not accord with the slabs (but is probably very nice in the Australian heat). A layered garment I have has fewer layers on the arms (5) than on the body (10).This was done in historical examples and while sleeves are still heavy it is not an inconvenience. I cannot account for problem areas such as the shoulders which require great flexibility but are in considerable danger from overhead attacks. One of Durers’ galloglass also seems to have rather exposed shoulders. We should always remember that people will and did go into battle with no armor at all. In the medieval period anything you are wearing is an improvement over the clothing you WILL fight in.

Major describes the common cateran wearing similar armor so for some at least they would have had some protection. Indeed retinues of warriors are described as clad in maille so it is not a stretch to say that the warrior elite and their retinues would be armored in maille or cotton. While Irish kern were seldom depicted as armored it would seem from the sources that Scots caterans did provide themselves with some protection. Deerskin jerkins and leather coats soft yet thick would provide reasonable protection whether these were as thick and expensive as later buff coats is hard to say. The leather (if) worn by the elite may well have been, again I can’t say whether tarring leines cotun or deerskin would add to its protective abilities. I am unaware of the practice from any other culture. It would seem a wise precaution to prevent a layered or stuffed garment from becoming saturated with highland rain to prevent the weight becoming unbearable.

In my experiments with textile armours I have confirmed for myself the general view that padded armours are amazingly resistant to cuts to such an extent in fact that a padded garment could be considered more or less sword proof. They are far less resistant to arrows and thrusts. If a cateran more a maille shirt under his padded garment he would be safe from all but the most committed or heavy blows.

In conclusion, the text and the iconographic evidence do not necessarily support each other. It would appear that most members of highland martial society would be wearing similar forms of armour. Armour types were lighter than contemporary mainstream armours. Highland elite would wear maille shirts (Major) underneath longer padded garments (Leslie, tomb slabs). Lower down the social scale Caterans in general would appear to be armoured in maille for some and padded or leather armours for other. Pitch would at least have waterproofed garments and may have added some to their protective abilities. Helmets were considered essential to Irish Galloglass so were presumably worn by all who could afford one with various other plates added according to pocket.

It is unlikely that gauntlets or sabatons were worn by any other than chiefs and their immediate family.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Gaelic Archery










Parts of this article originally appeared in “keeping tabs” the newsletter of the Society for the Promotion of Traditional Archery (SPTA). Sources are available on request. Please contact me for further information or to use any part of the article.

With England’s illustrious history of archery it is no wonder that the archery traditions of the other members of the United Kingdom have been rather overlooked. This article looks at the rich tradition of Gaelic archery both in Ireland and the Scottish highlands. It is in part a summation of the research I have done to date, an appeal to the collected expertise of the SPTA membership for help in deciphering some of the available evidence and hopefully a means of generating interest in some of the lesser known but equally strong martial archery traditions of the British Isles.

Archery is obviously of great antiquity and Scotland can boast the oldest bow yet found in the UK, The Rotten Bottom bow, a yew flatbow apparently abandoned by a Mesolithic hunter. Our Mesolithic and (to a lesser extent) Neolithic ancestors lived by their bows and finds of their arrow heads can be found all over the country including the highlands of Scotland. However, like many Iron Age Europeans, Iron Age in habitants of Scotland and Ireland seem not to have practiced archery to any great extent. In the Gallic wars Caesar tells us thatVercingetorix called up all the archers of Gaul toward the end of the war suggesting that this was a response to the brutal total war being ought between the two cultures. Archery paraphernalia is not usually present at Iron Age “Celtic” sites and is seldom if ever depicted in art.

The Romans left evidence of their own archery use by leaving a siyah from one of their composite bows at the Antoine wall. How the Romans used a Middle Eastern sinew and horn technology in Scotland’s dreech climate is an interesting question though may be worth considering in light of the later bow technologies used.

Beyond the wall the enigmatic Picts were certainly using the bow. During the earlier fighting with the Caledonians archery is not mentioned by Tacitus or Herodian and so far no archaeology has demonstrated use of the bow. Why the bow was taken up or whether indeed it had even been abandoned is a mystery. Arrow heads have been found from Dark Age sites including a fire arrow from Dumbarton. Archers are also shown on the spectacular standing stones leading troops into battle. Crossbows also make an appearance on the stones and remains of crossbow nuts and bolt heads have been found in Pictish contexts. The crossbow appears exclusively in hunting scenes on the stones and may have been used exclusively for that purpose while the bow may have been used in a martial role. The use of the crossbow appears to disappear with the stone makers.

It’s hard to discern anything from the stones with certainty (though this seems not to deter some authors) but the bows of the Picts appear to be simple short bows.

Archery appears not to have been practiced in Ireland it would be interesting to know to what impact the cultural annexation of the Picts by the Scots (from Ireland) had on their archery tradition. Certainly archery is not mentioned in the older Gaelic stories or texts from either country and it does seem that the Gaelic archery tradition stems more from the Viking tradition than the Pictish.

The use of archery by the Vikings has been well recorded and well covered. Archery had a more significant role in their society than in other early medieval cultures. Use of the bow features prominently in their sagas and had a clear tactical use both in sea battles and on land. http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/viking_bow.htm

The Vikings are described as using bows in the Cogad Gaidel re Galaib (an Irish tale from the Viking period) having “sharp, swift barbed murderous poisoned arrows” and “polished yellow shining bows”. This account is confirmed by the finding of hundreds of arrow heads and some bows excavated from Norse sites in Ireland including one of Europe’s finest longbows, the 10th century Ballinderry Crannog bow. The yew bow would have measured about 190cm and had slightly recurved tips, it was found amongst other Viking weaponry and whether the archer was Norse or Gaelic the bow is certainly of Viking design.

The Vikings had a profound cultural impact on Gaelic culture, it would seem that they reintroduced at least the martial use of the bow in Ireland and perhaps reprioritised it in Scotland. The Gaelic word for bow, boghan, is a Norse loan word and certainly archery is far more frequently mentioned in Gaelic sources from this period.

How far the Irish actually adopted the bow can be questioned (arrow head studies do seem to indicate the development of an indigenous tradition) as Anglo Norman archers caused considerable consternation amongst the Irish in the 12th century invasion. Giraldus reveals that about 85 percent of the forces sent to Ireland were archers. So it may be the mass, disciplined use of archers that caused the Irish so much Grief. The roughly contemporary Battle of the Standard in Scotland displays what would happen when lightly armoured Gaelic warriors came up against the embryonic English arrow storm.

The Bow was considered by the English colonists to be of enormous value and many compulsory practice laws and import taxes of bows were enacted in English-Ireland. Landowners were required to provide archers or archery material. In the 14th Century two thirds of the governor’s retinue were archers while in the 15th it was almost totally comprised of bow armed troops.

The Irish did use bows to some extent to defend themselves, the nature of military archery in Ireland may be revealed by the finding of several bows in Waterford which were made of yew and would have measured about 125cm. Clearly the Anglo Norman bow had taken over from the Viking bow as the favoured archery tradition in Ireland. To what extent English missile superiority influenced the development of Irish armies guerrilla style (described as being like “dancing” by English commanders) and ambushing tactics is an interesting question.

There is an image of Highland caterans (soldiers) from the 14th century Carlisle charter showing them carrying shortish bows similar to those found in Ireland though the image is not entirely clear (see my post on the Leine for other thoughts on this image). For the most part however the medieval Highlanders and Irish exist in the frustrating quiet of an oral culture on the rare occasions they make contact with lettered peoples their archery tradition is not generally discussed. Invariably they are described as bow armed whenever they are discussed in arms.

However from the late medieval period things start to change as the South’s influence grew in Northern Scotland and as chieftains in both Ireland and Scotland began use parchment and southern law in their petty conflicts. Slowly an image of the Gaelic people starts to form.

Men such as Buchanan, Leslie and Major discuss these “wild Scots” as an hardy yet indolent barbarian people inured to war and to the chase whose principal weapons were “bow and arrows barbed with iron” Always is the reference to the bow in both outsiders’ descriptions of them and when they talk of events befalling them to the southern government.

“They are armed with bows and arrows, a broadsword and small halbert”

“bowis, durkis, swerdis, lochaber axes, mailye coats….”

“Bow, quiver and other weapons invasive”

“Some had broad two handed swords and head pieces and others bows and arrows. When all their arrows were spent they attacked one another sword in hand”

Such accounts accord well with images of Scots highlanders or “savauge ecosse” made in the 16th and 17th centuries which show men armed in this fashion

Archery seems to have been at best fitful in Ireland but in the Scottish highlands it was a key skill for the highland warrior and significant factor in their martial culture. Stories feature many feats of archery such as Big (but dim) Archibald Macphail ending any hopes for a Menzies bridegroom consummating his marriage by hitting him square in the, er….Trossachs or James the grizzled shooting an arrow across Loch Tay. Leslie describes highlanders being able to “hit a deere in his speede”.

How the bow fitted into the context of highland military culture is unclear. Some historians keen to avoid the popular image of a warrior race depict ordinary highlanders being largely unarmed and supporting the clan gentry with archery in times of war. While this interpretation may fit in some cases it does not accord with the Gaelic stories which though surely “improved” are still largely based on real people and events. In the Gaelic tradition bows are used by all members of the warrior elite (both gentry and caterans).

This interpretation also does not fit in with some key pieces of evidence. A military census of five Athol parishes in 1638 describes of 451 men, 124 carrying both sword and targe, of this 124 54 also had musket and bow (and unlikely combination which is also shown in contemporary print) 38 were armed with muskets and 11 with bow. 21 of these men (presumably comprising the military elite) weren’t armed with a missile weapon. Of the remaining 327 who were largely armed with swords and other hand to hand weapons 5 had muskets while 73 had bows. Most eyewitnesses describe highlanders of this period to be armed, even entering church with their swords. I would conclude that the bow was a weapon of the warrior rather than a make-do weapon an improvised levy force. It may well be that because the elite of Ireland (the heavy infantry Galloglass and cavalry) were uninterested or incapable of using the bow in their battlefield role that archery was underused in Ireland.

The bow was used more as a sniping targeted weapon which fitted the looser more skirmishing warfare of the clans., Highland warriors sometimes engaged in archery duels during clan battles, exchanging impromptu Gaelic poetry before shooting at each other:
“When the Grahams came close to Tobar na Rèil, one of them shouted:
You dark Stewart of Appin!
You pale, cabbage-eating tinker!
One of the Stewarts prepared his bow and he responded with the couplet:
Just as Appin is our homeland
So it is in our nature to launch a missile.
And with that, the Stewart let his arrow fly, which went straight into the heart of the Graham man.” It’s probably better in Gaelic. However mass volleys could be used as at the battle of Auldearn in the civil war where the covenanters may have had their approach covered by arrow shot from Seaforth’s Islemen archers. Highland archers were used extensively as mercenaries in Ireland and some were even used in the thirty years war on mainland Europe.

How they were used in Europe I do not know it’s tempting to think that unsure what to do with men they must have seen as embarrassing anachronisms mainland generals had no idea how to use the highlanders. The Irish and even the lowland Scots used them mostly as skirmishers and in this role the swan song of European martial archery was an impressive one.

In 1594 a force of 2400 highlanders landed in Ireland half of them archers they did great harm to the English musketeers they skirmished with which caused a drastic rethink about abandoning the bow amongst the Anglo Irish. Scottish archers featured heavily in the 1590 Ulster wars. As at the battle of Pinkie where shot and archery were used together it was found that the archers caused more harm.

The bow was used up until the battle of Mulroy in 1688 though was still being used by the men of Glencoe at least into the 1690’s, The Governor of Inverlochy, john Hill, tried to get flintlocks (or trigger guns as the highlanders called them) for his highland troops claiming that highlanders disliked matchlocks. Certainly in the context of a fast moving warfare of raid and ambush a heavy weapon with a smouldering match might be something of a hindrance. Armour was never really a problem for missile weapons in the mountains and those fighting had high levels of individual weapon skill, being trained from the age of 10. My rather makeshift experiments have shown that a sharp broadhead shot from a hunting weight bow (55lbs) will pass through stuffed and quilted armours at close ranges.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIEqNtoIkAw&list=UUonHqU6x0pwftYHMrnv8vkg&index=1&feature=plcp Maille is impervious to such arrows but you would certainly feel it. The wet and wild environment must also have been problematic for muskets. The bow rather than an anachronistic weapon of an impoverished people may well have been the sensible practical military option.

Having established that there was a strong tradition of military archery and before I move onto questions of bow designs we have to ask why the bow did not feature more in battles with English armies.

I think the answer may be that in a fractured, disunited nation Scottish kings (who were very keen to establish a force of archers) could never rely on having enough highlanders to make any plans about them. The Highland bows may also simply not have been powerful enough to be an effective answer to the English warbow only becoming significant in later centuries when armour and the warbow were being dropped. They may also not have been disciplined enough to make effective use of arrow storm like tactics. Where they were used effectively they were used as skirmishers as part of tactical plans which allowed or their abilities as light infantry. It may have been that Lowland Scots kings simply didn’t really now what to do with them. It does feel sometimes looking at Scotland’s battles with England that apart from one or two exceptions Scottish kings seem to have spent lots of time fitting their square peg “subjects” into the round holes of mainstream military science.

"Also their short Bows, and little Quivers, with short bearded Arrows, are very Scythian, as you may read in the same Olaus. And the same sort both of Bows, Quivers, and Arrows, are at this day to be seen commonly amongst the Northern Irish-Scots, whose Scottish Bows are ' not past three quarters of a Yard long, with a String of wreathed Hemp slackly bent, and whose Arrows are not much above half an Ell long, tipped with steel Heads, made like common broad Arrow Heads, but much more sharp and slender ; that they enter into a Man or Horse most cruelly notwithstanding that they are shot forth weakly".

A View of the State of Ireland as it was in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth: by Edmund Spenser

Every image of Scots or Irish from the 16th-17th century shows a bow that would fit this description. To me this is the interesting thing about Gaelic archery; they really do seem to have been using a very different type of bow and not one we would associate with this part of the world.

lubadh iubhar nam meall, 's neo-mhiughar e.
who would stretch the YEW BOW-not stingy is he.

From a 17th century poem ascribed to
Ailean MacGhilleasbuig of Glencoe.

Examining prints one can clearly make out lines on the bows though whether this marks laminations, backing or the differentia between heart and sapwood I cannot say. I have been unable to find any info from Scottish museums which is a great shame and I would welcome any and all input from bowyers about these bow’s construction. I recently met a bowyer who makes yew bows (from British yew) which match the bows depicted in contemporary sources. He said it was a fairly easy matter to steam bend the stave to achieve the recurve.

Often one hears that the Highlanders were using “longbows” to the layman there is little difference between bows and the word longbow and bow are used interchangeably. The other problem is that anyone who owns a bow is immediately an “expert” in the field. Most archery events have a decent amount of beardy-wierdies spouting mostly made up drivel about archery forms or practice. It’s almost about bad as re-enacting! What I’m getting at is look at the evidence don’t trust any “experts” opinion on the subject. Contrary to the widely held conviction owning or even shooting a bow, owning/using a sword or dressing up as a Knight does not automatically confer any knowledge of the subject to the individual. By way of illustration a well known expert on Highland culture wrote that arrow heads were fixed onto shafts horizontally for men and vertically for animals do account for the passing through the ribs. Beyond the obvious fact that arrows can be shot from nearly any angle I did point out that arrows spin in flight and indeed this can not only be seen by the archer but in making the arrows this spin must be accounted for. In other words they may have done this but would have known it made no difference. An expert passed this nonsense off on me as fact!

Recurved bows were used world wide from Egypt to the Arctic recurves produces a faster (and therefore flatter and more accurate) shot more suited to the hunt or skirmish and is more prudent with wood (remember the English had to import bow timber in the medieval period. A longbow shoots an arrow at 150 fps (50 lb 28” draw 500 grain arrow) while a recurve (idem) shoots the arrow at 165 fps. 50 lbs is an arguable (like bloody everything in archery) average hunting weight but will send an arrow through any living target within 30 meters.

If recurves are so good why didn’t the English use them? Recurved tips are found in English warbows, but I would argue the main reason is that the warbow was designed for a different role. One can see from the tests that the SPTA did with Mark Stretton that the fps of the arrows he was shooting were about 140-150 which is roughly the same as any longbow. The difference is that he was sending arrows that weight 6oz! The English warbow was used as a mass employed hammer to pound (armoured) enemy armies to pieces before the knights and men at arms engaged. In talking to (actual) expert Hilary Greenland she told me that the longbow had considerable cast and was superb for long range engagements. The warbow had to have a draw weight of at least 100 lbs to send a heavy arrow a long distance. Something harder to achieve in a shorter recurve (not composite) without superb wood, it is at the end of the day the arrow which kills not the bow.

Momentum being the lethal factor in arrows I will give you the momentum for both a recurve shooting a 500 grain arrow and warbow launching a 6oz monster at you. I will also include energy as I am not sure how penetration would work against armour.

A 500 grain arrow shot at 150 fps has a momentum value of 3264 and carries 24.5 foot pounds of energy a 6oz arrow shot at the same speed has a momentum value of 17340 and carries 130.35 foot pounds. for comparison .22lr 38 grain 1050 fps 69 ftlb (100yd) 2. 46 grams 715.9 mph (stats off the ammo box) momentum 1761.114. At long range the energy seems to leave arrows and they almost flutter to the earth. A heavy arrow will still present a threat by virtue of its weight and would still be a hazard to the unarmoured or lightly armoured. Of course I have used the same speed measurement for both arrows here for ease of comparison; the advantage of the recurve comes from its speed and slightly greater accuracy. Characteristics which are of value to closer range use.

I have found one image of a Highlander carrying a bow that we could describe as a longbow, here is a quote from a man called Joh Taylor 1633 “Now, their weapons are long bowes and forked arrowes, swords and targets, harquebusses, muskets, durks, and Loquhabor-ases. With these arms I found many of them armed for the hunting” From the Rev. James Brome “their weapons against their enemies are bows and arrows, and they are generally reputed good marksmen upon all occasions. Their arrows for the most part are barbed and crooked, which once entered within the body, cannot well be drawn out again unless the wound be made wider.”

I think on balance it is best to arm our cateran with a shorter recurved bow in yew or a “white wood”, that nearly all members of a war party would be armed with bows save perhaps chiefs or other Gentlemen. While some men may have been armed with “longbows” contemporary evidence (admittedly later than the medieval period) suggests that recurved bows were the norm.

I hope it has demonstrated the diversity and depth of The British tradition of martial archery, which has got to be one of the most dynamic and diverse in the world. This article is just the tip of the iceberg there is lots to be done in the rather overlooked area of British archery and there are far more questions than answers.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Ionar







I will treat the brat or mantle and the Ionar (jacket or coat) in one post. There is plenty of good evidence for the brat and what it looked like. I suspect that at least some were tartan and that the belted plaid was simply a new way of donning the brat. The plaid is known to have been worn in the last decades of the 16th century just as the climate in Europe got very cold. It’s a little too neat I suppose but it is interesting that the earliest depiction of a highlander in a great kilt is also wearing a blue bonnet and hose.

Like the later plaid highlanders may have slept out in the brat and used them in a broadly similar manner, maybe belting them up in colder weather and discarding them in warm. They may have been tailored in a rough semi circle like the dungiven cloak they would almost certainly have been made from several pieces of cloth sewn together and not necessarily matching. The cloth would be sewn along its length as the looms of the time were not so wide. The brat or plaid is described as being 12 to 18 feet long by about 5 feet wide, being made of two strips of cloth about 30" wide sewn together lengthwise, with fringes” (McClintock).As I have a fine bolt of non-clan tartan I shall use that. As there is less evidence for tartan being used and is evidence of plain coloured plaids it would probably be more prudent to go for a single colour. Red features on de heeres redshank and on the reclining highlander on the Campbell of Glenorchy geneaology so might be a good idea. That said this quote of "heland tertane to be hois to the Kingis grace" comes from the accounts of James V so though a hundred years later shows that tartan was 1; worn before the adoption of the great kilt and 2; associated with the highlands and highlanders.

I have read about skins being worn, the “savage d’ecosse” maybe wearing some kind of lined brat or perhaps a skin, but the shaggy effect is possible (and historical) with wool. Icelandic cloaks were apparently famous for being shaggy in appearance. I’m not one for skins really it always seems a bit “Hollywood” and is quite hard to place among Europeans historically. It is certainly possible though.

There are some depictions of coats being worn in later periods and for the main they follow (like most stuff) the Irish pattern. The later bog bodies from the Lewis Sutherland and Shetland were wearing coats and were hardly rich men. It would seem reasonable that coats of some type were worn. However for the medieval period there is not a lot of evidence for what form the coat would take. We can’t use Ireland either as there is no evidence from there

Some amount of conjecture is going to be unavoidable One thing is (like later coats) wool would be the material chosen. Colours can come from the palette available. Our best bet is from this grave slab. The figure after the galloglass wearing a full length leine or robe an over garment and then possibly a coat. This garment may not be a coat it may be a jupon the vertical lines certainly give the impression of a piece of armour. However everyone depicted on stones seems to be wearing armour if you start counting vertical lines as signs of padding. Another option is the depiction of Noah from the Irish book of ballymote. Here is a modern reconstruction by David swift this is part of a 16th century kern impression. It looks very close to the hebredian coat and more than similar to the Noah coat.

It would seem that this would be our best option with an eye out for anything that luckily pops up out of a bog......I'll not hold my breath!