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If you hear that phrase, you can almost bet money that someone in proper Highland dress is in the area. 16-year old Jeremy Hix made nationa news in 2001 for appearing at his high school prom in full formal kilt. He was suspended when a chaperone saw the hilt of a skean dhu sticking out of his stocking. (Read Article)

You can also safely bet money that the sheep raising the alarm is some bleating heart liberal hoplophobe that doesn’t have a clue that the reason the knife is in the stocking in the first place is a signal of peaceful intentions.

The word Skean Dhu (Skane-doo), also spelled “sgainh dhu” translates from the Gaelic as “Black Knife”. It was the last ditch option for personal defense among the Celts.
(By the way BOSTON, that word is pronounced with a hard K like the word “Kilt”! You’d think a city with such a large Irish population would know their own history, but I guess that is the state of public education).

Generally a sgainh has a blade 3-5” long with a single edge tapers evenly to a point. It looks like a scaled down dirk, a large single edged fighting knife that was common from the Dark Ages until modern times.

Example: Scottish Dirk by Cold Steel Inc.: CS_ScottishDirk

Hilts are minimal in keeping with the concealable nature of the blade. Modern “dress” versions often feature carved thistle themes and metal inlays depicting Clan heraldry and mottos. Vertical grooves or “jimping” along the spine of the blade provides purchase for the thumb to increased control during use.

Traditionally Styled Sgain Dhu:


The sgain dhu was a covert weapon carried by men and women for protection, table use, and general utility. In Disney’s movie “Brave” Princess Merida is seen using a sgainh to carve a Celtic knot-work design on her bow. Mundane chores aside, the sgain dhu is a weapon worthy of consideration by modern people.
Modern Sgain Dhu called the “Secret Edge” by Cold Steel Inc.:
Small knives have been carried for personal protection by people from every civilization known to history. Easily concealed, these blades could pass casual observation, and still be ready for instant use when drawn from a waistband, sleeve, behind the neck, or out of a stocking as seen in the movie “Rob Roy” when Eric Stoltz draws a beautiful stag handled sgainh dhu from his stocking or when #LiamNeeson as the title character produces his sgainh dhu from a fold of his tartan to hold #TimRoth at bay.

The evening news is full of stories where some unfortunate person was stabbed dozens of times before finally succumbing to their wounds or sustaining multiple defensive wounds before escaping their attacker. The problem with small knives as defensive weapons is they are small, and not very efficient at stopping an assailant.

A blade under about 12” long cannot parry a larger weapon, nor deliver a fight-ending cut capable of severing a limb or neck. A blade under 6” has a hard time reaching vital organs with a thrust unless the fighter is knowledgeable regarding human anatomy and possessed of the physical quickness to deliver an accurate strike before the opponent can counter it.

On a short knife the point is the weapon. The point must be thrust home as deeply as possible and the knife is then withdrawn with a cutting or slashing motion. This technique creates a much larger wound with attendant blood loss. A bonus side effect is the damage to muscles and connective tissues that could result in the opponent losing function in the affected limb.

“Though I kneel in pretended surrender, still I can strike!” ~ unknown Scot writing on the Sgainh dhu