A shillelagh - a traditional Irish stick used as a weapon to settle disagreements in a "gentlemanly manner" - is not permitted as a carry-on item, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has recently confirmed.
Security at Boise Airport in Idaho discovered a shillelagh among some carry-on luggage in March.
"It may look like a miniature golf club, but it's not," TSA Pacific tweeted with a picture of the carry-on contraband.
"It's a shillelagh, a Gaelic club used to 'settle disputes in a gentlemanly manner.'
"@TSA officers found it Friday in a traveler's carry-on @iflyboise.
"Bad idea to bring it to the checkpoint; perfect for checked baggage."
It may look like a miniature golf club, but it's not. It's a shillelagh, a Gaelic club used to "settle disputes in a gentlemanly manner." @TSA officers found it Friday in a traveler's carry-on @iflyboise. Bad idea to bring it to the checkpoint; perfect for checked baggage. 🧳 pic.twitter.com/6viwGiGXX7— TSA_Pacific (@TSA_Pacific) March 6, 2023
A few weeks later, the official Twitter account for the TSA took a swing at the unusual find.
"So we had to Google what, exactly, a shillelagh is, but we know that anything that’s made with the intent to bludgeon someone else is not allowed as a carry-on item.
"Great job our team at @iflyBoise for finding this item last month. #ProhibitedItemsWeek."
So we had to Google what, exactly, a shillelagh is, but we know that anything that’s made with the intent to bludgeon someone else is not allowed as a carry-on item. Great job our team at @iflyBoise for finding this item last month. #ProhibitedItemsWeek https://t.co/OlCIdqzPa4— TSA (@TSA) April 19, 2023
What is a shillelagh?
The word Shillelagh has its origins in the once majestic ancient oak forest of Shillelagh in Co Wicklow and has now become synonymous with a certain type of tacky tourist artifact.
However, the genuine article was a formidable weapon mostly made from oak or blackthorn root wood, around three feet long terminating in a deadly gnarled knot. Varying in girth, the slimmer variety could pose ostensibly as a highly polished walking stick.
Generally, longer sticks were known as wattles while shorter sticks were referred to as Kipeen. The wood was cured using a variety of methods including; immersing in manure, rubbing with butter, smoking in a chimney, and even polishing with Magpie blood could be part of the process! Some shillelaghs were ‘loaded,' weighted with molten lead for extra impact.
Through popular culture, the shillelagh, like the term ‘Paddy,’ has been linguistically re-appropriated and propelled by a mixture of song, literature, and American music but has now been reclaimed as a symbol of Irish heritage, sometimes proudly displayed on coats of arms and logos.
Somewhat ironically, the British army - the Irish Guards and Royal Irish Regiment - still carry blackthorn shillelaghs at official ceremonies. (Though we know now that they won't be able to bring them as carry-ons, at least on US flights.)