Gorse is one of the traditional woods for Shillelaghs, and frankly I can’t help myself,
Every time I pass a gorse thicket I’ll slow down and take a long look for any straight looking staves… it’s rare that there are, but when there is one a huge battle begins.
Gorse is hard to get, hard to cut, hard to shape, hard to dry. It always needs some resin to fill somewhere , and it always drinks about a pint of varnish before it takes a finish.
But I still love crafting gorse into shillelaghs.
Firstly it’s traditional.
Gorse is one of the woods that would have been found in shillelagh two or more hundred years ago. It grew fast and it grew everywhere and once cured it could survive whole worlds of abuse and shrug it off.
Gorse is a fibrous woody shrub, fast growing and herbaceous. This means the shaft of a gorse stave is a lattice of cross grained woody fibres. This means in drying the staff always opens a ladder somewhere that needs filling, but paradoxically means a gorse shaft has remarkable fexibility and strength.Yet, it behaves and feels like a hardwood once cured.
Gorse also grows with a huge number of small laterals (that serve to project bunches of spikes out along its length). This means gorse will often have an interesting “leopard” pattern, becoming more pronounced from the base of the plant to the tip.
Overall this creates beautiful, well weighted, strong Shilellagh that your great great grandfather would well have recognised, and sees me too often by the side of some highland road in the mist holding a green gorse stave and putting whiskey or iodine on another dozen little puncture wounds.