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Redshanks

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Redshanks

Redshank was a nickname for Scottish mercenaries from the Highlands' Western Isles. They were a prominent feature of Irish armies throughout the 16th century. They were called Redshanks because they went dressed in kilts and waded bare-legged through rivers in the coldest weather. They were usually armed alike, principally with bows and two-handed claymores.

They came from the clans of the Hebrides because of the recent breakup of the Lordship of the Isles, as well as from the poorer clans of mainland Scotland. The Redshanks mostly came from the clans of MacLeod, MacQuarrie, MacLean, MacDonald, and Campbell.

Unlike the Gallowglass, which were hired for long periods of service and paid in land and beef, the Redshanks were hired for the summer months. They were billeted (housed) with civilians, usually by force. This was known as the Buannacht system.

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