Call us on: 0115 9704908

Modelling Irish WOTR/Medieval Cavalry Part One

Following on from my last blog, here are some notes as to how I went about modelling my Irish Cavalry. I am producing units for use in the game ‘Never Mind the Bill Hooks’, Specifically, the Hibernian section. I already have an Irish army but it was a bit light on points – I needed 120 points of troops to fight in the Bill Hooks BASH day coming up in April. My infantry contingent consists of 96 points of Kern and Gallowglass, so two units of light cavalry, at 12 points each, would give me a nice looking fast moving army. In NMTBH’s, Light cavalry come in units of 8 figures. Irish cavalry are allowed to ‘skirmish’, but also to dismount and form a 6 figure unit of Gallowglass, or with two cavalry units, a unit of 12 Gallowglass. The spare riders are assumed to be holding the horses.

A unit of Gallowglass emerges from the wood!

That gave me the idea that I would build 6 armoured figures in each unit and then have 2 ‘horse boys’ or Kern that would act as the horse holders. This reflected the nature of Irish Cavalry, although in reality, I suspect that there would have been more ‘Horseboys’ supporting the lords in the unit – they were tasked with supplying replacent javelins and if necessary, remounts. All that said, there is evidence to suggest that the ‘horse boys’ weren’t mounted but ran along side the cavalry or were simply the boys that looked after the horses back at camp. Regardless, I decided that I would have some ‘kern’ types mounted on horses!

I had already settled on using the Gripping Beast Goth Cavalry as being a close match to the later Irish cavalry. They are equipped with long mail shirts, conical helmets and there are no saddles on the horses.

Goth Noble Cavalry

With 12 figures in the box, this would give me just enough to make two units, if I could find a way of making the horse boys or Kern.

The sprue from the Gripping Beast Noble Cavalry

As I have previously said, The heads supplied with the Goth Cavalry look just like Goths….and not like Irish Lords. In addition, they all had flowing Plumes, not at all in the Irish Style. However, the heads in the Wargames Atlantic Goths set looked much better for my purposes. I am lucky enough to have a small group of gaming buddies who are happy to swap up their spares and Andy Callan kindly gave me a couple of sprues from the Wargames Atlantic set that was sitting in his lead pile.

I chose the heads without the plumes and shaved down the nose guards and replaced them with a upturned guard that I had made from bending a small strip of Evergreen 0.25mm x1.00mm around a paper clip to get the curve. Plastic card that is this thin is easy to bend, particularly if you gently warm it first. It is a fiddly operation but it works.

Goth Warrior modified with nose guard

The nose guard is probably exaggerated and I did cut them down a bit more when the glue had dried. I thought that I might as well have it as an exaggerated feature rather than it not being seen. I removed the leggings with a scalpel and sanded them down. The reference pictures show the ‘Lords’ in leggings with spurs on their shoes. The cushion was simply a ball of green stuff pressed into place.

Six Irish Lords ready for painting!

I varied the head gear by including some heads from the Perry’s WOTR sets. I tended to use what I thought were the older style of helmet that seemed to match some of the other images that I had seen on the internet. I also mixed up the shields. The references that I had seen referred to ‘targes’ or shields made from ox or deer hide over a wooden base and decorated with nails or painted with a basic design. To be fair, none of the references showed a shield with a large boss. However, when I google ‘targe’ there were a number of examples of targes with a boss. Most of these were definitely of Scottish origin, but as I have previously noted, there was a great deal of Scottish influence on the Irish troops. Again, although most of the references showed the Targes as being quite small, there were other pictures that showed a larger targe in use. I had also been told that the Irish used Wicker shields. I could only find one reference to this and it seemed to be regarding an earlier period and in respect of the lower ‘caste’ of warriors, not the Lords, so I discounted their use for my troops

The ‘Rambling Kern’ explains all you need to know about Targes in Ireland!

The video above will give you a great deal of information regarding the Irish Targe and for those of you interested in wider Irish history, I would thoroughly recommend that you have a look at his channel.

Irish Cavalry on the painting desk

So the three photos above the video link show the first six of my Irish Lords assembled and ready for painting. The picture above shows painting in progress. I decided to paint the horses as either ‘greys’ or light brown. This was a nod in the direction of the Connemara pony, which are descendants of the smaller Irish Hobby pony, around at the time of the WOTR. However, the real reason that I chose these colours is that I wanted the units of Irish Cavalry to look very different to my standard WOTR light cavalry. It also is an indication of my poor sense of humour – they really are Light ( coloured) cavalry. Incidentally, the horses are probably a bit too large but I wasn’t going to try to source smaller ponies!

The first three figures are finished – just the basing to complete

The Riders were fairly straight forward to paint. I used army painter plate mail for the armour and helmets. I tended towards Yellow Ochre for the under shirts and the shields were painted in Burnt Red, Reflex Green, Red Leather or Dark Blue and ‘dotted’ with either gold or silver for the designs. I went a bit mad on the cushions, painting a diamond or tartan design on them just to add even more colour to the figures.

Six Irish Lords are ready for battle!
The rear view showing the posh cushions!

The basing was completed using my usual method – I’ve covered this in many of my previous blogs. So with six cavalry finished, I needed to get on with the next six lords and the four ‘horse boys’ that would support them. I then realised that I would need a Leader…. You will have to wait for the next installment o see how I solved these challenges!


I hope that you all enjoy your hobby as much as I do – our web site will have much of what you need! Click here to see our shop.


You can see the range of miniatures that we think are suitable to for the Wars of the Roses, along with the rest of our Never Mind The Bill Hooks range here:


You can find all the Vallejo Model colour paints here. If you don’t want to browse, just enter the paint number into the shop search bar;


You can find Gamers grass here:


If you need Milliput or other fillers, click here:


Happy Modelling!