Originally a practical pouch which was the kilt's answer to pockets. The ancient goat and horse hair sporrans where greatly embellished by the victorians and became fashion statements. The blend between romance and history makes the sporran a perfect vehicle to channel creativity, a love of materials and different manufacturing techniques.
Client who loved how oak leaves were each uniquely different.
Bring together many processes; Metal smithing in the north off England, leather workers, tanning goat pelts in the western isles of Scotland, sourcing hand made passementerie.
The Renaissance (14th to 17th century)
Before pockets had developed, a girdle pouch was suspended by a belt or girdle worn around the
waist. Renaissance men would use these to hold spices, herbs and money. Less importantly for highlanders when pockets developed, the need for girdle pouches was reduced. Instead, pouches filled with sweet smelling materials or confections known as “swete bagges” were used to overpower bodily odours and showcase wealth.
Kenneth Sutherland, 3rd Lord Duffus wearing a simple sporran of soft leather with draw strings. 1734.
Probably the purest form of sporran used simply as a purse.
Highland army on the march in Flanders 1743. Simple leather sporrans are visible hanging around their waists.
17th or early 18th century sporrans from a collection in the National Museum of Scotland.
Leather pouches with varying degrees of ornate brass cantles. It is said that the cantles design evolved as a symbol of wealth.
Sporran worn by Sir Alexander MacDolald of Sleat. 1775.
The beginnings of what we recognise as a day sporran. Its a leather pouch with a brass cantle.
The hanging cords appear to similar to the draw strings in the painting of Lord Duffus, however here they are possible no longer functional but decorative.
This could be the origin of the ornate tassels we see on later sporrans. A fashion hang over.
Interesting depiction of a sporran worn by soldier of the 42nd highland regiment. Who is taking snuff. These types of carvings were used for tobacconist shops.
Quite an unusual shape by today standards. This probably has more to do with it being a sporran for practicable use. The white and black pouchappears to be Ermine fur, decorated with gold tassels and the mask could be a wild cat. On second thoughts as these carvings were made by artist for advertising businesses, it might have been an artists impression of a badger sporran, up until recently worn by the The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
Water colours from book, The Highlanders Of Scotland by Kenneth Macleay commissioned by Queen Victory.
This painting depicts Sergt. James Sutherland, Adam Sutherland and Neil MacKay.
All are wearing goat hair sporrans. The impressive length of the hair is difficult to find in the feral highland goats of today. These sporrans are certainly less practical than a simple leather pouch.
I imagine that the long hair style developed as a fashion, but it genus was perhaps a natural development from the use of the hair on hide animal pelts in early military sporrans, as see in the wood carving of a 42nd Highlander.
Water colour of a member of clan Buchanan.
From R.R McIan’s illustrated book The Clans of the Scottish Highlands
published in 1845. R.R McIan was an actor as well as a painter, his
theatrical character is reflected in the very romanticised imaginings these