The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Sporran making

 

The making of sporrans from a range of materials including leather, fur, metal and horsehair.

This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.

 

Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance Scotland
Area currently practised Scotland
Origin in the UK 12th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
unknown
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
11-20
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The sporran (gaelic for purse) originated as a leather bag worn around the waist which served as a bag/pocket to carry oats. These days it is used for cash/keys/card and anything else you’d usually keep in your pocket.

Sporrans are worn at weddings and significant celebrations, St Andrews Day and Hogmanay. They are closely associated with Highland culture and Gaelic culture.

Military sporrans are traditionally made from goat hair and horse hair. They are still widely used in pipe bands and for ceremonial purposes in the UK and Canadian military.

 

Techniques

Sporran making shares a number of skills with other crafts disciplines such as leather working. However, the combination of skills and the use of materials such as horsehair make sporran making a highly skilled craft.

 

Local forms

There are three main types of sporran, although they now come in a wide variety of designs:

  • Day sporrans – leather pouches with simple adornments, they often have three or more tassels and tooled designs.
  • Dress sporrans – larger than day sporrans and often highly ornate with silver, pewter or chrome cantles and fur or hair tassels.
  • Horsehair sporrans – worn as part of regimental attire for the pipers or the drummers. A traditional horsehair pouch extends just below the belt to just below the hem of the kilt.

 

Sub-crafts

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training issues: Lack of training opportunities
  • Raw materials: Difficulty accessing materials on a small scale in Scotland
  • Skills issues: The basic skills of sporran making, such as leather working, are easily accessible but the higher level skills of working with horsehair, skins and mixed materials are specialist and can only be learnt on the job with a skilled sporran maker.
  • Competition from overseas markets: Many sporrans are now made more cheaply overseas for the home and tourist markets leading to a decline in the market for Scottish made sporrans. In 2021 the Government contract for making sporrans for the Scottish Regiments was awarded to a company who will source sporrans made overseas.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:

  • Jennifer Cantwell
  • Kate McPherson
  • Margaret Morrison Ltd
  • Janet Eagleton
  • Herd of Sporrans
  • William Scott
  • McRostie
  • Mackenzie Leather
  • Ross Ormerod
  • Lamont Sporrans

 

Other information

 

 

References

Sporran maker given marching orders, Mike Wade, The Times, June 05 2021