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  1. #1
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    HOS sporrans in the flesh

    As regulars here well know, I'm something of the Defender of the Faith when it comes to Kenneth MacLeay's watercolour portraits in The Highlanders Of Scotland.

    I've stated from time to time that one of the things that makes the illustrations ring so true to me is that I've handled original examples of a large number of the things illustrated, and time and again I marvel at MacLeay's attention to detail, how many subtle things he gets right.

    A while back I took closeup photos of all the sporrans shown in HOS and posted them here. I thought I'd post a few of these side by side with photos of actual sporrans demonstrating similar styles. I say 'similar' not identical, because there was obviously much more variety in sporran design in the 1860s than there was in the c1920-c1970 period that for many of us defines 'traditional Highland dress'.

    It's an oddity in HOS that you see certain sporran styles over and over; not identical repetition but variations on a theme. On the other hand there are quite a few unique or at least rare designs to be seen too.

    One thing seen over and over is the pentagonal cantle, in various proportions, with and without the angled bits protruding from each side of the top. This style survives today; it's one of the nice 'retro' things about the uniform of The Atholl Highlanders.

    Here's a vintage example and one of the numerous HOS examples





    Another common HOS style is a plain stitched leather cantle. This survived in the Army until fairly recently in the ORs' sporrans of The Black Watch and The Cameron Highlanders. Here's a Cameron sporran and a couple of the many HOS equivalents







    Here's an old cantle shape not seen nowadays







    Limit 10 images... more to come on followup posts.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  2. The Following 5 Users say 'Aye' to OC Richard For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
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    Here's an interesting old cantle shape; note the HOS example combines certain features of these two vintage ones, variations on an old theme







    and another old design, variations on a different theme







    Now for something completely different, a 'retro' design in the mid 19th century harkening back to the 18th (note that both have five knobs)



    Last edited by OC Richard; 24th March 14 at 04:29 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  5. #3
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    I love seeing the comparisons, Richard. Thanks for posting.

    Cheers,

  6. #4
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    You're welcome!

    Here's the one that set me a-thinkin' about the way that HOS sporran designs tend to crop up here and there, especially on Ebay, this elegant cantle shape



    which crops up in HOS both in metal, and in leather





    And this one, which has always puzzled me a bit, because I wonder how Raccoon sporrans (or at least Raccoon pelts) ended up in Scotland in the 1860s



    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  7. #5
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    Great thread, Richard; thanks for sharing!

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  9. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post

    And this one, which has always puzzled me a bit, because I wonder how Raccoon sporrans (or at least Raccoon pelts) ended up in Scotland in the 1860s



    I'd assume the raccoon pelts were part of the fur trade between North America and Europe.

    ith:
    artificer Pronunciation: \är-ˈti-fə-sər, ˈär-tə-fə-sər\ : noun : 14th century :a skilled or artistic worker or craftsman
    Artificer Custom Sporrans
    *Home of the Original Kenneth MacLeay Sporran Project & Functional Brass Cantles*

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  11. #7
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    Awesome thank you for sharing
    Pro 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

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  13. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by artificer View Post
    I'd assume the raccoon pelts were part of the fur trade between North America and Europe.

    ith:
    Or it may be a silver fox? I know that Amelia MacGregor has a detailed explanation of what each Highlander is wearing, yet I don't have my copy of Delia Millar's, The Highlanders of Scotland in front of me at the moment, so I can't say for sure. I do know that the Mackintosh lads painted by MacLeay and featured in the book are indeed wearing sporrans made of silver fox pelts.

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  15. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by creagdhubh View Post
    Or it may be a silver fox? I know that Amelia MacGregor has a detailed explanation of what each Highlander is wearing, yet I don't have my copy of Delia Millar's, The Highlanders of Scotland in front of me at the moment, so I can't say for sure. I do know that the Mackintosh lads painted by MacLeay and featured in the book are indeed wearing sporrans made of silver fox pelts.
    AH! Well done, mate!

    Amelia Murry MacGregor's notes on the original plates DO list them as "Fox-skin Sporrans".

    Although her notes also contain the inaccuracy regarding Bonnie Prince Charlies' targe... :/

    *sigh* the problems with having few-to-only-one set of historical references...

    ith:
    artificer Pronunciation: \är-ˈti-fə-sər, ˈär-tə-fə-sər\ : noun : 14th century :a skilled or artistic worker or craftsman
    Artificer Custom Sporrans
    *Home of the Original Kenneth MacLeay Sporran Project & Functional Brass Cantles*

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  17. #10
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    Great pictures. Thanks for posting, Richard.
    Allen Sinclair
    Eastern Region Vice President
    North Carolina Commissioner
    Clan Sinclair Association (USA)

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