THE HISTORY OF THE ORIGIN OF THE SPORRAN

Yonks ago – a colloquial for a long, long time ago – the Scots and Picts wore wild animal skins with a thick leather belt around their waist  known as a belt.

The belt served a multitude of purposes, one could tie to it small amounts of food in leather bags, a bag with a flint and piece of iron in to make fire, in fact anything that they wished to take with them.

Once the Vikings had taught the Scots the secrets of weaving and they had started to envelop themselves in the eight foot long belted plaid,  the belt still survived. The Kilt came into vogue in the early 1600′s, but it was worn still with a belt.

Things started to change in 1618 when a very effeminate relation of the Gordon Clan of Gordonstoun, known as Angus the Gay Gordon, decided to design a purse to carry all the bits and pieces that were currently attached to the belt. As the Scottish Gaelic for purse is Sporran, they became known as Sporrans.

To start with Angus fastened his Sporran to his left wrist with a piece of sinew from the hind leg of a stag, but this caused so much ridicule from the Clansmen that he tied it to his belt. The idea took off and soon the whole Clan were wearing Sporrans. The Sporran was very useful when the Clansmen were raiding England. They could cram nine Bannock Cakes into to start off with, then when they reached Kendal they threw away the Bannock Cakes and put in one and a half slices of Kendal fruit cake. This lasted them until they reached Yorkshire where they could gorge themselves on Yorkshire pudding and thick gravy. Many historians believe that the only reason they raided into England was to be able to eat Yorkshire pudding. Before being chased back across the border they all took care to fill their Sporrans with several slices of Yorkshire pudding which was then filled up with thick gravy.

Eventually it became to be worn at the front of the kilt where it gave some protection from the sharp spears and swords of the English soldiers. When running away in a battle it could be slid round to the left hip which made running away from the English easier and more comfortable. Over the years several other reasons for wearing it in the front have been recorded. It makes it less embarrassing when a Scottish man in a kilt sits down with his legs open, and there have been reported cases where it has assisted shy Scottish men from the attentions of young amorous Scottish Lassies trying to see what they are wearing under their kilts.

A large variety of trimmings and dangly bits have been used over the years to adorn Sporrans, so much so that the authorities began to be concerned that some rare species of animals would vanish from the

Scottish landscape altogether. In 2007 the Scottish Executive stated that certain animals were not allowed to be used in the production of Sporrans, listing over 100 protected species. Included were the Siberian Snow Leopard, the Bengal tiger, the African Giraffe and the Himalayan Yeti. Today most of the trimmings come from road kill.

Angus the Gay Gordon has had a number of effeminate relations who followed him over the years, and in 1703 Hector the Gay Gordon invented the well known Gay Gordon dance which is still preformed today.

 David Fox