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  1. #1
    Join Date
    18th October 09
    Orange County California
    10 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)

    1970s MOD v trad Army horsehair sporrans

    I wasn't sure where to post this (wouldn't it be cool to have a Military Kilt subforum?) but the topic came up elsewhere of the short c1970-2004 MOD ORs' horsehair sporrans.

    First some background. By the 1840s military sporrans had got to their full length, extending somewhat past the edge of the kilt. These were originally goathair but at some point horsehair began to supersede goathair.

    Each kilted regiment had their own unique Other Ranks' sporran design. Originally all the the five pre-1881 kilted Scottish regiments had either five or six short tassels, but beginning with the 79th three of the regiments switched to two long tassels as the 19th century progressed (78th, 79th, and 92nd) while the 42nd and 93rd retained their short tassels.

    This situation remained until Full Dress was abolished in 1914.

    Sometime, around 1970 as best I can figure, horsehair sporrans were finally reintroduced for the Other Ranks of the then-current representatives of the old 42nd, 79th, 92nd, and 93rd, respectively The Black Watch, The Queens Own Highlanders, The Gordon Highlanders, and The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

    These new MOD ORs' sporrans were quite different from the pre-1914 sporrans. There was one generic sporran pattern for all regiments: short (around 16" as opposed to the traditional 18") with an ungainly fat plain chrome cantle. The sporran body came in white and black, and various arrangements of tassels could be done to roughly simulate the traditional sporrans of those regiments. Various badges were affixed for each regiment, only that of the Black Watch being the same badge as had appeared on the traditional sporran.

    Here are the traditional pre-1914 Other Ranks sporrans along with their post-1970 versions

    The 42nd (Black Watch). Note that the leather cantle has a leather rim, and the cones are likewise matching leather.

    The 92nd (Gordon Highlanders). Brass rim, brass cones.

    and their post-1970 equivalents

    The 79th (Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, Queens Own Highlanders). Note that like the Black Watch, the sporran has a sewn leather rim and leather cones.

    and the post-1970 Queens Own Highlanders version

    The 93rd (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) "swinging six" with brass rim, no faceplate or badge, and brass cones

    and its post-1970 equivalent

    Note that the chrome cantle and cones of the post-1970 MOD sporran violates the tradition of Regular Battalions having brass/gilt, Volunteer/Territorial Battalions having white metal/silver.

    Also, the single knob violates the tradition of Scottish military sporrans having either three, or no, knobs.

    These newfangled sporrans were all done away with, with the creation of The Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2004. All ranks of the new Regiment wear a sporran based on the old Sergeants/Officers/Pipers sporran of The Black Watch (gilt cantle) with two long Gordon Highlanders tassels attached.

    NB this post is about the kilted Highland regiments of Scotland, not of Canada, England, or any other country.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 25th February 12 at 05:52 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first white settlers on the Guyandotte

  2. #2
    Join Date
    3rd March 10
    43*N 88*W
    1 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)

    Re: 1970s MOD v trad Army horsehair sporrans

    Richard, thank you so much for these.

    I have to say that in every single case I much prefer the pre-1914 versions.

    Unifying "parts" may be a sign of government efficiency, but it does drain much of the charm as well.

    I betting the switch from Goat to Horsehair was driven by the desire for longer sporrans. Since the longest goat hair is ~8" you would need an exceptionally long body-backing for the hair to cross the selvedge of a kilt.

    Last edited by artificer; 25th February 12 at 06:09 AM.
    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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