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Birlin' Sporrans

Handbag Day

Oct 10

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"A handbag? To be born, or at any rate bred, in a handbag, whether it has handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution."

~ Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, 1895

While many ladies are fond of their handbag collection, an equal number of sporran owners have a collection worthy of envy. Whether it be called the pouch, pocketbook, handbag, bag, wallet, clutch-bag, receptacle, portemonnaie (French), pocket, coin-purse, reticule, manbag or sporran, it is a truth universally acknowledged that one should always have something in which to carry various necessaries: the odd bit of coin, a good luck charm, lipstick, fishing tackle, or a trick explosive device. Sporrans fit the bill perfectly. In Sir Walter Scott's novel Rob Roy, he equipped the namesake outlaw's sporran with a trick explosive device, a gun, which would fire if not opened properly. "“I advise no man to attempt opening this sporran till he has my secret,” said Rob Roy; and then twisting one button in one direction, and another in another, pulling one stud upward, and pressing another downward, the mouth of the purse, which was bound with massive silver plate, opened and gave admittance to his hand."👜

Birlin' Sporrans

Rather than celebrating the ubiquitous handbag, those fashionable accessories necessary for carrying one's necessaries, today we focus on the  historical equivalent for the kilted man, the sporran.  

Scottish Gaelic for "purse" and a traditional part of male Scottish Highland dress, the sporran is a pouch that performs the same function as pockets on the pocketless kilt.  It is essentially a version of the common European medieval belt-pouch, which became obsolete as clothing increasingly included built-in pockets, but continued in the Scottish Highlands because of the lack of these accessories in traditional dress.

There are day sporrans, dress sporrans, regimental sporrans, and whimsical sporrans.  

According to those who know better, when driving a car, dancing, playing drums (?), or engaging in any activity where a heavy pouch might encumber the wearer, the sporran can be turned around the waist to let it hang on the hip in a more casual position.  


Or, if dancing, why not just let it birl.

See below the dance cribs and to see the dance performed by the Tay Dancers in 2015.


You yourself may be sporran owner (or admirer).  Everyone, however, may not be as tasteful as yourself.  


Perhaps you spent some time choosing just the right sporran that satisfied your own ideas of manliness, historicity, overall complementary and pleasing harmony with the rest of your gear, and appropriate cultural or subliminal social messaging.


Perhaps not.  


At any rate, there is an art to choosing one's accessories, especially one so specifically and centrally positioned.

And so, just to prove that talented taxidermy is no substitute for lack of taste, click the "Tyrannosaurus Rex Sporran" to visit the humorous Gallery of Cruel and Unusual Sporrans, which run the gamut from "eclectic" to "why?"


Trust me, with sporrans like these, no one is wondering what is worn "under" the kilt.  

This light-hearted gallery can be found on the Curious and Unusual Tartans companion website.  Click the Wookie sporran picture below to visit.

Birlin' Sporrans

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Birlin' Sporrans

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WELCOME TO An Entertainment Site for Scottish Country Dancers - Enjoy the curated selection of theme-related dances for celebrations and holidays, or find a dance associated with a special calendar day, or EVEN your own birthday!  

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