Tartan Hero of The Month – October
Houston Kiltmakers had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Neil from Margaret Morrison Ltd, traditional sporran makers based in Perth, Scotland. Kimberly says she has been making sporrans since around 7 years old, after her step-father Greg Whyte began the business.
Greg is originally from South Africa, and Kimberly’s mum’s family are from Oban. Greg also holds a New Zealand passport, and Kimberly’s great-grandfather and Greg’s grand-father is buried there. Greg’s grandfather was a Morrison, and the business being named Margaret Morrison is a combination of both his mother and his father’s middle names.
The store began as Greg’s sister Valerie, who worked for Nicoll brothers suggested that they could have a go at replicating the process and making sporrans themselves (Kimberly explained the production process was much different to what it is today, it was in such a way as so no individual knew the whole process of making a sporran). After 6 prototypes they believed they had nailed the method, and had orders placed and made them in his fathers shed. In the early 2000s, Margaret Morrison purchased Nicoll Brothers, acquiring their machinery, metalwork and patterns that date back to 1834.
The family all enjoy wearing tartan and have done for years. Kimberly most recently got a pair of trews made in the Baird modern tartan and her mother opted for the classic Blackwatch. Greg owns a kilt in the Blackwatch tartan, and owns an argyle jacket to match. Kimberly’s brother owns a tweed kilt and her step-dad and brother own about 4-5 kilts. Greg has a selection of sporrans that hold sentimental value to him, such as an all leather hunting sporran with Nár lagaí na bithiúnaigh do lámh and his first swinging 6 pine marten he made.
Margaret Morrison are known across the globe, and perhaps the most famous demonstration of their work is the Sporran worn by Gigi Hadid on the Victoria Secret Catwalk. They are a supplier for USA Kilts and supply approx 200 sporrans in one month. They also have partners such as North Of Hadrian‘s kilts and Burnett’s & Struth Scottish Regalia. Their wide reach to North America and Europe is thanks in part due to Pipe band connections stretching world-wide.
Unsurprisingly, their favourite part of a kilt outfit is the sporran. Kimberly states that it is the focal point of a kilt so it can be very important to select the right one. The most popular customer tartans are red toned, and there are certain tartans such as the Macdonald that Kimberly says can be more difficult in terms of pairing with a sporran when considering the rest of the outfit. It is not simply dress vs non dress sporrans, there are horsehair ones which are traditional typically only seen in pipe bands and military.
Trends most definitely have affected sporrans, and people are looking to the past for inspiration for designs. They have developed a new leather – charger leather – specifically for an antique look. This new antique leather sporran was worn by Josh O’Connor who plays a young Prince Charles in Netflix’s The Crown.
This is not Margaret Morrison’s only brush with royalty, however, as Prince Charles visited the store after Greg wrote to the Scottish Tartans Authority arguing it was not fitting for the Scottish regiment to be wearing sporrans made in Pakistan. This petition gained traction and Prince Charles, being a fan of highlandwear, visited the store to show support in small businesses acquiring military contracts. They can neither confirm or deny whether they themselves supplied sporrans for the bonnie prince.
Both Kimberly and Greg enjoy classic Scottish artists such as Biffy Clyro and Deacon Blue, as well as band of brothers. If they both could choose 3 Scottish dinner party guests, Kimberly would choose James Macvoy, Gerard Butler and Ewen Bremner. Greg’s choices would be Sean Connery, Ewan Mcgregor and Rob Roy.