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Pampooties

by

Al Saguto, April 1984
Revised: February 1995

PAMPOOTIE, CUARAN, AND GILLIE ... HIGHLAND MOCCASINS
    The following is a brief outline of regional Scottish footwear forms in the first half of the 18th century. The terms "pampootie" (Hebridean and Outer Isles), "cuaran" (Highland Gaelic or Erse), and "ghillie" (or "gillie," a misnomer derived from the Gaelic for servant or attendant) all denote one specific form of footwear ‹ the primitive bag-shoe or European moccasin fashioned from hairy rawhide ‹ generally known as "rivelin." Examples of this form of footwear go back to the early Bronze Age in Northern Europe, however, much more sophisticated footwear existed side by side with these rather simple shoes.
     Neither poverty or lack of ingenuity are behind the survival of this simple form, but rather purest practicality. The footwear of the Highlander at this period was divided only along economic lines.
    The fashionable "welted" shoe, with heels, etc., worn by the Chiefs was basically the exact shoe worn south of the Firth or in the Court of France.
    A secondary form, noted as peculiarly Scottish, or "Highland" by visiting Englishmen, was the "single soled shoe." This form was a "turn-shoe," usually without any heel, and with uppers conforming to period fashion. This type of shoe is shown on the feet of numerous Highland notables in period art work, yet it is outside of the bag-shoe family, being a highly constructed product of a tradesman, like the "welted" shoe with its heel and buckle on the instep.
The "pampootie" or "cuaran," (the term "ghillie" should be left to those who refer to modern Scottish dancing slippers!) was the common footwear of the Clansman, Tenant, and "Humblie," or as they are affectionately known ‹ "Heather Hoppers." Just like the Native American, the Highlander lived in a society where hunting and limited migration formed a large part of daily life. The practicality of the bag-shoe, like the Native American moccasin, was hard to improve upon. "Pampooties" or "cuarans" were made from the raw skin of a freshly killed deer or stag, whilst the skin was still soft. The hair was retained on the outer side, perhaps to aid in traction, as it is usually found laying towards the rear or heel-end of the shoe. Once flayed, the wearer-to-be placed his feet upon the skin, on the flesh side, traced round with a knife, cut a series of slits around the edges, and laced the whole affair, draw-string like, up around the foot. Both wear and ever-present sodden state of the walking surfaces maintained the "pampootie" in a semi-flexible condition. Lasting hardly longer than a moccasin, durability was a not factor, seeing that a new pair was only as hard to make as it was to hunt the next animal.
    Two basic forms of bag-shoe can be noted ‹ I say two, because for our purposes to chase after more would be hardly necessary: Type-A with a seamed toe, and Type-B with a gathered toe. Type-A (the "pampootie" on page 5 is of this type and dates from the 19th century; it was collected from the Isle of Aran Mor and resides in the Northampton Central Museum, Northants) might prove the easiest to make, as well as the more comfortable, because of the lack of pleats across the toes. Type-B, with a pleated front, is perhaps easier to fit, since it's entirely on a draw-string and can be lengthened or shortened accordingly.
In choosing the portion of the skin from which to cut out your "pampooties," the butt section would be recommended ‹ one foot over each buttock. This is the heaviest portion of the skin, as well as the section with the tightest fibre structure, and will provide as much longevity as possible from the material. In cutting, the lay of the hair should be pointing backwards towards your heel ‹ for traction, perhaps, but at least to conform to archaeological remains that are hoary with age.
For the lacing, tanned leather thongs would be recommended (not latigo boot laces!) or even cotton cording (as shown in the Aran Mor example on page 5). Sinew, and such, could be used by the stalwart with much admiration. The following pages give some cutting diagrams and thumb-nail sketches that should be sufficient ‹ you find the deer!
Best of Luck!
"Regimental Souter"
REV.3:08/10/99

 

 



Related links:
From Marc Carlson's shoe site: The Ballyhagen Shoe, Aran Islands Pampootie, and the Drumacoon Bog Shoe

http://www.historicgames.com/Scottishstuff/ghillies.html

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The Appin Papers - Copyright 1998, The Appin Historical Society