I really enjoyed styling this cardigan with my beautiful Mull Bag, which was made for me a wee while ago by Colin Campbell of McRostie: one of the amazing Glasgow makers we had the privilege of working with on People MAKE Glasgow
The skilled work that Colin does with leather – hand-crafting beautiful bags and belts and sporrans – has its origins in saddlery – an industry once very prevalent in and around Glasgow due to the important work of heavy horses, like our local Clydesales.
I found myself thinking about heavy horses and their work a lot while I was working on People MAKE Glasgow, especially when looking at Glasgow’s early photography and film – such as this incredible footage, shot on Jamaica Street, in 1901 (from the BFI)
I found it very moving, watching this footage, thinking of all the work that went into crafting the bridles, harnesses, and saddles of the horses that were, a century ago, so integral to the life of the city. Glasgow’s thoroughfares are no longer full of heavy horses, but the dedicated work of making businesses like McRostie ensure that heritage crafts like leatherwork retain their context in our contemporary city streets. Here’s what I wrote about McRostie for People MAKE Glasgow
When Peter McRostie came down from Crieff to set up business in Glasgow in the 1880s, there was said to be a saddlers on every street corner. For this was the era of the draught horse: the years in which large equine breeds like local Clydesdales dragged the nineteenth century to its close through their tough work among the mines, canals and thoroughfares of Scotland’s central belt.
McRostie specialised in creating Scotch cart harnesses from leather that was flexible and durable enough to bear both the weight of heavy horses and the laden carts they drew behind them. With the rise of the combustion engine, the next fifty years saw the rapid disappearance of heavy horses alongside the local artisanal leather industry that had long supported their hard work. While the number of Glasgow’s skilled saddlers dwindled, McRostie’s workshop remained: the name becoming, over the years that followed, a watchword for quality hand-made goods produced from the best bridle leather.
Colin Campbell, and his wife Kareen, took over the company in the early 1980s and, some forty years later, retain a committed, completely hands-on approach to artisanal leatherwork. Watching Colin at his bench is a lesson in the quiet assurance that’s acquired through long years of expert making, while Kareen’s clearly an example of the strong work ethic she suggests is key to Scotland’s continued strength in traditional heritage crafts.
With a range of challenging commissions for corporate clients and public institutions to manage alongside the company’s retail and wholesale provision, no two weeks at McRostie are the same.
Colin might be tasked with producing historic heavy-horse harnesses for museum display, a set of sporrans for the Scottish Rugby World Cup Team or a range of bespoke luggage pieces as props for popular TV series, Outlander.
With a beautiful website and online shop confirming their contemporary digital presence, McRostie are a brand with their eye on the future, yet their enduringly popular products – such as the artisan “Clyde belt” that Colin designed, inspired by the breeching strap of a single driving harness – sums up the creative ethos of a company that’s proud of its long local history.
Thanks for making me my forever bag, Colin and Kareen! It is full of happy memories of working on the People MAKE Glasgow project, and I absolutely love it.