PONY PANNIERS (grouse pannier)
Our first contact with the pony pannier was in 2010 when we saw an old pair being shown with a pony at a local agricultural show. We were asked to repair a small area of damage on one of the baskets and recorded some construction details: materials are a mixture of cane, (thick material for frame elements and thinner material for weaving), and white willow, (uprights and weavers). There is also a sort of open rack inside the basket providing an upper and lower compartment, (we were told that this was a way of keeping the birds separated and also a place to keep the ghillie’s lunch.
In 2012 a Highland Perthshire shooting estate asked us to make a new pair of working panniers using an old pair, (nearly destroyed), as a pattern. We were able to record detailed information on the construction, although some detail for the new baskets had to be copied from other baskets, (pony pannier construction is similar to an oversized angling basket).
Overall dimensions of the originals are: 17” height to top of back border – 25” maximum width – 18” maximum depth.
Original materials used: Base weavers and frame in cane – base ribs, (which also form the back uprights), in white willow, the other uprights were also of white willow. Bottom and middle wale is in cane, all weavers are white willow and the body of the basket is woven in an English rand. Corner posts are in cane. The lid frame is cane and the ribs and weavers are white willow. There was no evidence of an internal rack in these baskets. There are also similarities with the Dumfries Museum panniers: small windows just below the border on either side of the basket and the position of the leather straps on the back of the basket.
The lid covers as presented were converted vinyl wheel covers and the cushions (to protect the ponies) were simply sewn on to the back of the baskets. At the owner’s request we used the original leather work in the construction of the new panniers and like the originals we sewed them on with new leather thongs. We used a modern rot proof material to cover the lids.
We also know of two other un-recorded pairs in the country but we have not seen them yet. Research on the internet provides an earliest known date of use – from a painting by Richard Ansdell (1815 – 1885), titled Returning from the Hill, 1868. This shows a highland scene with a pony carrying a grouse pannier.
Information provided by Pascal Carr and Catherine Davies (All About Willow)