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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XLV. Volunteering - Old and New


THE Honourable Artillery Company are said to be the oldest Volunteer force in Great Britain. They have an unbroken record running back to the old Fraternity of Aitillery or Gunners of the Tower, who received a charter of incorporation from Henry VIII. in 1537. At various times, and notably during the great struggle with Napoleon and the French, the patriotic spirit showed itself strongly in the formation of Volunteer Corps. Sir Walter Scott well describes this outburst of national enthusiasm (1804) in his novel of " The Antiquary." In a note, he says : " Almost every individual was enrolled either in a military or civil capacity, for the purpose of contributing to resist the long-suspended threats of invasion which were echoed from every quarter. Beacons were erected along the coast and all through the country to give the signal for every one to repair to the post where his peculiar duty called him, and men of every description fit to serve held themselves in readiness on the shortest summons." Strathspey was not behind in this crisis, and the man to lead was not lacking. "At a period when many of the Highland proprietors, actuated by a violent frenzy for improvement, were driving whole districts of people from the abodes of their forefathers, and compelling them to seek for that shelter in a foreign land which was denied them in their own; when absenteeism and the vices of courtly intrigue amid fashionable dissipation had sapped the morality of too many of our landholders, Sir James Grant escaped the contagion, and, during a long life, was distinguished for the possession of those virtues which are the surest bulwarks of the peace, happiness, and strength of a country. Possessed of extensive estates, and surrounded by a numerous tenantry, his exertions seemed to be equally devoted to the progressive improvement of the one, and the present comfort and enjoyment of the other. On the declaration of the War in 1793, Sir James was among the first, if not the very first, to step forward in the service of his country with a regiment of Fencibles, raised almost exclusively among his own tenantry"—(Kay’s " Portraits "). Rev. John Grant (O. S. A., 1793) says, with some pride: ‘‘It is peculiar to this parish to have two heritors who have got each a Fencible Regiment, the Duke of Gordon and Sir James Grant, and who have not only raised them in three weeks and a few days, but have each of them supernumeraries for additional companies in forming a considerable part of second battalions, if Government should need them and all recruited in an easy, discreet, and smooth manner, without force or compulsion. Men so pleasantly got, and so content when well used, cannot miss of giving satisfaction to their officers, and may he relied on by the nation."

The Grant Fencibles were assembled at Forres in the end of April, 1793, inspected by Lieutenant-General Leslie on the 5th June, and marched southward in August. They were quartered successively in several of the most important towns, and disbanded in 1799. Everywhere they gained praise for their manly appearance and good conduct; but one unfortunate incident marred the perfectness of their service. At Dumfries, in 1795, a spirit of discontent had been awakened amongst the men, as they distrusted some of their officers, and dreaded that there was a design to entrap them into foreign service. There had been some trouble with tinkers, and, in arresting them, several men were badly hurt. Shortly after, a soldier in the ranks made some jocular remark, which was resented by the officers, and he was arrested and threatened with corporal punishment. This was regarded as an affront. The men could not endure that such a stain should " attach to themselves, and their country, from an infamous punishment for crimes, according to their views, not in themselves infamous in the moral sense of the word" (Colonel Stewart). The result was that some of the soldiers banded together and released the prisoner. Sir James Grant was, unfortunately, absent. He hurried south, hut was too late to prevent the tragic issue. The regiment was marched to Musselburgh, and there five of the men, Corporal James Macdonald, and Privates Charles and Alexander Mackintosh, Alexander Fraser, and Duncan Macdougall, were tried for mutinous conduct, and, being found guilty, were condemned, one to corporal punishment, and the other four to he shot. The sentence was executed at the Links of Gullane on the 16th July, 1795, in the presence of the Scotch Brigade (afterwards the 94th Regiment) and the Sutherland, Breadalbane, and Grant Fencibles. it must have been a sad and distressing scene. The four men, when set before their countrymen, were told that only two were to suffer. Macdougall was reprieved, and the Mackintoshes were to cast lots as to which should suffer. The fatal lot fell on Charles, and he and Fraser were forthwith shot. Fraser was from Abernethy, and it is said that at the first he was only severely wounded, and that he cried out, in Gaelic, in his agony, "Surely there is some Fraser present to put me out of pain." The response came quick, but few knew who had fired the friendly shot.

The Fericibles were followed by the Strathspey Battalion of Volunteers, or The Armed Association, as it was called. The first meeting was held at Grantown, 24th July, 1798. In Abernethy there were two Companies, the Eastern and the Western. The Eastern was commanded by Captain Robert Lawson, Balliemore, with Alexander Carmichael, Congash, and John Dunbar, Glenlochy, as Lieutenants. It numbered 79 men, entered according to the Davochs of the parish—Congash, 9; Glenlochv, 3; Achnagonaline and Lainchile, 11 ; Drum and Muckrach, 11 ; Ballifurth, 11 ; Lettoch, 22 ; Balliemore, 12. The Western Company had 80 enrolled, and the officers were James Grant, Birchfield, Captain; and John Grant, Lettoch, and John Grant, Gartenmore, Lieutenants. The Sergeants were Ronald Macgregor, Grantown, Drill Sergeant; Charles Grant, Coulnakyle; Charles Grant, Lurg; William Grant, Rothiemoon; Alexander Cameron, Dibonig; and John Smith, Gartenmore. There was a third Company in Kincardine. It was at first commanded by Mr John Peter Grant of Rothiemurchus, and subsequently by Mr Duncan Mackintosh, Dell. Mr John Stewart, Pytoulish, was one of the Ensigns, and his commission, dated 9th January, 1799, runs as follows:-

George the Third, by the grace of Cod, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c., to our trusty and well-beloved John Stewart, gent. Greeting:

We do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be Second Lieutenant to the Kincairn Volunteers, whereof John Peter Grant, Esq., is Captain. but not to take rank in our Army except during the time of the said Corps being called out into actual service. You are, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of Second Lieutenant by exercising and well-disciplining both the inferior officers and soldiers of that Company, and we do hereby command them to obey you as their Second Lieutenant; and you are to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from your Captain, or any other your superior officers, according to the Rules and Discipline of war, in pursuance of the trust hereby reposed in you, &c."

The commission is signed at the top by the King, and at the end by the Duke of Portland. The Volunteers were disbanded in 1814, and a vote of thanks was passed to them in the House of Commons, to which the following letters refer

"THE DOUNE, 20th August, 1814.

"Dear Sir,—I have the utmost pleasure in transmitting a copy of a letter I have received from the Lord-Lieutenant accompanying the thanks of the House of Commons to the Strathspey Volunteers; and I have to request that you will take steps to make this communication as generally known as possible to the officers and privates lately comprising your Company.—I have the honour to be, with great regard, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

(Signed) J. P. Grant."

This letter is addressed Duncan Mackintosh, Esq., late Captain, Strathspey Volunteers, The Dell. The circular from the Lord-Lieutenant is as follows

CASTLE Geiav, 4th August, 1814.

"It is with time greatest pleasure that I obey the command of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, intimated through theIr Speaker, by transmitting you the annexed vote of thanks in order to it being communicated to all the members of the late Strathspey Volunteer Battalion."

The resolution of the House of Commons is dated 6th July, 1814, and is to the following effect:—-

That the thanks of this House be given to the officers of the several Corps of Yeomanry and Volunteer Cavalry and Infantry which have been formed in Great Britain and Ireland during the course of the war for the seasonable and eminent services winch they have rendered to their King and country."

There is also a similar vote of thanks to the non-commissioned officers and men of the several corps. A Silver Cup, with the Mackintosh arms, was presented to Captain Mackintosh by the Kincairn Volunteers for his services; and a massive Silver Bowl was presented to Captain Lawson, Balliemore. The latter bears the following inscription :—" Presented by the Eastern Abernethy Volunteer Company to Robert Lawson, Esq., their Captain, as a testimony of their regard for his zealous attention to their Discipline and Welfare. 15 May, 1802." This cup had a somewhat curious history. It was left by Mr Lawson to his nephew, Lieutenant-Colonel Carmichael,’ whose father was a Lieutenant of the Company, and by him it was bequeathed to the Parish Church as a Baptism Bowl, and it has now the additional inscription :—-" Bequeathed to the Parish Church of Abernethy by Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Carmichael, who died at Forres, 1844." Thus the old prophecy (Isaiah ii., 4) may be said to have been fulfilled in the spirit, if not in the letter: They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks."

The modern Volunteer movement was begun in 1859, in consequence of a circular letter from Colonel Jonathan Peel proposing a National Volunteer Association, and by the end of the year many thousands were enrolled in all parts of the kingdom. In June, 1860, the Queen reviewed 18,450 volunteers in Hyde Park; and in August, over 20,000 were reviewed by Her Majesty at Edinburgh. In 1864 the Volunteer force was estimated at 165,000, and it is now over 220,000. Abernethy, with Duthil, was the first to form a Company in Strathspey (1860-1), and the officers were Captain Duncan Menzies and Lieutenant J. Stewart. This Company has been well maintained, and has gained honours for shooting and efficiency. It has for some years been under the command of Major Cumming, Curr. In 1888 a Church Parade was held in the Parish Church of Abernethy, when there were present 61 men from Grantown, and 42 from Abernethv and Duthil. The Rev. Mr Forsyth conducted a special service for the occasion, preaching from 1st Timothy, vi. and 12th. He concluded with a brief address to the following effect :—" Volunteers—The name is significant. It implies that you serve not for hire but for love. Your Companies are made up, not of strangers, but of neighbours and friends. You meet not only in the field, but at the fireside, and in the common business of life. Though soldiers, you do not cease to be citizens. Besides, you form part of one great force, drawn from all ranks of society—subject to the same discipline, animated by the common feeling of love to our dear fatherland. How then can you best fulfil your duty ? It is by each of you being true for himself to his country and his God. First, each must do his part to the best of his ability in the ranks. Then each must strive to live an honest and pure life in his own home. And, further, you must each of you carry into society a high standard of right, resolved that come what will you will always keep to the truth, support the weak, he the redresser of wrong, and the champion of woman, and do your best to hold up to reverence the idea of a chivalrous and noble manhood. Are you willing, in the name of Christ, to consecrate yourselves to this cause, to take part in this glorious campaign ? If so, be of good courage. ‘Stand fast.’ ‘Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold of eternal life.’"


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