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The 48th Highlanders of Toronto
Chapter 1 - Forty-Eighth Highlanders: Formation of the Regiment


The Steps leading to the formation of the 48th Highlanders must, naturally, occupy an important place in this brief sketch. The organization of such a regiment—militia corps mainly composed of Scotsmen, wearing the Highland Dress. and having a band of pipers—had been discussed occasionally. Some years prior to 1891, when the idea took definite form. the existence of the 5th Royal Scots in Montreal was a constant incentive to Toronto, and the visit of that corps to Toronto in 1884 stirred the desire for a like regiment there. In the Minutes of the Toronto Gaelic Society for 1884, reference is made to a discussion on the subject at a meeting of the society, when an enquiry was ordered as to the cost of raising and equipping a Highland Regiment, but the subject does not appear to have been revived. A few years later a proposal was made to form a uniformed corps in Connection with the Sons of Scotland Association, which, while it did not secure the support necessary to carry it through, was the real stepping-stone to the larger movement resulting in the formation of the 48th Highlanders.

Early in 1891 the question was taken up by Captain Wilbur Henderson and Alexander Fraser, and a meeting of Scotchmen was called by circular, and invitation to the various Scottish societies in Toronto, to convene at Temperance Hall, the meeting place of Burns' Camp. Sons of Scotland, Toronto. The announcement of the meeting was well received by the Scottish societies, and the attendance was fairly representative of the Scottish community. Sixteen of those present agreed to sign a provisional roll, the first to sign his name being Mr. James Henderson thus the nucleus of the regiment was formed. Mr. D. M. Robertson, Barrister. acted as secretary of the meeting. keeping a record of the proceedings. and Captain Henderson was asked to take charge of the informal enrolment of the men. Some time having passed without further action, the Gaelic Society moved in the matter, instructing its officers to co-operate with Messrs. Robertson. Henderson, and Fraser. Accordingly, a meeting of the officers was held on 31st May, 1891, at Ardchronie, the residence of Mr. William Innes Mackenzie. president of the society, and it was there agreed to invite representatives of the St. Andrews, the Caledonian, and the Sons of Scotland Societies to meet representatives of the Gaelic Society at Oakville, Ont., on the 27th June. the occasion of the annual excursion of the latter society, there to devise mean, for the furtherance of the movement. The meeting at Oakville took place but the attendance being small, Mr. Alexander Fraser, the secretary of the Gaelic Society, was instructed to call another meeting at the Queen's Hotel, Toronto, on an early day. Three days later, on 30th June. this meeting was held, and at that meeting the movement was formally launched.

A full abstract of the minutes of the Meeting will be interesting :—

FIRST MEETING OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE.

"QUEENS HOTEL, TORONTO,
"30th June, 1891.

"Convened: In response to an invitation sent by the officers of the Gaelic Society of Toronto to the officers of the St. Andrew's and Caledonian Societies, of Toronto, and to the Grand Chief of the Sons of Scotland, the following gentlemen convened at the Queen's Hotel, Toronto, on the above date, for the purpose of considering the question of the formation of a Highland regiment (to wear the kilt) in Toronto. viz: From:-

The St. Andrew's Society, Dr. Daniel Clark, President, Dr. James Thorburn, George Kennedy. LLD., Secretary.

"'I'he Caledonian Society, Messrs. Robert Swan, President, and William Adamson. Secretary.

The Gaelic Society, William Innes MacKenzie, president; John Cattanach MacMillan, Donald M. Robertson, David Spence, and Alexander Fraser, Secretary.

'I'he Sons of Scotland Association, Mr. J. M. Wingfield, J.P., Grand Chief. There were also present, Messrs. Hugh Miller, J.P., Wilbur Henderson, Kenneth Miller and George MacKenzie.

"On the motion of Mr. William Adamson, Dr. Daniel Clark was appointed chairman, and Mr. Alexander Fraser, secretary of the meeting.

At the request of the chairman, Mr. Fraser explained the object of the meeting amid then moved:

That those present constitute themselves a standing committee, with power to add to their number, for the purpose of bringing about the formation of a Highland regiment in Toronto, the uniform of which would be after the pattern of a Highland regiment in the British army that in furtherance of this object steps be taken to obtain the consent of the Government and, as far as possible, to raise the money necessary for preliminary and regimental purposes.

"This resolution was unanimously carried, and the chairman declared the meeting to be then one of the Standing Committee on the Highland regiment, and asked that the officers of the committee be appointed.

It was moved by Mr. Wm. Adamson, and seconded by Mr. Hugh Miller, J. P., that Dr. Daniel Clark be chairman of the Standing Committee. This was unanimously agreed to.

It was moved by Dr. George Kennedy, and seconded by Mr. David Spence, that Mr. Alexander Fraser be secretary of the committee. Unanimously agreed to.

"On the motion of Mr. Alexander Fraser, it was decided to meet on call, to consider what steps should be taken to to obtain the consent of the Government and in the interval, that members of committee should report to their respective societies, asking their assistance in popularizing the movement with the citizens, and should in other ways help it forward."

From this date the movement was pushed forward with great energy. Meetings were sometimes held daily but interest did not flag, and in the brief period of little more than one month, the Government's consent to the formation of the regiment had been obtained. Not without much hard work, however. Immediately after the organization of the Standing Committee had been announced communications from military men and from citizens were received warning the promoters against proceeding on account of the large expenditures and the heavy responsibilities the project would involve. These warning notes were useful in leading the committee to adopt larger measures, and to lay a broader basis for their plans than they might otherwise have done but they had no discouraging effect, nor did they shake the determination to bring the matter to a successful conclusion. In preparing the estimates of the expenditure which the formation of the regiment would entail the committee received valuable help from Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton, Queen's Own Rifles, and from Captains John Bruce and J. D. Hay, of the Royal Grenadiers.

On the 3rd July, 1891, the question of who should be offered the command of the regiment, provided it should be established, was for the first time considered. The secretary was able to state that he believed Captain John Irvine Davidson would be available, and it was unanimously agreed to offer the command to Captain Davidson, whom failing, the same was to be offered to Mr. D. R. Wilkie. Banker. The committee appointed to wait on Captain Davidson in this matter consisted of Messrs. D. M. Robertson, Alexander Fraser and Dr. Kennedy. Captain Henderson was, at the same meeting, requested to call a meeting of the men who had been provisionally enrolled, to whom Capt. Davidson's name would be submitted for approval. The committee reported at a meeting held on the 6th July that Capt. Davidson had accepted of the command, and the secretary was able to report at the same meeting promises of liberal financial support from many leading Scotsmen of whom the following, among others, having been the first to come forward, deserve to be placed high on the roll of honour, viz.: Hon. Sir D. L. Macpherson. K.C.M.G.. Paul Campbell, Hon. Senator John Macdonald, Hon. Senator Allan, Mr. D. R. Wilkie, Mr. Frederick Wyld, Mr. John Kay, Mr. W. H. Beatty, Mr. Wm. Christie, Mr. Robert Jaffray, Mr. Donald McKay. Mr. J. K. Macdonald. Mr. J. L. Morrison. Mr. Robert Swan, Mr. Wm. Mortimer Clark, Mr. Charles Walker, and Dr. Andrew Smith.

At this time the chief difficulty appeared to be to secure the consent of the Canadian Government to the proposal. The first deputation to the Government consisted of Messrs. D. M. Robertson and Alexander Fraser. On the 10th July they reported the result of their visit to Ottawa. The Government refused to sanction the formation of a new regiment on the ground of expense and because they had refused that year to add to the strength of the militia in the Provinces of Quebec and British Columbia. The Government consented to receive another deputation but would hold out no hope of success. The Senators and Members of Parliament who actively assisted Messrs. Robertson and Fraser in their interview were Senator G. W. Allan, Toronto; Senator Donald Macmillan, Alexandria; Lieut.-Colonel Roderick R. MacLennan. Glengarry; Hugh John Macdonald, Winnipeg; Arthur W. Ross, Lisgar; Lieut,-Colonel Tyrwhitt, Simcoe; D'Alton McCarthy, Simcoe; G. H. Macdonell, Algoma; Hon. G. A. Kirkpatrick, Kingston; and Geo. Monteriff, Petrolia; Senator Mclnnes, British Columbia; and Dr. Bergin, M. P., Cornwall. Shortly after the first interview the Minister of Militia wrote stating that the Government had not altered its view that a Highland regiment should not be formed in Toronto, and in consenting to receive a deputation a second time, it must be clearly understood that such consent was not to be taken as an encouragement to persist in the movement. Doggedly the Standing Committee set about to overcome the Government's objections. The city council of Toronto was approached and passed a resolution in favour of the movement, and a deputation consisting of Messrs. D M. Robertson, Alexander Fraser, and Frederick Wyld, visited Ottawa, on the 24th of July. to forward the cause. At Ottawa they were joined by Mayor Clarke and Alderman Saunders, Toronto, who strongly urged the Government to yield to the wishes of the Toronto Scots. At this interview Hon. Geo. E. Foster, the Minister of Finance, manifested a deep interest in the proposed regiment, and stated that with the consent of his colleagues he would remove the financial difficulty, whereupon the other ministers present consented to sanction the formation of a Highland regiment in Toronto, and Sir Adolphe Caron, Minister of Militia, at once gave formal notification of this decision. The news was received in Toronto with great rejoicing, and satisfaction was felt in the Scottish settlements throughout the Province of Ontario, for the plucky fight made at Ottawa had attracted the attention of the press and of the country.

The work of the Standing Committee now began in earnest, for the undertaking to which they had pledged themselves was one of no small magnitude. Further details, however, need scarcely be narrated here. The subscriptions to the Regimental Fund were on a princely scale in many instances, and in many more they were the small donations of patriotic enthusiasts. On the 6th August, 1891, the Standing Committee was reorganized to stand as follows:

The Presidents and Secretaries of the Scottish Societies in Toronto, viz.:

St. Andrew's Society, Dr. Daniel Clark and Dr. George Kennedy; Caledonian Society, Messrs. Robert Swan and William Adamson; Gaelic Society, Messrs. William Innes MacKenzie and Alexander Fraser; Sons of Scotland. Messrs. J. M. Wingfield and William Banks; Caithness Society, Alderman Geo. MacLean Rose: Orkney and Shetland Society, Mr. Wm. Houston. MA.; and

Messrs. Frederick Wyld, A. M. Cosby, D. M. Robertson, A. M. Smith, John I. Davidson, D. R. Wilkie. Thos. McCracken, Hugh Miller. Robert Barron, James Massie, J. K. Macdonald, Dr. Thorburn, John A. Currie, Dr. W. Theophilus Stuart, Paul Campbell, George MacKenzie and J. Wilson Gray.

From this general committee sub-committees were apppointed. viz:

Regimental Committee, to decide upon the name of the regiment, the uniforms to be worn, etc.. consisting of Capt. John I. Davidson. Frederick Wyld, Dr. Kennedy. D. M. Robertson, George MacKenzie. J. A. Currie and Alexander Fraser, with Mr. Frederick Wyld as chairman.

Committee on Finance, to arrange the details of collecting the necessary funds, consisting of Messrs. Frederick WyId, A. M. Cosby, Thos. McCracken. Paul Campbell, J. A. Currie, Dr. W. T. Stuart, D. M. Robertson. Dr. Kennedy, Wm Adamson and Alexander Fraser. of which also Mr. Wyld was chairman.

The first meeting of the Regimental Committee was held on the 11th of August. 1891, at which sonic important business was transacted. It was decided. on the suggestion of Captain John I. Davidson, the commanding officer, designate. that the name of the regiment be "The Queen's Highlanders," should permission be obtained. Mr. Fraser submitted patterns of the following clan tartans from which to choose one for the new regiment : -Cameron, Gordon, MacKenzie, Davidson, Macdonald, and Hunting Stuart, with it recommendation in favour of the Old Davidson tartan in honour of the first C.O. of the regiment. Dr. Kennedy moved, seconded by Mr. John A. Currie, that the Old Davidson tartan be adopted as the tartan of the regiment. and this was unanimously agreed to. On the motion of Mr. Fraser the motto "Dileas gu brath" was chosen, also a falcon's head, erased, as the regimental crest.

Correspondence was opened with the Militia Department, Ottawa, with respect to the number by which the regiment should be known, and the number of one of the Highland regiments of the British army was suggested, but that suggestion could not be acted upon, and there being a vacancy in the number 48, that number was given to the regiment with the word Highlanders" to designate it, the name "Queen's Highlanders" not being considered available by the Department.

Among the first donations to the funds was one of five hundred dollars from the Caledonian Society of Toronto. and the equivalent in money of seven stands of pipes from the Gaelic Society of Toronto.

The regiment was gazetted on 16th October, 1891, and Captain Davidson's appointment as Lieut.-Colonel was gazetted (provisionally) oil 20th November, 1891. The general committee, however, continued in existence till the 28th of March. 1892, giving special attention to the finances of the organization. A number of the officers having then been selected, the Committee was dissolved, a few of the more active members acting with the officers for a short time longer in financial matters.

During the early part of the Fall the men were regularly drilled by Captain Henderson. who in the latter part of October gave place to Captain J.C. Macdougall, of the Royal School of Infantry, the latter having been appointed to act as interim adjutant by the Major-General commanding the militia.

The General Order embodying the corps read as follows:

MILITIA GENERAL ORDERS.
HEADQUARTERS. OTTAWA, 16th October, 1891.

General Orders 19.

No. 4. Increase of Establishment of Active Militia.

Authority having been granted for the raising in the City of Toronto of eight Companies of Active Militia of the strength of 42 non-commissioned officers and men per company, to be formed into it battalion wearing the Highland Dress the Deputy Adjutant-General of Military District No. 2 will submit service rolls of those persons volunteering for service in those companies.

By Command,
WALKER POWELL, Colonel,
Adjutant-General of Militia, Canada.

Acting oil order, the men were sworn in by Lieut.-Colonel Otter, D.A.G., in St. Andrew's Hall. Toronto, oil 22nd of October, 1891, when 152 men signed the roll and were taken on the strength of the regiment. The oath of service was taken oil a Gaelic Bible furnished by the writer, which he values as a memento of an interesting and historic ceremony. The regiment having been thus formed, took up quarters in the vacated buildings of Upper Canada College, King Street west, where, until the occupancy of the new Armories in 1894, it found a convenient and a comfortable home.

Following are the names of the men who joined the regiment in 1891-2 and were on its first pay roll in the summer of 1892. The Regimental numbers indicate priority of enlistment:--

All of these men, up to No. 152, were sworn in at St. Andrew's Hall, by Lieut.Colonel Otter, on the 22nd October, 1891. From 152 to 350, the men came in gradually until discontinuance of battalion parade on 27th May. 1892, when the first strength of the regiment was returned.


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