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
"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.,
"'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
"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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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