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Life Jottings of an Old Edinburgh Citizen
Chapter Twenty-Two


"Then gather, gather, gather."
Waiter Scott (.Macgregors Song).

IN the spring of 1859 the great event occurred of the citizens being encouraged to enrol themselves for voluntary defence of the country, in answer to truculent utterances of certain French colonels. The idea at first was the formation of a small select force of men who could afford to provide their uniform, equipment, and arms, and defray the expense of rifle practice. But the response to the call was so unexpectedly great that soon the numbers exceeded 200,000, and the organisation of the force in battalion units was undertaken, prevision being made for the requirements for efficiency. hat this movement created an impression abroad is certain, and I quote here an utterance of the Emperor Napoleon III, which s little known. He said to Colonel Walter:

"You are, with the aid of lies, raising a large army, with a view to its becoming an institution of the country, and to make it permanent. But you will be egregiously deceived. . . . Your newfangled military scheme will turn out, as I should do, a vagary of the moment. You will find what I say come true. The force is llusory."

These words have a strong tinge of bitterness, and the prophet had the fate of the man who does not give heed to the Yankee maxim: "Don't you prophesy unless you know." It was he who in a few years was to find his own force "illusory."

This is not the place to enter upon any history of the Volunteers, a force which was ruthlessly wiped out of existence a few years ago without as much as "Thank you," to be replaced by Volunteers again under a different name. But their history, and the present existence of the Territorial army, are both in marked contrast to Napoleon's acrid words, although one would fain see fewer gaps in the Territorial urnits in peace time.

So far as Edinburgh is concerned, the share her citizens took in Volunteer work was creditable in every way. The percentage to population was always higher than that of any other place. The corps called the Queen's was the premier corps in Scotland and was made into a Brigade. It received many encomiums, and its shooting record is of the best. While the inter-regimental match lasted, it always held the top place. It has produced four Queen's prizemen, and has carried off nearly all important prizes once at least, some oftener.

The Brigade was the largest in numbers of the whole Force, and at the time of the disbandment was complete in all departments—mounted company, cyclists, signallers, ambulance, stretcher-bearers, and was able to do all its own cooking in camp. The mounted men took first prize against all-comers at Olympia, and its captain tied with the best Army officer in riding. I am proud of having had the honour of commanding the Brigade for many years.


Volunteer Review, 1860

Since the previous paragraph was written, the number of victories in the King's Prize competition to be credited to the Queen's Brigade of Edinburgh has been increased to five, as in 1914 the Prize was won by a member of the 4th Royal Scots (Queen's Brigade).

It was in Edinburgh that the largest gathering of Volunteers, which in the first days of the movement assembled to be reviewed by Queen Victoria, took place in 1860. The numbers were 21,514, and exceeded those of the previous review in Hyde Park by some thousands. It is not possible here to speak of this event at length, but the best can be said by quoting the words of Her Majesty, written not for the public, but as her own expression of feeling, noted in her Diary, or written to friends:

"The ranks were filled by the very flower of a hardy and spirited race. Very good, very fine men. The Highlanders splendid."—Diary.

"It was magnificent, finer decidedly than London. There were more men, and the scenery there is so splendid. The Scotch are very demonstrative in their loyalty."—Letter to King Leopold of Belgium.

It is worthy of remark that on this occasion, in Edinburgh, the Queen saw in one coup d'oeil a. larger number of her loyal subjects assembled than she ever saw in all the rest of her long reign. For although she may have been at times in places where such a crowd was present to greet her, she probably never could have been able to see the whole assemblage in open view at one moment. Arthur Seat being a natural amphitheatre, unequalled in any large town for beauty and size, made it possible to see the whole assemblage at one view. The Review certainly was a memorable sight, never to be forgotten by those who were present. One thing it demonstrated, as did the Review m Hyde Park itself, that the celebrated declaration of the Duke of Wellington as to the difficulty of taking a large force out of Hyde Park without delay and confusion, did not exist nowadays, even in the case of the Volunteers. Everything went like clockwork.

I had the honour of marching past as a captain, in command of a company, having been gazetted while still only an intrant of the Faculty of Advocates in 1859. I was particularly pleased that my company earned high praise on the occasion, having trained it myself, unaided by outside help, with only two zealous subalterns to assist me. Forgive thus self-glorification.

I also studied for and obtained the appointment of musketry instructor, and taught my company musketry, having trained them in drill. During the instruction I got in preparing for examination in musketry, I had some pretty severe experiences, as it was gone through in winter. On one occasion, when shooting at 600 yards in the Hunter's Bog, there was snow on the ground, and it was impossible to see the ouline of the white target, added to which the light of a winter afternoon was feeble, making it difficult to observe the bull's-eye. So trying were the circumstances that I heard a lady, who had come with her husband to the firing point, ask in gentle tones: "Where is the thing that they are firing al " She saw nothing but snow and dirt. Add to all this that we were then armed with the old muzzle-loading Enfield, which kicked until one's shoulder was black and blue, and some idea will be got of the fact that volunteering was not child's play. I doubt if a modern Territorial would attend a range and shoot in the same circumstances, even for the honour of an instructor's certificate.

An amusing episode occurred one day when I went down with my class to target practice. At that time the regular soldier did not realise that the Volunteers had any right to use the Government range. The musketry instructor from the Castle, who had been down in the forenoon, ordered his markers to prepare the targets for volley firing for the following day, to do which they had to put several leaves side by side, and paint the middle of the targets in black. He gave orders to the sentry on duty not to allow the target to be touched. When I arrived I directed our markers to separate the leaves again, and to set them in proper form for individual firing. They began knocking out the stays, so as to move the targets, when the sentry, a Highlander, came forward and said: "Ye're no to tich they targits." I told him we were going to use the targets for our musketry instruction. He repeated: "Aam tellid' ye, ye re no to tich them." I insisted, and asked him how he proposed to prevent us. In the most matter- of-fact manner he replied, putting his hand behind him, where his ball cartridge was: "A-weel, I've got saxty roonds o' ball in my pooch. I'll just have tae expend that, and if that disna stop ye. I'll gang doon to the Paylis for the gaerd.' Needless to say, it did not come to that, and we proceeded, assuring him that we would set up the volley-firing target when we had finished our work.

I will conclude my notice of Volunteer days with an anecdote of what occurred to me once when at Wimbledon, at an N. R. A. meeting, at which Scotland had been exceptionally successful.

On a night when a frightful thunderstorm came on, and the whole camp lay in water, I found myself practically compelled either to get soaked to the skin on my way to Putney Station, no cab being available, or to stay all night in camp. My old friend, Captain Tomkins, the Quartermaster of the Victorias, in whose camp I was dining, persuaded me to stay, and gave me a bed and blankets in an unoccupied tent. Next morning, as I had no toilet appliances, he put in his head and asked if I would have the barber, who was going round the tents.

I had him, and he lathered me up as I lay in bed. As he was holding my nose, and working near my jugular vein, he, by way of saying something pleasant, delivered himself thus:

"Terrible pity, sir, ain't it, that so many things are being carried off by thim Scotch."

I cannot recall my reply. I hope it was good-humoured.


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