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Scottish Regiments
The Black Watch -
1817 - 1873

BEFORE concluding our history of this, the oldest Highland regiment, we shall present a brief account of the variations which have from time to time taken place in the dress of the regiment, and wind up with short biographies of the regimental pets. For our information on both these matters, as well as for the greater part of the modern history of the regiment, we must again express our large indebtedness to the manuscript memorials of Lieutenant-Colonel Wheatley.

It is a curious study to note the many alterations that have taken place in the uniform of officers and men since 1817. In 1817 the officers had a short-skirted coatee, elaborately covered with rich gold lace, about nine bars on the breast over blue lappels, hooked in the centre. It was also thickly covered with lace on the collar, cuffs, and skirts. All ranks wore two heavy epaulets of rich bullion. The field officers only wore scarves, which were their distinguishing mark of rank. All the officers wore richly braided scarlet waistcoats, and frills plaited very small, the shirt collar well exposed above the black silk stock. Sky-blue cloth trousers, with a broad stripe of gold lace edged with scarlet was the usual parade uniform; and parade invariably took place morning and afternoon, every officer present, and in the above-mentioned uniform, and with feathered bonnet. The gold-laced trousers were abolished in 1823, and blue-gray substituted without lace, which was continued until 1829, when Sir Charles Gordon introduced the trews of regimental tartan, which were fringed round the bottom, and up the outer seams. The fringe system was continued for some years, when it was also done away with.

The undress in barracks was in general a light gray long frock coat; but leaving the barracks, the officers invariably appeared in the coatee and a tartan bonnet without feathers, with a short red heckle in front, confined by a gold ring about one-third up. This handy bonnet was also worn on the line of march with the coatee. It was replaced in 1824 by a tartan shako, with black silk cord ornaments and a heavy red ostrich plume, which again gave way to the regular forage cap in 1826, first introduced with a broad top, and stiff in appearance, with a small gold embroidered thistle in front. Before 1830, when the single-breasted blue frock-coat, without any shoulder ornaments, was introduced into the army, a richly braided blue frock-coat was worn; but it was optional. White Cashmere trousers, narrow at the ankles with a gold stripe edged with scarlet, silk socks, and long quartered shoes with buckles, was also permitted for the evening (about 1819—20).

Before the adoption of the tartan trousers, the officers’ dress was a strange mixture of Highland and line. For instance, at the guard mounting parade in Dublin in 1819—20, could anything, in the way of dress, be more absurd in a Highland regiment than to see the officers for the Castle guards in full Highland dress, and the five or six for other guards, the field officer, adjutant, quarter-master, and medical officer, in white Cashmere pantaloons, and short (under the knee) Hessian tassled boots, and that with a feathered bonnet? All officers for guard ought to have been in the full dress of the regiment, but it was put on by them with the greatest reluctance, and so seldom, that the officers could not dress themselves, and their remarks reached the barrack rooms, through their servants, which caused the dislike to the dress to descend to the men, and for years had the direct effect of causing the men to rail much against it. Since 1843, officers and men alike wear it on duty and on parade, which ought always to have been the case. In 1823—24 the officers all wore wings, rich and heavy, which were discontinued in 1830, by order, and epaulets, with bullion according to rank (for the first time) substituted; and. it is a singular fact that the men were authorised to wear wings, by regulation, the same year; and still more singular, until the epaulets were abolished 25 years afterwards, the non-commissioned officers and men wore wings, and the officers epaulets. The laced lappels and braided waistcoats disappeared in 1830, when lace was generally done away with on the breast of the coat in the army. When the regiment returned from the Peninsula in 1814, from being so long in the field, the feathers had disappeared from the bonnet, and a little red feather on the front, the same as on a shako, had been adopted. When the bonnets were renewed, the rank and file were not allowed to have foxtails, under the impression that it caused an unsteady appearance in the ranks. Why not the officers and sergeants cause an unsteady appearance? Be that as it may, to the disgust of the men, and a source of amusement to all the other Highland regiments, was our "craw’s wing," a wirework 8 inches above the cloth, covered with flats (almost free of anything like ostrich feathers) having a large unmeaning open gap at the right side, famous for catching the wind, which was ornamented with a large loose worsted tuft of white for the grenadiers, green for the light company, and red for the others. Yet this hideous thing was continued until the summer of 1821, when most willingly the men paid about thirty shillings each to have the addition of "foxtails;" yet these were a draw back, as the tails were not to hang lower than the top of the dice of the tartan. The grand point was, however, gained in getting rid of the frightful craw’s wing, and by degrees the tails descended to a proper length. At this time there were a variety of heckles worn in the bonnet, another piece of bad taste—white for the grenadiers, green for the light company, the band white, and the drummers yellow, with each of them two inches of red at the top, and the other eight companies (called battalion companies) red. On going to Dublin in 1825, from Buttevant, the colonel of the regiment, Sir George Murray, was the commander of the forces, and at the first garrison parade, noticing the extraordinary variety of heckles, asked an explanation as to the reason of any heckle being worn in the regiment other than the red, it being "a special mark of distinction," and desired that all other colours should disappear. The next day every officer and man was in possession of a red heckle.

The white jacket was first worn with the kilt in 1821, which was considered at first to be very odd. Up to 1819, it was sometimes served out without sleeves; and when sleeves became general, the soldiers were charged is. 3d. for them," for the colonel’s credit." Until 1821 it was used as a waistcoat, or for barrack-room wear. It is still in use in the Guards and Highland regiments, notwithstanding its being a most useless article to the soldier. Instead of being used, it has to be carefully put up ready for the next parade. Moreover, why were the Guards and Highlanders left to suffer under it, when the reason for doing away with it in 1830 was—"It having been represented to the general commanding-in-chief  that the frequent use of dry pipe-clay, in the cleaning of the white jacket, is prejudicial to the health of the soldiers." Surely the lungs of the Guards and Highlanders were as vulnerable as those of the rest of the army, and their health and lives equally precious. Many a time it was brought to notice; but "to be like the Guards" was sufficient to continue it. Yet there is no doubt the honour would be willingly dispensed with, and the getting rid of it would be much to the men’s comfort. Let us hope it will soon disappear, as well as the white coats of the band, still in use for all the army in 1873.

Until about 1840, never more than 4 yards of tartan were put into the kilt, and until lately, it never exceeded 4 to 5. The plaid up to 1830 contained about 2 yards, for no use or purpose but to be pushed up under the waist of the coat, taking from the figure of the man.

Until 1822, to have trousers was optional, even on guard at night. Many men were without them, and cloth of all colours, and fustian, was to be seen. From soon after the return of the regiment to Edinburgh after Waterloo, long-quartered shoes and buckles were worn on all occasions. The shoes were deserving of the name given to them —" toe cases." To such a ridiculous extent was the use of shoes and buckles carried, that after a matching order parade, the spats had to be taken off, and buckles put on before being permitted to leave the barracks. The red and white hose cloth up to 1819 was of a warm, woolly, genial stuff; but, for appearance, a hard cold thin article was encouraged, and soon became so general, that it was finally adopted, and the warm articles put out of use. At this time the regiment was in Richmond Barracks, Dublin (1819—20), and, consequently had to go to the Royal Barracks for guard mounting, and often from a mile or two farther to the guard, in the shoe already described. In rainy weather, it was quite a common occurrence to see men reach the guard almost shoeless, with the hose entirely spoiled, and no change for twenty-four hours; yet, bad as this was, it had its consolation, that "it was better than breeches and leggings," the guard and review dress for the infantry at this time. Had gaiters been taken into use, even in winter, and the strong shoe, it would have added much to the comfort of the men. The hose being made out of the piece, with coarse seams, were also badly adapted for the march, and not a man in twenty had half hose and socks. The soldier in general is thoughtless, and at this time no consideration for his comfort was taken by those whose duty it was do so, either in eating or clothing. As a proof of it, we have seen that no breakfast mess was established until 1819.

It was at Gibraltar, in the beginning of 1826, that the gaiters were taken into daily wear and for guard; and the frill, the pest of the men (because of the care that had to be taken of it), and the soldiers’ wives who did the washing. There were individuals who rejoiced in these frills, and to excel, paid from 2s. 6d. to 4s. for them. White leather pipeclayed gloves were also part of the soldier’s dress at all parades, and "gloves off" became a regular word of command before "the manual and platoon." In short, what with shoes and buckles, frills, a stock up to the ears, about six yards of garters on each leg, muskets with clear locks (burnished in many cases), and well bees-waxed stocks and barrels, they were a roost singularly equipped set of soldiers. Yet such was the force of habit, and what the eye had been accustomed to, when the frills and buckles disappeared, many (officers) considered it as an unwarrantable innovation; but not so the soldiers, who derived more comfort from the change than can well be imagined.

In 1820, shoulder tufts, about four inches, were substituted for the smaller ones hitherto worn by the battalion companies. The following year they became a little longer. In 1824, though still short of a regular wing, a shell was added, but without lace, stiffened with pasteboard. In 1827 a little lace was added, and in 1830 the ambition of having wings was consummated, as it became regulation for the non-commissioned officers and men of Highland regiments to wear wings, although, as already mentioned, the officers continued to wear epaulets.

Patent leather chin straps were first used in 1822. Before that a few only had narrow tape, which was not always approved of~ it resting upon the whim of the officers or sergeant-major.

Until about 1840, the lace on the coats of both cavalry and infantry was of great variety, a few corps having it all white, but, in general with a "worm" of one or two colours of from one-fifth to one-third of the breadth of the lace. The 42d wore white lace, with a red "worm" three-fourths of the white on one side of the red, and one-fourth on the other. The 73d had the same lace, continued from the time it was the 2d battalion of the regiment.

The breast, cuffs, collars, and skirts were covered with lace, the cause of much dry pipeclaying. Some corps had it with square bars, others in "frogs." The 42d had the latter. The abolishing (about 1830) of the silver-lace worn by the sergeants was regretted by many because it was an old-established custom, since 1769, and also as it added much to the appearance of the sergeants’ uniform; but when it came to be worn at a cost of from six to seven pounds for lace and fringe, it was, without doubt, a hardship, and Sir Charles Gordon did well in abolishing. [We omitted to notice the death of this excellent officer in the proper place. It occurred while the regiment was at Vido in 1835. Sir Charles had gone on leave to Switzerland, with unaccountable reluctance it is said, though he was in apparently perfect health, and died at Geneva, after a short illness, on 30th September. His loss was deeply lamented by all ranks. The announcement of his unexpected death cast a gloom over the regiment, which was long felt. His gentlemanly bearing and kindly disposition made him universally loved and respected both by officers and men. The regiment was fortunate in his successor—Major William Middleton, who had served in the corps from 1803]

All the staff-sergeants wore the turned-back blue lappels, barred with square lace, and hooked in the middle, which was particularly handsome, and much admired. They ceased to wear the silver at the same time as the others, more to their regret, as a coat served many of them for years. The sergeant-major and quarter-sergeant only continued it, being furnished to them, with handsome bullion wings, along with their clothing.

The only changes of late years have been the Highland jacket and dark hose, both for the better, and the bonnet much reduced in size, also a decided improvement, all introduced after the Crimean war. The kilt is also more ample, and better made, adding to the better figure and appearance of the men, who are in all better dressed at present (1873) than at any previous period. May they always continue to be the pattern, as they ought to be, to all the Highland regiments, and that not only in dress, but also in all the qualities of good soldiers.

Out of the many pets of the regiment, we present our readers with the lives of these three, as being on the whole most worthy of record,—the dog "Pincher," "Donald" the Deer, and the "Grenadiers’ Cat."

"Pincher" was a small smooth-skinned terrier that attached himself to the regiment on the march in Ireland, at some stage near to Naas, its destination on coming home after the Peninsular war in 1814. Pincher was truly a regimental dog. If he had any partiality, it was slightly towards the light company. He marched to Kilkenny with the regiment, back from Naas, remained with it during the winter, and embarked for Flanders in the spring; went into action with it at Quatre Bras, and was wounded somewhat severely in the neck and shoulder, but, like a good soldier, would not quit the field. He was again in action at Waterloo, accompanied his regiment to Paris, and, amidst armies of all nations, Pincher never lost himself, came home, kept to his post, and went over to his native country in 1817. Late in that year, or early in 1818, he went with some men going on furlough to Scotland, who were landed at Irvine. Poor Pincher ran after some rabbits in an open warren, and was shot by a keeper, to the general grief of the regiment, when the intelligence reached it, which was not until one the men returned from Scotland to join. In the meantime, Pincher had hardly been missed. There was some wonder at Armagh, and remarks made that Pincher was long on his rounds, but no anxiety regarding him, because it was well known, that from the time of his joining the regiment in 1814, it mattered not how many detachments were out from headquarters, in turn he visited them all ; and it was often a matter of wonder how he arrived, and by what instinct he found them out. Poor Pincher was a good and faithful soldier’s dog, and, like many a good soldier, died an inglorious death. His memory was respected while his generation existed in the regiment.

"Donald" the Deer was with the depot which awaited the regiment when it went into Edinburgh Castle in September 1836 after landing at Granton from Corfu. He was a youth at the time, and not so formidable as to cause his antlers to be cut, which had to be done afterwards. He marched the three days to Glasgow in June 1837. He was some what mischievous that year, sometimes stopping the way when he chose to make his lair, or with the meddlers and intruders on the Green when the regiment was out at exercise. But it was in Dublin, in the summer of 1838, that Donald came out. Without any training, he took his place at the head of the regiment alongside of the sergeant-major. Whether marching to and from the Phoenix Park for exercise, marching out in winter, or at guard mounting on the day the 42d furnished the band and staff, Donald was never absent. He accompanied the regiment to all garrison field-days, went to feed until the time came for going home, was often a mile from them, but always at his post when the time came. With one exception, about the third-field day, the 79th were there for the first time, and Donald trotted up to them when marching off. He somehow discovered his mistake, and became uneasy and bumptious, and on reaching Island Bridge, when the 79th had to turn off to Richmond Barracks, declined to accompany his new friends any farther. Colonel Ferguson desired half a dozen men to hand over their muskets to their comrades, and to drive Donald towards the Royal Barracks. He went willingly, and happened to rejoin his own corps at the Park gate, evidently delighted. He never committed a similar mistake. When the regiment had the duty, he invariably went with the guard to the Castle; and whether going or coming, the crowd was always dense, although a daily occurrence, but Donald made his way, and kept it clear too, and the roughs knew better than to attempt to annoy him. Indeed, he has been known to single out an individual who did so, and give chase after him through the crowd. There was never any concern about him, as he could well defend himself. The Greys were in the Royal Barracks with the 42d, and permitted Donald to make his bed, even by tossing down their litter, fed him with oats daily, &c. But early in 1839 the Greys left, and the Bays’ succeeded them. It was very soon evident that Donald and the new comers did not understand each other. The Bays would not allow him to make his bed, nor did they give oats, and Donald declared war against all Bays, when and wherever they came near him, till at last a Bay man could hardly venture to cross the Royal square, without looking out that Donald was out of the way. It gave rise to a clever sketch made on the wall of the officers’ room at the Bank guard of the "Stag at Bay," where Donald was represented as having one of them up against a wall. In May 1839, he made nine days’ march to Limerick, although very foot-sore and out of temper, and. woe to the ostlers in the hotel-yard who interfered with him after a day’s march. Donald had another failing, which his countrymen are accused of which was a great liking for whisky or sherry. He suffered after a debauch, and it was forbidden to indulge Donald in his liking in that way. At Limerick, as soon as the officers’ dinner pip went, he made his way to the mess-room windows, which were on the ground floor, to look for sherry, until a high fine had to be made on any one who gave it to him. Donald afterwards marched to Templemore, and finally to Cork. He had by this time become so formidable in his temper, particularly to strangers, that it was clear he could not be taken on board a ship to Corfu, even if the captain of the troopship would permit it; and, to the regret of all, it was decided that Donald must be transferred to strangers. Colonel Johnstone arranged with Lord Bandon, who promised that Donald should have the run of his fine park at Bandon Castle while he lived, and it was Donald’s own fault that it was not so. It was really an effecting sight to see poor Donald thrown over and tied with ropes by those he loved so well, and put into a cart to be carried off. His cries were pitiful, and he actually shed tears, and so did some of his friends, for Donald was a universal favourite. Thus the regiment parted with dear old Donald, and nothing more was heard of him for many years.

In 1862, nearly 22 years afterwards, Lieutenant-Colonel Wheatley being appointed to the Cork district, soon after arriving at Cork, took steps to ascertain the subsequent history of Donald. The reply was, "That from the day he was set at liberty in the park, he declined having any intercourse with either man or beast. That summer and winter he kept in out-of-the-way places to which no one could approach; and that there had been so many complaints against him, that about the end of two years his lordship reluctantly sanctioned his being shot." Poor Donald ! the regiment and its ways was the only home he ever knew, and his happiness left him when separated from it. So has it been with many others besides Donald.

The "Grenadier’s Cat" was picked up by the company in one of the encampments in Bulgaria, probably in Gevrecklar, and was embarked at Varna for the Crimea. Having seen it at the bivouac at Lake Touzla, Lieutenant-Colonel Wheatley was induced, after the action at Alma had commenced, to ask what had become of poor puss, when one of No. 1 company called, "It is here, sir," and opening his haversack, the animal looked out quite contented. It was shut up again, and on making inquiry next morning, it was found that "Bell" had escaped both death and wounds, and was amongst them in the bivouac, well taken care of in so far as having an ample share of the rations. It appears that the man who carried the cat and took care of it, was exempted by the company from fatigue duties, or his turn of carrying the cooking-kettles, &c. Like all the pets, it did not come to a peaceful end. It finally became an inmate of the regimental hospital, being the only quiet place to be found for it, got worried, and died at Balaclava. Such was the end of Bulgarian "Bell," the only instance, probably, of a cat going into action.

On 2d April 1872 took place one of the most interesting events in connection with the history of the Black Watch, viz., the unveiling in Dunkeld Cathedral of a magnificent monument (a plate of which we give) to the memory of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the regiment, who fell in war from the creation of the regiment to the close of the Indian mutiny. The monument, which had been in preparation for several years, was subscribed for by the officers of the regiment, and was executed by Mr John Steell, R.S.A., the celebrated Scottish sculptor. It is placed in the vestibule of the cathedral, at the east end of the choir, and is the largest and one of the finest mural monuments ever erected in Scotland.

The monument, as we have indicated, is a mural one, having for its principal feature a beautiful piece of sculpture in alto relievo. As originally designed by the artist, this composition was on a comparatively small scale. When, however, the sketch came to be submitted to the officers of the regiment, they were so much pleased with the idea embodied in it that they resolved to have the figures executed of life size, and increased their contributions accordingly. Standing out against a large pointed panel of white marble, the sculptured group, which is worked out in the same material as the background, represents an officer of the 42d visiting a battle-field at the close of an engagment to look for some missing comrade. The point of time selected is the moment in which the searcher, having just discovered the body of his friend, stands with uncovered head, paying mute homage to departed valour. The central figure of the composition is admirably modelled, the expression of the soldier’s countenance being in fine keeping with the calm and subdued tone which pervades the whole work. On the left, beneath the remains of a shattered gun-carriage, lies the body of a young ensign, his hand still grasping the flag he had stoutly defended, and his face wearing a peaceful expression, as befitted a man who had died at his post. Other accessories combine with those just mentioned to suggest the grim realities of war; but the artist has so toned his composition that the mind is insensibly led to dwell on that other aspect of the battlefield in which it speaks of danger braved and duty nobly done. A slab underneath the sculpture bears the following inscription:-


Here, ‘mong the hills that nursed each hardy Gael,
Our votive marble tells the soldier’s tale;
Art’s magic power each perished friend recalls,
And heroes haunt these old Cathedral walls.

Erected by the Officers of the Corp.

On either side of the above inscription are recorded the names of the hard-fought fields in which the regiment gained its enviable reputation. How many memories are recalled as one reads the long roll of historic battlegrounds—" Fontenoy, Flanders, Ticonderoga, Martinique, Guadaloupe, Havannah, Egypt, Corunna, Fuentes D’Onor, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Toulouse, Peninsula, Waterloo, Alma, Sebastopol, Lucknow !" The selection of a site for the monument was determined by considerations connected with the history of the regiment. The gallant 42d having been originally drawn chiefly from Perthshire, it was felt to be appropriate that the memorial intended to commemorate its fallen heroes should be erected in that county; and all will concur in the propriety of the arrangement by which a shrine has been found for it within the venerable Cathedral of Dunkeld.

For the following account of the ceremony we are indebted to the Scotsman of 3d April :-1872

A detachment of the 42d, under the command of Major Macpherson, had been sent down from Devonport to perform the ceremony of handing over the monument to the custody of the Duke of Athole, and also to place over it the colours under which the regiment had fought on many a bloody field. In the vestibule of the cathedral were the Duke and Duchess of Athole, the Duchess Dowager of Athole, and many other distinguished persons.

Upon entering the vestibule, Major Macpherson, younger of Cluny, placed the old colours of the regiment over the monument. He then requested the Duchess-Dowager to unveil the monument; which having been done, Major Macpherson said—May it please your Grace, ladies, and gentlemen—We, a detachment of the 42d Royal Highlanders, have come here to deposit the old colours of the regiment in Dunkeld Cathedral—a place which has been selected by the regiment as the most fitting receptacle for the colours of the 42d—a regiment which has been essentially connected with Pertlishire. In the name of the officers of the regiment, I have to express to his Grace the Duke of Athole our kindest thanks for the great interest he has taken in this memorial, which I have had the too great honour to ask the Duchess-Dowager to unveil; and if I may be allowed, I would express to your Grace the kindest thanks of the regiment for the great interest the late Duke of Athole took in this monument.

The Duke of Athole then said—You have this day paid a great compliment to the county of Perth, and to this district in particular. By the placing of this beautiful monument in our cathedral you have enhanced its value, and by placing over it your time and battle-worn colours. I can assure you we shall value the possession of this monument excessively, and do our utmost to preserve it from all harm. I trust that the cloud which is now hanging over the connection between the 42d and Perthshire will yet be dispelled, and that the old ties may not be broken, and that we may yet see the ‘Freiceadan Dubh’ localised in Perth. I need not allude to the services of the 42d—they are far too well known to require comment on my part. One of the earliest colonels of the regiment was one of my own family—Lord John Murray; and at different times a great many men from Athole have served in your ranks. Members of almost every large family in Athole have at one time or other been officers in the corps. Many relatives and friends of my own have likewise served with the regiment. His Grace concluded by asking Major Macpherson to convey to the officers of the 42d the thanks of the county of Perth for the honour they had done to the county.

At the close of the proceedings a salute of 21 guns was fired from a battery placed on Stanley Hill.

After the ceremony the Duchess-Dowager entertained a select party at her residence to lunch. The detachment of the 42d and the Athole Highlanders at the same time partook of dinner in the Servants’ Hall. When the dinner had been concluded, the Duchess-Dowager, the Duke and Duchess of Athole, and party, entered the Servants’ Hall, where the Dowager-Duchess proposed the health of the 42d, a detachment of which regiment had come such a long distance in order to place their beautiful colours in the Cathedral of Dunkeld. Her Grace having made a touching allusion to the various battles in which the colours had been borne, remarked that there was no better place where the regiment could lodge them than the old historical cathedral of the city where the corps was chiefly raised. The colours had been given in charge to the Athole Highlanders, and she was sure that they would be as proud to look upon them hanging on the walls of the Cathedral as the 42nd themselves would be to see them in the midst of battle, and she might assure the detachment that the utmost care would be taken of them.

Major Macpherson returned thanks on behalf of the officers and men of the 42nd. He stated that the officers had taken a vote as to where the colours should be lodged, and the majority were in favour of having them placed over this monument in Dunkeld Cathedral, on the banks of the Tay, where the regiment was originally formed. He begged, on behalf of the officers and men, to thank Her Grace for the exceedingly kind reception which had been accorded to them during their stay in Dunkeld, and concluded by calling upon the men to drink to the health of the Duchess-Dowager of Athole. The original colours of the 42nd are in the Tower of London.

The colours placed in Dunkeld Cathedral were carried through the Crimean campaign and the Indian Mutiny.

In the autumnal maneuvres of 1871, the Black Watch, as might be surmised, performed their part brilliantly, and to the satisfaction and gratification of all present, the foreign officers especially awarding them the palm as models in every respect of what soldiers ought to be; indeed, their praises were in the mouths of all.

In September 1871, the regiment went to Devonport; and in February 1873, in accordance with the scheme for the establishment of military centres, they were allocated to Perth in conjunction with the 79th.

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