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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland

Mutinies of the Highland Regiments

Macdonald's Highlanders
Seventy-Sixth Regiment

In the year 1779, this corps was ordered up from Fort George for embarkation, and quartered in Burntisland and Kinghorn. Soon after they arrived there, great numbers of the Highlanders were observed in parties in earnest conversation. In the evening of the third day, each company gave in a written statement, complaining of non-performance of promises, of bounty-money unpaid, &c. and accompanied their statement with a declaration, that, till these were satisfactorily settled, they would not embark. They requested, at the same time, that Lord Macdonald, the chief and patron of the regiment, should be sent for to see justice done to them. An answer not having been returned soon enough, or in the manner they expected, they marched away in a body, and took possession of a hill above the town of Burntisland, continuing firm to their purpose, but abstaining from all violence; and when several other young soldiers wished to join them, perhaps as much for the sake of the frolic as any thing else, they ordered them back to their quarters, telling them they had no cause of complaint, and no claims to be adjusted; and that, therefore, they ought to obey their officers, and do their duty, and leave them (the Highlanders) to answer for their own conduct.

Things remained in this state for some days, the Highlanders regularly sending parties to the town for provisions, and paying punctually for what they received. It happened fortunately, that the regiment was at that time commanded by Major Alexander Donaldson, an officer of great experience, and not less firm than conciliating. Born in the Highlands, he had served for nineteen years in the 42d regiment, and understood perfectly the peculiar habits and dispositions of his countrymen. Aided by Lieutenant David Barclay, the paymaster, an investigation took place, and every man's claim was clearly made out. When this statement was laid before Lord Macdonald on his arrival, his Lordship and Major Donaldson advanced the money, and took the risk of recovering it from those whose conduct had nearly ruined a brave and honourable body of men, as they afterwards proved themselves to be; and it is a fact that ought not to be overlooked, and which I have from the best authority, (as, indeed, I have all I state), that, when the individual claims were sent to the Isle of Skye, all, without exception, were found to be just;a circumstance which, no doubt, was taken into consideration by those who had to form a judgment of this act of insubordination. No man was brought to trial, or even put into confinement; and when all was settled, the Highlanders embarked with the greatest cheerfulness; but, before they sailed, all the men of of Skye and Uist sent their money home to their families and friends.

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