Who out there knows which war the 78th Fraser Highlanders fought in? Or where Keith’s Highlanders fought their battles? Whatever happened to the 70th Glasgow Lowland Regiment?
I’m guessing that some of you do – but my point is that history is not only written by the winners, it’s written by the survivors. The exploits of the Black Watch, Royal Scots, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Cameronians are all reasonably well known. But what about the regiments that were raised and disbanded in the space of a couple of years? Or the Scottish regiments which morphed into Irish or English regiments? Some of these Scottish regiments had fighting records which equalled the Black Watch or the Camerons, but they have been consigned to the dustbin of history.
The British Government has always tried to keep the Army as small as possible – often in reality too small to do all the jobs required of it. The “can-do” attitude and making do with inferior equipment that has characterised the British Army has often meant men, and these days women, have died unnecessarily – a look at Iraq and Afghanistan shows nothing has changed.
That desire to keep the Army small – also a legacy of a fear of military coup which dates back to the days of Cromwell – meant that many regiments were formed in wartime and quickly disbanded when peace was restored. For example, King William III had 15 Scottish regiments fighting for him in Europe between 1694 and 1697. Earlier, in 1692, no fewer than 11 of the 25 British regiments King William sent to Europe were Scots.
The counties assigned to the various Scottish regiments as recruiting areas by the time of the First World War were as follows –
Royal Scots – City of Edinburgh, County of Edinburgh (Mid Lothian), Haddingtonshire (East Lothian) and Linlithgowshire (West Lothian)and Peeblesshire.
Royal Scots Fusiliers – Ayrshire
King’s Own Scottish Borderers – Berwickshire, Drumfrieshire, Roxburghshire, Kirkcubrightshire, and Selkirkshire.
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) – Lanarkshire and Parts of Glasgow
Black Watch – Fife, Forfarshire and Perthshire.
Highland Light Infantry – Glasgow.
Seaforth Highlanders – Caithness, Cromarty, Elginshire, Nairnshire, Orkney, Ross-shire, Sutherland.
Gordon Highlanders – Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Shetland and Kincardineshire.
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders - Inverness-shire.
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – Argyllshire, Bute-shire, Clackmananshire, Dumbartonshire, Kinross-shire, Renfrewshire and Stirlingshire.
The Royal Scots Greys and the Scots Guards recruited from across Scotland.
For more information on the regiments check out the Quick Guide to the Scottish Regiments
"Cowan's retelling of the Scottish experience in Canada does an excellent job of giving an overview of the complex and compelling history of the country. Anyone who still clings to the old notion that Canada's history is boring (particularly in comparison to the Revolutionary beginnings and Wild West mythology of our southern neighbour) would have their eyes opened by reading Cowan's book." - Suite 101.
“entertaining and playful” - Celtic Connection magazine.
“Paul Cowan provides wonderful accounts of the explorers, settlers, rogues, politicians and charlatans who were Canada’s Scots.” - The Daily Gleaner.
“well written and informative” - Andrew Hinson, University of Guelph.
“This journalistic venture into Canadian history is a great success. Well written and humorous, it introduces the reader to well known and lesser known figures who, indeed, were the makers of Canada. Sir John A MacDonald, Colonel James F Macleod, Alexander MacKenzie and many more are well depicted in this fine book” - Alberta History