Notes & Queries 7



Scottish Notes & Queries


An occasional series of articles gleaned from research into my NE Scotland ancestors. Lots of stories and odd snippets. I hope you find them as interesting as I do...

Scottish Notes & Queries, December 1904

Some Desertions in the North - Part 1

The idea that the regiments at the close of the 18th century were raised, and that desertions were rare, is a complete fallacy.  Here are some cases in point which I found in the advertisement columns of the Aberdeen Journal when hunting on a different quest.

1ST ROYAL SCOTS - The Aberdeen Journal of March 18 and May 6, 1776, contained an advertisement for recruits (of 5 feet 6 inches).  Application was made to the Earl of Erroll.
Deserted from 2nd Battalion, John Duncan; 5 feet 7 inches; aded 19; born at Aberlour; enlisted Nairn, December 9, 1776; deserted at Fort-George, April 6, 1777; wore a wig, regimental jacket, white waistcoat, and linen drawers. (Aberdeen Journal, April 21, 1777)

29TH REGIMENT - The Aberdeen Journal of July 22, 1776, reported that "on Friday se'en at Luack Fair, Tarland, a recruiting party belonging to Captain Forbes, of the 29th Regiment, was attacked by a number of riotous people, and several persons were hurt in the fray.  One of the recruits received a dangerous wound in the left hand, and had it not been owing to Captain Forbes's prudent behaviour, it is probable the consequence would have been very bad."  On September 12, 1776, at the Circuit Court, Aberdeen, before Lord Gardenstone, Samuel Gordon, in Toldow, were charged with assaulting Donald Cameron, soldier, 29th Regiment, under Captain Forbes.  They were dismissed, as the case was not proven.  It appeared that the recruiting party had dealt blows very freely with the mob, and that Alexander Gordon, who had died before the trial came on, had been the first of the brothers engaged in the fray, and that the surviving brothers had taken only a "concern" in it to relieve Alexander.  The jury complimented Captain Forbes on his conduct in the fight.
Deserted from Captain Forbes's 29th Regiment, quartered at Aberdeen, William Coutts, day labourer, aged 20; 5 feet 9 inches; born in Auchindoir.  He came voluntarily and desired to be enlisted, and carried off a good deal of money with him.  It is hoped every good person who shall fall in with him will be at pains to apprehend him, and upon bringing him to Captain Forbes at Newe will get 20s, additional reward. (Aberdeen Journal, November 11, 1776)

48TH REGIMENT - The Aberdeen Journal advertised for recruits, March 25, 1776, applications to be made to Colonel Gordon of Balbithan.  On August 17, 1776, two recruits of the 48th and one of the 53rd were drowned on the beach at Aberdeen.
Deserted from a recruiting party, John Gordon, tailor, aged 30; 5 feet 7 inches; lived in the new town of Strichen.  He was under censure by the Church Session of Strichen for adultery. (Aberdeen Journal, April 29, 1776)
Deserted from a recruiting party, Alexander Macdonald; 5 feet 10 inches; born in Argyllshire; always had a sore on his under lip occasioned by his chewing tobacco.  He wore an old Grenadier's coat cut into a jacket, with the number of the regiment on the buttons, and a pair of old black stockings, with breeches. (Aberdeen Journal, December 16, 1776)
On March 17, 1779, 110 recruits of the 48th Regiment were shipped on board the "Earl of Erroll" (Captain Durno).  About eight next morning one of the soldiers, William Stanley, and Englishman, jumped overboard and was drowned.  As the wind blew hard, the vessel came back to Aberdeen harbour.

52ND REGIMENT - Deserted at Brechin, July 28, 1776, from a recruiting party commanded by Lieutenant William Braco Gordon, John Murray; aged 23; 5 feet 6 inches; wore a grey mixed shirt with a scarlet vest, and blue shag breeches with a round hat and a silver watch; resided at Gamrie.

53RD REGIMENT - Deserted September 30, 1777, Duncan Kair, weaver; born in Glengairn; aged 30; 5 feet 8 inches.  Archibald Gordon, son of Alexander Gordon XI, of Gight, was and officer of this regiment.
Deserted from a recruiting party at Aberdeen, July 19, 1777, John Hutcheon, alias John McKenzie; aged 18; 5 feet 3 inches; born in Ross-shire.

66TH REGIMENT - Deserted from a recruitment party stationed at Aberdeen, on April 13, 1782, Sergeant John Taylor; aged 30; 5 feet 7 inches.  He was born near Stonehaven, and had served 10 years in the regiment.  The 66th had had a recruiting party at Aberdeen in January, 1775.

71ST REGIMENT - Deserted from Captain Skelly's company, recruiting at Aberdeen, Alexander McQueen; aged 21; a tinker; 5 feet 4 inches; born in Old Deer.  He had on when he deserted a short, gray duffle coat and "kelt."  He had a woman with him, who passed for his wife.