Notes & Queries 8



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 2

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.

75TH REGIMENT - Deserted at Aberdeen from the additional company on Sunday, April 11, 1790, John Dorsen; aged 24; 5 feet 6 inches; fair complexion, black hair, brown eyes; by trade a painter; by birth German; well made; is supposed to have taken the road to Edinburgh.

89TH REGIMENT - Deserted from a recruiting party quartered at Turriff on May 23, 1782, John Cameron; aged 30; 5 feet 4 inches; a little pitted with the small-pox; born in Kilmalie, Inverness-shire; lately a travelling chapman. He had on a blue shirt, coat, and white tartan hose. "He speaks the Highland accent very much."

THE 99TH REGIMENT - "A few recruits wanted to complete His Majesty's 99th (or Jamaica Regiment), commanded by Major-General Robert Skene. To all aspiring heroes bold, who spouts above slavery and trade, and inclination to become gentlemen by bearing arms in the above regiment commanded by the magnanimous Colonel Skene, let them repair to the rendezvous of the regiment at Elgin, Forres, and Grantown, where Captain Grant, of the regiment, will receive them; and each gentleman volunteer shall kindly and honourably entertained and enter into present pay and good quarters. Besides, gentlemen, for your better and further encouragement, you shall receive advance a larger bounty and premium than can be given by any regiment in South Britain; and when you come to join your respective regiments, shall have new hats, caps, arms, cloaks, and accoutrements, and everything that is necessary and fitting to complete a gentlemen soldier.

We take up arms not to revenge ourselves. But to free our country from oppressive wrongs. God Save their Majesties and Success to their Arms.

N.B. - All gentlemen of spirit desirous of further information about the establishment of the regiment, by sending letters, first paid to Captain Grant, 99th Regiment, at Grantown, may learn particulars. Handsome lads of address and education, properly recommended, shall instantly be made sergeants and corporals: before the war is over they may be honoured with the King's commission". (Aberdeen Journal, April 8, 1782)

MAJOR-GENERAL FRASER'S HIGHLAND REGIMENT - Deserted from a recruiting party at Huntly, Kenneth Mackenzie, a tinker, aged 19; 5 feet 7 inches; "long visaged and pock pitted"; wore when he went off a short blue duffle coat, a red waistcoat, a bonnet with red and white diamonds above the ring, and a pair of leather breeches. Was seen on the 23rd ult. near Tough, with a wallet and tools on his back, in company with an old woman (said to be his mother), who wants a nose. (Aberdeen Journal, February 5, 1776)

Deserted from a recruiting party, Andrew Cowed, 21; shoemaker; 5 feet 4 inches; William M'Donald, labourer, Marnoch, aged 19; 5 feet 6 inches; John McQueen, tinker, born at Lonmay, aged 27; 5 feet 6 inches; "dusk haired," blue eyed, thin faced, Roman nose, clear complexion. Wore a short blue coat and a bonnet: had his hair "clubbed." (Aberdeen Journal, March 4, 1776)

Deserted on February 10, 1776, from a recruiting party, Francis Priost, aged 21, born in Mortlach; 5 feet 7 inches. Wore a "short blue coat, red waist, and a little kilt."

THE DUKE OF YORK'S HIGHLANDERS - The Aberdeen Journal (September 17, 1798) says:- "Duke of York's Royal Regiment of Highlanders, commanded by Colonel Gordon. This regiment being considerably above completed, Colonel Gordon has received His Majesty's command to raise an augmentation to it, to be place on a higher establishment, and as the Colonel is now in this country for that purpose, all young fellows who have spirit to go with him and join their countrymen in Ireland will meet with every wish to do it."

We hear from the north (says the Aberdeen Journal of March 18, 1776) that a few days ago a servant maid, disguised in man's apparel, enlisted for a soldier with a recruiting party. After having received the bounty money she got leave to go home under the pretence of taking leave of her friends; with the bounty she paid off some debts and then fled the country.