Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot - 'the Earl of Mar's Gray Breeks'

On the 23rd of September, 1678, the Earl of Mar was commissioned to form Mar's Regiment of Foot.

The history of many of Scotland's regiment's goes back to the 17th or 18th Centuries. One of the earliest was the Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot, which was raised in Scotland to suppress the Covenanters, during what has been called the Second Whig Revolt. That revolt lasted a year or so, between 1678 and 1679, but the persecution of the Covenanters went on for some time afterwards, reaching its peak in the 'Killing Times'.

The Earl of Mar at that time was Charles Erskine, the 5th Earl. Erskine was a Stuart loyalist, which meant he was a supporter of the Catholic king, James VII & II, who had a wheen troubles wi' the Covenanters before he was usurped by his ain daughter and her first cousin, Orange Wullie. Wullie became King William II & III and his Protestant wife, James Stuart's daughter, became Queen Mary II & II. You can argue what you like, but
first cousins definitely sounds like inbreeding, a lot of which went on within the 'royal families' of Europe in those days.

After the Whig Revolt, Mar's Regiment was used ostensibly to “keep the peace and put down brigands, mercenaries, and rebels.” In fact, the regiment that came to be nicknamed 'the Earl of Mar's Gray Breeks' was involved in some serious persecution of the Covenanters, most all of whom were innocent of any real wrongdoing. Read 'Ringhan Gilhaize', by John Galt, if you want to find out more; it's a revelation.

The Covenanters had been around for ages, since before the Bishop's Wars and the time of Montrose. However, by the time Mar's Regiment got involved, the Covenanters referred to were really just the ordinary Presbyterian worshippers. Those folks just wanted to be left in peace to worship after their own fashion, but King James was having none of that. The ordinary peasants and their ministers were forced to hide and have their services in the fields, in makeshift 'churches' behind a ditch or a drystane wall or under a tree, in what became known as Conventicles.

Jardine's Book of Martyrs, an online resource researched by historian, Dr. Mark Jardine, has a wealth of information on the Killing Times. There are also a few references to Mar's Grey Breeks on Jardine's website. It seems a good number of Mar's officers carried out the duty of “putting down rebels” with some degree of enthusiasm. In addition to more famous names; the likes of General Tam Dalyell and 'Bluidy Clavers', who gained his own infamy and fought the Covenanters at Drumclog and Bothwell Brig, eight of the Earl of Mar's officers are mentioned by Jardine. Those men oppressed the populace throughout most of south-western Scotland for years, imposing fines and forfeitures, and even divesting them of their property. But it got worse – those were the Killing Times, which was no misnomer. Many were summarily executed in the fields and lots more were killed or mutilated after being put on trial for 'rebelling' against the King's authority.

The rogues gallery that put a stain on the name of Mar’s Regiment of Foot included Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Buchan, “a most violent persecuter” who helped himself to upwards of 4000 pounds Scots; Majors Andrew White (who later became the Lieutenant-governor of Edinburgh Castle) and John Balfour; Captains Thomas Douglas and John Dalziel; and Lieutenants William White, William Burnett of Barnes (the great-grandson of the 'Hoolet of Barns') who was known to have appropriated “much Spoyl” and John Bell, who shot a man called William Paterson at Strathaven Castle, without any trial, for refusing the abjuration.

Thankfully, the reputation of 'the Earl of Mar's Gray Breeks' improved significantly thereafter. The regiment converted to fusiliers and became the Scots Fusilier Regiment of Foot in 1689, the year of the 'Glorious Revolution'. However, when James VII & II fled to Ireland, it changed sides. The following century, during the War of the Spanish Succession , the regiment performed with distinction, gaining the nickname of 'the Duke of Marlborough's Own' and in 1712, became the Royal Scots Fusilier Regiment of Foot.

Its Scottish heritage, at least as far as its name was concerned, didn't last long, though, as the following year it was renamed the Royal North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot. Later, at Culloden, the regiment fought on the Hanoverian side against the Jacobites and, in 1751, it became the 21st Royal North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot. That lasted over a hundred years until 1877, when its name was changed once again; to the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers Regiment of Foot. Then came the Childers Reforms of 1881 and the regiment became the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

In 1959, after two World Wars in which the regiment served with honour, the Royal Scots Fusiliers were amalgamated with the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) to form The Royal Highland Fusiliers, (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment). These days, the regiment has morphed into the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (since 2006). 2 SCOTS, is a Light Role Infantry Battalion, which forms one of seven Battalions in the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Latterly, the regiment has seen service in Afghanistan, and since its less than auspicious beginnings, it can be justifiably proud of its history and the battle honours that it has won from Blenheim and Ramillies to Waterloo, two World Wars, and the Gulf War. The regiment has won a number of VCs, with the first being won by Pte. George Rogers (actually of the 71st Highlanders, which had been known as the 1st  Battalion the Highland Light Infantry since 1809 - later, in 1959, amalgamating with the Fusiliers). Pte. Rogers won his VC during the Indian Mutiny for é›»aring conduct at Marar, Gwalior, on the 16th of June, 1858, in attacking by himself a party of seven rebels, one of whom he killed.

Another hero of the 71st was Piper McLaughlin, who, despite having both his legs shot off by a canon ball at the Battle of Vittoria, continued to play his pipes, encouraging his comrades until he expired.

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