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The Scottish Soldier

The stories told in Scotland's Regimental Museums sometimes end in defeat as well as victory, but they are always spellbinding tales of courage.

BY BRUCE MACGREGOR SANDISON

Clan Mackay and Clan Sutherland fought their last battle in 1431 at Druim na Coup on the northern slopes of Ben Loyal. I see the site from my window as I write and, sometimes, when I walk that way, I think I hear the cry of angry voices. But it is the rush of the wind across the moor echoing amidst the corners and corries of the mountain.

We Scots are a warlike race. From the Borders to the Shetland Isles, hardly a square inch of my native soil is free from association with some deadly struggle. But the carnage of Culloden on April 14, 1746 destroyed the warrior clans. Their land was stolen and they became the tenants and slaves of their English-educated lairds. To enhance their own dignity and impress London society, these lairds raised companies of soldiers, led, of course, by the lairds themselves. Out of these beginnings, many Scottish regiments were born.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that without the fighting quality of the Scottish soldier, Britain could never have sustained its far-flung Empire. They played a major role in protecting the commercial interests of the nation, often at a terrible cost to themselves. The story of their battles, triumphs and disasters is one of astonishing courage, vividly told in Regimental Museums throughout the land. Edinburgh is a good starting point for a journey of military discovery.

The full text of this article is available in the Autumn 2007 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Finlaystone House by Richenda Miers.

Photo top right: © Scottish Viewpoint. Photos spread: Col. R.P. Mason/Royal Scots Regimental Museum