BBC News

Campaign to restore Victorian soldier's reputation

By Craig Anderson
BBC Scotland

image captionSir Hector rose through the ranks from teenage soldier to major general

One of the most celebrated soldiers of the Victorian era is to be commemorated in his Highlands home town of Dingwall more than 100 years after he died.

Maj Gen Sir Hector MacDonald was a household name.

But campaigners say a scandal surrounding his death led to his true place in history being ignored.

Nicknamed Fighting Mac, he was the son of a Ross-shire crofter but rose from the ranks as a teenage soldier to become a senior officer.

He was regarded by his peers to be a brilliant military strategist.

Some of his techniques in drill are still taught at the British Army's Sandhurst military academy today.

He led his men from the front and after conspicuous bravery in the Afghan wars and in north and south Africa he became an aide to Queen Victoria.

However, rumours about sexual activity with young men in Ceylon led to threats of a court martial and he shot himself in a Paris hotel in 1903.

Now the Clan Donald Society wants to rehabilitate his reputation, and will hold a ceremony on Saturday at a tower built in Dingwall in honour of Fighting Mac.

Greig Allan, bard to the clan society, believes the rumours were the result of class snobbery and spite among fellow officers.

Mr Allan said: "He would fight at the front of his men, even when the enemy were coming towards him.

"He was respected by his men and was very much one of the men. I think this was at odds with some of the officers that had bought themselves into the ranks."

The bard added: "The tragic circumstances of his death - which remains a mystery and his funeral was more or less held in secrecy - all add to the conspiracy theory and mystique."

Alan MacDonald, president of the Clan Donald Society, said Sir Hector was admired for his prowess as a soldier and was knighted by Queen Victoria.

He added: "To a certain extent he became out of favour in the military, and as a consequence of that the man almost became oblivious, which seems quite extraordinary."

Related Internet Links

  • Clan Donald Society

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.