IAIN GRAY on the raising 300 years ago of the Scottish regiment for

ever associated with the Covenanters

THEY will assemble in their hundreds at the quiet village of Douglas,

in Douglas Dale, Lanarkshire, tomorrow, guarded by picquets posted at

every point of the compass. The service they will have travelled from

all parts of Britain to attend will not begin until the Picquet Officer

informs the officiating minister: ''Reverend sir, the picquets are

posted, there is no enemy in sight, the service may proceed.''

Thus will be re-enacted a ceremony which took place countless times

during the grim Killing Times from 1660 to 1688, when staunch defenders

of Presbyterianism, known as the Covenanters, gathered in the hills of

Lanarkshire, Kircudbrightshire, Dumfriesshire, and Ayrshire, to carry

out their chosen form of worship -- armed with musket, sword, and Bible.

Variously known as the Hillmen, Wild Western Whigs, or Society People,

by 1680 they were known to the marauding bands of dragoons who tried to

hunt them down as Cameronians -- adherents of a particularly strict form

of Presbyterianism committed to the overthrow of both the reigning

Stuart monarch's arbitrary power and the form of Episcopalian worship he

sought to impose. Convinced they were the select people of God and his

chosen instruments, they disowned those Presbyterians who were prepared

to tolerate even moderate Episcopalianism.

The hundreds who will gather tomorrow will not only be re-enacting a

Covenanting service, or conventicle, but commemorating the raising 300

years ago, near the spot, of a regiment which was to gain fame as the


Exactly 21 years ago, again in Douglas Dale, the regiment, known as

the 1st Battalion The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), despite having

woven itself into Scotland's rich heritage, was disbanded through a

combination of economic duress and political expediency.

The 500 or so people who will assemble will include former officers

and men of the Cameronians, their families, and friends. The forebears

of these men and their families had been adherents of the National

Covenant of 1638, which challenged the King's prerogative and sought a

free Scottish assembly and Parliament.

It was not until June 1680, faced with the increasing obduracy of

Charles II, and the severe persecutions to which they were subject, that

what in effect was open war was declared on the King. In that month, at

the head of a party of 20 armed men, Richard Cameron, a hill preacher

originally from Falkland, in Fife, posted a declaration on the market

cross of Sanquhar, in Dumfriesshire. In May the previous year, the

Covenanters had won a victory at Drumclog, only to be routed about a

month later at Bothwell Bridge.

This Sanquhar Declaration disowned Charles, who, the Cameronians said,

had been ''tyrannising the throne of Britain.'' Declaring war on him,

they said he had forfeited his right to rule.

With a price of 500 merks on his head, Cameron and his followers

survived for about a month after the posting of the declaration in the

relative security of Aird's Moss, in the parish of Auchinleck, in

Ayrshire. So intense was the hunt for them, however, that they were

suprised by a body of 70 horse and foot.

Cameron was killed and his head and hands cut off. When these were

carried to Edinburgh, it is said that the man who laid them before the

Privy Council said: ''There's the head and hands that lived praying and

preaching, and died praying and fighting.''

Undaunted by the death of their leader and the later execution of

another leading Cameronian, Donald Cargill, who at a ceremony in the

Torwood, near Stirling, had ''excommunicated'' Charles, the Cameronians

clung on to survival until William of Orange, in the Glorious Revolution

of 1688, overthrew the Stuart dynasty, and James VII, who had been

crowned King after the death of his brother Charles in 1685, fled to


The Convention of Estates, which William had required to be assembled

in Edinburgh, and which nervously watched the Cameronians gleefully

rampaging through the Lowlands, ousting bishops and clergy from their

parishes, decided they should be raised as a regiment, under James, Earl

of Angus, as colonel, and William Cleland as lieutenant-colonel.

The 18-year-old Earl, whose father was the Marquess of Douglas,

overcame initial Cameronian resistance to being organised as a regiment

-- they felt they could be contaminated through ''sinful association''

with those not staunch enough in their Presbyterian beliefs -- by

persuading them to accept the following terms of enlistment:

''To declare that you engage in this service, of purpose to resist

popery and arbitrary power, and to recover and establish the work of

reformation in Scotland, in opposition to popery, prelacy, and arbitrary

power in all the branches and steps thereof, till the government in

Church and state be brought to lustre and integrity which it had in the

best of times.''

Accordingly, the Cameronians, on May 14, 1689, were raised in Douglas

Dale as 20 companies, organised in two battalions. Each company had an

elder, and every man a Bible.

A few weeks later, the strength of the regiment -- known officially as

the Angus Regiment -- was returned at a colonel, lieutenant-colonel,

major, aidmajor, surgeon and mate, 20 captains, 20 lieutenants, 20

ensigns, 40 sergeants, 60 corporals, 40 drummers, and 1140 centinels.

The regimental rolls show the most common surname was Hamilton,

followed by a plethora of Oliphants, Douglases, Cunninghams, Johnstones,

Muirs, Lockharts, and Wallaces.

Their first action was on August 21, at Dunkeld, where, while

defending the town, they were attacked by a force of about 3000

Highlanders under Lieutenant-General Cannon. At one stage, with their

supply of bullets running low, the Cameronians stripped the lead from

the roof of the cathedral and mansion house, melted it down, ran it into

furrows in the ground, and cut it into slugs.

In the face of stubborn resistance, the Highlanders eventually

withdrew --but Lieutenant-Colonel Cleland was killed by a bullet through

the liver and one in the head. The sword he wielded at Dunkeld, now in

the care of the regimental museum at Hamilton, will grace the communion

table at tomorrow's conventicle.

Three years after Dunkeld, in its first Continental campaign, the

Cameronians' founder, the Earl of Angus, fell at Steenkirk, in the Low


It was in the War of the Spanish Succession that the Cameronians won

the first of the many battle honours that were to distinguish both the

regiment and its country of birth. They were Blenheim (1704), Ramillies

(1706), Oudenarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709). At Oudenarde, exposure

to a cannonade lasting nearly two hours left many of the regiment's

strength dead or wounded.

Following spells of duty in Ireland, the regiment, during the 1715

Jacobite Rising, along with a company of dragoons, captured Preston from

a force of Jacobites -- effectively putting an end to the '15 Rising, at

least south of the Border. Fifty-two years later, during the American

War of Independence, they defended Quebec and took part in the capture

of Forts Montgomery and Clinton.

It was not until February, 1786, that the officially listed Angus

Regiment received permission to be known as the 26th or Cameronian


A major disaster struck the Cameronians in December, 1805, when,

sailing from Ireland for Germany, two of the five transports were lost.

Five officers, 224 non-commissioned officers and men, and 22 women and

children drowned when the transport Maria was wrecked on the Haak Sands,

off the Texel. The Aurora, which struck on the Goodwin Sands, lost nine

officers, 250 non-commissioned officers and men, and 30 women and


Among the impressive lists of battle honours -- including honours for

service in parts of the globe ranging from Corunna and Sevastapol to

China, Lucknow, and Ladysmith, there are instances of other human


It was not uncommon for example, for wives to travel abroad with their

husbands on campaigns, because to be left behind invariably meant being

left destitute. Regimental records record the case of Margaret Dove,

wife of Cameronian Peter Dove, who was tried by court martial in

Gibraltar, in 1738, for creating a disturbance and slitting another

soldier's throat. She was sentenced to 300 lashes -- 100 to be

administered by the regimental drummers each day for three days -- and

then driven from the garrison.

Under the army reforms of 1881, the Cameronian Regiment became the 1st

Battalion The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), while the 90th Regiment, or

the Perthshire Volunteers (Light Infantry), entered the regiment as its

2nd battalion. In 1947, through the army decision to reduce all

regiments to one regular battalion, the 2nd battalion was re-numbered

the 1st, and absorbed the 1st battalion.

The Perthshire Volunteers, who had come to the Cameronians with their

own proud tradition, had been founded by Thomas Graham of Balgowan in

1794. He had vowed to fight the French after his wife's coffin was

desecrated by a mob while he was transporting it through revolutionary

France. His wife, the Honourable Mary Cathcart, a renowned beauty of her

day, had been painted by Gainsborough.

In the carnage of the First World War, principal battle honours won by

the regiment were Mons, Marne, Neuve Chapelle, Loos, Somme, Ypres,

Hindenburg Line, Macedonia, Gallipoli, and Palestine.

During the Second World War, in which at one stage Cameronians had

been included in one of Brigadier Orde Wingate's Chindit forces, charged

with harrying the Japanese behind their lines, principal battle honours

were Odon, Scheldt, Rhineland, North West Europe 1940 and 1944-45,

Sicily, Anzio, Italy 1943-44, Chindits 1944, and Burma 1942, 1944.

Following the Second World War, the Cameronians served in Malaya

against communist insurgents and, in 1966, played an active role for

nine months in Aden, against the National Front for the Liberation of

South Yemen. In 1962 they received rather unwelcome national publicity

following an incident while stationed in Germany with the British Army

of the Rhine. After some of them had allegedly wreaked near mayhem in a

bar, a local burgomeister described them as ''poisoned dwarves.''

Criticism, however, was tempered by a statement from one MP in the

House of Commons at the time who said: ''In the early part of April some

Jocks beat up a honky tonk one night. I do not know whether I am

somewhat out of date, but in my day it would have been news if two

months had gone by without the Jocks doing something like that.''

The death knell of the Cameronians was sounded in July 1967, when it

was announced in Parliament: ''The Lowland Brigade will reduce by one

battalion, which will be the 1st Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). The

council of colonels did not recommend an amalgamation with another

battalion in the event of reduction.''

Serving officers and men were dispersed to other regiments, but the

Cameronians still survive in a form today through two Territorial Army

Volunteer Reserve companies -- based in Hamilton and Motherwell -- and

an army cadet battalion.

Doubtless, at tomorrow's conventicle, the sentiments expressed by a

former Cameronian padre, Dr Donald MacDonald, at the 1968 disbandment

conventicle, will be recalled. Before a freak thunderstorm ominously

rolled over Douglas Dale at the close of that sad occasion, Dr MacDonald

had said: ''You now move out of the Army List because of changes in

emphasis in our defence systems coupled with economic duress and

political expediency. But be not disheartened.

''The Army List is a document of temporary significance liable to

amendments or excision, according to the whim and swing of governments.

So put pride in your step, Cameronians!

''As you march out of the Army List you are marching into history, and

from your place there no man can remove your name, and no man can snatch

a rose from the chaplet of your honour.''