Campaign to restore Victorian soldier's reputation

Sir Hector MacDonald Sir 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.

Start Quote

He was respected by his men and was very much one of the men”

End Quote Greig Allan Clan Donald Society bard

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."

More on This Story

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

BBC Highlands & Islands

Weather

Inverness

Min. Night 7 °C

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • getawayDigital detox

    If you can’t shake your device addiction on your own, there’s a getaway for you

Programmes

  • Hitch-hiking robot HitchBOTClick Watch

    Hitch-hiking robot HitchBOT completes a 6,000 km (3,700 mile) trip plus other tech news

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.