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Thread: John Hugh Ross Macdonald/McDonald

  1. #1

    John Hugh Ross Macdonald/McDonald

    Greetings all,

    I'd be gratefull for confirmation as to whether a soldier named John Hugh Ross Macdonald/McDonald, recipient of the Egypt medal 1882 with bars for Tel El Kebir, The Nile 1884-1885 and Kirbekan, rose to the rank of Serjeant Major in the Black Watch.

    I think I'm right in thinking there is a list of Sergeant Majors in the appendix of 'Officers of the Black Watch 1739-86' which I can't lay my hand on just now. Is anyone able to check that?

    Many thanks,

    JF

  2. #2
    Senior Member ronmarsden's Avatar
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    Jf, there is no record of sergeant's in that book.
    There are lots of John Macdonalds, if you are referring to Regt no 1373 or no 1948 I have details.
    Ron.

  3. #3

    John Hugh Ross Macdonald/McDonald

    Ron, thanks. I was thinking of Serjeants Major; a considerably smaller sample. Did I have that wrong? I am sure I have seen such a list in print somewhere.
    Last edited by Jf42; 10th June 2017 at 12:01.

  4. #4
    Senior Member ronmarsden's Avatar
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    There is no record of Sgt Majors published that I know of.
    He is not listed in the 42nd record of Sgts.
    He is not listed in BW sgts roll RHQ records.
    From the medal rolls the only man to hold the clasps you mentioned is Pte John Mc'Donald no RH/845.
    Ron.

  5. #5
    Thanks Ron. 'John McDonald no RH/845' is apparently our man. A descendant here: http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=11888 - is looking to fill out the information the family have on his forbear. Apparently, 'McDonald' is how the name is rendered in Army records, whereas the Invernesshire family spelt their name 'MacDonald.' It seems they have not yet had the opportunity to explore records held at the National Archives. The association with the medal rolls was by extrapolation, which your observations would seem to confirm.

    An obituary in an undated newspaper cutting circa 1925 refers to "Sergeant Major Ross McDonald, eldest son of Mr Donald McDonald of Glenkirk, and nephew of General Ross." A maternal uncle, evidently, his mother being Margaret Ross. Details in the obituary indicate that he died in Tasmania which might account for some anomalies in the reporting.

    The obituary refers to his taking part in the Zulu war, which seems unlikely on the face of it. It has been suggested that this might be a garbled reference to the Ashanti expedition five years earlier. The article also refers to McDonald/Macdonald's service in Egypt under Sir Garnet Wolseley "by whom he promoted on the field for bravery in saving Sir Garnet's life." Family tradition also records "Our family had a beautiful Jewelled dagger in a presentation box that belonged to John. It was a gift to him from a senior officer. It has been lost now unfortunately."

    I don't recollect any tradition of a Black Watch soldier saving General Wolseley's life. If any such incident occured, I think it would have been more likely in Ashanti than in Egypt or on the Nile. The only Ashanti hero I know of was 'Jock' McGaw, "the stoutest man i'the Forty Twa."

    It appears that subsequent to his enlistment as a young man circa 1866, having thrown over his medical studies in Edinburgh, Macdonald was bought out but then re-enlisted circa 1882. If so, he would have been a comparitively elderly ranker. Perhaps his experience or his previous record made his return to the colours particularly welcome given 1BW's imminent active service overseas. Depending on the terms of his enlistment, could it be that he returned to the ranks as a Reservist?

    Given that these are family traditions based on an old soldier's recollections, recounted in a distant part of the Empire and transmitted over several generations, we may be grasping at smoke here. If John Macdonald ever in fact held the rank of Sergeant Major, it might well have not been in the ranks of the Black Watch or even the Regulars.

    All thoughts welcome.

    Thanks, JF
    Last edited by Jf42; 10th June 2017 at 12:19.

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