An Afternoon with The 78th Fraser Highlanders
The Minister’s cat had nearly jumped out of her skin when they’d walked through the performers’ entrance and come face-to-face with the 78th Fraser Highlanders’ pipe-band from Canada, practicing at full blast behind the dressing rooms. She’d actually gone pale when he’d introduced her to the pipe major, an old acquaintance. Not that Bill Livingstone was intimidating on his own; it was the Fraser clan badge on his chest that had done it.
Je suis prest, it said. I am ready. Not nearly ready enough, Roger thought, and wanted to kick himself for bringing her.
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn (Chapter 4 – A Blast from the Past)
Unlike Bree, my favourite time at this year’s Victoria Highland Games was that which we spent in the company of the recreated 78th Fraser Highlanders. My Englishman and I happened across them just as they were lining up in all their finery to undergo inspection.
Appearances are everything when you’re starring in the Main Event…
I am told by My Englishman (a reliable source, you’ll have to trust me) that while this is indeed a badger sporran, it is from a North American badger, not an authentic Scottish Badger.
While he may be right, I found his whispering in my ear to be an unwelcome distraction from all the kilted men around me. So like loving partners everywhere, I just smiled and nodded until he stopped.
And then I got back to the Frasers…
How can you not stop to spend some time with these gents?
Having been there, I can tell you…IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE.
(I mean, look at those smiles…not to mention the gorget around his throat on the left!)
Are you ready? Really? Cause I know I am.
But we should start with a little history first, I think. After all, those are Redcoats our lads have on. What’s up with that?
The 78th Fraser Highlanders was a British infantry unit raised in Scotland in 1757 to fight in the French & Indian War, the North American theatre of the Seven Years War that features prominently in the Lord John stories.
The regiment helped to secure victory for the British at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (the Battle of Quebec) in 1759, the capture of Montreal in 1760, and at the Battle of Signal Hill in 1762 at St. John’s (Newfoundland). At the end of the war, the regiment was disbanded in what is now Canada.
A reenactment group first recreated the regiment for the 1967 Worlds Fair in Montreal, and the regiment has grown since to include many branches across North America.
To win at war, you have to have weapons. The 78th Highlanders were issued with a Long Land Pattern musket, as well as a basket-hilted broadsword. Sporrans and dirks were not issued, and were worn only by those with sufficient wealth to possess their own.
Cutting edge for its time, the Long Land Pattern musket (aka the Brown Bess) was hardly an automatic weapon. Soldiers needed a combination of loading skill and luck just to get the thing to fire. And then they had to hit their target…
Watch as our warrior and his wonderful mustache walk you through the loading, and pseudo-firing, of his musket — I found this fascinating — it brought 18th C. warfare off of DG’s pages and right before my eyes.
Maneuvering the cannon into place, away from the crowds, and making ready to fire…
I could go on for quite a stretch about how much we enjoyed our day at the Games. History, pageantry, whisky, kilts and pipes — it doesn’t get more Scottish than that!
Thank you to the organizers and participants for the fabulous show. If you have a Highland Games coming to your area this spring or summer, I highly recommend you take an afternoon to find out what it’s all about. If it’s anything like our day, you’ll be glad you did.