Origins: Hector MacDonald
(origins) Origins: Hector the Hero (39)
Chord Req: Hector the Hero (38)
Subject: Origins: Hector MacDonald|
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Jan 19 - 12:16 AM
1 Away far away in the heart of the Highlands
Where eagles arise on the wings of the morn,
There stands the wee cot of a poor humble crofter
Where Scotland’s great hero, young Hector was born.
And there in the bright days of boyhood he wandered
Up on the mountains and down through the glen
While deeply and fondly the young hero pondered
On Scotland’s great soldiers and brave Highlandmen.
2 The morning of youth with its bright visions bore him
Far away from the home where so happy he’d been.
Inspired by the deeds of his fathers before him
Resolved him to fight for his country and Queen.
And soon from the ranks of the army he bounded
For he was a true-born soldier of war
And when the fierce Afghans, his small force surrounded
He drove them before him to wild Kandahar.
3 In countries far scattered we read his life’s story
‘Tis linked with the triumphs that Britons can claim
Omdurman’s the gem, in his great roll of glory
It added the crown to his wide-world fame.
And now the great soldier’s brave soul has departed
His great lion heart is at rest in the grave
Oh God: for to think that he died broken-hearted
Oh sleep, noble hero, the sleep of the brave.
Source: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, Vol 1, #141
(no melody available - song text only)
141 HECTOR MACDONALD Hector Macdonald (1853—1903) became a hero in Britain, and particularly in Scotland, following the spectacular part he played in the battle of Omdurman fought in the Sudan on 2 September 1898. He shot himself when about to be court-martialled on a charge which has never been divulged but is presumed to have been one of homosexuality. See John Montgomery, Toll for the Brave: the tragedy of Hector Macdonald (London, 1963).
Gw 4.97—8. After the title is written, “In memory of Major General Hector McDonald. Air. Flora McDonald’s Lament.” and at the end of the song are the words “Dulce et decorum est pro patria
mori” [“It is sweet and right to die for one’s country”]. The air is in Hogg, 1.179.
Subject: RE: Origins: Hector MacDonald|
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Jan 19 - 12:17 AM
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:
Hector MacDonaldDESCRIPTION: Hector joins the army and defeats Afghans in Kandahar. At Omdurman "in his great roll of glory It added the crown to his wide-world fame." "Now the great soldier's brave soul has departed ... he died broken hearted"
EARLIEST DATE: 1914 (GreigDuncan1)
KEYWORDS: battle death Africa nonballad soldier
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
GreigDuncan1 141, "Hector MacDonald" (1 text)
NOTES [828 words]: GreigDuncan1: "Hector Macdonald (1853-1903) became a hero in Britain, and particularly in Scotland, following the spectacular part he played in the battle of Omdurman fought in the Sudan on 2 September 1898. He shot himself when about to be court-martialled on a charge which has never been divulged but is presumed to have been one of homosexuality."
For an account of MacDonald's part on September 2 see Winson Churchill, The River War (London, 1997), pp. 209-218. Churchill: "All depended on MacDonald, and that officer, who by valour and conduct in war had won his way from the rank of a private soldier to the command of a brigade, was equal to the emergency" [p. 215]. See also Wikipedia article Battle of Omdurman - BS
Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972 (I use the 1985 Norton edition), p. 207. says that MacDonald first came to be noticed two dozen years before his death, in Afghanistan. As Lord Roberts traveled with a small escort in 1879, his force was attacked by Afghans. "In the sharp engagement that followed, Roberts was struck by the bravery and leadership shown by a colour sergeant of the 92nd. His name was Hector MacDonald and during the course of the action one of his men had called out to him, 'We'll make ye an officer for this day's work, Sergeant!' And another added, 'Aye, and a general too!' Roberts gave MacDonald a battlefield commission...."
He certainly didn't seem destined to be an officer in the very class-conscious British army, being a draper's assistant who had run away from home to become a soldier (Farwell, p. 247). And, indeed, he was more than nine years in the ranks before his promotion, and was still only a lieutenant in 1881, when he fought at Majuba Hill (for which see the song of that name). MacDonald was so determined that, once all else had failed, he actually fought the Boers with his fists, but finally was taken prisoner (Farwell, p. 250). Soon after, he was selected by General Evelyn Wood to be one of the two dozen officers Wood took to Egypt to rebuild the Egyptian army (Farwell, p. 282).
Initially he served as a battalion commander of Sudanese troops (Farwell, p. 332) -- another job looked down on by the snobs. He seems to have been known at this time as "Fighting Mac" (Farwell, p. 333). In 1898, as Kitchener went to fight in Sudan, Macdonald (then a colonel) was given command of a brigade of local troops (Farwell, p. 334). The Battle of Omdurman came about because Kitchener, without knowing it, planned to march across the front of a major force of dervishes. MacDonald was rather far from the main body when the Africans attacked. He calmly swung his brigade to face them, and beat off a force estimated at 20,000 (Farwell, p. 338). Farwell credits MacDonald solely with the victory; he thinks Kitchener botched his part. David Chandler, general editor; Ian Beckett, associate editor, The Oxford History of the British Army, 1994 (I use the 1996 Oxford paperback edition), p. 208, also mentions his noteworthy work at Omdurman, which "enable[d] Kitchener to complete the rout of the enemy and enter Omdurman in triumph."
Other battles in which Macdonald served included Gemaizah, Toski, Tokar, Firket, and Hafir (Farwell, p. 334).
"The fate of the crofter's son was [sad]. Macdonald further distinguished himself in the Boer War and he eventually became a major-general, but in 1903, while commanding the British forces in Ceylon, he was charged with being a practicing homosexual. He went to London to defend himself, but was ordered back to Ceylon to face a court of inquiry. He got no further than Paris. There in a hotel room this officer, so brave under the fire of Afghans, Dervishes and Boers, shot himself" (Farwell, p. 338).
MacDonald would have been 61 in 1914 -- still young enough, probably, for field service. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if he, rather than the excitable John French (one year older) or the unimaginative Douglas Haig (eight years younger) had commanded the British in France.
This is all the more so since there were apparently legends about his death, and perhaps even his return to fight for Britain; according to Christina Hole, English Folk Heroes: From King Arthur to Thomas a Becket, 1948? (I use the 1992? Dorset Press reprint), p. 25, "Such theories [about sleeping heroes] cannot now survive the natural span of a life.... but that they spring up as spontaneously in modern as in earlier times can hardly be denied by any who remember toe loss of Lord Kitchener, or the many curious stories which followed the deaths of Sir Hector Macdonald and Adolf Hitler."
Hole describes this theory on pp. 36-37. One version makes the German general Mackensen to be MacDonald in disguise! She suggests that this was because MacDonald received a very low-key funeral, without military honors. Presumably this was because he was a suicide and a probable homosexual, but it led to rumors that he wasn't really dead. - RBW
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Subject: RE: Origins: Hector MacDonald|
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Jan 19 - 04:38 AM
The charge was not homosexuality (which could also have been brought against Kitchener, but never was) but specific acts of paedophilia. The details are in Trevor Royle's book.