Category: Glengarry Fencibles

Categories: British Army | Scottish Military | British Army, British North America | Upper Canada | Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders

Some time that year, Father McDonell made contact with the young and Protestant clan chieftain, Alexander Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry, to whom he swiftly attached himself. Either singly or together, they concocted a scheme of offering the unemployed Highlanders to the British government as a fencible regiment, willing to serve outside England or Scotland, unlike the other fencibles who claimed to be home defence units. After a trip to London to seek acceptance of the plan, McDonell returned briefly to Glasgow and the displeasure of his bishop, who was distressed by the priest’s neglect of his mission. Although appearing contrite, McDonell was determined to follow Glengarry, perhaps aspiring to bring him back to the Catholic fold, more likely hoping to find some alternative employment for his people.

In any event, the offer of service was accepted by the British government. The Glengarry Fencibles were embodied with Glengarry as colonel; Alexander McDonell was appointed chaplain on 14 Aug. 1794, the first Catholic chaplain in the British army since the Reformation. The regiment went to Guernsey in 1795, to remain in relative idleness guarding against a French invasion which never came. When rebellion broke out in Ireland in 1798, the fencibles were hastily transferred there. During the four years that his regiment served in Ireland, McDonell lost few opportunities to reinforce the reputation of the Catholic Highlanders for devoted loyalty. He was determined to make himself as useful as possible to the British authorities, never questioning the extent to which influence and patronage affected the success of people or policies.

The brief Peace of Amiens in 1802 brought the disbanding of many non-regular regiments and McDonell’s people were once again without support. Even worse, McDonell himself was betrayed by Glengarry, being unfairly left responsible for the chieftain’s debts, and had to endure the humiliation of a stay in prison. Prospects in Scotland were still gloomy after his release in January 1803, and he resolved to persuade the government to acknowledge the regiment’s service by making grants of land in Upper Canada to its former members.

Person Profiles (3)

18 Jan 1786 Glendoemore, Fort Augustus, Inverness-Shire, Scotland - 12 Nov 1853 photo
17 Jul 1762 Glen Urquhart, Inchlaggan, Scotland - 14 Jan 1840 photo
abt 1784 Nova Scotia

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