THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
asked the Under Secretary of State for War, Whether any order has been promulgated for the discontinuance of the Highland feather bonnet; or whether time will be given for further consideration of the subject in virtue of the very strong feeling entertained upon it in Scotland? He also asked, Whether the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting is likely to be laid on the Table of the House within the next fortnight, as was the case last year? Two years ago, in deference to what was termed in military circles the "Wolseley Craze," there was introduced a great change, at considerable expense, in the uniform of the Army. A further change was now proposed with regard to Highland regiments. This change was looked upon with great concern, not only by the men whom it would affect, but also by the public generally of Scotland. To show why so much importance was attached to it by Highland regiments, he might mention that the Black Watch were the bonnet as far back as 1724; and, in 1757, ostrich feathers were added, though not at first in any great quantity. Old portraits of that day of the Earls of Sutherland and Eglinton and The MacLeod were to be seen with the feathers. The Black Watch, as a reward for gallantry in Flanders in 1795, was allowed to wear a red hackle, whereas the other Highland regiments were a white one. The matter of the bonnet might seem a small one. It was simply the black Kilmarnock bonnet pulled upright; but the Highland regiments attached im portance to it because of its associations, and why it was proposed to do away with it he could not conceive. He noticed that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War was reported to have said in "another place" that this bonnet was a head-dress which had never been worn abroad in any action. 1541 That was a mistake, for he had seen an old print depicting the death of Sir Ralph Abercrombie at the battle of Alexandria, and there the bonnet appeared as a portion of the garb of the "Highlanders. He had also made inquiries on the point, and he found that, so far from that being the case, it had been worn at Waterloo, in the Peninsula, in the Crimea, and during the Indian Mutiny. He hoped the noble Lord would be able to announce that the Government had more important things to consider in the War Office than the change of the Scottish bonnet. With regard to the second part of his Question, he hoped his noble Friend would be able to answer it; he would remind him that the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting was laid on the Table last year, on the 7th of March.
THE EARL OF MORLEY,
in reply, said, as to the latter part of the Question of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Galloway), he hoped the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting would be laid on the Table of the House by the end of next week, or earlier than it was last year. The noble Earl concluded his speech by saying he hoped they had other matters to attend to at the War Office than the proposed change in the Scottish bonnet. As to that, he was bound to say that importance had been given to the subject rather by the noble Earl, than by themselves. In answer to it, he had to say, in the first place, no order had been promulgated for the abolition of the bonnet. But in 1881, the then Secretary of State for War decided that, when the present bonnets were worn out, no new ones should be ordered. It was rather curious that that decision was based on the recommendation of a Committee which reported in these words—That the head-dress is costly, and as it is never worn in active service, and has no national origin, it is desirable that it should he replaced by the true national head-dress—the bonnet.The noble Earl had referred to the fact that the Black Watch had worn the ostrich feathers in 1757; and it was somewhat remarkable that the Report from which he (the Earl of Morley) had just quoted was signed by Colonel Macpherson, who commanded the Black 1542 Watch, and Sir Archibald Alison; and they could not get two more representative men than those two gallant Scottish officers. He did not think the House would expect him to enter into the archæology of the subject; but he believed it to be a generally-admitted fact, that the ostrich feather head-dress was first worn in Egypt at the beginning of the present century, at the time of Sir Ralph Abercrombie's Expedition. That that was the earliest date there was no doubt. Possibly, feathers might have been put into Scottish bonnets before that; but he, himself, had some prints of the middle of the last century, and had been shown a great many other old prints, and certainly none of these prints had any trace of the somewhat extraordinary head-dress at present worn by the Highland regiments. The noble Earl further said that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War said that this bonnet was never worn in active service. He (the Earl of Morley) did not think that those were the exact words of the noble Marquess. What the Secretary of State for War did was to quote from the Report to which he had just referred, that the head-dress was costly, and was never worn in active service. He (the Earl of Morley) did not think he said it never had been worn. He believed he was right in saying that at present it was never worn in active service, nor had it been since the Crimea.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
Only for a short time, and very rarely; indeed, he had heard it on the authority of Crimean officers that although it was worn at the Alma, they seldom or ever saw the Highland bonnet again during the Crimean War. This question had been discussed in "another place," and a Return had been prepared, which he would be very glad to lay on the Table, showing the cost of the feather-bonnet as compared with the cost of the head-dress as worn in the other branches of the Army. It showed that the expense of the feather-bonnet was very much larger than that of any head-dress in the Army, except the bearskin of the Guards. But the original cost was not the full measure of the expense it involved, for he was informed the bonnet, although it was sup- 1543 posed to last eight years, required constant repair, and was constantly the cause of stoppages in the soldiers' pay, a thing it was desirable to discourage. For the benefit of any of their Lordships who might think of sending their sons into the Army, he might state that he was informed that the cost of an officer's head-dress was £15. If this head-dress had really no national origin, and if it was inconvenient—which was admitted—and if also it was very costly, he thought very little was to be said in favour of its retention. The noble Earl seemed to think there was a strong popular feeling on the subject in Scotland. Well, he had quoted the opinion of two distinguished officers on the point, of which doubtless they were better judges than he (the Earl of Morley) could be; but he had heard the opinions of many other officers; and, judging from the opinions he had heard, and the letters written to the newspapers—some of which he had seen, giving some comical accounts of the dress of the Highlanders in wet weather—he gathered there was not much feeling of the kind, and no unanimous opinion as to the Scottish bonnet. He would admit that, were it not inconvenient, and were it not costly, it would be very desirable to respect associations, particularly associations connected with such gallant regiments as the Scottish. But a strong case would have to be made out on these grounds to justify the retention of the feather-bonnet, which was now, at any rate, never worn abroad, was by most authorities admitted to be an inconvenient and unserviceable head-dress, was undoubtedly very costly, and had no national origin whatever.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
said, he gathered from the remarks of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Morley) that there was no strong feeling in favour of the retention of this head-dress. He could assure him quite differently, for if the noble Earl had been present last night at an entertainment over which he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) presided, of no less than 200 Scotchmen from the county of Moray, when mention was made that there was an idea to do away with the Scottish bonnet, he would have formed a very accurate opinion of, at all events, 200 Scotchmen assembled for social purposes, regarding that proposal. The 1544 noble Earl had told the House about the cost of the bonnet, but he had omitted to say how long it wore. He (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) had been told it lasted for a very long time; and that, though it might be expensive in the first instance, it lasted for a much longer time than many people expected. He understood the noble Earl to say, because the bonnet was never worn on active service, that was a reason for getting rid of it. The same might be said of the bearskin of the Guards, for they did not take it with them when they went to Egypt. In conclusion, he only rose to say he believed there was a very strong feeling amongst all classes of Scotchmen in favour of the retention of this national head-dress.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Morley) had spoken about the expense and cost of this head-dress; but that expense was trifling when compared with the cost entailed by the constant changes in the other head-dresses of the Army. During the time he had been in the Militia he had had 15 different kinds of head-dress. He hoped the Scottish bonnet would not be abolished.
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, it was a fact that the Scottish bonnet was first worn on active service. It was worn by the soldiers of Abercrombie when they went to Egypt; in fact, in the very region in which the Scotch regiments had lately gained so much distinction. They were wearing the Kilmarnock bonnet at the time, and that gallant Commander told them to protect themselves as well as they could from the intense heat. They did so, for they captured a lot of ostriches that were in the neighbourhood, and having plucked them used their feathers to protect them from the fierce heat of the sun. That was the origin of the Scottish bonnet, and, looking at its glorious antecedents, he trusted it would not be abandoned.
§ House adjourned at Six o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.