Print of Hector MacDonald

Normally I scan in photographs and postcards with a high resolution scanner for our regular Sunday night spot. Tonight however we are looking at a fine framed print of a Victorian major general that is currently hanging in my entrance hall so you will have to make do with a photograph of the print!imageThe print represents Major General Hector MacDonald, a controversial character from the late Victorian army. He is in his full dress regalia as an aide de campe to King Edward VII:imageThis print was clearly framed around the time it was printed and may have hung in the mess of a regiment, it is an impressive and particularly large picture. He wears an impressive range of medals including the DSO and the aiguillettes of an Aide de Campe to the King. Hector MacDonald’s likeness is seen on a daily basis by millions of people who have no idea who he is. This is because he was the soldier who inspired the label on the famous Camp Coffee brand:Im200904WCL-CampHector MacDonald won the rare distinction of rising from the ranks to major general. The son of a crofter-mason, he enlisted as a private in the Gordon Highlanders at the age of 18. In 1879 Macdonald took part in the Second Afghan War, where he gained a reputation for resourcefulness and daring. By the end of the campaign, he was nicknamed “Fighting Mac” and promoted to second lieutenant. Returning to Britain by way of southern Africa, he saw action in the First Boer War (1880–81). At the Battle of Majuba Hill (Feb. 27, 1881) he was conspicuously courageous.

From 1883 to 1898, Macdonald served in Egypt and the Sudan, taking part in the Nile expedition (1885) as a member of the Egyptian constabulary. Transferring to the Egyptian army as captain in 1888, he demonstrated an extraordinary talent for command during the Sudanese campaign (1888–91). When Kitchener undertook the reconquest of the Sudan in 1896, he placed Macdonald in command of an Egyptian brigade, which he handled so outstandingly at the critical Battle of Omdurman (Sept. 2, 1898) that he became a national hero and was given the thanks of Parliament. As a major general commanding the Highland Brigade in the South African War (1899–1902), “Fighting Mac” contributed much to Boer defeats at Paardeberg and Brandwater. In 1902 he was given charge of the troops in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka). Confronted by an “opprobrious accusation” (apparently a charge of homosexual practices), he shot himself in a Paris hotel room.

Modern historians have treated Hector MacDonald more kindly than his contemporaries and it is today suggested by many that the rumours of inappropriate relations were spread by those in senior positions who were affronted that an ordinary man could rise through the ranks and become such a senior officer. Hector MacDonald remains a hero to many in his native Scotland and although his funeral was meant to be a small family affair, 30,000 turned out to pay their respects in Edinburgh.

This framed print appeared on the second hand market last year for just £7 and looks very impressive on the wall. Sadly due to its size my wife has relegated it to the back entrance hall but he now greets all visitors as they enter and leave!

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