Part One: James and Laura Mackie

I have recently broken through a brick wall in my genealogical research and have found out what happened to my great-grand aunt, Laura Jane WilliamsJoin me in Part One: James and Laura Mackie as I research the social history of the family of Laura’s husband, James Mackie.

James Douglas Mackie

On 24 November 1885, James Douglas Mackie, the future husband of Laura Jane Williams and the son of Colour Sergeant David Douglas Mackie, enlisted with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, otherwise known as Princess Louise’s Regiment, at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight for a term of twelve years.

James had just celebrated his fourteenth birthday that August and was still a half inch shy of five feet and weighed only ninety pounds. He had a dark complexion and like his father, he had blue eyes and dark brown hair. 1WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913, “WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913,” database, Find my Past ( downloaded images 13 August 2016), Service record James Mackie Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) – 91st & 93rd Foot.

It was not uncommon for young boys to join the army in the late nineteenth century, although the number of boys in any one regiment could not exceed two percent. The British Army hoped that by recruiting boys at a young age and allowing them to apprentice as soldiers, there would be a steady supply of well trained men once the boys reached the normal age of enlistment.

James Mackie was an obvious choice for the Army. He had lived in the army barracks for his entire life. His father, David Douglas Mackie, had himself enlisted at the age of 19 at Edinburgh with the 72nd Highlanders (The Duke of Albany’s Own) and had been a career soldier.

To understand why James enlisted at the age of 14, we first need to learn more about his father’s life in the army.

David Douglas Mackie

The 72nd Highlanders returned from India and their role in the Indian Mutiny in 1866, first stationed in Edinburgh and then ordered to Aldershot in England on 14 May 1867.

72nd Highlanders c 1854

With their ranks depleted after their time in India, the 72nd Highlanders began actively recruiting in Scotland in July 1867, although they made it well known that they would not take any man for their ranks unless he was of ‘irreproachable character’.

David’s Enlistment

When the young shoemaker, David Mackie, enlisted in Edinburgh on the Saturday afternoon of 27 July 1867, he was promised £1 and a free kit from Sergt Major Anderson of the 72nd Foot. On the Monday following, David reported to Edinburgh Castle for his medical exam and was pronounced fit for Her Majesty’s service.

His medical certificate stated he appeared to be 19-years-old as he had attested, and that he stood 5 feet 9-1/2 inches tall. Should he ever be wounded or killed on the battlefield, it was noted that he could be identified from the mole on his left groin and the four letter tattoo on his left forearm.

At 11 o’clock the following Tuesday morning, David Douglas Mackie signed his oath of allegiance to the Queen and was official accepted into the 72nd Highlanders. 2WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913, “WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913,” database, Find my Past ( accessed 13 August 2016), WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913, Box 3383, record 32.

Orders for Manchester

From Aldershot, the 72nd Highlanders were ordered to Manchester, arriving on Friday 1 November 1867, to provide security for the Special Commission for the trial of a group of Fenian prisoners charged with the murder of Police-sergeant Brett at Manchester on 18 September.

The 26 prisoners were removed from the county gaol to the Court House in charge of a strong military escort. A troop of Hussars, with drawn swords, preceded the van. in the immediate vicinity of which marched two companies of the 72nd Highlanders, with fixed bayonets, and the procession was closed another party cf Hussars. Upon the front the van five police-constables were seated, and two police inspectors, with cutlasses, stood upon the step behind. The cortege moved at a rapid pace. In the vicinity of the Court House careful precautions were taken against surprise or the assembling of large crowds. Police-constables patrolling in pairs, every second man with revolver in his belt, kept persons as far as possible from loitering, and admission to the body of the Court was regulated with considerable care. The ladies’ gallery is kept empty, and two small fire engines are placed there.<span class="su-quote-cite">Staffordshire Advertiser - Saturday 02 November 1867</span>

At the conclusion of the sensational trial of the ‘Manchester Martyrs’, William Allen, Michael Larkin, Michael O’Brien, were sentenced to death by hanging and the execution was scheduled for the morning of 23 November.

A detachment of the 72nd Highlanders and a squadron of the 8th Hussars supported almost 2500 regular and special police were present to discourage any possible last minute rescue attempt. The 72nd Highlanders were stationed on the roof of the New Bailey prison, armed with rifles.

CURIOUS MILITARY BLUNDER. There is rumour abroad that, when the 72nd Highlanders were ordered to duty in Manchester Jail, on the occasion of the late Fenian executions, ball cartridges were served out to them from stock of ammunition sent down by order of the War officials. The regiment had lately been armed with the Snider rifle ; but, on examining their cartridges, they found them to be of the old Enfield pattern and size. Impossible to load! So that when the men made their effective display on the roof of prison they could not have fired had the order been given, and to charge with the bayonet from that position would have been rather difficult operation.<span class="su-quote-cite">Coleraine Chronicle - Saturday 25 January 1868</span>


By mid January of 1868, the 72nd Highlanders were ordered to Ireland and arrived aboard the troopship Simoom, with 22 officers, 569 non-commissioned officers and men, 63 women and 67 children on Wednesday, February 5, having left Liverpool the previous afternoon.

HMS Simoom

They proceeded to Richmond Barracks in Dublin, their presence again required to provide extra security during upcoming trials of Fenian prisoners to take place in Sligo at the end of the month.

After the trial and some months in Dublin, a company of 72 Highlanders left for Limerick on 22 September to replace the 52nd Light Infantry who were leaving for Malta. Other companies of the 72nd Highlanders were stationed in Buttevant and Cork.


Private David Mackie likely met James’ mother Hannah Power when he was stationed at Buttevant in Cork. He would have applied to his commanding officer for permission to marry around the time he learned that his regiment would be shipping out to India in February.

Permission was presumably granted for the pair married in Queenstown on 2 August 1870. Hannah was ‘on the strength of the army’ which usually meant that she could accompany David abroad. It was not to be, however, for Hannah fell pregnant almost immediately.

For wives not on the strength of the army, the new orders would have been devastating news. That August, not long after the 72nd Highlanders received their notice, one such woman advertised in the Cork Constitution, hoping to obtain free passage to follow her husband to India.

MOST respectable young woman wishes to obtain a situation to wait on a lady going out to India, or would take charge children ; is married, but no incumbrance ; has long and satisfactory discharges from the highest of families; no wages required, only free passage. Address M.N., 72nd Highlanders, Buttevant, for week. (4467) <span class="su-quote-cite">Cork Constitution - Saturday 20 August 1870</span>

As the time grew nearer for their departure, the regiment began to swell with new recruits and there must have been some high spirited young men in camp who tried the patience of their commanding officers.

THE OFFICERS 72nd HIGHLANDERS WILL not be responsible for any debts contracted their Messmen. W. F. KELSEY, Capt., Cork, 15th October, 1870. (5903) <span class="su-quote-cite">Cork Constitution - Tuesday 18 October 1870</span>

Riots in Cork

In mid November, a party of about 30 or 40 soldiers led by a new recruit of the 20th Regiment descended on a public house in Bridge-street and began beating the civilians who were enjoying themselves there. The altercation spilled out in the street and the police were unable to quell the riot. The soldiers, reportedly angered by the death of a soldier named Gibson who had been killed one night recently on his way back to the barracks, swung sticks or their belts, injuring any civilian who got in their way.

Eventually, a picket of about 100 soldiers from the 72nd  Highlanders came from the barracks and rounded up the instigators, sending them back to the barracks, but not before the angry townspeople had inflicted some damage of their own. In the news the following day, it was reported that although many of the soldiers who attacked the civilians were known to the police, none were in custody, but passes to leave the barracks were very much restricted.

The bad feeling towards the people by the men of the Highlanders, particularly, which culminated the attack of last night, appears to have teen brooding since the death of the man the other day, and the attack on member of their regiment that took place a week or ten days ago and they have freely expressed their determination to have revenge before they leave the city. <span class="su-quote-cite">Cork Examiner - Monday 14 November 1870</span>

The soldiers involved in the altercation declared that they would not be satisfied until they had killed 20 civilians in revenge and the Mayor and magistrates of Cork along with the colonel of the 72nd Highlanders agreed that the men should be confined to their barracks and heavily guarded by military and civilian police patrols until the regiment left for India the following February.

The rest of the soldiers in the 72nd Highlanders were required to be in the barracks by nine o’clock each night.

The following week, a private in the 72nd Highlanders wrote to the Times in an effort to explain the situation from the soldiers’ point of view:

THE LATE MILITARY RIOT IN CORK. A private in the 72nd Highlanders writes follows the Times :— With reference the reports which have appeared in the Times of the 14th and 15th inst, concerning the late military riot in Cork, by which it would appear that the men the 72nd Highlanders committed wanton and unprovoked assault upon civilians, I, in common with the remainder of the rank and file the 72nd Highlanders, wish to inform you that a man of the regiment now lies in hospital severely wounded by some civilians while on his way home a few nights before the riot and that on the night of the riot a report was spread in the vicinity of the barracks that the civilians were beating some men the 72nd, which the immediate cause of the men taking the law into their own hands. Ever since the arrival of the regiment in Ireland, in February, 1868, have been subjected both to unprovoked assault, and insults the lower class people in every place where have been stationed, partly because the regiment mostly Scotch, and chiefly from the fact that the regiment was sent special duty to Manchester in October, 1867, during the Fenian trials and subsequent execution. This part of the services of the regiment is well known to the Fenians, and consequently we are objects of hate to them, and are on all sides called the “Manchester Butchers.” As the regiment is on the eve embarkation for India, and has hitherto since its arrival home always upheld its character for being a well-conducted lot men, we are naturally anxious that the exaggerated reports of this unfortunate affair should met with an explanation in extenuation of the late riot. <span class="su-quote-cite">Belfast Morning News - Wednesday 23 November 1870</span>

By December, passions had cooled and the soldiers began to prepare for their departure, selling off any possessions they could not take with them.

FOR SALE, BAY MARE, the property of Officer who is under orders for Foreign Service ; the Mare stands about 15-3; is a perfect charger, and quiet to ride or drive. Further particulars to be had at the Orderly Room, 72nd Highlanders.<span class="su-quote-cite">Cork Constitution - Friday 23 December 1870</span>
FOR SALE. The property of an Officer going abroad, BAY MARE, with black points, rising 8, 15-2 high, carries a lady well, and a perfect charger ; has also been driven in single harness ; believed to be perfectly sound. Can seen by application to the Sergeant-Major, 72nd Highlanders. <span class="su-quote-cite">Cork Constitution - Wednesday 18 January 1871</span>

Departing for India

Finally, in late February 1871, it was time for their departure. The troopship Crocodile arrived in Cork Harbour on Saturday, 18 February and on Monday, the women and the baggage were to be taken aboard with the troops boarding the following day. But in the wee hours of Sunday morning, a last altercation took place between a soldier and one of the civilians of Cork.

David Wetwaters, one of the 72nd Highlanders, was examined and said —About half-past two o’clock on Sunday morning I was going along Evergreen-street when I fell in with those men, who asked me to stand a drink. I replied that I would if they could get in anywhere for it, and I gave 4d. to Hill, who showed me into a small public-house in the street. We got no drink there, so I took the 4d. again, and we left the house. When outside Keeffe caught me by the throat, called Scotch b—, knocked me down, and took the 4d. again from me. Hill also struck me in the face with his fist. I gave no provocation whatever for the assault. I had 15s. pocket at the time, which was taken away, but could not swear who took it, as I was knocked senseless. I had a glass taken at the time, but was quite sober. Nunn merely gave me a shove, but it was of no consequence, and I cannot say if be belonged to the party who attacked me. Mr. Alfred Blake, who appeared for Nunn, submitted that there was no evidence whatever to connect him with the offence, and brought forward witnesses who gave him an excellent character. Hill and Keeffe were sent to gaol for one month ; Nunn was let off with a fine of 10s., and Collins was remanded. <span class="su-quote-cite">Cork Examiner - Tuesday 21 February 1871</span>

At last, on 22 February 1871, David Mackie, along with the headquarters, staff and service companies of the 72nd Foot, Duke of Albany’s Own, Highlanders with a strength of 943 officers and men left Cork, bound for India aboard the steam troopship Crocodile for Alexandria, Egypt. From Alexandria, they would travel through the recently opened Suez Canal and the Red Sea, crossing the Arabian sea and landing at Bombay. The depot companies of the regiment remained at Cork, attached to the first battalion 20th regiment, awaiting orders from the Horse Guards.

HMS Crocodile

Hannah, expecting a child, appears to have remained at home in Ireland.

Birth of James Douglas Mackie

James Douglas Mackie, the son of David and Hannah Mackie, was born the following August, and christened in the Catholic Church in Aghada, Cork, Ireland on 13 August 1871, with godparents Michael Fitzgerald and Mary Cadogan in attendance. 3Catholic Parish Registers, National Library of Ireland, Ireland. Published under the National Library of Ireland’s Terms of Use of Material made available on, “Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915,” database, Ancestry ( : downloaded image 13 August 2016), James Mackey, son of David Mackey and Hannah Power, baptised 13 Aug 1871 in Aghada, Cork, Ireland; Catholic Parish Registers, The National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 04990 / 06.

Meanwhile in India…

Over in India, the 72nd Highlanders were settling in and were ordered to join the Delhi Camp from Umballa in December 1871. 4Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette – Tuesday 05 December 1871

Early in 1875, dispatches from India told of the kidnapping of the bandmaster of the 72nd Highlanders by the Afridis who carried the man over the Khyber Pass, demanding £700 in ransom.

THE KIDNAPPED BANDSMAN OF THE HIGHLANDERS. [special telegram.] One of the soldiers of the 72nd Highlanders, writing from Peshawur to friend in Cupar-Angus, thus refers to the kidnapping of the band-sergeant of the regiment:— ” On the 4th of this month (December) our bandmaster was taken by the Ryherees, and brought back on the 16th. He had been at a party in the lines of the 17th Regiment, and left between eleven and twelve o’clock at night. Accidentally he took the road leading to the Himalayas instead of the one leading to our quarters, and had gone a good way before discovering his mistake. On doing so he immediately ran, had not gone many yards when he received a violent stroke on the bead. After this he remembered nothing except hearing sentry challenge and feeling his throat compressed to prevent his answering, till he woke from a fit of Insensibility some days after, in a hut, a village upon the hills. On trying to rise, he found he was tied to the bed on which he lay, and on looking out he saw two women grinding at the door. They at once called, and some men came and released his hands and gave him some water to drink. After this he was fairly treated, getting as a daily ration a chicken and pot of water. During the day his legs were kept in a kind of stocks, encumbered with which he could walk but indifferently, and at night he was tied with thongs, the marks of which are on his arms and legs still. He was brought in here (Peshawur) by a party of Hudson’s guides, who were sent out to receive him from the Khan, who lives on our frontier. He had hunted the hills for him by orders of the Commissioners of Peshawur. Such is his story. An official inquiry is going on now that he is released, to see whether he or they were to blame. He is lucky man, as those hill tribes seldom trouble themselves to carry away anyone who may come in their way, generally preferring to use the knife for the sake of the clothing, &c., of the captive. However, he came in nicely dressed a native’s Kappra, about three yards of cotton off the web, a dress which, I assure you, looks well on a white man. <span class="su-quote-cite">Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Friday 05 February 1875</span>

Mackie Family Reunited

The exact date that Hannah and baby James joined David in India is unknown, but by March 1875, not long after the bandmaster had been kidnapped, the family was together again.

It is possible that Hannah and James joined a party from the depot of the 72nd Highlanders consisting of one sergeant, forty-five rank and file, one woman and four children who left Ireland to travel to Bombay aboard the Euphrates in January 1875. 5Belfast News-Letter – Tuesday 05 January 1875

Birth of Catherine Isabella Mackie

James was four years old when his sister Catherine was born on 16 December in Bengal, India. The baby was christened the following month on 5 January 1876 in Rawal Pindee, a garrison town in the Bengal Presidency near Islamabad (now in Pakistan) where the Mackie family was presumably stationed.

Rawal Pindee

There were at least two barracks in Rawal Pindee. The Victoria Barracks was for the single men and the Roberts Barracks was located at West Ridge. The local bazaar was known as ‘Lalkurti’ which means ‘red shirt’, so named for all of the British soldiers stationed there and one of the local industries in Rawal Pindee was the Murree Brewery Company, founded in 1860 to slake the thirst of he soldiers.

There was also a station school for the children that James Mackie would have attended along with the other children of the regiment.

Station School Rawalpindi 1885


By October of 1876, the 72nd Highlanders were in Sialkot (or Sealkote) in the Lahore area of Bengal, where another cholera epidemic was raging. 6Cholera epidemics in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Pashawar were frequent in the last quarter of the nineteenth century Seven seizures and three deaths were even reported amongst the regiment but David, Hannah and James appear to have escaped.

Birth of Agnes Mackie

When James was almost 7-years-old, his sister Agnes was born in Sealkote on 2 June 1878, in one of the hottest months of the year, just before the wet season started. Temperatures in the area might reach 47C (117F) with average temperatures of 38C (100F) and the Kashmir area was suffering from a wide scale famine.

Not long after Agnes’ birth, the 72nd Highlanders were chosen to join the Afghan expeditionary force and were ordered to Kohat, as the second Anglo-Afghan War began. 7Edinburgh Evening News – Tuesday 12 November 1878

elephant and mule battery during the Second Anglo-Afghan War

Coming Next: The Afghan War, Orders to Egypt and the Return Home to England

Brick Wall Busting
As some of you might know, I’ve been searching for my great-aunt Laura Williams for a VERY long time. A couple of weeks ago, early on a Saturday morning, I received a comment on one of my blog posts about Laura. The first words were: “I can help. Laura is my great-great-grandmother…” My research over the last few weeks has taken me from the Isle of Wight to India, to Egypt, to Scotland, and to Ireland and back to the Isle of Wight. Laura’s story involves the British army, a decorated war hero, arrest, a trial and a conviction. It touches on prostitution, an unfit mother, adoption, suicide and a Scottish divorce. Join me as I uncover the details of James and Laura Mackie’s story.


1 WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913, “WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913,” database, Find my Past ( downloaded images 13 August 2016), Service record James Mackie Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) – 91st & 93rd Foot.
2 WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913, “WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913,” database, Find my Past ( accessed 13 August 2016), WO 97 – Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913, Box 3383, record 32.
3 Catholic Parish Registers, National Library of Ireland, Ireland. Published under the National Library of Ireland’s Terms of Use of Material made available on, “Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915,” database, Ancestry ( : downloaded image 13 August 2016), James Mackey, son of David Mackey and Hannah Power, baptised 13 Aug 1871 in Aghada, Cork, Ireland; Catholic Parish Registers, The National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 04990 / 06.
4 Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette – Tuesday 05 December 1871
5 Belfast News-Letter – Tuesday 05 January 1875
6 Cholera epidemics in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Pashawar were frequent in the last quarter of the nineteenth century
7 Edinburgh Evening News – Tuesday 12 November 1878