Scottish Soldier

George Leslie Sr John McPherson Ross Painting

Rogart photo late 19th century
George Leslie’s father William and William’s cousin John Leslie were from Rogart, Sutherlandshire, Scotland. 

Rogart…even the inhabited land is everywhere encumbered with rock. Thompson, John, The Traveller’s Guide to Scotland & its Isles, 1824

Map Rogart

Clan Map of Scotland, Rogart is marked with a star

Raising of the 93rd

William Leslie was in the Fencibles, but some of these militia men also volunteered for short-term service in the new 93rd Regiment of Foot, known as the Sutherland Highlanders. The 93rd were a regular British army regiment or “regiment of the line” although the way they were recruited was anything but regular. It has been seen as the last great act of clan loyalty in Scottish history. Everything was soon to change and the loyalty of the Highlanders would be crushed in a great act of betrayal. The bonds which enabled the Countess to call on her clansmen would be violently cut and the old ways dead.

Rams horn and whiskey

Sutherland Fencibles painting

The Sutherland Highlanders had a good reputation in their dealings with the Irish. It is not recorded whether or not the Irish Catholic peasantry agreed with this benign assessment of their mostly Protestant occupiers.

The Sutherlands served in different places around Ireland including Tyrone.  Esther Beatty (1783-1867), eldest daughter of James Beattie (also spelled “Beatty”), of Omagh, County Tyrone, met & married William Leslie.  William had previously been married to Christina Ross who died in childbirth several years before.

Gallant Forty Twa

The Irish girls were attrracted to the bonnie laddies from over the Irish sea as this song recalls. The 42nd Royal Highland Regiment is better known as The Black Watch.

Uniforms 79th

Officer of the 92 Gordon Highlanders left, Sergeant of the Cameron Highlanders middle, enlisted man of the 42 Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch) right.

Officer of the 93rd Highlanders
Officer of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders

The Sutherland Clearance had already begun when William Leslie probably went with John Leslie, his cousin,  to Spain with the 79th Cameron Highlanders to fight in the Peninsula Campaign against Napoleon and his armies. The Countess of Sutherland had betrayed her people by driving them by force off their land to make way for sheep in a protracted campaign that is remembered as the Sutherland Clearances. Many men preferred to enlist uner Alan Cameron of Erracht who was neither a clan chieftain or responsible for clearances. Deeply devoted to his soldiers, he raised the 79th Regiment of Foot privately and lead them into battle.

Alan Cameron Erracht and captured Cameron

Leslie family tradition says from wounds at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but the scanty records available don’t support this. Robert Leslie’s obituary states,

They were preceded from Quebec a few months earlier by their father, John Leslie, who was a retired soldier of the British Army, having served in the 79th Highlanders [Cameron Highlanders] from 1793 to 1814, a full term of 21 years. He participated in all the celebrated engagements of the Peninsular war, including Nive, Nivelle, Pyrenees, Badajos [Badajoz], Ciudad Roderigo, Salamanca, and was shot through the arm and leg at Corunna, noted in history as the place of the celebrated retreat under Sir John Moore when he lost his life.

Wounded Cameron PiperJohn Leslie is listed in the records of Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioners, 79th Cameron Highlanders. The records note that he was “severely wounded right arm” and that he was a laborer from Rogart, Sutherland. Before he fought in Spain, he served in Canada during the War of 1812. John Leslie had served in Canada as well. He is described in the “British Regimental Registers of Service, 79th Foot Soldiers, 1st Battalion, 1809-1816, as having dark complexion, a round face, brown eyes, dark hair, and as being a laborer from Rogart, Sutherlandshire.


December , 1808. Retreat to Corunna, a death march. Over 5,000 men died.


Arm Wound Corunna

(c) The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

These are the kinds of wounds sustained by John and William on the retreat from Corunna. William died, John survived.

Healing arm wound Corunna


18151000 OR's of the 95th Rifles 71st HLI and 79th drawn during the occupation of Paris 1815


(c) The Highlanders' Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) The Highlanders’ Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

18140410 42ndblackwatchcanal Toulouse

By the time of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 John Leslie was on a pension back in Rogart and William Leslie was dead. The 93rd were in North America where the Sutherland Highlanders were decimated at the Battle of New Orleans.

Battle of New Orleans

The 79th Cameron Highlanders were at Waterloo. While William and John Leslie were not there, Norman Leslie from Rogart was.

Highland Regiments at WaterlooCamerons at Waterloo

Arthur Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington
Knox Leslie obit
While George Leslie was never a soldier, his sons both joined the Queen’s Own Rifles and John Knox Leslie rose to become the Colonel of the Regiment. The sporran of the Highland Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles was borrowed from that of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders.

Highland Regiments would go on to play a vital role in Canada’s military history.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Published by Leslieville Historical Society

Welcome to the Leslieville Historical Society's website. Please feel free to join us, to ask questions, to attend walking tours and other events, and to celebrate Leslieville's past while creating our future. Guy Anderson, President, Leslieville Historical Society and Joanne Doucette, local historian and webmaster.

4 thoughts on “Scottish Soldier

  1. According to my research, William Leslie was at the Battle of Waterloo, but was unwell after the battle and died shortly thereafter. His cousin John Leslie then married William’s wife Esther Beatty of Ireland. Then the two families went to Streetsville, Ontario, George to Leslieville. See Leslie log house, an Ontario heritage site, in Streetsville. William Leslie was my great, great, great grandfather.

  2. There were quite a number of Leslie families in Rogart in the 18th and early 19th cents. Three Normans. Between 1794 and 1841 children were born to William and Chirsty L, William and Esther, John and Esther, George and Marion, James and 1 Margaret and 2 Mary, my grt, grt, grd parents, Donald and Catherine, and William and Mary. I do not believe William, husband of Esther was previously married. William and Chirsty had several children – the unfortunate Barbara, Robert and Mary, 31 May 1802 who would have been conceived about end August 1801 approx. William and Esther’s son William was born 1802, conceived between end March 1801 to 1802 depending on when born in 1802. Even if Mary’s mother, Chirsty, died in childbirth Esther must have been married to her William in Co Tyrone before they came to Rogart. No Leslie families in Rogart now though descendants there and in Dornoch and Lairg and Kincardine parishes.
    Best wishes
    your very distant relative
    John Leslie Goskirk
    James L ; Neil; Alexander; Alexandra; John Leslie

    1. Thank you very much for this information. The Leslieville Historical Society has accumulated material on the Leslie family and this adds to that and confirms some of what we had from our online searches. We hope all is well with you and yours in these trying times. The tune Crimmond and the 23rd Psalm come to mind as we walk collectively through our dark vales. Best wishes, Joanne Doucette

      1. Thank you, Joanne. The late Harold Leslie sent me your book some years ago. I now have the date od William Leslie’s baptism in Rogart – 19 January 1803. When the date of birth was also recorded baptism was usually just a few days later, probably due to a fairly high infant mortality rate. This to make a second marriage for one William senior all the more unlikely.

        Kindest regards

        Leslie Goskirk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: