Tam O'Shanter Hat, The

DESCRIPTION: "I'll sing on the Tam o' Shanter's hat For the Cameronian Rifles." "John Bull, Pat, and Sandy true, Are a' amalgamated noo." At review time we outdo the Life Guards and Royal Blues." "Tho' we lose the Cameronian name, We ne'er can lose the Cameron fame"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1914 (GreigDuncan1)
KEYWORDS: pride army clothes nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
GreigDuncan1 72, "The Tam O'Shanter Hat" (1 text)
Roud #5799
NOTES [633 words]: GreigDuncan1: "The song refers to the amalgamation in 1881 of the 90th Light Infantry and the 26th Regiment of Foot to form the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). The new uniform consisted of dark green doublet, tartan trews, and Tam o' Shanter (a flat woollen bonnet)." - BS
The amalgamation of regiments Ben mentions were part of the 1881 Cardwell Reforms. Prior to that, British regiments came in all sorts of sizes, strengths, and capabilities, because they had been raised at various times, and some had more ease keeping up their strength than others.
Cardwell (1813-1886) was Gladstone's Secretary of War from 1868, and he had three problems to deal with: "the army's unreadiness for war, its inability to provide adequate colonial garrisons and its officering by the antiquated system of the purchase of commissions" (Keegan/Wheatcroft, p. 59). "He brought in three major reforms: the Army Enlistment Act of 1870, the Regulation of the Forces Act of 1871, and the scheme of 1872 which linked battalions of a regiment so as to ensure regular exchanges between home and overseas stations, and gave each regiment a county affiliation and a recruiting and training depot within its county" (Haswell, pp. 100-101).
The first of these acts regularized the terms of soldiers, meaning that old drunks and cripples did not stay with the army, while the second got rid of commissions by purchase (Haswell, p. 101; Chandler/Beckett, p. 188, notes that this had to be done by executive authority because of opposition in parliament). Although all the reforms were widely opposed, it was was the third reform that caused the most controversy. It was not until 1881 that a successor of Cardwell, Hugh Childers, actually managed to amalgamate battalions (Haswell, pp. 114-115), and it took even longer to sweep out some of the old officers -- including the Duke of Cambridge, who as commander-in-chief of the army did his best to oppose the reforms (Haswell, p. 102).
From a purely military standpoint, the Cardwell Reforms were logical and vital; the old way resulted in a badly disorganized army. But the troops *hated* them -- since almost all regiments were combined with at least one other, they felt their history was lost. Plus they often lost their home places -- British regiments were largely recruited geographically, and the regions they recruited from were changed.
The Cameronians, according to Hallows, p. 282, had originally been the 26th Regiment; they were amalgamated with the 90th Regiment, the Perthshire Volunteer Light Infantry. They retained the title The Cameronians at the time. However, that name is now gone -- the Cameronians were disbanded in 1968, according to Hallows, p. 284.
According to Baynes/Laffin, pp. 158-159, the Cameronians were originally raised by Richard Cameron, and the soldiers were Covenanters. They had a distinguished history, serving with Marlborough, then later in the American Revolution, and they were with Moore in the Peninsula. They later served much time in Asia (Baynes/Laffin, pp. 159-160).
The old Cameronians were the first battalion of the post-Cardwell Cameronians. This battalion was eliminated in 1947, meaning that, as a formation, the old 26th Regiment ceased to be even before the amalgamated regiment was disbanded.
Part of the problem with the amalgamated Cameronians was that the other battalion of the regiment, the Perthshire infantry, was so different. Raised in 1794, they had a history entirely unlike the Cameronians, according to Baynes, pp. 160-161.
Baynes/Laffin, p. 162, says that the regiment served in Aden in 1966, then came home in 1967 to be told that it had a choice: Amalgamate with another regiment (again) or disband. They chose to disband; such companies as are left are now part of the 52nd Lowland Volunteers. - RBW
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File: GrD072

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