Sunday, 6 July 2014

Basket Hilted Broadsword Regimental Question

I acquired this broadsword from my Dad, along with some other bits and bobs, which he had collected some years ago.

It is, I believe, an early 19th Century pattern Highland regimental Broadsword, obviously parade-ware only though it obviously has seen a fair bit of active wear, with the metal scabbard particularly showing signs of use.

Going by the Battle Honours (all of which look to be from the Peninsula Campaign but before South Africa, I think the sword is from the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, and with the motto, "Ne Obliviscaris" ('Do Not Forget, the motto of Clan Campbell) and the Boar's Head, also Clan Campbell, this seems to borne out.

However, on the reverse, there is the motto "Fortes Fortuna Juvat" (Fortune favours the Bold), also with a Boars head, which perhaps indicates the owner being a MacKinnon (though this motto is used by many families and indeed regiments about the world) and again this doesn't go with the crest of a mailed arm with sword.

I'm really looking for some of you Nineteenth Century buffs out there, with a bit more knowledge of the period than me,  to confirm the likely regimental origin of the blade and it's likely service date.


  1. Swords are not my thing, but...

    'XCI' and the other bits relate to the 91st Highlanders - specifically to the period 1794 - 1870, as it does not include "Princess Louise's Agyllshire Highlanders", which was added in 1871 and was amalgamated with the 93rd in 1881.

    I can't make out if the royal monogram is GR or VR. It looks like VR from here, so that dates it no earlier than 1837 in that case.

    The 'Fortuna' motto and the armoured arm with falchion relates to a John W. Dickson of Dumfries according to Fairburn's Book of Crests of the families of Great Britain and Ireland.

    "Clan crests" usually come in badge form, surrounded by a wreath or belt and while the Mackinnons used a boar's head, I believe their motto was 'Audentes Fortuna Juvat'... which is the same but different.

    When a crest is used in this way, it's usually a Victorian affectation for someone without a coat of arms of their own, but who claims a connection with a family/clan. Victorian stationers were quite keen to offer engraved writing paper with such crests on them, as are the 'heraldry companies' you find online today.

    There was a Lieutenant Eric Dickson serving with the 91st, who were in the Cape from 1839 to 1851, although Lt. Dickson received the 'South Africa 1853' medal.

    There's a pdf of the history of the 91st:

    Dickson appears to have gone to the Ceylon Rifles as a Captain around 1849, as his commission is purchased by Ensign Mainwaring of the 91st:

    I've lost track of him then, but there were other Dickson's (not necessarily related of course) with a connection to Ceylon later, so who knows?

    I'm not saying the sword belonged to him, but it is a possibility....

    1. Thanks Jim, very thorough, I saw that the motto could have been Dixon as well so that fits and the date around the 1850's was about the date I thought the blade originated. The Campbell connection confused me slightly but that works with the Argyllshire Regiment.

      The other connection is that Dickson is a pretty common name from around Campbeltown so it all does hang together.

      Certainly I tink you've answered the question I was posing ( and some) that the sword is from the 91st Highlanders.


  2. You're welcome... as a postscript I've found another reference to Captain Dickson:
    So he served came off half pay to join the 54th in Gibraltar in 1854 and may have subsequently gone to India with the Regiment in 1857 for the Mutiny.

    The trail has definitely gone cold now though.

    1. Thanks again Jim. The regimental history is most interesting, with Dickson getting a couple of mentions including being Ensign in 1839, and later getting his horse shot from under him in 1846 while serving in the Kaffir War.It all certainly hangs together.

    2. I had to drag myself away from the regimental history, it was far too inspirational and I really don't need another period to be interested in!

      Our man gets a mention or two later on in that section too though. I'd like to think the sword is his... but you'd need a bit more research by someone who knows swords and the period itself to be certain.

      I think you're on safe ground describing it as belonging to an 'officer of the 91st' though. I believe there are companies out there who will re-'brown' the scabbard too. Nice piece!

  3. I was intrigued by your post. I am no expert on swords but I served in the Territorial Army for many years. At the start of my career I commanded the saluting troop which fired Royal Salutes at Stirling Castle. The Castle is still the regimental headquarters and museum for the Argylls. I am sure they would be interested in the sword and may well have unpublished information that could help. I would counsel about being too definite about the conclusion that it was owned by an officer of the 91st. I do not see the usual brass mark that would appear at the top of the blade just below the hilt which meant that it had been tested and was up to the military standard. I do not know when that mark's use became universal. Also the red lining of the hilt looks too fresh to be original. Please keep us updated as to your enquiries.

    1. Thanks for the word of caution Graham, though I think the 91st is a probable but still worth confirming possibly at Stirling. There is a brass at the top of the blade which I was intrigued about which may be the test mark. I would agree with you that the felt lining is pretty new and I have a vague recollection of my father having this done, but that may be a trick of old age, but it is certainly newer.

  4. You mean the Wilkinson's 'HW' proof mark in the middle photo, second row? ;-)

    Indeed though, I'm sure the folks at Stirling would be interested and could provide more info.

  5. Coming into this a bit late, but please be cautious about the dating of the sword. The French place names etched on the blade are Battle Honours from the the First World War, 1914-18.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...