The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps Organised Without Canada’s Authority In 1889.

SVP., for further reading, photos, on the Montreal Highland Cadet Corps Battalion fallow short links:

The Montreal Highland Cadets Newspaper Timeline, From 1902-1911.

The Montreal Highland Cadets In The Second South Africana’ War, 1899-1902.


  • Highland Cadet Battalion (of Montreal) (1899-1963).
  • Location Montreal, QC.
  • Formed Dec 20, 1899.
  • Disbanded Sept 10, 1963.


It was the combination of two widely recognized Scottish characteristics or virtues which resulted in the organization of the Highland Cadets — the soldier instinct and national spirit. Early in the autumn of 1889 a deputation of youths, with their fathers, waited on Major Lydon who was then, and had been for many years previously, adjutant of the Fifth Battalion Royal Scots, with a request that he Mayor Lydon would organize a cadet corps with the abjectly of its being attached to and acting as a feeder to his regiment. Mr. W. Stuart, now a very efficient captain in the First Prince of Wales Fusiliers, then a lad, was the spokesman. It was intended, he explained, that the corps should be formed of two companies, the first of youths of sixteen years of age and upwards, and the second company to be made up of boys from twelve to fifteen years of age. Each company was to be limited in number to fifty.

Major Lydon promptly accepted the task and agreed to give all his spare time to drilling and otherwise organizing the corps, providing of course that his then commanding officer, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Caverhill, would give his consent and allow the corps the use of the regimental armoury to drill in and to store their arms, etc. This consent Colonel Caverhill very ready agreed to, and the cadets always met with the kindest consideration and encouragement from Colonel Caverhill, even after he had retired from the command of his regiment.


Major Fred. S. Lydon Commading of the Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, ca 1900.

Major Fred. S. Lydon Commading of the Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, ca 1900.


Colonel Caverhill caused a letter to be written to headquarters requesting that the cadets be officially attached to the Royal Scots, and also asking the Government for the loan of arms and accoutrements on the same conditions as they had been granted to college and school corps. This, however, the Government refused, on the grounds that there was no provision for any cadet corps except such as might be attached to educational institutions. This characteristic reply was a decided set back, as it meant, in addition to the expense of clothing, that arms and accoutrements would also have to be purchased by the corps. Nothing daunted, however, the organizers set to work, and in less than a fortnight the two full companies were in the ranks, and hard at work.

The two first captains were W. McB. Stuart (now captain in the First Prince of Wales Fusiliers), captain of No. 1 Company, and Allan Bain, captain of No. 2 Company. Captain Bain is or was till very lately, a very efficient sergeant in the Victoria Rifles, and amongst the crack shots of this very good shooting regiment.

The conditions of membership insisted upon by Major Lydon and ever since rigidly enforced, were that each member should be a total abstainer from intoxicating liquors, and it was also provided that the cadets should not enter saloons where liquors were sold, either in uniform or not. A great many times charges have been made through the press or in other ways that this rule was not strictly adhered to, but investigations have promptly been made where possible, and they have proved the charges invariably unfounded.

In this connection, it is interesting to give the conditions of enlistment crystallised into a formal declaration plainly printed on the attestation form, which every recruit must sign on joining.

This declaration reads as follows:


  1. I am a total abstainer from all intoxicating liquors.
  2. I pledge myself not to enter any saloon or other place where intoxicants are sold, either in uniform or not.
  3. I promise to take proper care of all property of the Government and corps, and to return same to the armoury in proper order on leaving the battalion.
  4. I promise to obey all orders of my superiors, and to attend all drills, unless prevented by sickness or work.
  5. I promise to pay an entrance fee of $1.00, and a monthly subscription of 10 cents, to be paid on or before the 15th of each month.
  6. I also promise to pay a deposit of $1.50 on receipt of my uniform, which deposit I am to receive on leaving the corps, providing I return all property of the battalion in good order; failing to return my uniform as above, to forfeit my deposit.


Canada's First Officers Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, 1889.

Canada’s First Officers Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, 1889.


The expenses of uniforms, etc., were to be provided for by each member paying an entrance fee of five dollars and a monthly fee of ten cents. It was thought that the five dollars would provide doublets and knickerbockers of heather-mixture-tweed, and no doubt it would have gone a long way towards that expense, had the fee been promptly paid. But unfortunately a great many members defaulted, and this left the instructor, who was personally responsible for the cost, to meet the deficit. The uniform, as first provided, was heather-mixture-tweed doublets and knickerbockers. Glengarry caps, brown hose and shoes (with shoe buckles for full dress), brown-leather leggings and pouch belt and waist belt and frog. Messrs. J. Martin & Sons provided the belts and leggings, the pouch belts, pouches, waist-belts, and frogs. They cost about five dollars per set, or for the one hundred sets, five hundred dollars. The cloth for the doublets and knickerbockers was purchased from a city firm and cost about two hundred and fifty dollars. The making and trimming of the one hundred suits, at three dollars per suit, cost three hundred dollars for the full number of a hundred. The hose were made of Canadian wool and cost fifty-five cents per pair, or fifty-five dollars for the hundred pairs. The Glengarrys, which were an old issue of the Royal Scots, cost nothing to the corps.

Bar-bells, clubs and dumb-bells were also provided. Thirty-five cents was paid for bar-bells, fifty cents per pair for clubs, and the dumb-bells were cast iron and bought at a few cents per pound, a mere trifle.

In addition to this, rifles had to be purchased. No. 1 Company was supplied with fifty muzzle-loading Enfield rifles and bayonets supplied by J. Martin & Sons at $3.75 each, and No. 2 Company was supplied with wooden guns and bayonets at one dollar each. The above figures will give an idea of the first cost of equipping the Highland Cadets. Some short while after the corps had been in existence, and in accordance with the original intention, arrangements were entered into to provide kilts of the same material and color as the doublets. Each kilt required an average of five yards of cloth, costing one dollar, and the making and trimming of one hundred kilts at $1.25 made up another considerable bill. One hundred sporrans of grey wolf were supplied by the late Mr. J. Stenhouse, and cost $1.25 each. A hundred black cocks’ tail feathers for the caps at fifty cents each, garters of tartan ribbons at fifteen cents per pair, and badges for caps and sporans, costing forty dollars, and made by W. Sharp, were the next expense.

It all cost money and caused considerable anxiety to the worthy instructor and organizer of the corps, but he had the satisfaction of knowing that once the expense was incurred, his little battalion was presentably equipped, and worthy of its title. For the first few years of its existence, the Highland Cadets corps wore, with the consent of the then commanding officers of the Fifth Royal Scots of Canada, the badges of that regiment. As the corps gradually took permanent shape as an independent battalion, it was decided that it should have a distinctive badge, and the very suitable and handsome badge at present worn was designed by the battalion’s versatile founder and commander. Major Lydon.

The badge consists of a St. Andrew’s cross, surmounted by a Scottish lion rampant, within a wreath of thistles and maple leaves, the binding ribbons bearing the regimental designation “Highland Cadets, Montreal.”


The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, In Camp On The Exhibition Grounds, Toronto, Sept, 1899.

The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, In Camp On The Exhibition Grounds, Toronto, Sept, 1899.


                                                                                                           CHAPTER VIII.

                                                                                                OFFICIAL RECOGNITION.

It was not until the Highland Cadets had done ten years of hard, conscientious work, that the splendid little corps received official recognition. There is nothing very exceptional, unfortunately, in official failure to recognize service and merit in the Canadian military service, but it is none the less discouraging. It is a reasonable, manly axiom of the profession of arms, that the soldier must not do his duty with a view of receiving any other reward than the sweet consciousness of duty well performed; but, however good a soldier a man may be, he must be excused for some degree of disappointment, and for some loss of zeal, even, if subjected to constant official neglectful, and absolute discouragement. And that is certainly what the experience of the Highland Cadets was for the first ten years of its experience. Till, within the past few years, the militia department not only would not assist the Highland Cadets, but would not recognize the formation of cadet corps of any kind in connection with the active militia. More than that, the department absolutely tried to throw such obstacles in the way as would make it impossible, for any one who was not of the sternest and most obstinate disposition, to succeed in maintaining a cadet corps. Major Lydon had the necessary obstinacy and determination, and he needed it. His plucky young Highlanders must have had a fair share of the same qualities.

From the first inception of the corps, in 1889, it has been one long and continuous struggle to keep it in existence, and those who have been willing to lend the plucky lads, and their fairly heroic organizer and instructor a helping hand have been few and far between. Many a patriotic Canadian soldier of the good Queen whose name, alas is now but a pious memory, must have felt disgust at the effusive demonstrations of patriotism on the part of some people during the more stirring period of the South African war. It was certainly more than one particular officer, who for years had drawn upon his slender income to modestly do his duty in the militia, could do to preserve his patience, while people who for years had been doing their most to discourage him and his men, were effusively flattering themselves upon the good showing made by the Canadian militiamen on the veldts and kopjes of South Africa. It was the people who sneered the most at the military spirit, and who ridiculed the militia service the most in times of peace, who were the first to derive satisfaction from what the Canadian troops were able to accomplish during the war. And, as soon as the war is over, they will once more demonstrate the sincerity of their patriotism and interest in things military, by pooh-poohing every reasonable suggestion for the placing of the militia service upon a more satisfactory footing.


The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, On Parade ca 1900.

The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, On Parade ca 1900.


But much of the discouragement the Highland Cadets have been called upon to encounter, has come from within the militia service, from those to whom it had the best right to look confidently for support. It is well known that the city regiments with their miserably inadequate Government allowances, find it a difficult matter each year to make both ends meet, even with the considerable assessments officers and men have to subject themselves to. But it would have been possible, for the city regiments, to have been more generous with their moral support of the Highland Cadets than they have been.

During the ten years of its existence the Highland Cadets battalion has given each year many splendid volunteers to the-corps in the Montreal division, all well drilled, well sei-up, and every man of them ready to take his place in the ranks, as an efficient soldier, without costing the country one cent for his training. But good, conscientious work and determination will obtain recognition some time, even in the Canadian militia service.

Upon the occasion of the corps’s first visit to Ottawa, Major- General Sir Fred. Middleton, realizing the military value of such an organization, after addressing the corps, promised to use his influence to try and have the Highland Cadets recognized as a part of the active militia in some wav or other. Before he could succeed in doing anything, however, the fine old soldier — one whose name deserves to be revered for all time in Canada, as that of the cautious old commander who conducted Canada’s armies to victory in the Northwest, and who showed, in the face of the enemy, an utter disregard for his own life and a most fatherly care of his volunteer troops — was driven out of the country by a most unscrupulous combination of politicians and disappointed tuft-hunters; was made, in fact, a victim of political exigency.

There is not the least doubt of General Middleton’s warm appreciation of juvenile cadet corps. The night after the action at Fish Creek, in 1885, while discussing the heroic conduct of Willie Buchanan, the small boy bugler of the Nineteenth Winnipeg Battalion, whose cool courage in distributing ammunition under fire, had come under his personal notice, the old general spoke warmly of the good work done by the English cadet corps, and expressed his intention to try and have the system inaugurated in Canada. Major-General Hutton took a warm interest in the corps while in Canada. In acknowledging the receipt of a new year’s card and circular, he wrote to Major Lydon as follows:—

” Earnscliffe, Ottawa, December 31st, 1898.

“Dear Major Lydon,  I have read with great interest your excellent appeal to your young Highlanders, which you sent me with- the kindly Christmas greetings of your Highland cadet corps and yourself. I much appreciate your own and their thought of me at this season. It is, I am sure, unnecessary for me to tell you how pleased I am at the success your cadet corps has already attained, and how warmly I wish it increased success and prosperity under your able leadership during 1899.

  • Believe me, yours very faithfully,
  • Major-General.


Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, with The Duck of Connaught’s Flag.

Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps, with The Duck of Connaught’s Flag.


The circular referred to read in part as follows:—

Montreal, December, 1898.

                                                                                                  Memo to All Members.

With the compliments of the season, I address each member of the corps, and beg leave to point out to them that it is my wish and intention to commence the year 1899 with a determination to do all in my power, with your help, to put the Highland Cadets away above their previous record; and, to do this, I ask every one of you to loyally assist me. With the prospects of so many opportunities before us, of being able to show off the efficiency of the corps, apart from the annual competition for the Duke of Connaught’s flag, constant and regular drills will be necessary, and those who now feel that they cannot give at least one night a week, for the months of January, February and March, and two, or perhaps more, during April, May and June, had better now retire and send in their uniforms.

I need not tell you how sorry I shall be to lose any of you, but the efficiency of the whole corps requires that every individual member (officer, non-commissioned and private) must be absolutely perfect. Meantime, the general appears to have been urging the claim of the cadets to recognition upon the militia department, for, in January, 1900, the corps was gazetted, in ” Militia General Orders,” as a four-company battalion, and to be known in future as “The Highland Cadet Battalion.” And so the corps had received official recognition and had fairly won an official standing in the militia at last. In this connection the Highland Cadets consider themselves under obligations to the Hon. Dr. Borden, minister of militia, who, by extending recognition to the cadet corps, gave another proof of that shrewd judgment which proved so useful to the Dominion and the Empire, in connection with the equipment and despatch of the various contingents sent to South-Africa from Canada.


Pipes And Bugle Bands Of The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion, At The Annual Inspection, 1900.

Pipes And Bugle Bands Of The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion, At The Annual Inspection, 1900.


Official recognition had, fortunately for the welfare of the corps, been more tardy than private appreciation. Something has already been said of the generous and practical recognition of the corps by some of the leading citizens of Canada. Three successive commanding officers of the Fifth Royal Scots, Lieutenant-Colonels F. Caverhill, John Hood, and J. Alex. Strathy, always accorded their warmest support to the corps, and so did many others. The cadets have special reasons to recognize the open-handed liberality of three of Montreal’s leading citizens, namely. Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, Sir W. C. McDonald, and the late Mr. Colin McArthur.

It is hardly necessary to say anything about Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal in a Canadian publication, for His Lordship’s career is a matter of national history. His father was the late Alexander Smith of Archieston, Morayshire, Scotland, at which place His Lordship was born, coming to this continent, in the service of the Hudson Bay Company, in 1838. How he won promotion in the service of the Company, and came to be considered the leading man in Manitoba and the Northwest, is well known. In 1886, Her Late Majesty created “Mr. Donald A. Smith” K. C. M. G. ; and in 1897, the Diamond Jubilee Year, Queen Victoria bestowed upon him a further mark of favor by elevating him to the peerage, an honor received with the liveliest satisfaction from one end of Canada to the other. It is useless to attempt to detail his numerous princely benefactions to the educational and charitable institutions, space will not permit; but among them all, none have been more sincerely appreciated, by the recipients, than His Lordship’s unostentatious but kindly support of the Highland Cadet Battalion.

Sir William C. McDonald was the youngest son of the late Honorable Donald McDonald, some time president of the Legislative Council of Prince Edward Island, and is a grandson of Captain John McDonald, eighth chief of the clan MacDonald of Glenaladale, who served, during the American Revolutionary War, as captain in the Eighty-Fourth or Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment. Sir W. C. McDonald is known chiefly through his princely gifts to the Montreal General Hospital and McGill University, particularly the latter, which institution has received no less than $1,650,000 from this generous benefactor or and friend of the Highland Cadets.


The Silver Cup Presented To The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps.

The Silver Cup Presented To The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps.


The late Mr. Colin McArthur was another of Montreal’s Scottish merchant princes whose names are familiar throughout Canada, for their public spirit and liberality. His death, which occurred as this volume was passing through the press (December, 1 901) caused widespread regret. The commencement of the manufacture of wall paper in Montreal, in 1878, marked an era in the commercial history of the city. In that year, Mr. Cohn McArthur and the late Mr. John C. Watson entered into partnership, and, as wall paper manufacturers under the style of Watson and McArthur, carried on a growing business, under the practical supervision of Mr. McArthur, until 1884, when the latter withdrew from the firm and established the Montreal Wall Paper Factory, under the name and style of Colin McArthur and Company.

From 1889 until the spring of 1900, he was the sole proprietor of the concern, which had increased to such proportions that, in the latter year, he decided to incorporate the business as a joint stock company; the charter was duly granted, and, under the style of Colin McArthur and Company (Incorporated), with Mr. McArthur himself as president, the firm had the most successful year, and the largest turn-over in its history. Mr. McArthur was born in Glasgow, in 1835, and obtained his thorough knowledge of the wall paper business in the employ of Messrs. Wylie and Lochead of that city, whose factory he successfully managed for many years before coming to Canada. One of the most pleasant, approachable and charitable of men, his honor and integrity were an object lesson to those who say that these qualities cannot go hand in hand with success in the modern businessman’s life.

The number of Mr. McArthur’ s friends was only limited to the number of those who knew him, and none knew better his thoughtful consideration and kind-heartedness than those whose good fortune it had been to be employed in his service. The Highland Cadets value the good opinion of their corps held by such men, quite as much as they do the generous contributions they have made towards their funds.


Main Source: The Montreal Highland Cadets; by Captain Ernest J. Chambers, 1901, Chapter IV.


Montreal Highland Cadets Montreal Gazette, Saturday June 4th 1892.

Highland Cadets, Montreal Gazette Saturday June 4th 1892.


Highlander Cadets, Montreal Daily Herald, Monday Morning, November 114th 1892.

Highlander Cadets, Montreal Daily Herald, Monday Morning, November 14th 1892.


The Highland Cadets, Montreal Daily Witness, Saturday May 27th, 1893.

The Highland Cadets, Montreal Daily Witness, Saturday May 27th, 1893.


The Highland Cadets, Montreal Daily Witness, Tue. June 13th, 1893.

The Highland Cadets, Montreal Daily Witness, Tue. June 13th, 1893.



The Highland Cadets. The Montreal Gazette, Monday, June 7, 1897.

The Highland Cadets. The Montreal Gazette, Monday, June 7, 1897.



The Montreal Highland Cadets, The Boston Evening Transcript, Tue., Sept. 6th 1898.

The Montreal Highland Cadets, The Boston Evening Transcript, Tue., Sept. 6th 1898.


The Montreal Highland Cadets, Boston Evening Transcript, Tuesday, Sept. 6th, 1898.

The Montreal Highland Cadets, Boston Evening Transcript, Tuesday, Sept. 6th, 1898.







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