Balhousie Castle

Balhousie Castle

Black Watch Regimental Museum

Black Watch Regimental Museum


Balhousie Castle, located in Perth, Scotland (on Hay Street, originally a few hundred metres north of the medieval town), dates to 1631, though its origins are believed to go back a further three hundred years. It originally served as the seat of the Earls of Kinnoull, and stood within a walled enclosure containing subsidiary buildings, orchards etc., on a terrace overlooking the North Inch. After falling into neglect in the early 19th century, the Castle was 'restored' (in fact, virtually rebuilt), and extensively remodelled on a larger scale in 1862-63 in the Baronial style by the architect David Smart. No original features survive except for parts of the original rubble walls on the east side. In 1962, the Castle became the Regimental Headquarters and Museum of The Black Watch.


The origins of Balhousie Castle are said to date back to the 12th century. Originally an L-shaped tower house what we see today is the central part, possibly dating from the 17th century. In its present form, the Castle dates from the 1860s. Documentation of Balhousie Castle begins in the 15th century. In 1422, Murdoch, Duke of Albany granted the Barony of Balhousie to John Eviot. The property remained in the Eviot family, with a brief interlude in which the Mercers, a well-known family in the Burgh of Perth, had possession of the property, until 1609, when the lands were sold by Colin Eviot to John Mathew, son of Robert Mathew, merchant of Perth. The property then passed to Andrew Grant and John Lamb. On 27 September 1625, King Charles I granted to Master Francis Hay, his heirs and assignees, the lands and barony of Balhousie. He was the son of Peter Hay of Rattray and was a writer to the Signet before 1617. He acquired several properties in Perthshire and Wigtownshire, including the barony of Dupplin in 1642. He was fined £2000 sterling under Cromwell’s Act of Grace and Pardon in 1654. He was succeeded by his son George (died 1672), who in turn was succeeded by his son Thomas.


Thomas Hay of Balhousie was the Member of Parliament for Perthshire in the 1690s. He was created Viscount Dupplin, with remainder to heirs-male of his body on 31 December 1697. William, sixth Earl of Kinnoull, died unmarried in London on 10 May 1709 and Thomas succeeded to the title as seventh Earl. He was suspected of favouring the Jacobites and was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, dying four years later. The succession of Earls continued, George Henry, eighth Earl, Member of Parliament for Fowey, Cornwall, Thomas, ninth Earl, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, Robert Auriol Hay Drummond, who succeeded his uncle as tenth Earl was appointed Lord Lyon King of Arms, which was then a sinecure. His son, Thomas Robert, succeeded as eleventh Earl. He was Colonel of the Royal Perthshire Militia, 1809-55, Lord Lieutenant of the County and succeeded his father as Lord Lyon, King of Arms. It was he who extended the Castle.


The Hays did not live at Balhousie Castle, their main residence was at Dupplin. By the early 1860s the castle was in a dilapidated state. Only the first floor was inhabited. Thomas Robert restored the Castle and added two wings to the original L-shaped tower house. The architect he employed was David Smart. The building was then let out. The tenants included, Henry Hay Norie, a lawyer, John Shields of Wallace Works, who died in 1889 and James Ramsay, a jute broker. The Hay family came to live at the Castle around 1912 and remained until 1926. The Castle then became a convent. The nuns were from the Society of St Peter and were associated with St Ninian’s Episcopal Cathedral. They appear to have resided in the castle until about 1940. During the Second World War, the property was used by the Auxiliary Training Service as Officers Quarters. After the War, it housed a detachment of the Royal Army Service Corps and the Headquarters, Highland District, Corps of Royal Engineers. In the early 1960s there was a major Army re-organisation. The Black Watch Depot at the Queen's Barracks was closed and Regimental Headquarters and the museum came to the castle where they remain to this day.


'In a Highland Regiment every individual feels that his conduct is the subject of observation and that, independently of his duty, as one member of a systematic whole he has a separate and individual reputation to sustain, which will be reflected on his family and district or glen.' The words above are as relevant today as when they were written by a 19th century Black Watch historian. They lucidly illustrate that The Black Watch boasts a history of honour, gallantry and devoted service to King, Queen and country. The battles which have contributed most to The Black Watch history have been those in which the odds have been most formidable. From Fontenoy to Fallujah with Ticonderoga, Waterloo, Alamein and two World Wars in between the Black Watch has been there when the world’s history has been shaped. The Black Watch has played a significant part in each of these bloody and mighty conflicts and the sheer scope and scale of The Black Watch’s contribution is what has nurtured a deep pride in this great Regiment.


The Black Watch was raised in an unique way. In the wake of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion companies of trustworthy Highlanders were raised from loyal clans, Campbells, Grants, Frasers, Munros. Six companies were formed from 1725 and stationed in small detachments across the Highlands to prevent fighting between the clans, deter raiding and assist in enforcing the laws against the carrying of weapons. In 1739 King George II authorised the raising of four additional companies and these all to be formed into a Regiment of the Line of the regular army with the Earl of Crawford as the Colonel. The men were to be “natives of that country and none other to be taken". The first muster of the new Regiment took place near Aberfeldy the following year and is commemorated by a monument in the form of a soldier dressed in the uniform of those days. In 1825, Stewart of Garth wrote that "Although the commissions of the officers were dated in October, and the following months of 1739, the men were not assembled until the month of May 1740. The whole were then mustered, and embodied into a regiment in a field between Taybridge and Aberfeldy, in the county of Perth..."


The original uniform was a twelve yard long plaid of the dark tartan which is now so well known as The Black Watch tartan. This was fastened around the body with a leather belt. The jacket and waistcoat were scarlet with buff facings and white lace and a blue bonnet was worn. The men were armed with a musket and bayonet, a broadsword and generally also a pistol and dirk (long dagger). In 1825, Stewart of Garth wrote that "The uniform was a scarlet jacket and waistcoat, with buff facings and white lace, tartan plaid of twelve yards plaited round the middle of the body, the upper part being fixed on the left shoulder, ready to be thrown loose and wrapped over both shoulders and firelock in rainy weather. At night, the plaid served the purpose of a blanket, and was a sufficient covering for the Highlander." The title “The Black Watch” was derived from the dark colour of the tartan and the original role of the Regiment to “watch” the Highlands . The name has remained and is now incorporated in the official name of the Regiment. In 1825, Stewart of Garth wrote that "The whole were then mustered ... under the number of the 43d regiment, but they still retained the country name of the Black Watch."


In 1743 the new regiment was ordered to march to London for an inspection by the King. However word had it that the Regiment was to be shipped to the unhealthy climate of the West Indies, a rumour which was reinforced when it was discovered that the King was not to inspect them. Many of the men genuinely believed they had been enlisted only for service in Scotland and decided to return home. Leaving London and marching by night over a hundred of them reached Northamptonshire before they were eventually surrounded and brought back to London. They were tried by court martial and three of the leaders were condemned to be shot in the Tower. The remainder of the Regiment proceeded to Flanders for action against the French. It must remain a question for speculation whether the 1745 Rebellion could ever have taken place had The Black Watch been left fulfilling its role in policing the Highlands rather than being posted to the Continent two years previously. The Regiment was first in action at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. Although this was a British defeat, The Black Watch gained great distinction by its conduct being described by a French officer as "Highland Furies who rushed in on us with more violence than ever did the sea driven by tempest".


The Regiment was next engaged in the French-Indian War and especially at the Battle of Ticonderoga in 1758 where during the attack on the fort of that name more than half the men became casualties. By this time the Regiment had been allocated the numerical slot "42nd" in seniority, a number which it was to render illustrious all over the world. In recognition of its worth it was now granted the title "Royal" and raised a Second Battalion. In 1786 this battalion became a separate regiment in its own right, the 73rd, and was much in action in India and Ceylon, playing a prominent part in the capture of Mysore and Seringapatam. Meanwhile the 42nd had been busy in the West Indies in Guadaloupe in 1759 and in Martinique and Havanna for which it was to receive its first battle honours. It was later deployed to North America where it became involved in the American War of Independence. The Regiment took part in the successful action at Brooklyn, New York against George Washington's forces in 1776 and undertook much skirmishing against the rebels during the remainder of that war. It was in 1795 that The Black Watch is known to have adopted the Red Hackle in its bonnets, the most distinctive feature of the Regiment's uniform. The stories relating to its origin are numerous but it was certainly issued to the men at Royston, Hertfordshire that year. Others began to copy this but in 1822 an Army Order laid down that it was "to be used exclusively by the 42nd Regiment". Since then it has been worn in action in many parts of the World and is a much prized distinguishing mark.


The next 15 years of the Regiment's history were to be dominated by action against the French. The first campaign was in Egypt in 1801 where after a successful assault landing the 42nd fought with great distinction at the Battle of Alexandria, capturing the Colour of Napoleon's "Invincible" Legion. For its gallantry the Regiment won the honour of bearing the Sphinx on its Colours and badge. No fewer than ten battle honours were awarded to the Regiment for its part in the continued fight against Napoleon's armies during the six years of the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal. It was committed early, for in 1809 it took part in Sir John Moore's gruelling winter retreat through the mountains to Corunna, where it played a prominent part in the action covering the embarkation. The following year another battalion of the Regiment joined the Duke of Wellington's Army and was present at many of his famous victories including the final one at Toulouse in France in April 1814. By the end of that battle less than 60 men of the Battalion remained unwounded. During Napoleon's final campaign of 1815 both the 42nd and the 73rd which were to become respectively the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Black Watch played significant parts. They were first in action together at Quatre Bras on the 16th of June where they were hard pressed by French cavalry. Mistaking them for allies the 42nd had not time to form a defensive square and had a tough fight repulsing them. Two days later at the Battle of Waterloo it was the 73rd which was in the thickest of the fighting and subject to heavy losses from the French cannon.


After almost 40 years of peace since Waterloo the 42nd formed part of the Highland Brigade during the war with Russia in the Crimea. Its most notable action was in the very first engagement at the Battle of the Alma in September 1854. Positioned on the right of the Brigade, it was with the order "Forward the 42nd" that the Commander, Sir Colin Campbell sent the Regiment up the heights to encounter the enemy who were driven back to their base in Sebastopol. There the Regiment shared in all the dangers and tribulations of work in the trenches before the town for nearly 18 months. Almost immediately after the Crimean War the Regiment was despatched to India to help quell the Mutiny. There it was first in action at Cawnpore and then, early in 1858, at the relief of Lucknow. It was there that Lieutenant Farquharson won the first of the Regiment's fourteen Victoria Crosses. After the eventual capture of Lucknow, the Regiment was employed in the flying columns sent out to subdue areas remaining in rebel hands. This involved much fierce fighting and marching large distances.


Egypt and the Sudan. This period first saw the 73rd in South Africa taking part in the Frontier Wars. A large number of reinforcements for the Regiment on the troopship "Birkenhead" lost their lives when it sank in 1852. The discipline of the troops aboard, allowing the women and children to escape, has become a legend. In 1874 the 42nd played the leading role in the Ashanti Campaign in West Africa during the successful advance to Coomassie through dense jungle. It was in 1881 that the 42nd and 73rd were reunited as the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Black Watch respectively. The 1st Battalion was then to be the next in action in Africa taking part in the Highland Brigade's dawn assault on the Egyptian position at Tel-el-Kebir in 1882. Two years later it was in the thick of the fight with the Mahdi's fanatical tribesmen at El Teb and Tamai - and the following year 1885 saw it taking part in the Nile Expedition and fighting at Kirbekan and Abu Klea. The Boer War. Only a month after the declaration of war by the Boers in late 1899, the 2nd Battalion arrived in South Africa. There it was to be part of the Highland Brigade in the column sent to the relief of Kimberley. Unfortunately the Brigade was soon committed to a disastrous dawn attack on Boer positions at Magersfontein. No proper reconnaissance had been carried out and the night advance was delayed by a storm, by thorn bushes and barbed wire. The 2nd Battalion, in the lead, was caught in the open in daylight and subjected to rapid and accurate fire from the Boer entrenchments. Despite gallant efforts to reach these trenches the Battalion was pinned down all day, losing over 300 killed or wounded. Two months after Magersfontein the 2nd Battalion was in action again at Koodoosberg, a battle which cleared the route to Kimberley. Amongst those of the Regiment killed in action was Lieutenant Freddy Tait, the Amateur Golf Champion. Shortly afterwards the Boers were encircled at Paardeberg. There the Highland Brigade was required to put in an attack across the open veldt. It did so in extended order and without the losses incurred at Magersfontein. The Boers trapped at Paardeberg surrendered and the Orange Free State Capital, Bloemfontein was captured. There were to be two more years before the Boers accepted defeat, years in which the British forces experienced the frustrations of a guerrilla war. No longer were there Boer armies, only smaller groups which would engage the troops at long range then try and disengage before contact could be made. Eventually this was defeated by restricting movement with block houses and wire fences. This strategy required a huge number of troops in small detachments.


1914. On the outbreak of war there were seven Black Watch battalions - for in addition to the Regular 1st and 2nd Battalions and 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion there were a further four Territorial ones which had become part of the Regiment in 1908. They were the 4th Dundee, 5th Angus, 6th Perthshire and the 7th Battalion from Fife. The 1st Battalion was in action at the very start of the war taking part in the Retreat from Mons before turning on the Germans at the River Marne and the subsequent advance to the Aisne. Trench warfare then set in and the 2nd Battalion arrived from India, both battalions taking part in the Battle of Givenchy. Meanwhile the Territorial battalions had been mobilised at the start of the war but only the 5th was in action in that year. 1915. This year was to see the participation of all the Territorial battalions and some of the newly formed "Service Battalions" of the Regiment in the battles along the Western Front. The 2nd, 4th and 5th Battalions were at Neuve Chapelle in March and a total of six battalions fought at Festubert in May where two Victoria Crosses were won by members of the Regiment. Then in September came the initially successful but horrifically costly attacks at Loos in which the 9th Battalion suffered over 700 casualties. 1916. The 2nd Battalion was withdrawn from France for operations against the Turks in Mesopotamia for the attempted relief of Kut-el-Amara. Such was the urgency to get forward that the advance was made without proper preparation and heavy casualties were incurred. The losses at Shaikh Sa'ad were so heavy that the Battalion had to be merged temporarily with another Highland battalion which had suffered similarly. This year also saw the 10th Battalion taking part in operations in the Balkans. On the Western Front, 1916 was dominated by the Battle of the Somme. Five battalions of the Regiment were involved with particularly fierce actions at Contalmaison, High Wood, Delville Wood and Longueval - the last named changing frequently as the Germans counter-attacked and further assaults were made to regain it. Eventually it was held but by then the 8th Battalion was reduced to just 171 men. The year ended with the extremely hard fought battle at Beaumont-Hamel with the 6th and 7th Battalions particularly distinguishing themselves.


1917. April saw the launch of the 1st Battle of Arras. With the support of some of the first tanks, with more sophisticated artillery fire and improved tactics the five Black Watch battalions involved made some progress. They then held on tenaciously to the gains made at such cost against fierce counter attacks. Subsequent attacks in the Second and Third Battles were less successful but equally costly in lives. July saw six battalions of the Regiment taking part in the Third Battle of Ypres and the endeavours to extend the Salient. In this the 4/5 Battalion was reduced to no more than company strength, indicative of the terrible losses and conditions at Passchendaele. However the 6th and 7th Battalions were taken back to train with tanks for the initially successful Battle of Cambrai. Advancing behind the tanks and passing through each other the battalions made significant gains but most of this ground was later to be lost to German counter attacks. Meanwhile in Mesopotamia the 2nd Battalion had taken part in the fight for Sannaiyat and in March had entered Bagdad before fighting across the desert to Mushaidie and thence to the ferocious action at Istabulat. There Private Melvin won the VC for single handedly overcoming a group of nine Turks. 1918. After the conclusion of operations in Mesopotamia the 2nd Battalion moved to Palestine and took part in Allenby's eminently successful action at Megiddo in September. In France the spring brought in the final massive German offensive. In a confused withdrawal all the battalions suffered heavy losses, those of the 9th at Arras being so great that it had to amalgamate with the 4th/5th. Attack followed attack through March and April until the German offensive was exhausted. Then came the long fight to recover the lost ground. At Chambrecy the 6th Battalion, attacking alongside a French unit, was awarded the Croix de Guerre for its bravery - a distinction still worn by the Territorial soldiers of the Regiment. By September the 1st Battalion was involved in the successful attack on the last German fortified trench system, the Hindenberg Line. By the time of the Armistice in November 8000 members of the Regiment had lost their lives during the four years of this terrible conflict.


The Museum tour begins with an introductory film, introducing the visitor to The Black Watch and some of its key icons: The Red Hackle, The Title, The Tartan, The Badge. The tour continues with seven chronological Galleries on the following historical periods: Early Years 1725-45, French Wars 1745-1815, Empire 1815-1914, First World War 1914-1919, Second World War 1939-45, Post War 1945-2006. The tour continues with themed Galleries on the following topics: Day in the Life, Medals, The Black Watch and The Royal Family, Sons of The Black Watch, Remembrance. The tour continues in their Temporary Exhibition Gallery. The tour finishes with our display about The Black Watch Today, featuring the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.


'Next of Kin', 11th November 2016 to 6th February 2017. 1914 brought war to Scotland on what would prove to be an unprecedented scale. This touring exhibition reveals the personal stories of separation and loss experienced by Scottish families and by communities with loved ones fighting abroad. The First World War separated millions of people worldwide from their families and homes. The impact of the conflict was felt by communities in every part of Scotland as family members fought across the fronts and news of losses were received.For the servicemen and women who experienced the conflict first-hand, keeping objects was a way of remembering this extraordinary period in their lives. Families coped with the loss of their loved ones by collecting and cherishing these souvenirs along with postcards, letters and photographs sent home and official presentations such as service medals and memorial plaques.Through a selection of these family keepsakes, Next of Kin: Scottish Families and the Great War presents a portrait of Scotland at war, where the private lives of Scottish families introduce some of the themes and events of the conflict across the fighting fronts.


Free parking is available for visitors. Perth bus station is on a number of national and local bus networks, including Scottish Citylink and Megabus (to Broxden with link bus). There are no direct buses from Perth bus station to the Castle & Museum. There are taxi ranks at Perth train station (which is across the road from the bus station) and elsewhere in the city centre. For comprehensive travel information, please contact Traveline Scotland online or by telephone: 0871 200 2233. The Castle & Museum has: a lift to the first and second floors, induction loops installed or transcriptions available on their interactive consoles, accessible toilets and baby changing facilities. Please note that only guide/hearing/assistance dogs are permitted within the building. Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds and outdoor seating areas. The best way to immerse yourself in the history of Scotland's premier Highland Regiment is to take a Guided Tour, led by their trained and knowledgeable Tour Guides.


Location : The Black Watch Castle & Museum, Balhousie Castle, Hay St, Perth PH1 5HR

Transport: Perth (National Rail) then bus (70 is closest). Bus Routes : 8, 9, 70, 647 and 834 stop nearby (150 metres).

Opening Times : 1st April to 30th September, Daily, 09:30 to 16:30;  1st October to 31st March, Daily 10:00 to 16:00

Tickets : Adults £7.50;  Concessions £6.00;  Children £3.50

Guided Tours : Adults £12.50;  Concessions £10.00;  Children £7.50

Tel. : 01738 638152