The Covenanters and the Cameronian Regiment

The Cameronian Regiment holds a unique place in the history of the British Army, being the only Regiment raised on Religious Beliefs. The Cameronians or Cameronian Guard take their name from a Presbyterian Minister named Richard Cameron. The Regiments origins go back to the dark days of Seventeenth Century Scotland known as “The Killing Time”, when a religious group known as Covenanters following the Presbyterian doctrine, raised the Regiment at Douglas Water in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

The Covenanters


Above: The Banner known as “The Bluidy Banner” (Bloody Banner) of 17 year old Covenanter William Cleland, carried at The Battle of Bothwell Brig’ in 1679. A Hebrew script at the top roughly translates as “The Lord is My Banner” At the bottom it reads: “No Quarters for Ye Active Enemies of Ye Covenant”

On the 22nd of June 1680 at the Meercat Cross in Sanquhar, Ayrshire, Scotland, exactly one year to the day from the defeat of Covenanters at The Battle of Bothwell Brig’ near Hamilton in Scotland. Richard Cameron, a zealous Presbyterian preacher known as “The Lion of the Covenant” openly voiced opposition to Charles II, urging resistance to any reforms in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. This became known as the “Declaration of Sanquhar” and effectively began “The Killing Time” that saw Protestant Presbyterian Covenanters persecuted by the Stuart Monarchy of Charles II and latterly his brother and successor, Roman Catholic James VII.

 * Meercat Cross is an old Scots word meaning Market Cross

* Brig’ old scots for Bridge

Declaration of Sanquhar:

Further Interesting reading following the Battle of Bothwell Brig’ and the outcome for the Covenanters can be found here:

On June 10th 1688, a son was born to the Catholic Stuart Monarch James VII , the newly born James Francis Edward Stuart, later known as the “Old Pretender” (father of Bonnie Prince Charlie) now replaced the heir presumptive, his Protestant half-sister Mary Henrietta Stuart as heir to the throne. A group of disgruntled Protestant English Nobles and Parliamentarians fearing the return of Roman Catholicism to Great Britain invited Mary’s husband, William of Orange to come to England with an Army and take the throne in preference to Mary’s newly born half-brother, and so began what was known as the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688-89, culminating in the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690 near the town of Drogheda in what is now Éire, and restoring a Protestant Monarch to the throne in Great Britain. James VII, died deposed and in exile in France on the 16th of September 1701, ending the line of Reigning Catholic Stuart Monarchs, and sowing the seeds of dissention in Scotland for the return of his grandson Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) in 1745.

The Cameronian Regiment


Thus on the 14th of May 1689 near Douglas Water, The Cameronian Regiment formed in one day “Without beat of drum, over 800 men mustered from the ranks of Presbyterian Covenanters”

A proclamation was read to all present:

“All shall be well affected, of approved fidelity and of a sober conversation. The cause they are called to appear for, is the service of the King’s Majesty and the defence of the Nation, recovery and preservation of the Protestant Religion; and in particular the work of reformation in Scotland, in opposition to Popery prelacy and arbitrary power in all its branches and steps, until the Government of Church and State be brought back to that lustre and integrity which it had in the best times.”

Their first Commanding Officer would be the now 27 year old Lieutenant Colonel William Cleland, with the Regiment being renamed the Earl of Angus’s Regiment after their young Colonel, 19 year James Douglas, The Earl of Angus, son of the Marquis of Douglas. The Regiment would be first bloodied at Dunkeld on the 21st of August 1689, losing their commanding officer William Cleland but winning the day and acquitting themselves in Battle against the Highland Royalist Jacobite clans supporting the newly deposed James VII.

The Cameronians took the name of the successive Colonels of the Regiment until they were renamed the 26th Regiment of Foot in July of 1751, the Cameronian Regiment took part in the many Campaigns throughout the eighteen and nineteenth centuries, gaining many Battle Honours,

Corunna, Abyssinia, as well as the the Sphynx superscribed Egypt  and the Dragon superscribed China, the Honours Blenheim; Ramillies; Oudenarde; Malplaquet; were awarded retrospectively in 1882.

The Old 26th Cameronian Regiment of Foot ceased to exist in their previous form on amalgamation with the 90th Regt of Foot in 1882 when they formed two battalions of Scotland’s only Rifle Regiment The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). In 1885 the Regiment ceased carrying Colours as they were now a Rifle Regiment, the last set of the First Battalion being laid up in Glasgow Cathedral with the Second Battalions Colours laid up in St. Mary’s Church, Hamilton.



A Cameronians Medal and Bible belonging to Private George Walker 26th Cameronian Regiment, Dublin, 12th August 1826. (Author’s Collection)

Plates and badg.jpg

A 26th Cameronian Officers Shoulderbelt Plate, Collars, Waistbelt and Glengarry Badge worn between 1850 – 1881  (Author’s Collection)

26th Home Service Helmet.jpg

A 26th Cameronian Officers Home Service Pattern Helmet Circa. 1879-1880 (Author’s Collection)


The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). Uniform belonging to then 2nd Lieut Colin Robert Hoste Stirling. Died aged 24 at Rouen, France. 29/05/1918, from wounds received on the 24/03/1918 while temporary Lt Colonel in command of the Royal Berkshire Regt. (Author’s Collection)

A new round of Army cuts meant further amalgamation with another Scottish Regiment in the late 1960s, Sadly The Cameronians (The Scottish Rifles) chose to disband and held their last Conventicle on the 14th of May 1968 on the same day and near the spot in 1689 where the Regiment had been raised 279 years previously. Bringing to an end many years of continuous service and tradition.

The Royal Gurkha Rifles Regimental Pipe Band to this day wear Douglas Tartan Trews in commemoration of the disbanding of the Cameronians, as do the First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland by wearing the Black Hackle of the Douglas Clan.

Balmoral bonnets are worn to this day by soldiers of the Sultan of Muscat’s Armed Forces. Such was the gratitude of the then Sultan, after an operation in Oman in his support by the 1st Battalion in 1957, that he copied this headdress for his own army. The present Sultan, HM Sultan Qaboos bin Said, served as an officer with the 1st Battalion in Germany in the early 1960s.

A Video of the disbandment in 1968 can be seen on Youtube.

The Scottish Rifles Regimental Pipe Marches were

Regimental Pipe Music
Regimental Band:
Within a mile of Edinburgh Town

Pipe Marches:
Quick march 1st Battalion  –  Kenmuir’s on an’ Awa’
Quick march 2nd Battalion – The Gathering of the Grahams

The Irony here being, the Cameronians Scottish Rifles in common with other Lowland Scottish Regiments, chose to side with the Crown against the Highland Jacobite Clans, to end the Reign of James VII, but ended up with a Pipe Band playing their Regimental marches on the bagpipes, an instrument of war associated with the Highland Clans who supported the Jacobite cause.

Benny Bough

Glasgow, Scotland

1st December 2017


Historical Records of the 26th or Cameronian Regiment 1688-1867. Thos Carter. 1867

History of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), Vol.2 1910-1933.  H.H.Story. 1961

History of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) Volume 4 – The Close of Empire 1948 -1968. John Baynes. 1971


7 thoughts on “The Covenanters and the Cameronian Regiment”

  1. My grandmother Hannah was engaged to Lt Col Colin Robert Hoste Stirling; the engagement was called off in an announcement in The Times on March 18, 1918. Colin was mortally wounded 6 days later, but took two months to die. Amazing you have his uniform.

    1. He did take a while to die, he was severley wounded in an area known as Monks Quarry..I have quite a bit of info on him as well as his photograph, i can send you the PDF file on him if you like. if you want my e-mail contact Cathey.

  2. My Grandfather was Lt. Col. William Nelson, OBE, TD. Please feel free to contact me if you have any memoirs or wish further info on him.

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