Sir Hector Archibold Macdonald was a fine soldier who rose from the rank of private to become commanding officer of a Highland Brigade in the time of Queen Victoria. An almost impossible feat when the only entry into the Commissioned Corps was by the right of birth, wealth and by the proper connections.
Hector MacDonald was the son of a crofter (small farmer) on the Black Isle, across the Firth from the monument. He enlisted into the 92nd Gordon Highlander on the 11th of June 1870, having previously served with the local volunteers.
On enlisting into the regular army, Hector MacDonald took his soldiering very seriously from the outset. This dedication and his application to his Army career ensured his rapid promotion through the ranks to become a high ranking officer. During his service in the Queen’s Colours, he served in countries such as India, Afghanistan, South Africa, Ceylon and the Egyptian Sudan.
Due to grave charges brought against him by high ranking officials he took his own life while staying in a Paris hotel. These charges were never substantiated.
MacDonald was subsequently interred in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. An obelisk memorial with bronze bust was erected over his grave in 1905. Sir Hector is also remembered by a slender telescope-like tower memorial at Mulbuie, near his birthplace. “Fighting Mac” was a nickname he kept to the end of his life. He was a man of immense courage and quiet dignity. He took his own life in Paris, after he was faced with charges of homosexuality; his funeral in Edinburgh was hurried and aroused fierce controversy.
The Mitchell Tower was erected to his memory, with money collected by public subscription. It is a leisurely hike to the gates, built in 1792. The view from the summit is breathtaking. You are dwarfed by the gates which perch proudly on its tough conglomerate rock. His supporters erected this monument in his memory and it is visible from most of Dingwall.
But the most significant monument to MacDonald is the National Memorial in Dingwall. This was constructed between 1904 and 1907 (architect James Sandford Kay), its hundred foot high tower dominating the hillside above the town. Sited on the summit of Mitchell Hilll above Dingwall, this beautiful castellated tower – erected in 1907 – stands (now amid a beautiful cemetery) in silent tribute to Ross-shire’s (and Scotland’s) most famous sons, Major-General Sir Hector Archibald Macdonald KCB, DSO, ADC, LLD.(1853-1903), otherwise known as “fighting Mac” and “Hector the Hero”. Its main features are the slender whinstone tower projecting from the rubbly sandstone base and the balustered parapet around the corbelled top platform. This in turn is surmounted by a castellated cap-house.
Panoramic views may be obtained from the top of the monument on a clear day, giving a true impression of the northern Highlands, as well as the ancient burgh of Dingwall in the hollow below. Settlement was confined to the south side of the River Peffery when the monument was erected. Development did not extend north of the Peffery until after the War. During this period, the population rose from about 2800 to the present 5500.
To commemorate his passing, the one and only J Scott Skinner composed a fiddle tune, a lament, called “Hector the Hero”. It is the most evocative tune, and sounds wonderful on fiddle or bagpipes.
Information courtesy of Craig Mackay
Sir Hector MacDonald Monument