The September/October edition of History Scotland magazine included a two page article I wrote looking at who really captured a French general in 1808 and why the credit might have been given to another member of the Highland Light Infantry. The official version of General Brennier's capture by the HLI at Vimeiro has gone down in British Army legend, "We are soldiers, Sir, not plunderers", but what ordinary members of the regiment had to say, or did not say, about the episode paints a less flattering picture of it and its aftermath. As the November/December issue is now available, here is the article The Real Mackay?
Pension Misery Highlighted
The Dorchester Review , a leading Canadian magazine when it comes to history, is carrying an article I wrote about British Army pensioners, many who served under the Duke of Wellington's command, who were caught up in a disastrous scheme which involved them giving up their pension entitlement in exchange for land in the British Colonies or United States. I became interested in what happened to the so-called Commuted Pensioners after realizing one of the main suspects as a contributor to Vicissitudes in the Life of a Scottish Soldier had been lured to Canada under the scheme.
The latest edition of Canada's Dorchester Review features not one but two articles from Paul - Churchill in the Trenches and Drug Store Commandos. The first link takes you to an extended version of the article which appeared in the DR about Winston Churchill's time in command of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on Western Front while the second is an article about the Lovat Scouts training in the Canadian Rockies as mountain warfare specialists.
Canadian Connection with With Wellington in the Peninsula?
The British Canadian newspaper ran an article in its May edition about a possible connection between one of the soldiers in my new book With Wellington in the Peninsula and a disastrous government scheme to settle ex-soldiers in Canada while depriving them of their pensions.
Irish Terrorism in Canada
In between working on a major project, I wrote another article for the Dorchester Review here in Canada. The attempt by terrorists to destroy a Canadian canal lock in 1900 is often dismissed as being the work of bunglers. But a closer look reveals a tale of murder and links successful bombing of the House of Commons more than a decade earlier. Few seem to know that one of the gang was found dead with a bullet through his heart. Attempts by US politicians, including President William Taft, to persuade the Canadian authorities to release the terrorists is better known. Dynamite Dillon
Also see - Dorchester Review
The Dorchester Review, based in Ottawa, Canada, recently published an article I wrote about one of the more eccentric of the British regiments - Victoria's Royal Canadians. Most Canadian historians seem unaware of that a regiment was raised in Canada to fight in the Indian Mutiny.
The Winter Issue of the Scottish American Military Society's magazine The Patriot contains a two page interview with yours truly. I thought the least I could do in return was give them a plug. At a later date, I'll see about either linking to the article or posting a version of the interview on the SMD site.
It’s been a busy few weeks. Last Saturday (Nove. 3) the Scottish Daily Mail published a two page spread under my byline about the 2/10th Royal Scots campaign against the Bolsheviks in northern Russia 1918-1919 titled "The Tsar's Fighting Invalids". I’ve found a link to a site which carries the article but before I post it I want to make sure I’m not sending you somewhere you might regret going. The Daily Mail article let the cat out of the bag when it comes to the fact that I’m working on a new book – working title, Jock and Rorie – Tales of Scottish Soldiers. Read about the Forgotten War
In the News Again
I happened to be checking out the closing-down sale at one of the last remaining locally owned bookshops in Edmonton recently when a newspaper reporter pounced on me as I left and asked me comment on the closure. As a former reporter, I know what a pain grabbing random people on the streets for quotes can be; so I was only too pleased to help. Imagine my delight when the story appeared and I found my quote printed in large type. It made me look like a big deal. There were some genuine big deal Edmonton writers quoted in the story but whoever was designing the page must have just grabbed the first quote they found for the break-out - and luckily for me....
Sadly, the break-out does not appear in the online version of the story but if you're interested Edmonton Journal
In the News
The Scotsman newspaper invited me to put in my tuppence-ha'penny when it published an article about the controversy surrounding the 400th anniversary celebrations in Norway of Battle of Kringen - Scotsman Article
The battle and subsequent massacre of Scottish prisoners in 1612 featured in Scottish Military Disasters.
A new Canadian history magazine The Dorchester Review published a tongue-in-cheek go at the spate of books about How the Scots Created/Invented the country in its launch issue. In an article called How the English Invented the Scots Dr. Chis Champion argued, well, that the Scots are an English invention. Paul’s equally tongue-in-cheek rebuttal can be seen in the second issue of the magazine which is now out. The article, which also includes essays by Canadian columnist John Ivison and London-based writer Hugo Rifkind, is available on line at
This item about an event in mid-October 2011 was probably only of interest to people in the Edmonton area. -
Scottish Connection Celebrated
The part played by Scots in the creation of Canada is going to be celebrated in Edmonton this October.
The Edmonton International Literary Festival has invited authors Paul Cowan, How the Scots Created Canada, and Ken McGoogan, How the Scots Invented Canada, to read from their books and speak about the impact of Scots on Canadian history and culture.
“Both books are national best sellers,” said Scots-born Cowan. “So, I hope that means we’re going to have a good turnout. It should be fun.”
The event, moderated by Edmonton writer Margaret Macpherson, takes place at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre on the city’s Winston Churchill Square between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 16. A scotch tasting is also planned as part of the proceedings.
The festival has a strong Scottish flavour this year, with appearances by Kilmarnock-born Canadian publishing powerhouse Douglas Gibson and poet Alice Major from Dumbarton.
Admission to the October 16 event costs $20 regular and $5 for students or individuals in groups of more than 10. Tickets are available from Tix on the Square in Edmonton from August 29th or at the door.
And this is me trying to keep the pressure up for an inquiry into the infamous 1948 Batang Kali Massacre in Malaya
Author Deplores Inquiry Cop-Out
A Canadian writer is deploring the British Government's recent decision not to order an inquiry into the massacre of around two dozen Malayan rubber plantation workers by soldiers from the elite Scots Guards regiment in 1948.
Edmonton-based Paul Cowan, whose latest book Scottish Military Disasters highlighted the massacre of suspected sympathizers with a Chinese-led Communist insurgency in the then British colony, said it was time the full truth came out.
“The official British version is that the male workers at Batang Kali were shot while trying to escape from custody, the unofficial version is that the killings were the work of a rogue foot patrol,” he explained.
“But at least one witness has said she was driven away from the massacre site in a British army truck – rogue patrols don’t order up trucks.
“It’s highly unusual for the British Government to cover-up for a bunch of squaddies – this makes me wonder who they are protecting.
“This may seem like ancient history now but the lack of a proper British inquiry is still souring relations between Britain and Malaysia .
"This is a disgraceful decision."
Cowan said his research into events at Batang Kali revealed almost as many versions of the killings as there were victims.
“There’s not even agreement on how many men were executed, that’s why I usually say ‘around two dozen’.
“Some versions say 24, others 25. Most agree that one man survived because he fainted. He died last year and now there is only one woman, whose fiancé was killed, who was an adult villager at the time of the massacre. [The woman, Tham Yong has since died]
“There are so many questions that still need to be answered.”
A British newspaper tracked down some members of the patrol in 1970 after the massacre was denounced as “ Britain ’s My Lai”, a reference to a US atrocity in Vietnam . The soldiers admitted the massacre at Batang Kali had been premeditated and said they were given the choice of taking part in it or not.
The Labour government of the day called in Scotland Yard to investigate but the inquiry was shut down when the Conservatives won a general election not long afterwards.
Demands for a fresh, and definitive, inquiry got a boost when the families of the victims found lawyers in Malaya and London who were prepared to take their case for compensation to the British courts
In January the British Government said it would not order a fresh inquiry but quickly back-tracked and announced in April that it would reconsider that decision. Lawyers in Malaysia have now been told that the British Government is not inclined to order a proper inquiry.
This one relates to How the Scots Created Canada, a national best-seller in Canada, was turned into a talking book for the blind.
CNIB is Talking History
A book recounting the contribution Scots have made to Canada is now accessible to the visually impaired.
How the Scots Created Canada has been turned into a talking book by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
“The CNIB Library believes in giving readers what they want to read,” explained the library’s associate director of Advocacy, Sales and Marketing, Anita Mullick-Mahajan.
“Our DAISY talking book users are great fans of Canadian History and often request books on specific topics or areas of interest. Scottish history is one such request.
“Popular demand, combined with favourable reviews, made How the Scots Created Canada a perfect addition to the library’s collection.”
The book, by Edmonton writer Paul Cowan, has joined just over 10,000 titles in the library’s DAISY collection, which makes books available on CD or by computer download.
Scots-born Cowan said he is delighted that the CNIB chose the book for the library.
“The CNIB’s collection includes some of the best books available in Canada ,” he said.
“I’m very flattered and very honoured."
“Maybe, I’ll get lucky and they’ll record my new book, Scottish Military Disasters, as well. It has also had some great reviews.”
The institute has been making books and other written material available to the visually impaired since 1918 and its library currently circulates more than two million items a year.