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Discover the hidden stories behind the objects in the Museum collection

Welcome to Balhousie Castle

Welcome to Balhousie Castle where you will discover the story of Scotland’s oldest Highland regiment – The Black Watch.

Through this booklet, we will share with you some of the hidden stories behind the 300 years of incredible history we have on display.

Let’s begin your journey…..

The Black Watch Tartan

Some stories say that The Black Watch took its name from the famous dark tartan and their initial role of watching over the Highlands.

Today it is one of the most recognisable tartans in the world even inspiring the fashion designer Alexander McQueen to produce a Black Watch coat that was worn by The Princess of Wales during an engagement in Dundee.

Location: Introduction Gallery

Red Hackle

The Red Hackle

The Red Hackle was an honour granted to the Regiment by King George III to wear a red vulture feather in their bonnet.

At the beginning of the 19th Century other Highland Regiments started to wear the Red Hackle. Were they trying to fool new recruits into believing they were joining The Black Watch? The Regiment complained and from 1822 it was decreed that The Black Watch was the only Highland regiment allowed to wear the Red Hackle.

Location: Empire Gallery

The Black Watch Badge

The regimental badge can be seen throughout the Castle. From the front of the building to this beautiful brooch presented to HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother by officers of The Black Watch.

The officers chose the Crown Jewellers, Gerrard and Co. to make the brooch and no expense was spared. It holds over 80 individual diamonds!

Location: Royal Family/Sons/Medals Gallery

Fontenoy Painting

In this impressive painting Lieutenant Colonel Robert Munro stands in the centre with his men lying on the ground beside him. The Victorian artist has painted Munro standing tall as a hero.

There is no doubting Munro’s bravery however, by his own admission, he was a larger gentleman and never ‘clapped to the ground’ fearing he would be unable to get back up! Clapping was a Highland fighting style where soldiers clapped or dropped to the ground when the enemy fired their weapons thus allowing the ammunition to fly over their heads.

Location: Early Year Gallery

Highland Society of London Vase

Here stands the impressive Highland Society of London Vase, a stunning silver presentation cup awarded to the Regiment for valour during battle. It really is as heavy as it looks taking 3 people to safely position it in the case!

While it may be empty now it was not always so – we know of stories where the soldiers drank whisky from the cup during celebrations. Alongside the vase are small fragments of a French Standard which date back to the time of Napoleon.

Location: French Wars Gallery

Birkenhead Jugs

The story goes that these stunning silver claret jugs were saved from the sinking HMS Birkenhead by a soldier’s wife. As the vessel sunk, she smuggled them onto a lifeboat beneath her skirt. Once on land and with her husband having drowned, she sold them. They were later discovered for sale at an auction house and purchased by the Regiment.

Location: Empire Gallery

Ceremonial Dog Collar

We believe this ceremonial collar belonged to a dog called Jim. It was not unusual for battalions to have animal mascots such as Jim, they were thought to bring luck, strengthen morale and, at times, they even went into battle with their soldier comrades.

This tradition continues today with the Royal Regiment of Scotland having a cheeky, loveable Shetland pony as their mascot

Location: First World War Gallery

Piper of Tobruk Kilt

Did you know that being a piper was one of the most dangerous roles in the British Army? These incredibly brave men led their fellow soldiers into battle, boosting their morale and frightening the enemy. 

This kilt is particularly special as its owner, Pipe Major Rob Roy piped his battalion into battle against the Germans in Tobruk in 1941. Despite being shot, not once but twice, he carried on until he was shot a third time. Pipe Major Roy survived, and his bravery earned him the nickname ‘The Piper of Tobruk’. Look at the kilt carefully and you will see where those bullets left their mark! 

Location: Second World War Gallery


Army Ration Biscuit

A biscuit is usually a treat – something nice to go with your afternoon cup of tea. The biscuit in our gallery however is very different.

These army biscuits were notoriously hard and tasteless. They provided soldiers with valuable calories when in the trenches but often had to be boiled in water to soften them.

Soldiers would send the biscuits to loved ones and family members as a postcard – making clear how uneatable they were!

Location: Day in the Life Gallery

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