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Not much of a soldier

By David Christie
February 2012 | Review by Wayne Pearce

Synopsis

Betrayed by their political masters, deserted by their cavalry support, faced with an enemy fresh from their victory at Killiecrankie which outnumbered them five to one, only half equipped with firearms, and led by a man whose General assessed him as "not much of a soldier", what chance did the untried three-month-old Regiment have? This book tells the story of William Cleland, the first Cameronian commanding officer, and Alexander Shields, the first chaplain, who played a critical role in Scotland during the Revolution of 1689, and were instrumental in raising the Cameronian Regiment. Viscount Dundee had raised the Highlands for the ousted King James, and the story reaches its climax with the battles of Killiecrankie and Dunkeld. Yet despite all the problems the unblooded Cameronian Regiment faced, they fought the battle of Dunkeld with such courage and determination that they won a significant victory, breaking the back of the first Jacobite rebellion, and providing stability for social and religious changes in Scotland which still endure.

  • Publisher: Diadem Books
  • ISBN: 978-1-908-26-11-8
  • Pages: 270
  • Price: 8.99
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Book Review

Not Much of a Souldier: From Drumclog 1679, To Dunkeld 1689

David Christie

Diadem Books

269 pages, £8.99

ISBN: 978-1-908026-11-8

Star rating: 1

 

‘Not much of a souldier’ is historical fiction and charts the origins of the Cameronian Regiment through the story of its principle characters William Cleland, the first commanding officer of the regiment and the Covenanting minister Alexander Shields who became its first chaplain. It takes its title from a remark made by the famous Scottish military leader, General Hugh Mackay, who reputedly said of Cleland ‘a fine resolute man, but not much of a souldier.’

      The book’s author, David Christie, is a retired army officer who served in the Cameronians at the time of the regiment’s disbandment in 1968. According to Christie ‘this book recounts the human story behind the author’s DTh Thesis (Stellenbosch University 2008), Bible and Sword: the Cameronian contribution to freedom of religion.’ While the story is worth the telling the writing style is a little wooden in parts.

      This reviewer however has concerns regarding the author’s grasp of the Covenanters worship and theological witness. For example, he has the Covenanting minister Richard Cameron saying ‘only God has divine right, and He made us free to worship as we would, not as the king orders.’ I cannot help think that Christie has failed to understand the Reformed position on the regulative principle of worship. Better would have been ‘worship as He would…’ The Covenanters did not seek to worship God as they saw fit but as God has mandated in His word!

      In the author’s note at the end of the book he suggests that Alexander Shields would have been pleased that at the disbandment of the regiment Roman Catholics and Presbyterians were able to worship together! This he evidently thinks is a positive development and is a value judgement that would not have been shared by Shields and his fellow Covenanters.

      Sadly these and similar errors mean that I cannot recommend this book.

 

Rev Dr Wayne Pearce

Isle of Skye

 

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