Black Watch Research

2 figures dressed with shorts (wearing a type of army uniform) paint HD on a white background

I’m currently in a limited design competition hopefully working towards a commission for the Black Watch, but it isn’t a given. I’ve visited the museum at Balhousie Castle in Perth and I’ve been referring to photos I took there and scouring the internet for visual material to work with, as well as reading what I can of the history (1881-2020). The works would probably be in low relief, which I really like – it’s not so different from drawing. At the moment it’s like a gigantic puzzle, looking for tangible imagery that I can use to embody major emblems and milestones in the Regiment’s epic history. Scott Sutherland’s Black Watch Monument on the outskirts of Dundee is so superb and beautifully sited, it’s a bit of a daunting task! Sutherland’s father was an officer in the Highland Division of the Black Watch and saw active service on the Western Front from 1915 to 1918. The image above is from the Second World War and shows two Privates painting the sign of the Highland Division in Sfax, Tunisia in 1943.

Black Watch Monument on the outskirts of Dundee

I didn’t know that the Black Watch Monument had been resited. The memorial is to all ranks of the 4th and 5th Dundee and Angus Battalions who lost their lives in the Second World War. It was unveiled by the Queen Mother in 1959 and relocated in 1985 following construction of the nearby dual carriageway – previously it was sited to the north of Powrie Castle on the peak of Powrie Brae. The memorial was cleaned and rewaxed in 2012. The rededication was attended by the Prince of Wales (as he was then).

Black and white image of the Queen Mother at the unveiling ion the Black Watch Monument on the outskirts of Dundee

Scott Sutherland’s most well-known work is the Commando Memorial. In an extract from Sutherland’s obituary from the Royal Scottish Academy’s website Alastair Ross RSA wrote: 

‘…Scotty’s most memorable and undoubtedly outstanding work is the Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge, Inverness-shire unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1952. Scotty won a national competition for this work in 1949 and rarely have a sculptor and subject been so perfectly matched. He had known and worked alongside the Commandos during his war service and had great admiration for them. In addition, the scale was right – heroic in proportion – matching its subject.’

The Commando Memorial, 3 figures in bronze in a dramatic landscape setting against a bright blue sky

On a local level, through my research I discovered that John Ripley one of the Black Watch’s recipients of the Victoria Cross is buried in my local graveyard. He was born in 1867 in Keith, Banffshire and died in St Andrews in 1933 at sixty-five, he’s buried in Upper Largo cemetery. At forty-seven he was the oldest recipient to win the VC during the First World War. At the outbreak of war he volunteered as a recruiting sergeant before enlisting in September 1914, he went to France with the 1st Battalion in February 1915 with the rank of corporal.  He won the VC for his leadership and bravery during the battle of Aubers Ridge. After the war he returned to work as a slater also sweeping chimneys and was in St Andrews Fire Brigade, he was later given the freedom of St Andrews. He died as a result of a fall from a ladder in the course of his work.

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