In celebration of #ArchiveAnimals we share with you a story from the depth of our archive. The story of Donald the Deer…..
Donald the deer was with the Depot which awaited the Regiment when it went into Edinburgh Castle in September 1836 after landing at Granton from Corfu. He was a youth at the time, and not so formidable as to cause his antlers to be cut, which had to be done afterwards. He marched the three days to Glasgow in June 1837. He was somewhat mischievous that year, sometimes stopping the way when he chose to make his lair, or with the meddlers and intruders on the Green when the regiment was out at exercise. But it was in Dublin in the summer of 1838 that Donald came out. Without any training, he took his place at the head of the regiment alongside of the Sergeant-Major. Whether marching to and from the Phoenix Park for exercise, marching out in winter, or at guard mounting the day the 42nd furnished the band and staff, Donald was never absent. He accompanied the Regiment to all garrison field days, went to feed until the time came for going home, was often a mile from them, but always at his post when the time came. With one exception, about the third field day, the 79th were there for the first time, and Donald trotted up to them when marching off. He somehow discovered his mistake, and became uneasy and bumptious, and on reaching Island Bridge, when the 79th had to turn off to Richmond Barracks, declined to accompany his new friends any farther. Colonel Fergusson desired half a dozen men to hand over their muskets and to drive Donald towards the Royal Barracks. He went willingly, and happened to re-join his own corps at the Park Gate, evidently delighted. He never committed a similar mistake.
When the regiment had the duty, he invariably went with the guard to the Castle, and whether going or coming the crowd was always dense, although a daily occurrence; but Donald made his way, and kept it clear too, and the roughs knew better than to attempt to annoy him. Indeed, he had been known to single out an individual who did so, and give chase after him through the crowd. There was never any concern about him as he could well defend himself. The Greys were in the Royal Barracks with the 42nd, and permitted Donald to make his bed, even by tossing down their litter, fed him with oats daily, etc. But early in 1839 the Greys left, and the Bays succeeded them. It was very soon evident that Donald and the new-comers did not understand each other. The Bays would not allow him to make his bed, nor did they give oats, and Donald declared war against all Bays, when and wherever they came near him, till at last a Bay man could hardly venture to cross the Royal square, without looking out that Donald was out of the way. It gave rise to a clever sketch made on the wall of the officer’s room of the Bank guard of the ‘Stag at Bay,’ where Donald was represented as having one of them up against a wall.
In May 1839 he made nine days’ march to Limerick, although very foot sore and out of temper, and woe to the ostlers in the hotel yard who interfered with him after a day’s march. Donald had another failing, which his countrymen are accused of, which was a great liking for whisky or sherry. He suffered after a debauch, and it was forbidden to indulge Donald in his liking in that way. At Limerick, as soon as the officer’s dinner pipe went, he made his way to the mess room windows, which were on the ground floor, to look for sherry, until a high fine had to be made on anyone who gave it to him. Donald afterwards marched to Templemore, and finally to Cork. He had by this time become so formidable in his temper, particularly to strangers that it was clear he could not be taken on board ship to Corfu, even if the Captain of the troopship would permit it; and, to the regret of all, it was decided that Donald must be transferred to strangers. Colonel Johnstone arranged with Lord Bandon, who promised that Donald should have the run of his fine park at Bandon Castle while he lived, and it was Donald’s own fault that it was not so.
It was really an affecting sight to see poor Donald thrown over and tied with ropes by those he loved so well, and put into a cart to be carried off. His cries were pitiful, and he actually shed tears, and so did some of his friends, for Donald was a universal favourite. This the regiment parted with dear old Donald, and nothing more was heard of him for many years. In 1862 nearly 22 years afterwards, Lieutenant Colonel Wheatley being appointed to the Cork District, soon after arriving at Cork, took steps to ascertain the subsequent history of Donald. The reply was, “That from the day he was set at liberty in the park, he declined having any intercourse with man or beast. That summer and winter he kept in out of the way places to which no-one could approach; and that there had been so many complaints against him, that about the end of two years his lordship reluctantly sanctioned his being shot.” Poor Donald! The regiment and his ways was the only regiment he knew, and his happiness left him when he separated from it. So has it been with many others besides Donald.