Sir Robert Munro of Foulis, 6th Bt

Robert Munro was born on 24 Aug 1684 the eldest son of the chief of the Munro clan. He held a commission in the Royal Scots while they were in Flanders, and served there for 7 years. During the 1715 Jacobite uprising he held a commission in one of 3 Independent Companies raised 10 years before. These were later disbanded but re-raised by General Wade in 1725. He was married to Mary Seymour, a member of a great English family. Mary, daughter of Henry Seymour of Woodlands in Dorset. The wedding took place in London in 1716, and the romantic story of a courtship interrupted by the purloining of their letters has been preserved by tradition. Their eldest son Harry was sent to Dr. Doddridge's academy at Northampton, Westminster School, and Leyden University, and another son entered the Royal Navy. In 1729 Robert succeeded his father as 6th baronet at the age of 45 but he had been effective clan leader for many years as his father had been blind in later life. He was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the Black Watch, the regiment raised in 1739 by combining the Independent Companies.

Sir Robert's leadership of the regiment was marred in the early years by the mass desertion that occurred when the Black Watch were marched to London in 1743. But he was a better commander in battle and proved himself at the Battle of Fontenoy where the allies were defeated by the French on 11 May 1745. In Archibald Forbes's history of the Black Watch he quotes from Doddridge's Life of Colonel Gardiner: 'Sir Robert had obtained leave of the Duke of Cumberland to allow the Highlanders to fight in their own way. According to the usage of his countrymen, he ordered the whole regiment to clap to the ground on receiving the French fire. Instantly after its discharge the men sprang up, and coming close to the enemy, poured in their shot upon them to the certain destruction of multitudes, and drove them precipitately back through their own lines; then retreating, drew up again, and attacked a second time after the same manner. Those attacks they repeated several times on the same day to the surprise of the whole army. Sir Robert was everywhere with his regiment, notwithstanding his great corpulency; and when in the trenches he was hauled out by the legs and arms by his own men. But it was to be observed that when he commanded the whole regiment to clap to the ground, he himself alone stood upright, with the Colours behind him, ready to receive the fire of the enemy; and this because, as he said, though he could easily lie down, his great bulk would not suffer him to rise so quickly.'

The Duke of Cumberland was impressed with the way Sir Robert commanded his men and soon promoted him to be Colonel of the 37th Foot, not a Scottish regiment, but one that had been raised in Ireland in 1702. It later became the Hampshire Regiment. Colonels of regiments were not known for leading their men into battle, indeed many were absentee figureheads, but Sir Robert was a hands-on Colonel and was with his men at the Battle of Falkirk on 17 Jan 1746 during the second Jacobite Rebellion. Forbes's history relates that the men of the 37th were not Highlanders and ran like sheep before the rebels. Sir Robert remained to fight unsupported and died a horrible death in the battle. His son Harry wrote about it in a letter to Lord President Forbes: 'My Lord,-I think it my duty to acquaint you of the deplorable situation I am in. The engagement between the King's troops and the Highlanders on Thursday last, within a mile of Falkirk, proves to be to me a series of woes. There both my dear father and uncle Obsdale were slain. The latter, your Lordship knows, had no particular business to go to the action; but being of a most tender love and concern for his brother, could not be dissuaded from attending him, to give assistance if need required. My father, after being deserted, was attacked by six of Lochiel's regiment, and for some time defended himself with his half-pike. Two of the six, I am informed, he killed; a seventh, coming up, fired a pistol into my father's groin, upon which falling, the Highlander with his sword gave him two strokes in the face, one over the eyes and another on the mouth, which instantly ended a brave man. The same Highlander fired another pistol into my uncle's breast, and with his sword terribly slashed him, whom when killed, he then despatched a servant of my father's....My father's corpse was honourably interred in the churchyard at Falkirk, by direction of the Earl of Cromartie and the Macdonald, and all the chiefs attended his funeral. I am, etc., HARRY MUNRO.'

R W Munro has written an account of Sir Robert's life at he finishes with this paragraph:

Later, when the third brother, Captain George Munro of Culcairn, was shot in mistake for another officer in Lochaber, the Commander-in-Chief (Lord Albermarle) wrote of them as "men never to be parallel'd in the hills again". This multiple blow was felt most severely by the family and the clan, and one veteran soldier used to lament. "Ochon, ochon, had his ain folk been there!" It was some years before a monument was erected, as an entry in the Falkirk Parish Church accounts for October 1750 shows: "Present for the poor from Sir Harry Munro, five guineas, for the privilege of a Tomb upon Sir Robert, my Father, in the Church-yard". With elaborate decoration, and inscriptions in Latin and English, which were renewed in 1848 and again in 1901, the monument was left in position when neighbouring stones were cleared away a few in years ago. Now, by its latest restoration, it is once more a fitting reminder of the man it commemorates: "Sincere and active in the service of his friends, humane and forgiving to his enemies, generous and benevolent to all, his death was universally regretted even by those who slew him."

1710 Captain in 1st Royal Regiment
1710 Whig MP for Wick Burghs (until 1741)
1712 Returned from 7 years service in Flanders
1716 Married Mary Seymour
1729 Succeeded to 6th Baronet Munro. 11 Sep
1739 Appointed first CO of Black Watch (Crawford's Highlanders)
1745 Commanded Black Watch at Fontenoy
1745 Colonel of 37th Regiment 17 June
1746 Killed at Falkirk. 17 Jan

Regimental Details | Commanding Officers


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by Stephen Luscombe