Group to parade in city as historic crime-fighters

Alan Breck's Volunteer Regiment at a Battle of Prestonpans re-enactment. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Alan Breck's Volunteer Regiment at a Battle of Prestonpans re-enactment. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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WITH their scarlet coats, cocked hats and flintlock muskets, the Edinburgh City Guard were once the Capital’s top crime-fighting team.

Now, nearly 200 years on, the foot soldiers will take to the streets again – as a re-enactment group.

The new Edinburgh City Guard, formed by history enthusiasts from Alan Breck’s Volunteer Regiment, will go on parade through the city’s Old Town later this month.

It will be the first march since the company, once charged with keeping law and order in the Capital, disbanded in 1817.

Society chairman Arran Johnston said the Edinburgh redcoats were an important part of the Capital’s history and said the group had formed to ensure both sides of the war were now represented.

“The City Guard existed for around 140 years to protect the city from law-breakers within and rebels from without,” he said.

“They were a familiar, if not always popular, part of Edinburgh’s everyday life and we are hoping to bring that 
fascinating heritage back to life. This will be the first time that we have all paraded in Edinburgh. For us it’s a big and proud moment.

“It’s the first time that the City Guard will be on display since they disbanded and we’re hoping it will be received well by the public.”

The Guard dealt with miscreants but could be called upon to defend the city in times of emergency. Originally sited at a guard-house on the Royal Mile near the Tron, they were based at various sentinel posts around the Old Town.

They were involved in the notorious Porteous Riots and the fall of Edinburgh to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

He said: “They were very important to the history of Edinburgh and we want them to be recognised for their role. We have started with humble numbers – there’s only about eight of us now – but we hope it will grow and the group will really establish an identity.”

The newly-formed Guard plans to parade from the Lawnmarket to Greyfriars Kirkyard, where some of the unit’s officers are buried, before moving on to West Parliament Square, on March 24.

They will then perform military drills on the square and explain the history of the unit to interested members of the public.

Mr Johnston added: “We are committed to historical accuracy, and to becoming as familiar a sight in the modern city as the real guards were in the 1740s. Membership of the group is open to all who have a passion for history.”

Part of everyday life

FROM 1679-1817 the Edinburgh City Guard was a prominent part in everyday life in the Capital.

In 1682, the numbers rose from 40 to 108 after rioting in the city.

In 1715, the Guard marched on Leith after the old citadel was seized by Jacobites. In 1736, the Guard fired on a mob in the Porteous Riots. In 1745, they marched to block the road to Jacobites but the city fell.