Waterloo remembered in Crail ... but what’s the connection?

Jean Durie with her portrait of Waterloo veteran and Crail publican John Dickson. (Photo: Peter Adamson)
Jean Durie with her portrait of Waterloo veteran and Crail publican John Dickson. (Photo: Peter Adamson)

The village of Crail and the Battle of Waterloo seem unlikely bedfellows but one East Neuk woman has discovered a strong connection.

Jean Durie has been researching the last survivor of a famous charge by the Scots Greys at Waterloo, John Dickson, who after his battlefield heroics became the owner of the Golf Hotel in Crail.

Jean’s interest is a family one, although she now lives close to Crail at Lower Kenley, for her grandparents were the executors of Dickson’s last surviving grandchild.

In another twist of fate, in 1971, the Scots Greys amalgamated with the 3rd Carabiniers to form the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, shortly to locate to Leuchars, and who will hold their own celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, later this year.

Now Jean is planning small exhibition about John Dickson and his life, both in the Army and afterwards, but wants to try to find more about him.

She has already discovered much about his life.

Jean said: “After Waterloo he was made a Troop Sergeant Major, and after 27 years of service he retired in 1834.

“He was invited up to Fife to drill the Yeomanry Cavalry (Fife Light Horse) and subsequently became landlord owner of the Golf Inn.”

Dickson carried on there until the late 1850s when he and some of his family moved to Liverpool, and subsequently to London where he died in his 91st year.

Jean continued: “He was believed to be the last survivor of the famous charge at Waterloo, during which he had two horses shot from under him and a third badly wounded.

“Each anniversary Waterloo was celebrated by Dickson who would hoist his flag, while the schoolchildren were marched to his house to remember the famous victory and salute the village hero.”

Dickson also recorded his own account of the battle and his part in it when E Bruce Low visited Crail in 1855 during 
the annual Waterloo celebration, and recorded Dickson’s story for the Chambers Journal where it appeared in 
1907.

Four of Dickson’s six children were born in Crail, but Jean is having difficulty finding records for them.

She believes that his granddaughter, whom her grandparents knew, was the last of the Dickson line, but would love to know if there are any descendants surviving today.

She has pulled together vast amounts of material about Dickson, the Scots Greys and Waterloo which she is compiling into a dossier which she hopes will go on display at Crail Museum this summer.

Jean said: “I am hoping to set up a display in this special 200th anniversary year, in conjunction with Crail Museum and the Golf Hotel who are both interest in obtaining as much local material as possible.”

She appealed to villagers for any anecdotes about Dickson that have been handed down through the generations or any stories they might have hidden in archives,

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on June 18, 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition, comprising an Anglo-allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher.

The Scots Greys captured the eagle of the French 45th Regiment of the Line, and the Scots DG carry the eagle on their cap badge to this day.