The Minute Book
Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Farrier Sergeant's Whiskey
Topic: Humour

Officers of the Governor-General's Body Guard. Humboldt, Saskatchewan. [1885] "L. to r. standing: Maj. Dunn, Lt. Col. G.T. Denison, Capt. Denison, Lt. Merritt. Seated: Quartermaster Charles Mair, Lt. Fleming, Surgeon Baldwin." (1972-270; LAC; C-002594)

The Farrier Sergeant's Whiskey

Soldiering in Canada; Lt.-Col George T. Denison, 1900

[The farrier sergeant] came to me one day [during the 1885 campaign] with a requisition for some horse medicines, for I had no veterinary surgeon, as ours had left Canada just before we started. I looked over the list of things ordered, and forwarded it to Colonel Jackson at Winnipeg. The farrier sergeant told me to mention a particular druggist in Winnipeg, who had furnished us supplies before we left; I did so. Before the box, or large case of medicines, arrived I had a slight suspicion in my mind that he might send a little liquor with the medicines.

When the box arrived, addressed to me and marked veterinary supplies, I said: "Put that in my tent." Major Dunn was with me. I opened it and found some dirty-looking bottles marked colic drenches, regular horse medicine to all appearance. I drew the cork of one bottle, poured a little of the contents into a tin cup, smelt it, tasted it very carefully and passed it to Major Dunn. He tasted it, looked at me and said: "The d—:—d thief." I ordered a parade of all the men, put the farrier sergeant under arrest and the box in front of the line of men. I took the bottles one by one, opened them, generally by knocking the necks off, poured a little into a tin cup and called out the men whom I thought were experts and would know whiskey and not object to it, and would hand them the cup and ask them what it contained. They would say "That is whiskey, sir," and I would empty the bottle out upon the ground. I went on for a number of the bottles, calling up different men and giving them about a glass each, so as to have evidence that it was whiskey. Among others I called Sergeant Patrick Macgregor, who had been in the 13th Hussars, and was a splendid swords-man, and an equally good judge of whiskey, from an experience gained by drinking all he could get.

I poured out a fairly good glass for him, he drank it solemnly and I said "Well, Macgregor, what is it?" "Colonel," he replied, "if I am to take my solemn oath before a court, I would not feel safe to do it on such a small taste as that." I poured out another good glass and he drank it slowly, looking up now and again and taking sips and evidently enjoying it, and everyone laughing at his wise and solemn expression, until he finished it. He then felt himself over the waist, straightened himself up with an air of satisfaction and said very seriously: "Yes, Colonel, that is whiskey, Iam ready to go before any court and swear to it. And what is more, it is devilish good whiskey."

I poured out eighteen bottles in this way and also a gallon or two of alcohol which was in a tin case, and when all that was out, all the medicines left in the box could have been put into a teacup. The farrier sergeant begged me to let him leave the corps and not to have him tried for the fraud. I thought the simplest way todeal with him was let him go, so we got him into plain clothes and started him back to the East.

The fame of this incident spread all through the North-West. Such a thing as spilling liquor was unheard of, except by the Mounted Police, and they were not keen to do it, and I am afraid my reputation in all that country was not improved by the story. I telegraphed to Colonel Jackson to stop the payment to the druggist, and wrote a full report. I am afraid that this sort of thing was done a good deal in ihe campaign, and that I only let in one little ray of light. The result of this was that I got the reputation of being very severe, and one who would destroy liquor like a fanatic id I heard of it.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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