“It was my first fight and I can asure you I feeld very strange”

The volunteers at the museum make the work and projects we do possible.

From supporting educational groups, adding to the visitor experience, and assisting with collections – they make continuing The Argylls story possible. Recently, one of our dedicated volunteers, Elizabeth, finished a project which we want to recognise.

The museum cares for a personal diary of Private William Duguid of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders. He starts with family history, mentioning his father was a Blacksmith and from Aberdeen – the same place he would be born in 1833. At aged only 11, he started an apprenticeship with his uncle as a boot and shoemaker. After failing to settle in this occupancy, he enlisted for the 91st Highland Light Infantry and would later join the Sutherland Highlanders in 1852. His memoir describes his service from 1853 to 1864 and covers the Crimean War (Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman), the Indian Wars of Independence (Lucknow) and Umbeyla. He also reminisces about nights out he had – which gives a first-hand insight to the life of a private during this era, and family life.

Photograph of Private William Duguid
Photo credit: The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum

Elizabeth was tasked with making a digital transcription of Private Duguid’s diary and started in June 2022. Whilst typing out a diary may seem like an easy task, when you see pages from his diary, you can understand the difficulty Elizabeth was dealing with. She was taken off the project mid 2023 for a short period to assist with another transcription, but was always keen to return to Duguid’s diary.  In February 2024, Elizabeth finished the transcription. Elizabeth typed over 77 pages during her time on this project.

Pages from Private Duguid’s handwritten memoirs
Photo credit: The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum

When asked if she would do it again, Elizabeth answered no, followed quickly with a laugh. She went on to say that it was really interesting. She mentioned that she got used to the handwriting and the way that Duguid would write. Cursive handwriting and typos meant there was some guess work needed with parts Duguid’s notes. The original diary is on display in the museum, but is also very frail so Elizabeth used a photocopy of the diary. She notes that along with some of his handwriting, using the photocopy added some difficulty when a page had printed poorly and there was a shadow on the writing. But overall, she enjoyed working with this diary.

When Rod, the museum curator, was asked what it meant for Elizabeth to have completed this task he explained that this increasingly fragile diary now doesn’t need to be handled and this will help with conserving the object.

Front pages of Private Duguid’s diary, which also highlights the fragility of the object
Photo credit: The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum

Additionally, having a digital copy allows anybody to read this as the handwriting is difficult – it has created a research source that can be easily shared. Having this digital copy means anyone can search specific words, rather than have to read the whole diary to find what they are looking for too, potentially saving a lot of time.

Elizabeth has now moved onto another transcription project – making a digital copy from another solider from the same period. When asked if her previous work helped with her current task she said, “No – his handwriting is different!”

Thank you, Elizabeth!

Written by Caitlin Meldrum, Museum Assistant