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A late Victorian Officer’s dirk of the Highland Light Infantry. The Regiment was formed as a result of the widespread reforms to the British Infantry implemented by the Secretary of State for War Hugh Childers in 1881. As part of these reforms the 71st (Highland) Regiment joined with the 74th (Highland) Regiment to become the First and Second Battalions of the Highland Light Infantry. The dirk mounts are of gilt bronze.
The single-edged blade is just over a 12.25 inches long (31 cm) and has a blunt back edge extending 7.5 inches (19 cm) from the base of the grip which is scalloped for most of its length after which it is double edged to the tip. A single pronounced fuller runs underneath the blunt back edge with a broader, shallower fuller running in parallel beneath along the middle of the blade. The blade is profusely and clearly etched on both sides.
One side has the owner’s name F W H Forteath Newton near the grip with a stag’s head above. This is Frederick William Hughes Forteath Newton who was born in 1868. Frederick served in the Highland Light Infantry from 1891 then with the Indian Army in the Supply & Transport Corps. He served during the Tirah campaign 1897-1898 and held the China Medal for his service as Chief Commissariat & Transport Officer. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1904 as Director of Railways.
Further along towards the tip is a stand of thistles with the “VR” cipher above this representing Queen Victoria who died in 1901. Beyond this an Indian Elephant over which “ASSAYE” is written marks the involvement of the Regiment in the battle of that name in India in 1803.
On top of this a circular belt with a thistle inside, on a star surround, is inscribed “NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT (NO ONE PROVOKES ME WITH IMPUNITY)”. This was the Latin motto of the Royal Stuart dynasty of Scotland from at least the reign of James VI when it appeared on the reverse side of merk coins minted in 1578 and 1580. It is still the adopted motto of the Order of the Thistle and of some Scottish regiments of the modern British Army. Further towards the tip is the bugle badge of the Regiment with a crown above followed by thistles. The reverse side of the blade is profusely etched with the battle honours of the Regiment ranging from conflicts in India, the Peninsular War and Crimea.
The grips of the dirk, by-knife and fork are baluster shaped and of black hardwood cut with fluted basket weave patterns with brass studs mounted at the intersections. Each piece is mounted with a canted pommel with bold foliage and thistles in raised relief with yellow backed multi-facetted citrines mounted on top. The by-knife and fork are secured in their pockets with spring steel clips mounted onto each grip on one side.
The scabbard is of wood covered with leather and retains its original suspension bar at the back. The mouthpiece to the front shows the Highland Light Infantry badge in a thistle surround. The mount for the by-knife pocket, by-fork pocket and chape have thistle designs.
The dirk is in overall good condition. The bronze mounts retain much of their gilt cover as can be seen in the photographs. The blade is in excellent condition and the etching of the battle honours etc is crisp. The pommel stones are in fine condition and the grip studs are all present. The overall length of the dirk in its scabbard is just over 18 inches (46 cm).
The family crest is under the name Newton in Fairbairn’s book of crests of the families of Great Britain and Ireland. The family motto for the family is Tam Animo Quam Mente Sublimis (Exulted in Soul as in Mind). Frederick’s father took the name Forteath Newton after being left Newton House by its builder George Alexander Forteath in 1793 and adopted the crest of the stag’s head.