d. March 25, 1903
Hector Archibald Macdonald was born of humble parentage on a farm Muir of AllanGrange, Ross-shire. His father William MacDonald was a crofter and a stonemason. His mother was Ann Boyd, the daughter of John Boyd of Killiechoilum and Cradlehall, near Inverness. He was, as were most people in the area at the time, a Gaelic speaker and in later life went by the name Eachann nan Cath "Eachann of the Battles".
At the age of 15, MacDonald was apprenticed to a draper in Dingwall, and at the age 17 moved on to the Royal Clan Tartan and Tweed Warehouse in Inverness, an establishment owned by a Mr. William Mackay. He rose rapidly through the ranks and ultimately became a major-general. MacDonald first saw action, and was commissioned as an officer, in the Second Afgan War in the late 1870s, then distinguished himself in the battle of Majuba Hill in Sout Africa in 1881.
After postings in Britain and Ireland, he was sent to Egypt in 1884. Here he recruited and trained a battalion of Sudanese soldiers, whom he led into several victorious battles, including one of the most legendary in British imperial history, Omdurman. In 1902 the army sent MacDonald to India to tke up a regional command, but he was there only briefly before being moved to Ceylon (actual Sri Lanka) as Commanding Officer of British forces.
But after only 11 months MacDonald was summoned and told he must return to England to answer "grave, very grave charges". Although details remain unclear, MacDonald was alleged to have committed sexual improperties with four Ceylonese youths or (in a different version) to have exposed himself in a train carriage with 70 schoolboys.
In London, Lord Roberts, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff ordered him to return to Ceylon to face a court-martial. In his way back, MacDonald comitted suicide in a Paris hotel. MacDonald had secretly married in 1884 and fathered a son, although he saw his wife on only four brief occasions in 19 years and never revealed his marriage to his military superiors.
Rumors circulated about a supposed affair with a male Boer prisoner in a concentration camp over which MacDonald had authority in South Africa in 1900, and about an unspecified irregular sexual activities in India in 1902. There were also rumors about his friendship with a Burgher (mixed-race) Ceylonese family, expecially with the two sons whom some said were his catmites. Nevertheless, there is no firm evidence concerning homosexual activities, and the Scottish verdict of "not proven" seems appropriate concerning MacDonald's homosexuality.