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A Dickson Gun, Man and Boy

September 2020
A Dickson Gun, Man and Boy

The history and stories behind the guns built by John Dickson and Son are a very important part of our heritage. The majority of Dickson guns have a great story behind them. These stories are sometimes uncovered through the name of the original purchaser in the Dickson ledgers, the name on a gun case or a tale recounted to us by a current owner.

By complete chance, we encountered two guns made for the same person 17 years apart, revealing a great story and a new opportunity to become a Dickson owner, Man and Boy.

In early 2019 we acquired a very tired and dirty single barrelled 20 bore Dickson hammer gun, No. 4027. The gun was a wreck – barrel pitted through to its exterior and the stock cracked, basically destined as a wall-hanger or the scrap pile. A cursory check of the Dickson ledgers tells us that only 27 single-barrelled breach loading guns of both pin and centre construction were ever made. Only two of these were in 20 bore, both centre fire and this one was in a ‘boys gun’ configuration – short stock and a smaller bore than 12. No. 4027 was indeed a rare thing.It made no economic sense to save this gun but underneath all the rust and grime we could see a beautiful gun that, if anything, once gently cleaned could be added to our display of Dickson guns that we keep in Dunkeld. Instead, we decided to do a full rebuild to save this rare gun from disappearing forever.

Single barrelled guns were almost as expensive to produce as a double barrelled gun so not many were made by Dickson’s and you would have been a very privileged boy to receive one.   No. 4207 was ordered by Col. Milne Home in 1899 but we have established that this would be for his son, Thomas Patrick Milne Home, who would have been 14 years old at this time.

Colonel David Milne Home was born in Edinburgh in 1838, the eldest son of David Milne-Home (making him a grandson of Admiral Sir David Milne) and his wife Jean Home, heiress of William Foreman Home. After being educated at Cheltenham College, Trinity College, Cambridge and Edinburgh University, he joined the Royal Horse Guards in 1861. In politics, Milne Home was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the English borough constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed in February 1874. He lost his seat in the 1880 general election, but the election was declared void and he was re-elected at a by-election in July 1880. He retired from parliamentary politics upon his defeat in the Scottish county constituency of Berwickshire in the general election of 1885. Returning to the army, he served as second in command of the Household Cavalry Regiment in the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882, and was present in the engagements at El Magfar, Mahamma and Kassassin. He completed his period of command of the Royal Horse Guards in 1887, promoted to the substantive rank of colonel, he was appointed to the 11th Regimental district from 1890 until 1896, when he retired from service with the rank of full colonel. Milne Home inherited the Home estates from his mother, including Wedderburn Castle and Paxton House, Berwickshire. He married first, in 1867, Jane Buchan Hepburn, second daughter of Sir Thomas Buchan-Hepburn, Bart. After her death, he remarried Mary Pamela Ellis, daughter of Major Ellis. Milne Home died 19 November 1901, in the fishing village of Eyemouth, Berwickshire where he had attended a meeting. His eldest son David William Milne Home (1873-1918) was a Captain of the South East Scotland Artillery, and inherited the estates.

Back to the summer of 2019, and as part of the constant search to source good, clean, vintage Dickson guns, we acquired a beautiful Round-Action, No. 5836 which was delivered in 1906. Made in the ‘Golden Years’ of Dickson production, in terms of quality and volume of Round-Action’s (Dickson’s delivering 54 Round-Actions that year), you can imagine our surprise to find this gun was ordered and made for Thomas Patrick Milne Home, the boy No. 4027 was gifted to, by his father 17 years earlier.

Thomas Patrick Milne Home was born in 1875 and, like his father, entered the military joining the Highland Light Infantry (HLI) as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1895, promoted to Lieutenant in 1898 and then to Captain in 1901.

He was wounded at Dewetsdorp during the Boer War in 1900, but then in early 1901 was dismissed from service and then mysteriously reinstated some months later. It appears that only one officer was wounded at Dewetsdorp (no name is mentioned) but the officer concerned had surrendered his post to the Boers and had been court-martialled and dismissed.Col. Kelham's Boer War Diary contains information on the action at Dewetsdorp and states: "The fighting had been incessant for several days but about 3pm on Friday 23 November came the climax. Several men, some of them gunners, others infantry driven out of their own trenches by the enemy's fire and more or less demoralised, rushed headlong into one held by a young subaltern and some men of the HLI. The officer had already been wounded and was worn out, body and mind, by the strain of the continuous fighting and want of sleep. The trench was outflanked and under close fire so apparently pressed by his companions he raised a white handkerchief and all was over." Col. Kelham goes on to say that this action cost the officer his commission but by order of H.M. King Edward, the case was re-opened and the officer reinstated. He also says that in his opinion the young officer was made a scapegoat for the outcome of the action at Dewetsdorp.

Lt. Milne Home's court martial was held at Bloemfontein on 29 Jan 1901 the charge being "Shamefully delivering up a post. Knowing doing an act (showing white flag) calculated to --------." The sentence "Dismissed the Service". It also says, "Laid before the King 9 March 1901". A hearing was then held which exonerated him and he was reinstated. He was promoted to Captain in April 1901. The QSA medal roll for the 1st Battalion HLI initially in 1901 shows against his name "On Black List" but in 1903 it was altered to read "Medal to be given as all record of conviction should be removed". He was entitled to 4 clasps on the QSA medal, Paardeberg, Wittebergen, Cape Colony and South Africa 1901. In the 1904 Army List he was shown as Captain 2nd Battalion HLI, in the 1909 list still shown as Captain 2 Btn but also shown as on the strength of the 4th HLI Special Reserve (Militia). He went on to half pay in August 1909, perhaps retiring from the army and there is no mention of his service in the First World War. He died at Darlington, North Yorkshire in 1956 aged 81.

We have recently completed the restoration of Captain Milne Home’s boys hammer gun and have taken this unique opportunity to reunite it with his Round-Action and include the hammer gun, No. 4027, with the sale of the Round-Action, No. 5836

For a historic opportunity to become a Dickson owner, Man and boy, please contact us here.