Corporal William Caldwell – Marksman & Bowler Extraordinaire – 1838-1907.


Photo of William Caldwell courtesy of Tom Caldwell.



   On Friday, October 20, the non-commissioned officers of the 1st Renfrew entertained their comrade, Corporal Wm. Caldwell, to supper, in the Tontine Hotel, to mark their sense of the high and honourable position he has attained as a marksman, and the credit reflected by him on the corps, more especially by his success in the late International Match at Creedmoor. About eighty sat down, and among the company were – major Ross, who occupied the chair, Captains MacEachran, Walker, Stewart, Scobie, and Tannahill; Lieutenants Macdougal, Stewart, McIsaac, Park, Blackwood, and R. and A. Lyle; Quartermaster-Sergeant Crighton (Provost of Port Glasgow); and Sergeant-Major Walker. After the usual loyal and patriotic toasts had been given and most cordially responded to, 

   The CHAIRMAN, in proposing the health of Corporal Caldwell, said: The special occasion of our present gathering is of an exceedingly pleasant character. We have come to do honour to a comrade who has distinguished himself by a very creditable career, not merely as a frequenter of our targets, but as a representative of this battalion at many great rifle matches. Though the best chance of the British soldier’s success on the battle field is perhaps in the bayonet charge, as witness Tel-el-Kebir, yet, as shooting must often of necessity be the readiest method of assault and defence, the intelligent use of the rifle must always, I think, be a sine qua non with the man who would be a soldier. I don’t suppose any of us would venture to say that the British Army is the best shooting army in the world, for I think our achievements in the late was at the Cape opened our eyes to a few defects in shooting ability; but I dare say that, if we be allowed to reckon the Volunteers with the Army of the Empire, our qualification in the use of the rifle will compare very favourably with the armies of other States. But whether it be so or not with the British forces as a whole, I think it will be admitted that the rifle practising by the British Volunteer has brought to the front at least a few marksmen who can hold their own against any equal number of any other nationality. It is our happiness, gentlemen, to have one of these marksmen here with us to-night, not merely as a guest but as one of ourselves, whose wonted place at drill is our own parade ground, and who has long stood in our ranks. the name of Caldwell is one of the best known in Volunteer shooting circles. As you all well know, there are two of the name brothers, and both have reflected upon the 1st R.R.V. the highest credit – indeed, perhaps the highest honour they could as marksmen. Indeed, it is a nice question whether, keeping the money value of the prize out of view, it be not more honourable to be twice second for the great prize of Wimbledon than once first. Corporal Caldwell, our present guest, who has just returned from the United States laden with honour, was not only one of a team selected from the best shots in this country, but he was also one of the victorious team; and in a subsequent match he proved himself the best shot on the field, and therefore I consider he may rightly be reckoned the best shot in both the new and the old world. We all know that Corporal Caldwell could always be depended on for making a good appearance at any of our important matches; but I think we must all allow that the specially exciting incidents associated with the arrangements and progress of the recent great match at Creedmoor were such as to tax to the utmost the highest powers of the most experienced marksmen. Corporal Caldwell has come through it all, not only with his former honours untarnished, but with additional laurels on his brow. It must certainly be very gratifying for him to possess the handsome medals he has brought home from America; but there must also, I think, be in his mind a very pleasant feeling on contemplating the position he won as a member of the team that shot at Creedmoor. Besides all this, however, I have the special pleasure of mentioning that on the return of the Team to this country, Col. Sir H. St. John Halford paid a special compliment to Corporal Caldwell by writing a letter to Sir Michael expressing his satisfaction with Mr. Caldwell’s shooting and general demeanour in America. This letter was sent by Sir Michael to Colonel Latham, who handed it to me, and I think I cannot do better than read both letters to you: 

Ardgowan, Greenock,       

13th October, 1882.    

   My dear Colonel Latham, – I enclose a letter received to-day from Colonel St. John Halford. I have acknowledged it telling him that I forward it to you, and that I feel sure you will be very glad to read the good report of Corporal Caldwell, and feel obliged to the Colonel for sending it. – Yours faithfully, 

(Signed)     M.R. SHAW STEWART.

   Colonel Halford’s letter is as follows:-

Wirton, Leicester,       

12th October, 1882.    

   Sir, – I feel sure that it will be a source of satisfaction to you, and the Volunteers under your command, to know that Corporal Caldwell, of the 1st R.R.V., who formed one of the British Team of Volunteers placed under my command for America, conducted himself entirely to my satisfaction throughout, and that he did all in his power not only to win the match by shooting, but to promote good feeling, and to lighten my labours and those of the Committee of the National Rifle Association. – I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant, 

(Signed)     H. ST. JOHN HALFORD, Lt.-Col.

Captain of British Team.    

Lieut.-Col. Sir Michael R. Shaw Stewart, Bart.,

Commanding 1st Renfrewshire R.V.

These letters, gentlemen, speak for themselves without any comment from me. The career of Corporal Caldwell as a frequenter of the targets seems to have been all through a very remarkable one. From the first, among ourselves, he was found to be a good steady shot. As season after season passed on, we found him steadily advancing towards the prominent position which he holds to-day in the shooting circles of the country. In 1881 we find him obtaining the grand Aggregate at Wimbledon, which carried with it the Canadian Shield, which is considered to be, if not equal, at least not much below, the taking of the Queen’s Prize. Again, at the same Wimbledon Meeting, we find him occupying the rare position of being second for the Queen’s Prize, and now we have him with us to-night wearing the honours of a cosmopolitan championship. This was won immediately after the great match at Creedmoor in an additional competition amongst the members of the British Team by themselves. Corporal Caldwell won it with a score of 172 points out of a possible 200 points. The ranges and scores were as follows:- 

At 200 yards,  



out of a possible 50 
At 600 yards, 



out of a possible 50 
At 900 yards, 

any position,


out of a possible 50 
At 1,000 yards, 

any position,


out of a possible 50 




   So good was his position, that even although if he had missed his last shot – which he didn’t – he still would have been the highest scorer. I have no doubt Corporal Caldwell’s recollections of his excursion to America, and of his experiences, there are those of a very pleasant epoch in his career as a Volunteer. I daresay Corporal Caldwell could tell us a good deal about the courtesy shown to the British team by the American citizens, and also about the fine spirit of fair play that, according to the public Press, seems to have marked the proceedings of the match. Amid the exciting circumstances which took place at the close of the match, the Americans seem to have expressed their determination to win next time. I am sure we should all be glad if on the next occasion the Corporal should be again one of the team, and be equally successful. And now, gentlemen, in your name, I beg to welcome back Corporal Caldwell to our midst with the laurels he had so lately won in the performance of his duty in America as a representative Volunteer. (Loud applause.) 

   The gallant Corporal’s health was then drunk by the company, with an enthusiasm most flattering to the honoured guest. In reply, 

   Corporal CALDWELL, who was received with the utmost enthusiasm, said: Major Ross, officers, and members of the 1st Renfrewshire Rifle Volunteers, I cannot express the feelings I have at the kind and hearty welcome you have given me, now and since my return from America, as one of the British Team which was successful in winning the friendly rifle match at Creedmoor against our cousins, the Americans; and I hope you will believe me when I say that I appreciate very much the great honour you have done me to-night. (Applause.) When, in the beginning of the present year, it was made known to the Volunteers of Great Britain by the N.R.A. about the intended match with the American State Guards, and that names of intending competitors were wanted for places on that team, I thought it was my duty, as a Volunteer, to place myself at the disposal of my country – (applause) – and so I subscribed my name to the rules and regulations for the preliminary trials, and to obey all orders from the Committee of Management, who were appointed by the National Rifle Association to see that the match was conducted to a successful termination. That committee was composed of Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Halford, Lieut.-Colonel Walrond, Major Waller, and Major Humphry, and I can assure you it was a real pleasure to serve under these officers. the shooting for places on the team was of a very exhaustive nature, and I think the team ultimately selected along with the Committee was one of the best who ever left these shores or that the country could procure to uphold the name of the British Isles in a trial of skill with the rifle. (Applause.) The majority of the members of the team were pretty well acquainted with each other, especially at the rifle butts, and on comparing notes we came to the conclusion that, if we were to be beaten by the Americans in the match, no other team need try until the shooting in this country was better than at present, and we thought that would take some considerable time. (Applause.) Then we knew we had the best wishes for success of the officers belonging to our different regiments (and who kindly granted us the necessary leave), of our brother riflemen, and of the public generally. All these things tended to encourage and inspire confidence in our ability to win the match. But I have no doubt every member of the Team was troubled with a certain amount of anxiety up to and until the conclusion of the match. I know for myself, since arriving home the remark has been often made to me that I must have enjoyed the fine trip; but I can say that the enjoyment was very little until the object was accomplished which we had on hand. The hospitality we received from the American National Guard, and all classes of the community, was kind in the extreme, and was an agreeable surprise to those Volunteers whose first experience it was to meet the Americans at home; and I think if these friendly matches between the United States of America and the British Isles are continued, they will go a a great way towards increasing the harmony and respect between the two greatest nations who speak the English language. (Applause.) The rank and file of the 1st Renfrewshire Volunteers owe their best thanks to the officers for the kindness and anxiety shown for their success with the rifle, either as individuals or in teams, whether at home or abroad; and I am sure they feel repaid for all their trouble whenever any trophy or other distinction is gained by any of the members. there is one proud position in the shooting world that I wish to see occupied by one of members of this corps, and have great hope that the day will come when pluck, patience, and perseverance will have their reward, and the wish be realized. no doubt many of us have been long striving after it with varying success, sometimes near, at other times afar off; and some of us will soon have to give place to younger competitors to carry on the work; but let it be soon or late, officers and men, old and young members, will join in giving a hearty welcome to the winner of the Blue Ribbon – the Queen’s Prizeman. (Loud and continued applause.) 

   The remainder of the evening was most enjoyably spent. – Greenock Telegraph

– Volunteer Service Gazette and Military Dispatch, Saturday 28th October, 1882, p.14.

2band1853Enfield rifle-musket 58calibre copy

1853 Enfield Musket .58 Caliber.





   Another brilliant victory was scored by our local marksman, Corporal William Caldwell, on Saturday, when he won the Caledonian Challenge Shield with a score of 65, out of a possible of 75. He has thus earned, in a double sense, the proud title of the champion shot of Scotland, having carried off the highest honours at the recent meeting of the Scottish Rifle Association at Darnley. 

   The Edinburgh Rifle Meeting was brought to a close on Saturday, and of course the shooting in the final stage of the contest for the Caledonian Shield was the great attraction of the day’s programme. About a quarter from three o’clock the Thirty were paraded in rear of the 600 yards firing points, and, having answered to their names, were supplied with the ammunition necessary to 


   They were then told off in groups of five, and were detailed to six targets, at which they fired a single round in turn. In this way the men were placed as nearly as possible on a footing of equality so far as weather was concerned; but, as it happened, the conditions were fairly equable. The light was bright but steady, and the wind, though inclined to be gusty, was on the whole tolerably amenable to calculation at the hands of experienced marksmen. The contest had not proceeded very far when all eyes were directed to the shooting of J. B. Adamson, 1st Mid-Lothian, one of the men who had just obtained his place in the Thirty. 


had, it is true, dropped only one point upon his first three shots, but Adamson was the only member of the Thirty who had opened with the bull’s-eye and had stuck to it. Then he had a fourth and a fifth bull’s-eye, and many, of the bystanders must have thought he was bidding fair to equal Caldwell’s marvellous performance to fourteen consecutive bull’s-eyes at Darnley lately. At the fifth round all over Caldwell was still no more than a point in arrear, and there was another member of the Thirty – Corporal Pearson, 2nd Mid-Lothian – who was just a  


But the shooting was proceeding rather more rapidly at Caldwell’s target than it was with the quintette of whom Adamson formed one; and so the 1st Renfrew man was taking aim for his seventh round before Adamson had fired his sixth. When Caldwell here dropped away to the outer, a 


went up, as it were, involuntarily from the crowd of spectators behind the ropes; and when Adamson put on a sixth bull’s-eye and also a seventh in succession, some of his friends declared that he would walk away with the championship. 


was now among inners, and this of itself assisted to focus the interest upon Adamson. There was a loud exclamation of “Oh!” when Adamson went away to the inner with his eight round. His ninth shot was eagerly watched, and when he obtained no better than an outer, and turned the scale of success against him, the excitement among the spectators became keen indeed. Caldwell had meantime fired his tenth round, and had 43 points to his credit; while Pearson, whom very few people evidently thought of in the excitement of the Caldwell-Adamson duel, was actually a point in advance of this year’s winner of the championship at Darnley. When Adamson had fired his tenth round, he was still, despite his outer, the relatively 


with 45 points on, against Pearson’s 44 and Caldwell’s 43. Rodger, who had an hour before won the silver medal, was 40; whilst Ingram, his rival in the tie, was but 34, and quartermaster-Sergeant Grier, 3rd Renfrew, 


had been all over the target, so to speak, for 32. Another round per man left Adamson still leading with 49; whereas an outer for Pearson had placed him a point below Caldwell, and had made him equal with Sergeant Jollie, 2nd Mid-Lothian, who had been pegging away steadily and unobserved. Two more rounds per man, however, wrought a rather remarkable change upon the running of the leading men mentioned – Caldwell, Pearson, Adamson, and Jollie – inasmuch as they left all four upon an absolute equality at 55. Yet, from the fact that shooting was not proceeding at the same pace all along the line of targets, this 


escaped general observation. Jollie was the first man to get through his shooting and finished 62, and J. Rodger and Colour-Sergeant Hall, of the Border Rifles, concluded immediately afterwards with 58 and 57 respectively. Caldwell had by this time got on 


and had finished with 65; and as Pearson had lost a point on his fourteenth shot, and had closed with 64, attention was again riveted on Adamson, who, of course, required two bull’s-eyes to tie with Caldwell. Adamson did not take a long time to get away his fourteenth shot, and when the magpie disc was disclosed, 


The competition was brought to a close within a very few minutes afterwards, and then Major Gow, secretary of the Association, formally announced that 


The champion was immediately shouldered, and was carried round the ground to the accompaniment of repeated bursts of cheering. 


   The ceremony of presenting the more important prizes took place in an enclosed piece of ground. 

   Major Gow then announced that Corporal Caldwell – (cheers) – of the 1st Renfrew, had won the Caledonian Shield and the Championship of Scottish Volunteers, with £50 in money, and the gold medal of the association. Corporal Caldwell, he said, was one of their oldest and best-known shots, and it was a great pleasure to see him champion for the second time. (Cheers.) 

   Corporal Caldwell having advanced to the front, 

   Colonel Boughey proceeded to congratulate the winner on his prowess, and explained that he had also won the championship at Glasgow. Colonel Boughey concluded by handing Caldwell a cheque for £50 and the gold cross. 

   Corporal Caldwell said a few words in acknowledgment. he said he was very proud to have won the Shield that day, and he considered it a great honour. When he won the championship at Darnley last week he was twitted by some people that he was not the champion of Scotland, and he said he would do his utmost to win the Shield, and so place the matter beyond dispute. (Cheers.) He was accordingly very glad to have won the Shield that day. A great many Volunteers had sympathised with him, and did not at all grudge the honour he had got. He hoped that some other man might be fortunate in his place another year. (Cheers.) 


   The following is a list of those who have won the Shield since the institution of the contest: 




Robert Bruce, Edinburgh 



C. Davidson, Lauder 



J. McLeod, Edinburgh 



Arch. Plenderleith, Peebles 



R. A. Smith, Edinburgh 



E. Menzies, Edinburgh 



Angus Cameron, Kingussie 



James Ranken, Edinburgh 



John Clews, Barrhead 



William Bain, Melrose 



Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson, Bannockburn 



J. Todd, 1st Lanark 



A. Cameron, Kingussie 



Corporal Charles, Fyvie 



Corporal M. Sutherland, 8th Lanark 



Lieutenant McIsaac, 1st Bute 



George Sutherland, 1st Midlothian 



Sergeant E. Paton, 3rd Lanark 



J. Webster, Bervie Artillery 



Quartermaster-Sergeant Grier, 3rd Renfrew 



Corporal Caldwell, 1st Renfrew 



Quartermaster-Sergeant Grier, 3rd Renfrew 



Corporal Duncan, 2nd Midlothian 



Sergeant Vickery, 1st Berwick 



Sergeant Reid, 3rd Aberdeen 



Quartermaster-Sergeant Grier, 3rd Renfrew 



Corporal W. Caldwell, 1st Renfrew 



   We have on previous occasions given an outline of the Corporal’s career. As our readers are aware he served with credit in the Federal Army during the American war, rising to the position of captain. On his return to this country he joined the Volunteer force, and at once took a well-deserved place in the rank of renowned shots. So long ago as 1871 he was chosen as a member of the Scottish Twenty, and this honour was conferred upon him for six consecutive years up till 1876. For three years Scotland did not take part in the match, and when resumed in 1880 the Corporal was a member of the Scottish team, this honour being continued in 1881-’82-’84-’85-’86 – in all, twelve times. In 1870 he stood second in the Windmill Prize. He gained the Alexandra at 200 yards in succeeding year. In 1876 he secured the grand aggregate. Again, in 1881, he won the same honour, carrying with it the Dominion of Canada Trophy, which was added in 1871. At Edinburgh in 1876 he carried off the City prizes; in 1877 and 1878 he gained the Aitchison clocks; while in the following year he won the City Medal at Inverness. In the first stage for the Championship at the West of Scotland meeting in 1879, shot with the Snider, he made the then remarkable score of 95, and took first place, his score at the long distance consisting of seven bull’s-eyes. In 1879 he was a member of the Scottish Eight for the Elcho Shield match. It was in 1881 that Corporal Caldwell nearly achieved the greatest distinction of all, the winning of the blue riband of Wimbledon, but he lost it through a bad cartridge at the close of his shooting, when even an outer would have placed him in the coveted place. In 1882 he was one of the team chosen to proceed to America to shoot in the International Military Rifle Match at Creedmoor, when the British won by a large majority. On that occasion a gold medal was presented by the Americans for competition amongst their opponents, and it was won by Mr Caldwell. In 1883 the Corporal won the Caledonian Shield, which he gained for the second time on Saturday last; and in the same year he was first in the Faculty of Procurators’ Prizes at the West of Scotland Meeting. In 1885 Mr Caldwell was champion at the West of Scotland, after shooting off a tie with Sergeant Comery. At the first Scottish Rifle Association meeting, in 1886, he was first in the Auld Reekie Prizes, winning in the shoot-off against several of the best English shots. At Edinburgh, in the same year, he won the Henry Vase and the Aggregate, while at Wimbledon he gained a beautiful diamond brooch. This year he is really the champion of Scotland, having won not only the Caledonian Shield but the £100 and champion badge of the Scottish Rifle Association. Corporal Caldwell has been four times in the final stage of the Queen’s – in 1881, 1883, 1886, and 1888. In the Brigade, Battalion, and Company competitions he had taken numerous prizes. He is a great favourite in the battalion to which he belongs, and not a few well-known shots in the 1st Renfrew owe much of their success to the advice and counsel given in their experiences on the shooting range at Greenock. 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Monday 24th June, 1889, p.3.



   Yesterday morning Mr William Caldwell, of Greenock, one of the players who during the past few days has been participating in the open bowling tournament held on the Summerhill Grove green, Newcastle, dropped down dead. Yesterday was the fourth day of the tournament, and play had been in progress only a very short time when the tragic event took place. Mr Caldwell was drawn to play against Mr John Pillans, the well-known champion, and only a few ends had been played, the score standing at five to three in favour of Caldwell. the end having been finished, he had just commenced to walk leisurely down to the opposite end of the green, when he was observed to stagger and fall. Mr Telford, who was engaged scoring in the adjoining rink, quickly stepped to his assistance, but was too late to prevent Mr Caldwell falling. It was readily perceived that the illness was as serious as it was sudden, and with all speed Dr Charlton, who resides within the immediate vicinity of the ground, was summoned. He arrived within a few minutes, but his services were of no avail, for death had taken place. The body was taken to the house of Mr James Telford, 124 Rye Hill, from whence it will be conveyed to Greenock by the 10.25 train this morning. Needless to say the tragic occurrence caused quite a painful sensation amongst the assembled players, and as a mark of respect for the deceased gentleman, play was at once abandoned for the day. Mr Caldwell was a native of Beith, Ayrshire, and was in his 70th year. 

– Shields Daily News, Saturday 29th June, 1907, p.3.





   While engaged in an International bowls tourney in Newcastle yesterday, Mr. William Caldwell, of Greenock, fell to the ground, and expired instantly. 

   The deceased, who was in his seventieth year, was one of the crack bowlers of Great Britain, having won many of the chief prizes in England and Scotland. 

   In 1859 deceased emigrated to America, and fought in the Civil War on behalf of the Northern States. 

   Returning to his native country he joined the Renfrew Volunteers, becoming one of the crack shots of the country, securing second place for the Queen’s Prize at Wimbledon. 

   In bowling he had won championship prizes at Leith, Lockerbie, Moffat, and other places. 

   This is the first time Caldwell has played in Newcastle. 

   Mrs. Caldwell was on the green at the time of her husband’s tragically sudden death. A painful sensation was caused, and the tournament was abandoned for the day. 

– Bradford Daily Telegraph, Saturday 29th June, 1907, p.3.


   The funeral of Mr William Caldwell, the well-known Volunteer shot and bowler, who died suddenly at Newcastle-on-Tyne on Friday, is to be of a private nature. The body arrived at the Central Station on Saturday afternoon, and was removed to deceased’s residence at 4 Prospecthill Street. 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Monday 1st July, 1907, p.2.

William Caldwell grave

I received an email with further census screenshots and information, as well as the above gun & grave photo, from my uncle, Tom Caldwell, in Australia, who’s taken a good deal of interest and made great headway in finding out more of his, and by extension my, family tree and ancestry. He writes;

“There’s a book in the McLean Library
Volunteer Memories – 1911
By Colonel William Lamont
Late Commanding
1st (Renfrewshire) Volunteer Battalion
Princess Louise’s
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Page 55
Page 186
Page 187
  There is a list of dates and medals won and then it goes on

     ‘The Scottish National trophy ( the Caledonian Shield) was on several occasions won by members of the Battalion.  In 1878 the winner was Lieut. John McIsaac, and in 1883, 1889 and 1892 by that redoubtable shot and keen Volunteer, Corpl. William Caldwell.

His brother Matthew on one occasion tied for the Queen’s Prize, but lost the honour of shooting off, although the money was divided.

The retiral and subsequent death of these two brothers was a great loss to the Battalion’s shooting strength.

They were always reliable, and a tower of strength in the Battalion team, where, in addition to their own personal prowess, their advice was of great value to the Captain.

Men such as these, although their success was occasionally grudged by those less fortunate, were an object-lesson to their comrades, and raised the standard of rifle shooting to a very high level.’ ”

William Caldwell

Image of the Portrait at the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock – cleaned & touched up by Alex.

2 thoughts on “Corporal William Caldwell – Marksman & Bowler Extraordinaire – 1838-1907.

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