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Camp Coffee indeed!

22 September, 2009

I heard an interesting story on the radio today regarding a product from yesteryear, you may remember Camp Coffee, which was developed in response to a request from the Gordon Highlanders for a quick way to brew coffee. The mixture consists of sugar, water, 4% coffee essence and 26% chicory. If my memory serves me right, it also tastes vile. One of those love it or hate it products like Marmite!

The story that I heard on the radio today relates to the product’s label. The label used to feature, as in the picture below, a highland soldier sat drinking coffee with what looks like a Sikh manservant stood by his side carrying a tray. The label was changed a few years ago amid a flurry of accusations over racism, allegedly from asian shop keepers who refused to stock the 100 year old product unless the label was changed, so now the Sikh gentleman is sat beside the soldier enjoying a cup with his comrade! Political correctness gone mad perhaps, who can say, but that’s not the most interesting part of the story, it relates to the kilted soldier himself.


The story behind the label is intriguing as the Scot is supposed to be Major General Sir Hector Macdonald, scourge of Afghans, Boers and the Dervishes of Sudan. He was the low-born soldier – son of a Scottish crofter – who turned down a Victoria Cross in favour of a commission, telling his superiors he would earn his medal later.

Known to millions as “Fighting Mac” he shot himself in the head in his bedroom in the Hotel Regina in Paris on 25 March 1903, minutes after reading a front-page story in the New York Herald suggesting he faced a “grave charge” – a Victorian euphemism for homosexuality, an offence considered so serious under Victorian military law that those “convicted” were shot.

It was he claimed he had gay affairs with a Boer prisoner of war and another while stationed in Belgium. He was also accused of a “habitual crime of misbehaviour with several schoolboys” in a railway carriage.

Macdonald was born in 1853 in Inverness, to a crofter and a dressmaker. He was an apprentice draper when he persuaded a recruiting sergeant from the Gordon Highlanders to accept him for training in the military at the age of 17. He became known as “Fighting Mac” for his exploits at the Battle of Omdurman, was wounded in the second Boer war. While serving in Afghanistan in 1879 as a regimental sergeant, he distinguished himself in battle to the extent that he was given the choice of a Victoria Cross, the ultimate military accolade, or a rare commission as an officer.

Whatever, the nature of his sexuality it should be noted that he did marry and he had two children.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. petrichoric permalink
    1 October, 2009 3:28 PM

    Well, you never know! Maybe there’d be something you’d enjoy! I, personally, couldn’t imagine actually being an escort again…Don’t know why…just couldn’t do it. But I don’t really mind doing massage. I do wonder how some women (I know there are male sex workers, but I don’t know any) manage to stick at it for such a long time…especially the women who offer 15 minute “French” (code for blowjob) specials. God, how many strange men’s penises do they have to have in their mouths every day?! I would hate that, as it really does seem very demeaning for the woman, like she’s just an object. Some may say the same about what I do, but at least I get to talk to my clients, and find out about their lives. Ach, who knows…maybe they enjoy their job. I don’t know.

  2. 1 October, 2009 3:09 PM

    My respect came from listening to each individual’s story and their experiences as a sex worker, I know it’s not a job I could do for a sustained period of time.

  3. petrichoric permalink
    1 October, 2009 3:03 PM

    I have neither respect nor disrespect for sex workers…it all depends on the individual and what they’re like. As I’m sure you found out during your stint in San Fran (interesting experience! You should write a blog post about it!), we’re just normal people, just like everybody else in the world. One of the only sex worker blogs I read these days is “Inspired to Blog” which is on my blogroll. The author, Sarah Summers, is an older (late thirties? Early forties?) woman who is also a mother. I love the way she writes about being a mother, and just whatever else takes her fancy. She really seems like your best mate’s mum or something, and that’s what’s so great about her. The vast majority of other sex worker blogs are just about sexual encounters, and I find that a bit tedious in the long run.

  4. 1 October, 2009 2:44 PM

    They do say that the UK and the US are countries seperated by a common language, but I love the US and visit on a regular basis for my vacation each year.

    I lived in san Fransisco in my youth as an outreach helper working with sex workers on the streets, straight, gay and trans. It opened my eyes to alot in this world and I have nothing but respect for sex workers after that experience.

  5. 1 October, 2009 2:38 PM

    Very interesting story, especially since Hector MacDonald is my fellow countryman.

    I wonder why Camp Coffee has a picture of a Scot on its label anyway? Is it a Scottish company? Hang on…quick google…Yes, it is! It’s made in Paisley! The most significant relationship of my life (not in a good way) was with a guy from Paisley who, I found out years later, turned out to be gay (or, maybe, bisexual…who knows). He’s currently married and living in France with two children…shades of Hector MacDonald again. Maybe there’s something in the water in Paisley. In any event, there are, contrary to Milo’s assertion, still plenty of repressed gay men and women out there, which is a terrible shame for them and their family members.

    As regards political correctness, I do actually think the first label was in bad taste. The new one is much better. I’d be pretty annoyed as a woman if there was some label with a female serving a guy.

  6. 25 September, 2009 9:00 AM

    Thanks Felix, I’d forgotten I had a facebook page! Good luck with the group, I know you do good and necessary work over there in Manchester, keep it up!

  7. 24 September, 2009 9:41 PM

    Aaaaaw – poor guy! I always loved this label as a child – though the coffee was a little “sudden” for my liking – and used to make up stories about the two gentlemen. Thank you for this, Mike; I got a link from FaceBook to your Blog. 🙂

    Best wishes,

  8. Carla permalink
    24 September, 2009 9:35 PM

    I heard this report too and thought it was the most interesting part of the programme. Poor bloke.

  9. 22 September, 2009 8:53 PM

    Awful that sexuality was so repressed back then. Such a huge relief it’s legal now in the UK armed forces (unlike in the US, unfortunately).

  10. 22 September, 2009 8:38 PM

    Camp coffee is truly horrible but the story is extremely interesting, thank you!

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