Tin advertising sign
George Kelly & Co., London, Ont., ca. 1897
On 15 October 1897, British regiments fighting in the northwestern
frontier of India were pinned down by enemy fire near the mountain village
of Dargai. The Gordon Highlanders took up the attack, led by two pipers
playing "The Cock of the North". Meeting murderous fire from above,
one piper was killed; the other, George Findlater, was hit in both ankles.
Findlater dragged himself behind a boulder and continued to play as his fellow
Highlanders charged past him. The regiment took the ridge to the sound of
Findlater’s pipes. Findlater returned home to a hero’s welcome
and the Victoria Cross, pinned on his tunic by Queen Victoria herself.
Findlater’s exploit was quickly commercialized. One
English company concocted the "delicious British-Indian Sauce Dargi-Dash
which stimulates Health, Endurance and Courage." And cigar maker George
Kelly in far-off London, Ontario, produced the Dargai cigar.
Findlater himself, however, struggled to get by on his
veteran’s meagre pension and was forced to accept engagements at
London music halls. For this he was severely criticized by the press and
public, but his plight eventually forced the government to increase payments
to all veterans—the true legacy of the hero of Dargai.