‘Good night, Wee Man’: much-loved military Shetland dies aged 30

  • A beloved army mascot who served with the Royal Regiment of Scotland across the world has died aged 30.

    Shetland pony Cruachan III (pictured, top right) was put down today (27 February) due to arthritis.

    Despite extensive treatment, vets could no longer make him comfortable and he was put down in the familiar surroundings of his stable at Edinburgh’s Redford Barracks.

    Cruachan III joined the 1st Battalion the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in September 1995.

    He served with the battalion across Scotland and England, including stints with the Royal Guard at Balmoral.

    He also travelled with them on several operational tours of duty to the Balkans, Iraq and Northern Ireland.

    The pony was awarded the NATO Former Yugoslavia Medal, the Iraq Medal, the General Service Medal with the Northern Ireland Clasp, the Accumulated Service Medal and the Jubilee Medal.

    In 2006, on the formation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, he became its first mascot.

    He represented the regiment at state events, parades, fairs, charity functions, Highland Games and shows across the country.

    He also took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in May 2012.

    Cruachan III retired from service on the last night of the 2012 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, having led the guard of honour at the show’s finale.

    Even in his retirement, the pony continued to win hearts and awards.

    The British Horse Society named him as its equine personality of the year in 2016 and he received an award for his charity work from the veterans’ organisation Erskine in 2017.

    Erskine named him as one of its 100 heroes, to celebrate the organisation’s centenary — the only animal to receive this accolade.

    He also helped his successor — the royal flower-thieving Cruachan IV — settle into his new role and travelled with him to events for as long as his health allowed.

    Royal Regiment of Scotland’s pony major Cpl Mark Wilkinson paid tribute to the much-loved pony.

    “Although we did not work on any ceremonial events together, Cruachan III has spent his last five and a half years in retirement with me,” said Cpl Wilkinson.

    He has helped to train and keep Cruachan IV in line — I know for certain Cruachan IV would not have been as easy to train if it had not been for his calming influence, stern demeanour and occasional nip and telling-off.

    “I will always be in debt to him for giving me the opportunity to meet so many people, both civilian and military.

    “Her Majesty The Queen always asked for him and everyone always smiled when they saw him, this is a testament to how loved he was.

    “He had been challenged with numerous health problems in his later years, which he had always been able to beat. Unfortunately this one was too much.

    “An animal first but soldier second, he held all values and standards we would expect in a Scottish soldier coming into work. Nothing was ever a chore and I will miss not seeing his face covered in feed every morning.

    “Goodnight, Wee Man. Rest easy.”

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    Shetland ponies have been an integral part of the Army in Scotland’s history for almost 90 years.

    Princess Louise presented Cruachan I to the Argull and Sutherlan Highlanders in 1929 and the breed has represented them ever since.

    Credit: LAND Media Ops

    A spokesman for the Royal Regiment of Scotland said it is “with a great deal of sadness” that it bids farewell to “one of the most memorable characters in the regiment”.

    “Always smart and never failing on parade, he represented the regiment loyally and steadfastly for many years,” said the spokesman.

    “He embodied the traits of the Scottish soldier: steady, hardy and even-tempered.

    His sense of mischief was well known and admired, except perhaps by the pony majors, who often would have to stand on their guard.

    “Even in retirement, as a veteran, he played a part in the regiment, helping Cruachan IV assume the role and keeping him company. He will be missed by all.”

    An act of remembrance will be held for Cruachan III at Stirling Castle, the historic home of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, where his remains will be interred.

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