This oil painting done by E Wyly Grier in 1910 of Lt. Col. Davidson hangs in the Officers’ Mess in Moss Park Armoury.

Lieutenant Colonel John Irvine Davidson, VD

First Commanding Officer 48th Battalion “Highlanders”

The appointment of Lieutenant Colonel John Irvine Davidson as the first Commanding Officer of the 48th Highlanders was confirmed on 25 March 1892. He had been gazetted (provisionally) on 20 November 1891 just weeks after the authorization of the regiment by the Government of Canada in October 1891. Lt.-Col. Davidson served as Commanding Officer from 1891 to 1898.

Davidson’s role with the 48th Highlanders began when asked by Alexander Fraser, journalist and Scottish author, and Captain Wilbur Henderson, a Scot who had served in the 34th Battalion in Toronto since 1880, to join with a select few of influential Scots at a meeting on 30 June 1891. Their goal was to gain government approval for an infantry regiment in Toronto that would reflect their heritage and traditions. The committee represented the many Scottish societies across Toronto including: the Gaelic Society of Toronto; the St. Andrew’s Society; the Caledonian Society, and the Sons of Scotland, as well as members of the Management Board of St. Andrew’s Church, a Presbyterian church founded in 1837.

On 3 July, they asked Captain John Irvine Davidson, a leading businessman and Captain in 10th Royal Grenadiers of Toronto, to be the first Commanding Officer.

Born in 1854 in Wartle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Davidson immigrated to Canada in his twenties, rose in business to become head of Davidson & Hay, Merchants and by the date of his appointment to command was vice president of the Canadian Bank of Commerce and president of the Board of Trade. He went on to become president, St. Paul’s Mining Company, and director of several other companies. In the military he began as a private in Scotland, serving a total of five years in the 7th Aberdeenshire Volunteers, the London Scottish and the Uxbridge Yeomanry. In Toronto, he was an officer for six years in the 10th Royal Grenadiers, rising to captain. He served on the Board of Managers of St. Andrew’s Church, including six years as Chairman. The 48th appointed him Honorary Lieutenant Colonel upon his retirement in 1898, a position he held until his death in 1910.

VD, Northwest Canada Medal 1885
Militia / Reserve Bn
Service number
Previous unit
10th Royal Grenadiers
Date of attestation


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