Capt. Henry Moutray Jones McCance  (1867-1937)

The youngest son of James McCance, he was born on the 11th Mar 1867 at Newry, Co Down.  He was educated at Westminster School.  After school he joined the Army and served with the Royal Scots (the oldest Regiment in the British Army).  He was made 2nd Lieutenant on 9 May 1888, and Lieutenant on 14 Aug 1891.  He served in operations in Zululand in 1888.  He resigned his commission in 1894 but never lost his love for the Regiment.  He was Captain Reserve of Officers may 1900-1902.  He rejoined in November 1914 and was attached to the General Staff at the War Office doing work for the Intelligence Service.  He wrote a Regimental History entitled "Records of the Royal Scots 1633-1911", published in Dublin by Alexander Thorn.  

On the 8th Feb 1893 he married Jean Bell, the daughter of Dr Joseph Bell who taught Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he was a medical student and was the person on whom he modeled the character of Sherlock Holmes.  (Indeed Bell has achieved his own recognition in two recent TV series).

Their daughter, Edith, was born on 2nd May 1894 and their son, Joseph, on 19th Sep 1899.  Jean died shortly after they moved to Canterbury and he did remarried to Biddy Bower, but sadly she also died shortly afterwards and he seems to have devoted his life to the Regiment and its history thereafter.  He died after a long illness in August 1937.  His obituary from "The Thistle" is reproduced below.

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An appreciation by the Colonel of the Regiment

     The Regiment will have received the news of the death of Captain H. M. J. McCance with the deepest regret.  In him goes one who for many years gave his all for the Regiment, and his passing will leave a blank most difficult to fill.
     As an Army historian he was appealed to by many units who recognized his deep and accurate historical knowledge, to which his share in compiling the "Regimental Records of the Royal Scots" bears abundant testimony.
     He was the editor of THE THISTLE from March, 1904, to February, 1905.  For the last ten years he was a regular contributor to our Regimental Journal and always contrived to produce some notes of interest in each issue.
     He further served on the Regimental Colours and Uniform Committee at the Royal United Service Institute, Whitehall.
     One of his greatest interests lay in showing newly-joined officers his unique museum at his attractive little home in Seabrook, Hythe.
     He was a charming character, and I am confident that his old friends who, from time to time, visited him at his home will long remember his cheery welcome and generous hospitality.
     The fortitude and courage he showed during his long and terrible illness were the admiration of all who knew what he must be suffering.
     To his family the Regiment would like to express its deep gratitude for his unceasing toil together with its deep and abiding sympathy in their terrible loss.

G. C. Loch.


Colonel C. C. Daniel writes:-

     And thus a very prominent landmark has been removed.  Captain McCance, late 1st Battalion The Royal Scots, answered his last Officer's Roll Call in the closing days of August at his residence, 86, Seabrook Road, Hythe, Kent at the age of seventy.
     He was gazetted to the 1st Battalion in 1888, but only remained with the Regiment for six years, resigning his commission at Chatham in 1894.
     Shortly afterwards he married Jean, the younger daughter of Dr. Joseph Bell, of Melville Crescent, Edinburgh, a man remarkable for his extraordinary intuition and power of deduction.  Under his guidance there was a young student, by name Conan Doyle, who, coming under the powerful influence of Dr. Bell, acquired the inspiration or, as we call it today, had a brain wave, and created that well-known character, Sherlock Holmes, whose facility to deduct the motives of every crime and laying bare every clue have interested the whole world.
     After Captain McCances' marriage he made his home at Mauricewood, Milton Bridge, and in later years moved to Canterbury, the name of his house being Menteith, and there he resided until some years after the Great War.  At Canterbury his wife died; then he moved to the new home he had made and where he has just died.
     Shortly afterwards he married a second time, Miss Biddy Bower.  She only lived a few years, dying in a nursing home in Sandgate.
     All this tended to leave him a very desolate and pathetic figure, and so the natural consequence was that he clung all the more closely to his old friends for companionship and so ward off the loneliness of his days.  His decision to live in this locality can be attributed to his desire to be near those whom he knew so well - for instance, Major Stisted, an old Royal Scot, who married the elder daughter of Dr. Joseph Bell, now living at Egerton, only a short distance from Ashford, then Lieutenant-Colonel Dyson (always known as "Poor Pa" in the Regiment) living at Dover, and then myself.  Of we three old Royal Scots I have known Captain McCance by far the longest.
     Now this is but a mere sketch, and I will pass on to what I personally and the more intimately know about him.  To start with, I will drop the "Captain McCance" and write just as I have always known him, and that is "McPants" or "Pants".
     I have known him for forty-nine years, and this is how I first met him.  I was walking over the veldt by our camp at Entonganeni, a large plateau just south of the famous Ulundi Plain in Zululand, when I noticed a small figure climb down from the leading buck-wagon of a convoy that had just then arrived at the camp; he was wearing the most enormous hat I had ever seen in the whole of South Africa, simply erring as so many newcomers to Africa do, believing that they will have to live under a fierce tropical sun and should, therefore, take first precautions to protect the head, whereas all "up-country" colonials wear but the slightest sort of felt hat, knowing the mistake of wearing heavy headgear for the reason that such merely makes the head hot, whereas one strives to keep it cool.
     I can imagine that Pants either hunted all round Durban for this gigantic hat or else brought it out from home.  Moreover, the brim was wound round with yards of a sort of muslin puggree.
     I have some faint recollections that we subalterns took the matter very gravely, and that this offending hat, very much like what one sees on the film and generally worn by some cow-boy or by some wild Mexican bandit, was with all ceremonial rites committed to a decent burial and placed on a funeral pyre.  Anyhow, Pants missed his huge hat, and so could never wear it again.
     He came down to Pietermaritzburg in 1890 with the Regiment after the Zulu rebellion had been crushed before he joined, and when Dinizulu and his uncle, N'Dabuko, had been side-tracked and skidded into the ditch and kissed themselves good-bye.  When in Natal, Pants played a little cricket, and though his batting average was not stirring, he had the merit of always playing with a straight bat.
     The end of 1890 he was invalided home, rejoining the 1st Battalion when they arrived at York in 1891.  Thence he went on to Chatham, and there he left us, as I have previously mentioned.  It is not easy to write up an obituary notice where one has no data to refer to such as service records, notes, letters etc., so I have to trust wholly to my recollections of many years back and to my friendship of the present time.
     When Pants left us he started on his wonderful research work, extending over years, in compiling the present splendid history of the Royal Scots, which was published in 1915 and, not finding this sufficient satisfaction for his keenness, he commenced his most interesting museum, hunting the country over to build up his collection of badges, plates, uniform, etc., all forming part of the equipment of the Royal Scots two centuries ago and continuing up to the present date.
     He was in constant touch with dealers all over the country, and whenever any of them came across any old print associated with the 1st Regiment of Foot they always communicated with him.  He was, however, very alive to the discrepancy in dress of that particular period, and did not hesitate to reject anything submitted for his acceptance that was not strictly pukka.  Last year I unearthed in a shop in Inverness an eighteenth century painting of a Royal Scots officer and handed it over to Pants.  This he accepted on the grounds that the buttons on the leggings were the correct number.  This shows his marked ability for the examination of detail.
     Officers from Shorncliffe often visited him if they were anxious to clear up some debated questions of dress or custom.  Pants was seldom at a loss to afford the information sought.  He was a most clever military historian.  Often in conversation he pressed the point that every young officer gazetted to the Regiment should be sent to spend the day with him in order that he should be properly instructed about the history of the famous Regiment he was about to join.
     Then, further, in his ardent and active interest on behalf of the Old and Bold Corps, he volunteered to take over the editorship of THE THISTLE somewhere about 1904, I think.  In referring to the journal I have only to write that on nearly every occasion of its publication there was a contribution from Pants, another point displaying his interest.  He surely entertained a great love for his old Regiment.
     And now I have recalled another incident of bygone days.  When he joined us in Zululand he caused much laughter and chaff in the Mess by telling us that he had come from the Donegal Militia.  No one had ever heard of this gallant corps, though appreciating such distinguished descent, but we all wished to know why he had come all the way from a remote spot in north-west Ireland to join a Scottish Regiment.  Not until many years later did we all realize what a great acquisition he was to be to the Regiment.  In time to come this grand old Donegal Militia appeared to have been expunged from the British Army, since I can find no trace of it.
     Officers attending the Small Arms School at Hythe were always made most welcome at his home.  Foremost among his friends there was Ashmore, who was on the staff.  He was a constant visitor.
   Pants had a large mail, for he maintained correspondence constantly with old officers - naming just three, "Besom" (Capt. O. R. Brush, living in Switzerland), "Strum" (Lt.Col. H. P. Versturme-Bunbury, generally to be found sitting in Kenya) and "F.J." (Maj.Gen. F. J. Duncan).
     Pants and I did not correspond very much, for we met each other every week, either at his home or mine, and he had dear friends living next door to us, Mr. and Mrs. Sherman.  Mr. Sherman had been most of his life in Burmah, and was a big man in the Burmah Police.
     He and his wife knew Joseph McCance quite well out there.  They always called him "Angus" but why, they did not know for, as a matter of detail, his name is not Angus.  Pants used to say to me that he thought Joseph had too much weight for his age.  Has he?
     Pants possessed a delightful personality which just made him so popular with all; ever charming and cheery, with plenty of laughter, always so willing to help lame dogs.
     And now I draw to the close of his life.  About three years ago he underwent an operation; he was not told the truth at the time, but he insisted he should be told; it was connected with an incurable disease.  He used to confide in me that now he knew the whole truth, he was satisfied and would not worry.
     And so he went on, never complaining.  Then came an attack of appendicitis, and for this the doctors dare not operate because of the weakness of his heart.  Then started his last, long trek; he grew slowly worse, and on the 8th Jan this year he was ordered to bed.  He never came downstairs as a living man.
     And so, slowly dropping down the ladder, be became for ten days before his death completely unconscious, and then the poor old tired life passed away.  He leaves a son and a daughter.  The son, Joseph, we all know.  His daughter, Edith, is Mrs. Fulton, wife of Lt.Col. J. S. Fulton, O.B.E., M.C., commanding The Lancashire Fusiliers, at Colchester.
     One more word.  In 1914, at the time of the Great War, Pants applied to the War Office for any suitable employment.  He was appointed to a branch of the Intelligence Service and granted the rank of Captain.
     To sum up, the Regiment has lost the finest historian it has ever known, and I say good-bye to a dear, good and valued pal.

Cecil Daniel


 Colonel C. Stansfeld writes:-

     Henry McCance was a most delightful friend.  A good listener, with a keen sense of humour, he generally had an interesting bit of news for his friends.  They will remember him as one who made their interests his own, and will feel his loss very deeply.
     He was exceptionally methodical, and his love of method helped him in his many kindnesses and in his thought for others.
     His courage and perseverance during his last illness were extraordinary.  One day, when he was so weak that he could hardly get through his newspaper, he had had cuttings made of a big score at cricket that a cousin of mine had made, and he had also waded through the Oxford Pass Lists to see that a nephew of mine had got a second.
     Others who read THE THISTLE are better qualified than I to speak of his knowledge of military history, uniforms, prints and what he called military relics.  I was sometimes privileged to do Watson to his Sherlock Holmes, and it was very interesting to see him work out the answers to many conundrums he received.
     It often meant a lot of spade work, but he knew where to dig and was never happy till he had not only answered the conundrum but had proved his answer up to the hilt.  A striking instance of his perseverance was his writing of the article on Lieut-Gen. Sir John Waters, K.G.B., in the last issue of THE THISTLE.
     He began the article when he was still able to sit up in an armchair for a few hours in the evening.  He would sit there surrounded by books verifying every detail.  He was confined to his bed when he finished it, and he still checked every detail most carefully.
     He knew it was his last contribution to THE THISTLE, and he was determined that it should be not only interesting, but accurate in every respect.  He will be sadly missed by many, not only for his knowledge and ability, but for his kindness, his friendliness and his sense of humour.

C. Stansfeld.