18th CENTURY REENACTING
Gavin has been active in three 18th Century recreated units – the 1st and 2nd battalions, King’s Royal Regiment of New York and the 1758 New York Provincial Regiment.
The Colonel’s Company of the 1st battalion Royal Yorkers was founded in 1975 in preparation for the American bicentennial celebrations and was likely the first recreation in Canada of an historic regiment, with the exception of those at government-run historic sites, which at the time portrayed only British and French soldiers. In contrast, the KRR’s founding members chose a United Empire Loyalist regiment whose disbanded veterans were amongst Ontario’s first English-speaking settlers, i.e. a Canadian unit.
The Yorkers joined the Brigade of the American Revolution and received extensive guidance. In keeping with BAR regulations, Gavin commanded the unit as a serjeant. Further, they instructed that a unit was not to field a subaltern officer until it could put sixteen men on the ground and, when that was achieved, Gavin took the role of 1st Lieutenant. Further, the BAR said that the officer was to fall back into the ranks if he did not have sufficient men at events, so Gavin chose not to lace his coat, which made a return to the ranks less obvious.
When the Royal Yorkers fielded sufficient men to warrant two commissioned officers, Gavin advanced to Captain-Lieutenant (the Colonel’s Company’s senior rank) and continued with an unlaced coat until the unit grew to three companies and a large fife and drum corps, which warranted him taking rank as Lieutenant-Colonel and lacing a new coat.
Even when colonel, he continued to step back into the ranks in his old coat to allow other Yorker officers and senior NCO’s to experience leading the regiment. This system repeatedly proved sensible and soon these men were being asked to take command of the Crown Forces at many venues.
Just as important, being in the ranks gave him a chance to ‘recharge his batteries’ and remind himself of what it meant ‘to toss the firelock’ and manoeuvre in formation. When a private soldier, he assumed his father’s christened surname, “McGeachie.”
In 1985, it was decided to represent the Royal Yorker’s ‘redcoated’ second clothing period and Crawford’s Company of the 2nd battalion was chosen. Gavin was the instigator and a founding member and entered the ranks as a private. In 1999, the company changed its identity to Singleton’s 2nd battalion Light Infantry Company and Gavin continues to serve in the ranks as the oldest Light Bob in Christendom.
In 1987, Eric Lorenzen, a Royal Yorker 1st battalion serjeant, recreated a Seven Years’ War unit, the New York Provincial regiment of 1758. Gavin was a founding member and a private in the ranks. The unit quickly became recognized as one of the most capable in the hobby and enjoyed a decade of operation travelling east to Cape Breton Island, south to Maryland and west to Ohio.
In the late 1990’s, a loose federation of Canadian reenactment units that had served together during the war was established and this was christened the Northern Brigade. Shortly thereafter, Gavin’s son-in-law, Christian Cameron of the Company of Select Marksmen, suggested expanding the brigade to include Crown units from the northern United States that had also served in the north and shared a common reenacting ethic. Presently, the Northern Brigade includes recreated units from across Ontario, east to New Hampshire, south to Pennsylvania and west to Michigan. Gavin held the role of Brigadier General until 2005 when he stepped down as colonel of the Yorkers and Brigadier of the Brigade and went into the ranks of Duncan’s Company as a private. Now, he only reappears as the retired brigadier on ‘State occasions.’
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