|No. 1430 James Keys was born in Dundee, Scotland around 1847. His family origins remain obscure. When he attested for ten years
service with the 79th (The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders) Regiment of Foot on 15 May, 1865 he had been employed as a
boiler maker. Keys’ career with the 79th was steady with only one blotch to mar his years with the colours.
He was granted his first Good Conduct Pay on 11 May, 1868 and his second on 11 May, 1871. Promoted Corporal on 4 May, 1872
Keys had his singular lapse in soldierly judgment when he was arrested just four days later for drunkenness. Perhaps he celebrated
his promotion with a bit too much enthusiasm! Tried and convicted he was reduced to Private and forfeited his Good Conduct Pay.
He must have learned the error of his ways as the next two entries in his Record of Service show his Good Conduct Pay being
restored to him on 6 July, 1873 and 6 July, 1874. He re-engaged to complete his 21 long service years at Aldershot on 13 May, 1875.
Receiving his 3rd Good Conduct Pay on 14 May, 1877, he finally won his Corporal’s chevrons back on 13 August, 1878, Appointed
Lance Sergeant on17 July, 1879, he was promoted to the full rank of Sergeant a little less than a year later on 3 March, 1880.
Entitled to his 4th Good Conduct Pay on 14 May, 1883 he was promoted to Colour-Sergeant on 1 December, 1883. He was entitled
to his 5th and final Good Conduct Pay on 6 July, 1886. Colour-Sergeant James Keys took his discharge after 21 years, 53 days with
the colours on 6 July, 1886.
Keys’ postings at home and abroad included:
Home: 11 May, 1865 – 9 July, 1866
India: 10 July, 1866 – 6 November, 1874
Home: 7 November, 1874 – 2 June, 1879
Gibraltar: 3 June, 1879 – 23 July, 1880
Home: 24 July, 1880 – 26 November, 1882
Egypt: 27 November, 1882 – 18 June, 1886
Home: 18 June, 1886 – 6 July, 1886
Although his battalion was present at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13 September, 1882, Keys himself did not arrive in Egypt until
later in November. Keys did see active service during the failed attempt to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum and received the
Egyptian Campaign Medal for the Nile Expedition with the single clasp “The Nile 1884-85”. In his photograph Keys wears his single
clasped medal alone although he would also have been entitled to the bronze Khedive’s Star.
James Keys married Miss Margaret Taylor at Edinburgh, Scotland on 23 June, 1876. The union produced at least one child, a
daughter named Helen who was born sometime around 1887 in Glasgow. In 1891 Keys was employed as a porter in a writer’s office
in Glasgow, a position he still held ten years later.
A pension case sheet attached to his service records indicates that former Colour-Sergeant James Keys was still receiving his
pension as late as March, 1929. No further mention of Keys is had been found after that date.
P. Sebah - Photographer