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Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, I am glad that you could join us yet again as we set out to discover a little more about one of the many clans of Scotland. If you have had the opportunity to read any of the previous blogs in this series, you will understand that these blogs are intended to be a brief synopsis of the Clan’s history, however, as time goes by we will delve deeper into Clan history with monthly updates for each Clan.
This time around, we are going to have a wee look at Clan Campbell, considered to be the bad guys of Scottish by many, but are they really as bad as all that?
A Brief History of Clan Campbell
The origins of Clan Campbell can, supposedly, be traced to the ancient Britons of Strathclyde and a son of King Arthur, however this seems more tradition than fact as the first recorded Campbell is Gillespie who owned some lands near Stirling. Clan Campbell is most strongly connected with lands in Argyll which the family gained through a marriage which brought them the Lordship of Loch Awe.
Initially the clan was pushed around by the MacDougall Clan, allies of John Balliol who granted MacDougall the title of Sheriff of Argyll. As Campbell had been steadily growing their power and influence in that area, this caused tension to build up between the clans, culminating in the Battle of Red Ford where Sir Colin Campbell was killed in action. The battle being so called as so many people lost their lives that the river ran red with the blood of the fallen.
The Campbells were staunch supporters of Robert the Bruce so, when he ascended to the throne, their loyalty was rewarded with the grant of land, title and the marriage of Robert the Bruce’s sister Mary to Sir Neil Campbell thus forging closer ties between the Campbells and the crown. When the crown managed to break up the power of the Lords of the Isles, the chiefs of the Donald Clan, who up to that point had been the one of the most powerful landowners in Britain (second only to the Kings of England and Scotland) a power vacuum was created which the Campbells duly filled, also beginning the long running feud between these two clans. The Campbells became more and more powerful, so much so that they were even pardoned for the drowning of Clan Arthur in 1567. Clan Campbell has always been, or at least mostly, on the winning side of history, Teflon-like in their ability to avoid serious blemishes or stains. So is the historic distrust borne from a deep seated envy in the other Clans, possibly but here we come to a dark chapter in the Clan’s history.
Of course, I am talking about the Massacre of Glencoe of 1692. A group of soldiers, led by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, had enjoyed the hospitality of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe for a period of about two weeks when the soldiers massacred thirty-eight men, women and children (all of whom were unarmed) in an attempt to suppress the growing Jacobite movement. There are reports that a further forty or so people died of exposure as they fled the scene. This outrage was not solely perpetrated by Campbells, yet it was a Campbell who led the group and it has left a stain on the otherwise good name of the clan.
This is of course, all ancient history by now and I can’t imagine that anyone could still hold a grudge against the Campbell for events of over three hundred years ago, however, I may be. There exists a curse on the Clan that involves making a sort of rock and roll devil horns sign, pointing it at Inveraray Castle, saying buitseach and spitting between your fingers three times. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a MacMillan did just this and two weeks later, the castle’s roof burned off.
Curse or no, it doesn’t bear to dwell on the negative and anyway, it should be remembered that the Campbells have shown great loyalty throughout their history, sometimes to extreme lengths, but let’s move on. In the spirit of moving on, let’s look at some notable Campbells from more recent history and try to celebrate some of the good that the Campells have achieved.
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Campell Bannerman was born to an affluent family in Glasgow in 1836. He was educated at the University of Glasgow and Trinity college, Cambridge. After uni he would go on to join his family’s drapery business before becoming a member of parliament in 1868. Campbell-Bannerman would go on to become the leader of the Liberal Party and eventually, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1905. As Prime Minister, Campbell-Bannerman was a moderate social reformer, allowing local authorities to provide free school meals to children, strengthening trade unions and bringing in the idea of workmen’s compensation for accidents at work.
Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde
Although born Colin MacLiver in in Glasgow in 1792, following the death of his mother he was raised by his uncle Major Colin Campbell who enrolled him in the Royal Military and Naval academy. When and why MacLiver was changed to Campbell is not truly know, perhaps because of a misunderstanding with the Duke of York or perhaps because MacLiver was indeed the illegitimate son of Campbell. Campbell rose up through the ranks of the military before taking command of the Highland Brigade during the Crimean War where he distinguished himself by holding back a Russian charge with the now famous thin red line. Campbell would eventually be made Commander-in-Chief of India and later the first Baron Clyde.
Torquhil Ian Campbell is the 13th and 6th Duke of Argyll and the current head of Clan Campbell. The duke holds 29 separate titles and formerly served as a Page of Honour to Queen Elizabeth II. What really puts Torquhil on our list however is that he is the captain of the Scottish elephant polo team, the team won the world championships in 2004 and 2005.
Well, that will surely do us for now, won’t it? The Campbells are a truly interesting clan and I can’t wait to get stuck in to their back story more over the coming months, I hope you will stay with me as we go further down the rabbit hole that is Scottish history and try to learn more about the clan of the curved mouth. (Cam Beul was a nickname of Colin Campbell’s grandfather and it is from here we get the name Campbell, Cam means curved and Beul means mouth).