Cadets of the House of Argyll

Bv Rev. P. J. Campbell, D.D.

It is interesting to observe the assiduity and sagacity with which the House of Lochawe prosecuted for centuries the policy which placed its wise and patriotic Chiefs eventually in the position of local sovereigns of Argyllshire. While with great foresight laying the foundations of their influence in the eye of the Court and of the Law, by securing, through charters—then little valued by Highlanders generally—the feudal superiority of the lands of the ancient proprietors of the soil, they, at the same time, lose no opportunity of basing it, in the meantime, on the Celtic feeling of the country, by allowing currency to theories of remote descent of these proprietors from their own family, and inducing them to adopt the name of Campbell. It was indeed a somewhat difficult task for the Seannachies to affiliate to the House of Lochawe races well-known to have been as long as or longer than itself, independent inhabitants of the country. The method most commonly resorted to was a discovery that a family which it was desirable to affiliate, had sprung from some clandestine and concealed marriage, or some illegitimate connection of a Chief of Lochawe at a remote period—a scheme to which the old Highland custom of hand-fast marriages gave much plausibility and success, especially as the interests of the families in question, and the advantage of securing the protection and favour of the potentates of Lochawe, induced them the more readily to acquiese in such theories of their descent. At the same time, the tradition of the country always preserved the distinction between the families really of Campbell origin and these other ancient races, and continued long to designate the members of the latter by their old patronymics. Thus, while no doubt has ever been entertained of the Campbell descent of Barbreck, Inverliver, or Ardkinglas, any more than of Glenorchy, Auchinbrek, Ellangreig, Ormidale, Calder (Cawdor), and Lochnell, of some of whom the progeny was very numerous, the tradition is different in the case of the following Argyllshire families:

M’DHONNACHIE, OR CAMPBELL, OF INVERAWE, with its offshoots, Ducholly, Kilmartin, Shirvain, Southall, &c. Of this family, which possessed the greater part of the magnificent mountain Ben Cruachan, and which produced many eminent clergymen of the Church of Scotland, and brave officers of the army, the Chief and many members, down to the middle of the seventeenth century, signed themselves M’Dhonnachie, M’Connachie, and Duncanson. In the pedigree of the Maconochies of Meadowbank given in Burke’s Landed Gentry (1847), the Inverawe family is derived from Duncan, a son of Sir Neil Campbell of Lochow, by his second wife, a daughter of Sir John Cameron of Lochiel. This genealogy is not more doubtful than that which represents the progenitor of the Meadowbank family, not merely as a member, but actually as the Head of the old House of Inverawe! The undoubted representative of that ancient race at that time was James A. Campbell, Esq. of New-Inverawe. There may be uncertainty as to the precise origin of the Inverawe family. There is none as to its extreme antiquity and position.

M’INNES (M’ANGUS), OR CAMPBELL, OF DUNSTAFFNAGE, theoretically traced to a natural son of Colin of Lochawe, d. 1390, or, as some say, of Colin, first Earl, d. 1492, but perhaps descended from the old Clan M’Innes of Ardgour or Morven. The constabulary of the Castle of Dunstaffnage was, no doubt, bestowed by Robert I. in 1321-22 on an Arthur, and afterwards on an Archibald Campbell; but neither the seannachies nor the family itself derive the M’Angus Campbells–now and for some centuries of Dunstaffnage—from these persons. The former allege Colin, first Earl, to be the progenitor.

M’NEIL, OR CAMPBELL, OF KENMORE OR MELFORT, deduced from a natural son of Sir Colin of Lochawe, d. 1340. This family, which, in the last generation, furnished several highly distinguished officers to the army and navy, although of very doubtful Campbell origin, seems to have no connection whatever with the Clan-Macneill.

M’IVER, OR CAMPBELL, OF LERGACHONZIE, STONSHIRAY, AND ASKNISH, one of the Barons of 1292, and the M’Ivers of Glassary and Cowal.

M’DUGALL, OR CAMPBELL, OF CRAIGNISH, of which the Chief latterly, after the recovery of the estate by Ronald Mac-Dhonuil-Mhic-Iain of Barchbeyan, was called M’Dhonuil-Vic-Iain. This—one of the most ancient families in Argyllshire, the head of it being one of the eleven Barons of 1292—is well known not to be of Campbell descent.

M’DHONNACHIE-MHOIR, OR CAMPBELL, OF DUNTROON. This family is by some supposed to be really descended from a natural son of Colin of Lochawe, d. 1390, but the tradition of a special brotherly alliance between it and the families of Dunstaffnage and Melfort, in accordance with which, on the death of any one of the three, the two others laid the one the head and the other the feet of the deceased in the grave, seems to argue a very ancient community of interest, if not of descent. Of Duntroon the Campbells of Raschoilly, Oib, Tayness, Knap, and Rudale, were cadets.

THE CLAN-CHEARLAICH, OR PERHAPS PROPERLY THEARLAICH—always reputed to be a branch of the Clan-Dugall of Craignish—whose original seat is uncertain. The Chiefs and a considerable number of this race seem to have accompanied the founders of the Breadalbane family into Perthshire, from Glenorchy, where they had been for some generations. They appear in Perthshire as the Campbells of West-Ardeonaig and Corrycharnaig, and are often mentioned also under the names M’Cairlich and Charliesoun in the Black-book of Taymouth. In Argyllshire, too, they appear of old under the name of M’Kerliche. The probable Chiefs of this old race are the Inverneil family, reestablished in Argyllshire by Sir Archibald and Sir James Campbell.

If to all these we add the number of MacDiarmids who in ancient times, and of MacGregors, MacLarens, and others, who more lately assumed the name of Campbell, it will be seen that many bearing that name in Argyllshire and Perthshire are descended of other races. In fact, prolific as some branches of the Campbells were, it would have been scarcely possible that all the bearers of the name in those counties should have sprung from them.*

A similar aggregation of large numbers from different races took place in many other cases, as in those of the Frasers, Gordons, &c.; but, while in these instances, the persons incorporated seem to have been mainly nativi without property, or members of broken septs, the Argyll family succeeded in attaching to itself and engrafting many old, independent, and well organised small Clans. If there is evidence of good policy here, there is also indubitable proof of the hereditary possession by the Black Knights of Lochawe, of the qualities that attract admiration and confidence.

It will be observed that almost all the families enumerated above are found in occupation of prominent and commanding points of Argyllshire—chiefly on the coast—a proof of early possession and power. It must also be borne in mind that, although not of the Campbell race, they almost all had latterly, through marriage with branches of the Argyll family—zealously promoted by the House of Lochawe—a large infusion, in many cases ultimately a preponderance, of Campbell blood.

* There is a third Argyllshire family of which the Head was styled M’Dhonnachie—Campbell of Glenfeochan. This family may probably have sprung from the House of Lochawe, but the writer has not traced its decent with certainty.

The Celtic Monthly, September 1907.

[Re: other errors of this author, see W. D. H. Sellar, The Earliest Campbells–Norman, Briton, or Gael?, Scottish Studies, vol. xvii., 1973.]

Plates from The Heraldry of the Campbells, Volume II

Plate VII. from G. Harvey Johnston, The Heraldry of the Campbells, Vol. II, Edinburgh, 1921.
Plate VII. from G. Harvey Johnston, The Heraldry of the Campbells, Vol. II, Edinburgh, 1921.
Plate V. from G. Harvey Johnston, The Heraldry of the Campbells, Vol. II, Edinburgh, 1921.
Plate VI. from G. Harvey Johnston, The Heraldry of the Campbells, Vol. II, Edinburgh, 1921.

The Hills Keep Watch

Niall Diarmid Campbell, 10th Duke of Argyll, c. 1920; An Iodhlann, Tiree.

[W]hen an estate is so heavily burdened by an accumulation of debts inherited by its present possessor from the unwisdom of their forefathers. A point is ever reached … when the interest on money borrowed can no longer be paid and the lands themselves have to be sold. This in brief is what had happened not only with the lands we speak to you of, but of nearly all the lands which march with Ardkinglass. You will all of you recollect that it was but some 10 years ago that the neighbouring estate of Strachur which (with that of Ardgarten) was held for at least 9 centuries by a branch of our race passed into other hands. Drimsynie, Carrick, Ardentinny and Kilmun and even Dunoon all once part of the vast Barony of Ardkinglass and all held by younger sons of the parent stock have long since passed away, with the single exception of Dunoon which is still held by one of the old race. And though it seem but a span in the lifetime of a planet, and though the hills that keep watch, in their own unchanging silence, over the changing ownership of the glens, shall smile at the thought it seems a long time in the history of the race when we look back at the far off day when Cailein Oig first Laird of Ardkinglass with his three tall sons settled, in the place where in obedience to a predicted omen his hamper strings should snap.

Letter of Niall Diarmid Campbell, 10th Duke of Argyll, to the tenantry of Ardkinglas upon deciding to sell the estate (h/t Ardkinglas Estate).

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