Strangled by a Silken Cord

Monday, 25th October [1773].—My acquaintance, the Rev. Mr. John M’Aulay, one of the ministers of Inverary, and brother to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr. Johnson to the Duke of Argyle. We were shown through the house; and I never shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies’ maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inviting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought, for the moment, I could have been a knight-errant for them.

We then got into a low one-horse chair, ordered for us by the duke, in which we drove about the place. Dr. Johnson was much struck by the grandeur and elegance of this princely seat. He thought, however, the castle too low, and wished it had been a story higher. He said, “What I admire here, is the total defiance of expense.” I had a particular pride in showing him a great number of fine old trees, to compensate for the nakedness which had made such an impression on him on the eastern coast of Scotland.

When we came in, before dinner, we found the duke and some gentlemen in the hall. Dr. Johnson took much notice of the large collection of arms, which are excellently disposed there. I told what he had said to Sir Alexander M’Donald, of his ancestors not suffering their arms to rust. “Well,” said the doctor, “but let us be glad we live in times when arms may rust. We can sit to-day at his grace’s table, without any risk of being attacked, and perhaps sitting down again wounded or maimed.” The duke placed Dr. Johnson next himself at table. I was in fine spirits; and though sensible that I had the misfortune of not being in favour with the duchess, I was not in the least disconcerted, and offered her grace some of the dish that was before me. It must be owned that I was in the right to be quite unconcerned, if I could. I was the Duke of Argyle’s guest; and I had no reason to suppose that he adopted the prejudices and resentments of the Duchess of Hamilton.

I knew it was the rule of modern high life not to drink to any body; but, that I might have the satisfaction for once to look the duchess in the face, with a glass in my hand, I with a respectful air addressed her, “My Lady Duchess, I have the honour to drink your grace’s good health.” I repeated the words audibly, and with a steady countenance. This was, perhaps, rather too much; but some allowance must be made for human feelings.

The duchess was very attentive to Dr. Johnson.

I know not how a middle state came to be mentioned. Her grace wished to hear him on that point. “Madam,” said he, “your own relation, Mr. Archibald Campbell, can tell you better about it than I can. He was a bishop of the nonjuring communion, and wrote a book upon the subject’.” He engaged to get it for her grace. He afterwards gave a full history of Mr. Archibald Campbell, which I am sorry I do not recollect particularly. He said, Mr. Campbell had been bred a violent whig, but afterwards “kept better company, and became a tory.” He said this with a smile, in pleasant allusion, as I thought, to the opposition between his own political principles and those of the duke’s clan. He added that Mr. Campbell, after the revolution, was thrown into gaol on account of his tenets; but, on application by letter to the old Lord Townshend, was released: that he always spoke of his lordship with great gratitude, saying, “though a whig, he had humanity.”

Dr. Johnson and I passed some time together, in June, 1784, at Pembroke college, Oxford, with the Rev. Dr. Adams, the master; and I having expressed a regret that my note relative to Mr. Archibald Campbell was imperfect, he was then so good as to write with his own hand, on the blank page of my journal, opposite to that which contains what I have now mentioned, the following paragraph; which, however, is not quite so full as the narrative he gave at Inverary:

“The Honourable Archibald Campbell was, I believe, the nephew of the Marquis of Argyle. He began life by engaging in Monmouth’s rebellion, and, to escape the law, lived some time in Surinam. When he returned, he became zealous for episcopacy and monarchy; and at the revolution adhered not only to the nonjurors, but to those who refused to communicate with the church of England, or to be present at any worship where the usurper was mentioned as king. He was, I believe, more than once apprehended in the reign of King William, and once at the accession of George. He was the familiar friend of Hicks and Nelson; a man of letters, but injudicious; and very curious and inquisitive, but credulous. He lived in 1743, or 44, about seventy-five years old.”

The subject of luxury having been introduced, Dr. Johnson defended it. “We have now,” said he, “a splendid dinner before us; which of all these dishes is unwholesome?” The duke asserted, that he had observed the grandees of Spain diminished in their size by luxury. Dr. Johnson politely refrained from opposing directly an observation which the duke himself had made; but said, “Man must be very different from other animals, if he is diminished by good living; for the size of all other animals is increased by it.” I made some remark that seemed to imply a belief in second-sight. The duchess said, “I fancy you will be a methodist.” This was the only sentence her grace deigned to utter to me; and I take it for granted, she thought it a good hit on my credulity in the Douglas cause.

A gentleman in company, after dinner, was desired by the duke to go to another room, for a specimen of curious marble, which his grace wished to show us. He brought a wrong piece, upon which the duke sent him back again. He could not refuse; but, to avoid any appearance of servility, he whistled as he walked out of the room, to show his independency. On my mentioning this afterwards to Dr. Johnson, he said, it was a nice trait of character.

Dr. Johnson talked a great deal, and was so entertaining, that Lady Betty Hamilton, after dinner, went and placed her chair close to his, leaned upon the back of it, and listened eagerly. It would have made a fine picture to have drawn the sage and her at this time in their several attitudes. He did not know, all the while, how much he was honoured. I told him afterwards, I never saw him so gentle and complaisant as this day.

We went to tea. The duke and I walked up and down the drawing-room, conversing. The duchess still continued to show the same marked coldness for me; for which, though I suffered from it, I made every allowance, considering the very warm part that I had taken for Douglas, in the cause in which she thought her son deeply interested. Had not her grace discovered some displeasure towards me, I should have suspected her of insensibility or dissimulation.

Her grace made Dr. Johnson come and sit by her, and asked him why he made his journey so late in the year. “Why, madam,” said he, “you know Mr. Boswell must attend the court of session, and it does not rise till the twelfth of August.” She said, with some sharpness, “I know nothing of Mr. Boswell.” Poor Lady Lucy Douglas to whom I mentioned this, observed, “She knew too much of Mr. Boswell.” I shall make no remark on her grace’s speech. I indeed felt it as rather too severe; but when I recollected that my punishment was inflicted by so dignified a beauty, I had that kind of consolation which a man would feel who is strangled by a silken cord. Dr. Johnson was all attention to her grace. He used afterwards a droll expression, upon her enjoying the three titles of Hamilton, Brandon, and Argyle. Borrowing an image from the Turkish empire, he called her a duchess with three tails.

He was much pleased with our visit at the castle of Inverary. The Duke of Argyle was exceedingly polite to him, and, upon his complaining of the shelties which he had hitherto ridden being too small for him, his grace told him he should be provided with a good horse to carry him next day.

— James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson.

The Lad with the Curly Black Hair

LITTLE MARY OF LOCHOW.

It is a tale of true love that I am going to tell this time. You know what that means. A man and a maid, with trystings in the gloaming, and a breaking heart at every good-bye. If that was the whole of it, the tale would have an easy telling. But in this adventure of hearts there were three and not two who tried to strike the holy bargain—and when a third creeps in there is sure to be hatred and curses and a clenching of fists, with weeping for the maid before the end. It is hard for the Highland heart to love lightly, and when the other fellow comes between, the fire of hate leaps up in a moment, and the blows are struck before ever the one knows what he is doing or the other knows what he has done. Which shows, I am thinking, that a comely maid is held in great esteem among the hills and by the side of the sea lochs. For the measure of our love for a lass is the selfsame as our hate for the man who tries to steal her love from us.

It was in the Campbell country that it all happened, a good handful of days before the red-haired Lord of Argyle with his jury of Campbells sent James of the Glen to the hanging for the murder of Glenure. That would be a diverting theme to argue over, and it will come to the tip of my pen before long to tell you who killed the Red Fox—but not now. Oh no! this is a love tale. Like all our love tiles, it may be splashed here and there with blood and dool; for though Argyle had by this time taken philabeg and dirk from us, it will not be a thing to wonder at, I am sure, when I tell you that in Argyle’s own countryside there never was any scarcity of steel or tartan all through the time of proscribing. What was sin in Appin and Lochiel was aye God’s own truth in Inneraora. But to my tale.

The three of them were Campbells, which made the matter woree and worse. Little Mary Campbell of Lochow, Nial Campbell of Barbreck, and Colin Campbell of Innismore each of whom was own cousin by, I cannot mind how many removes, to Argyle himself. That is small matter of import, however, for when it comes to cousinship among the clans you may marry us and move us and mix us as you please, yet are we cousins still with no confusion of sentiment or forgetting of our proper lineage.

Little Mary was the sweetest of all the gentlewomen who were staying at the castle of Argyle. She had a head of hair that made envy loup in the heart of all the women—so thick and glossy and long was it, that the waitingmaids used to say it swept the floor of her retiring room like a shower of russet leaves in Autumn when she let it down. It was the real red hair of the Campbells—and when it was coiled on the top of her head it made an aureole of golden glory round the winsomest face that at that time was to be seen at the Court of Inneraora. Her cheeks minded one of a blush rose. Her neck was as white as the swan’s. Her eyes had in them the depths of the blue sea with its lights and shadows and all its mystery. And when she smiled, a pretty pair of dimples appeared from Heaven only knows where, and gave the bonny blushing face that witching power which made men quarrel to the death for very passion in their love of her. She was little and quick witted and mischievous. When she took the floor to tread a minuet she danced with the nimbleness and grace of a fairy queen. And when she laughed—it minded one most irresistibly of the ripple of waves along the sand on a fair sunlit day of Spring. This was Little Mary of Lochow.

Continue reading “The Lad with the Curly Black Hair”

Mouth of the Aray

[The castle and bridge, Inveraray, Scotland] print no. 13128, from the Detroit Publishing Co., catalogue J foreign section. Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Photographic Company, 1905.
[The castle and bridge, Inveraray, Scotland] print no. 13128, from the Detroit Publishing Co., catalogue J foreign section. Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Photographic Company, 1905.
[Inveraray from S. (i.e., South), Scotland] print no. 13126, from the Detroit Publishing Co., catalogue J foreign section. Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Photographic Company, 1905.
[Inveraray from S. (i.e., South), Scotland] print no. 13126, from the Detroit Publishing Co., catalogue J foreign section. Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Photographic Company, 1905.
[General view, Inveraray, Scotland] print no. 13125, from the Detroit Publishing Co., catalogue J foreign section. Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Photographic Company, 1905.
[General view, Inveraray, Scotland] print no. 13125, from the Detroit Publishing Co., catalogue J foreign section. Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Photographic Company, 1905.

Life Was Apparently Roses All the Way

Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, with Ian Douglas Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll, in 1952.
Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, with Ian Douglas Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll, in 1952.

I had wealth, I had good looks. As a young woman I had been constantly photographed, written about, flattered, admired, included in the Ten Best-Dressed Women in the World list, and mentioned by Cole Porter in the words of his hit song You’re the Top. The top was what I was supposed to be. I had become a duchess and mistress of an historic castle. My daughter had married a duke. Life was apparently roses all the way.

Forget Not: The Autobiography of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll.

A Policy Characterised by Cunning and Perfidy

Inveraray Castle, on the shore of Loch Fyne, Argyll.
Inveraray Castle, on the shore of Loch Fyne, Argyll.

After this period the rise of the Argyll family to power and influence was rapid, and the encroachments which had commenced with the branches of their own clan soon involved most of the clans in their neighbourhood; and their history is most remarkable from their extraordinary progress from a station of comparative inferiority to one of unusual eminence, as well as from the constant and steady adherence of all the barons of that house to the same deep system of designing policy by which they attained their greatness.

It would be inconsistent with the limits of this work to follow the history of this family farther, and the omission is of the less importance, as during the early part their history is identic with that of all the other Highland clans of no great notoriety; while in the later part, when they began to rise upon the ruins of the great families of the Isles, it becomes in some degree the same with that of the Highlanders generally, and consists principally of the details of a policy characterised by cunning and perfidy, although deep and far-sighted, and which obtained its usual success in the acquisition of great temporal grandeur and power.

William Forbes Skene, The Highlanders of Scotland, Vol. 2., London: Murray, 1837.

Argyll Pipe Banner

Torquhil Ian Campbell, 13th and 6th Duke of Argyll and Chief of Clan Campbell, together with the Duchess of Argyll, presents a new pipe banner to Senior Pipe-Major Martin MacDonald, on behalf of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Torquhil Ian Campbell, 13th and 6th Duke of Argyll and Chief of Clan Campbell, together with the Duchess of Argyll, presents a new pipe banner to Senior Pipe-Major Martin MacDonald, on behalf of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The Duke and Duchess of Argyll presented a pipe banner to the Royal Regiment of Scotland during the Inveraray Highland Games at Inveraray Castle. The Senior Pipe-Major for the British Army, Martin MacDonald, received the banner on behalf of the Regiment.

The pipe banner is embroidered with the badge of the Royal Regiment of Scotland on one side and the Duke of Argyll’s coat of arms on the other, symbolising his support for Scottish soldiers and in particular for Balaklava Company, 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) who have a historic link to Argyll.

Soldiers from Balaklava Company marched through Inveraray to the Games and were joined at the event by soldiers from The Highlanders, 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland and 51st Highland, 7th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (one of two Army Reserve Battalions in the Regiment) some of whom took part in the athletic events.

His Grace The Duke of Argyll said:

As a Campbell and an Argyll, it is a great privilege for my wife and I to be able to present this pipe banner to Balaklava Company, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and of course to carry on what is a very long association with the Regiment.

Captain Chris Hesketh, who was leading the Balaklava Company contingent at the Games, said: “As Scottish infantry soldiers we draw strength from the community around us and we will be proud to parade this symbol of support from The Duke and Duchess of Argyll. Balaklava Company is very proud of our heritage and we have relished the support we have enjoyed here at Inveraray, marching through the town and taking part in today’s Highland Games.”

(British Army press release.)

Inveraray Castle c. 1829

Drawing of Inveraray Castle by John Preston Neale,  p. 216 of Modern Athens, displayed in a series of views; or, Edinburgh in the nineteenth century; exhibiting the whole of the new buildings, modern improvements, antiquities, & picturesque scenery of the Scottish metropolis & its environs, by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (original drawings) with John Britton (text), London, 1829.
Drawing of Inveraray Castle by John Preston Neale, p. 216 of Modern Athens, displayed in a series of views; or, Edinburgh in the nineteenth century; exhibiting the whole of the new buildings, modern improvements, antiquities, & picturesque scenery of the Scottish metropolis & its environs, by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (original drawings) with John Britton (text), London, 1829.

Caisteal Ionaraora

A nearby marker reads: "The white stone pillars in the immediate foreground are on the site of the old Inveraray Castle. It was built early 15th. century by Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll. By the mid 18th. century had fallen into a state of disrepair and was replaced by the present castle."
A nearby marker reads: “The white stone pillars in the immediate foreground are on the site of the old Inveraray Castle. It was built early 15th. century by Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll. By the mid 18th. century had fallen into a state of disrepair and was replaced by the present castle.”

Old Inverary1 Castle (Caisteal Ionaraora)

The grey turrets of this old castle witnessed the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots when she came riding from Dunoon (Dun-odhain) with her retinue on a visit to her half-sister the Countess of Argyll — that Countess who was seated in the Queen’s closet at Holyrood at supper when the arras was drawn aside in the adjoining bedroom, and Ruthven’s ghastly form, clothed in full armour, gloomily surveyed the party, when all rose, and the Italian troubadour, David Rizzio, knowing his hour had come, clung shrieking to the Queen’s skirts, to be but rudely torn away and despatched with dagger-thrusts before her eyes.

There at the head of the table in the old hall, sat MacLean’s wife, Argyll’s sister, whom MacLean supposed drowned. The story of how the lady was saved from the rising tide on the island not far from Duart is well known, and how she fled to Inverary; how MacLean was induced to believe she had perished, and his letter to Argyll saying he would bring her body to Inverary, and bewailing her untimely fate,– are all sufficiently well known. But it may not be as well remembered that Argyll caused a room to be prepared for the body to rest in overnight; and how, when the dinner-hour came round, Argyll in bitter scorn introduced MacLean to his wife seated at the head of the table; and how through the entreaty of the injured wife, he was allowed to go free. It is on record that MacLean was fully armed, and that Argyll’s people who met MacLean at the top of Glen Ara (Gleann-aora), were not so armed.

In the old castle lived the Marquess of Argyll during the stirring times of Montrose’s wars. From here he wrote many a curious letter; and here he received correspondence from all parts of Europe, gave audience to those whom it suited him to receive, or abruptly ended an inconvenient discussion by leaving the room and closing the door — as will be related elsewhere.

There, too, lived Archibald, ninth Earl, who loved his fellow-countrymen, and declared that if heaven were half as beautiful as the glen or valley of Eas-a-chosain, he would be satisfied — who ended his career on the scaffold at Edinburgh, murdered by the legal tribunal of the day.

Here dwelt John, second Duke of Argyll and Greenwich; and here sojourned Earl Crauford of the 42d, who learnt to love the ways of the people among whom he lived, and became famous for his rendering of the national sword-dance — the ancient dance, not to be confounded with the modern sword dance.

There the Earl of Ilay (Ile), later Archibald, third Duke, planned the new castle a pistol-shot from this fine old place, and, alas! ordered the old one to be destroyed, as being no longer habitable.

Here Athole lived and raised the rents during the days of the attainder of the Argyll estates, and the Athole Highlanders made free with whatever they could lay hands on, as is elsewhere described in the depredations committed on the Campbell Clan by the Atholl men.

– Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

1 Now spelt “Inveraray”.

Ian Campbell, 12th Duke of Argyll

Ian Campbell, 12th Duke of Argyll and Chief of the Clan Campbell (28 August 1937 – 21 April 2001); in front of Inveraray Castle.
Ian Campbell, 12th Duke of Argyll and Chief of the Clan Campbell (28 August 1937 – 21 April 2001); in front of Inveraray Castle.

The Total Defiance of Expence

Armoury Hall in Inveraray Castle.

My acquaintance, the Reverend Mr John M’Aulay, one of the ministers of Inveraray, and brother to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr Johnson to the Duke of Argyle. We were shewn through the house; and I never shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies’ maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inviting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought, for the moment, I could have been a knight-errant for them. [Footnote: On reflection, at the distance of several years, I wonder that my venerable fellow-traveller should have read this passage without censuring my levity.]

We then got into a low one-horse chair, ordered for us by the duke, in which we drove about the place. Dr Johnson was much struck by the grandeur and elegance of this princely seat. He thought, however, the castle too low, and wished it had been a story higher. He said, ‘What I admire here, is the total defiance of expence.’ I had a particular pride in shewing him a great number of fine old trees, to compensate for the nakedness which had made such an impression on him on the eastern coast of Scotland.

When we came in, before dinner, we found the duke and some gentlemen in the hall. Dr Johnson took much notice of the large collection of arms, which are excellently disposed there. I told what he had said to Sir Alexander McDonald, of his ancestors not suffering their arms to rust. ‘Well,’ said the doctor, ‘but let us be glad we live in times when arms MAY rust. We can sit to-day at his grace’s table, without any risk of being attacked, and perhaps sitting down again wounded or maimed.’

The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell;
Monday, 25th October 1773: Inveraray.

Caisteal Inbhir Aora

Inveraray Castle from the south.

Inveraray Castle is the seat of the Duke of Argyll and Chief of the Clan Campbell (currently Torquhil Ian Campbell, Mac Cailein Mór). It is situated on the shore of Loch Fyne in Argyll near to the traditional county town of Inveraray.

The house is a mostly mid-XVIII Century neo-Gothic design. Work began in 1744, the third Duke having demolished the existing castle structure, and continued for forty years. The end product was not a castle in the traditional sense, but a classic Georgian mansion house on a grand scale.

An 1877 fire was the impetus for the construction of the third floor and the addition of conical roofs to the castle’s towers.

Designers who worked on the house include William Adam and Roger Morris; the interior includes a number of neoclassical rooms created for the 5th Duke by Robert Mylne. These are among the rooms open to the public. The 13th Duke and his family live in private apartments occupying two floors and set between two of the castle’s crenellated circular towers. Recent renovations included the installation of the house’s first central heating.

An aerial view of the Castle and gardens.

In 1975 a devastating fire struck the castle, and, for some time, the 12th Duke and his family lived in the castle’s basement while restorations requiring a worldwide fundraising drive were carried out.

Inveraray Castle is a Category A listed building. It is surrounded by a 16-acre garden and estate of 60,000 acres.