A Purely Celtic Family

Portrait of George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll by George Frederic Watts;. National Portrait Gallery: NPG 1263

Yet from the moment that the standard of national independence was raised by Bruce, he had no more devoted adherents than among the purest Celts, whilst some of his bitterest and most dangerous opponents were the descendants and representatives of western and northern Clans who had collected under Norseman Chieftains. Among the earliest of his followers, and among the most constant, was the purely Celtic family from which I am descended—a family of Scoto-Irish origin—that is to say, belonging to that Celtic colony from Ireland which founded the Dalriadic Kingdom, and to whom the name of Scots originally and exclusively belonged. The name when it first appears in writing is always Cambel, and never Campbell, the letter p having been subsequently introduced in connection with the fashion which set in at one time to claim Norman lineage as more honourable than the Celtic. But the name as universally written for many generations is a purely Celtic word, conceived in the ancient Celtic spirit of connecting personal peculiarities with personal appellatives. “Cam” is “curved,” and is habitually applied to the curvature of a bay of the sea. The other syllable “bel” is merely a corruption of the Celtic word “beul,” meaning “mouth.” So, in like manner, the purely Celtic name of another Highland family, Cameron, is derived from the same word “Cam,” and “srón” the nose. But that portion of the Celtic race which first owned the name of Scots must have had in its character and development something which made it predominant, so that its name came to be that of the whole united Monarchy. Probably all its Chiefs had a memory and traditions which predisposed them to fight for that Monarchy as their own. Certain it is that Sir Nigel Cambel fought with, and for, the Bruce in all his battles from Methven Bridge to Bannockburn, and was finally rewarded by the hand of the Lady Mary, sister of the heroic King, who achieved the final independence of his Country.

— George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, Scotland As It Was and Is, Volume 1, Edinburgh, 1887, pp. 33-34.