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.

Bruce’s Siege of Dunstaffnage

Ground plan of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.

Courtyard of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.
West elevation of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.
Plan of battlements of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.

De conflictu regis Roberti contra Ergadienses

Eodem anno [1308] infra octavas Ascencionis beatae Virginis Mariae idem rex Ergadiensis devicit in medio Ergadiae et totam terram sibi subegit, ducem eorum nomine Alexandrum de Argadia fugientem ad castrum de Dunstafinch per aliquod tempus inibi obsedit, qui eidem regi Castrum reddidit et sibi homagium facere recusans, dato salvo conductu sibi et omnibus secum recedere volentibus in Angliam fugit et ibidem debitum naturae persolvit.

John of Fordun, Chronica Gentis Scotorum, cxxvi.

The king that stout wes stark and bauld
Till Dunstaffynch rycht sturdely
A sege set and besily
Assaylit the castell it to get,
And in schort tym he has thaim set
In swilk thrang that tharin war than
That magre tharis he it wan,
And ane gud wardane tharin set
And betaucht hym bath men and met
Sua that he lang tyme thar mycht be
Magre thaim all off that countre.

John Barbour, The Brus, x. 112-122.

Coigerach

The Coigerach (crosier, though the word itself signifies pilgrim or stranger) of St. Fillan in the Museum of Scotland.
The Coigerach (crosier, though the word itself signifies pilgrim or stranger) of St. Fillan in the Museum of Scotland.

Among the charters of lands, were found some documents of a less common character, and affecting less substantial rights, viz., the privileges attached to the custody of a certain relic of St. Fillan. Fillan, the son of Kentigerna, was of old reverence in the valleys of Breadalbane, and his monastery in Glendochart was still of such consequence in the time of William the Lion, that the Abbot, whether then a churchman or secularised, was named among the magnates of power to support the operation of a particular law beyond the reach of common legal process. It was a century later that a relic of St. Fillan is said (by Boece) to have been the subject of a notable miracle, which Bruce turned to account for encouraging his soldiers at Bannockburn. The story may be received as evidence of the reverence paid to St. Fillan in the historian’s time. That it continued afterwards, we learn from the following documents, though, I fear, they shew that his relics were degraded to the purpose of tracing stolen goods. The particular one which forms the subject of these instruments, the Coygerach, was known within the present generation in the hands of the family of Jore or Dewar, who so early vindicated its possession. It is the head of a staff or crozier of a Bishop or mitred Abbot, of silver gilt, elaborately and elegantly ornamented with a sort of diapered chasing. It is described and figured in the Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol. III., p. 290; and in Dr. Wilson’s Archaeology of Scotland, p. 664.

Two of these documents have been printed before, but from imperfect and faulty copies. They are now given for the originals:–

I.

Hec Inquisitio facta apud Kandrochid xxii die mensis Aprilis, anno Domini millesimo quadringentesimo xxviii., coram Johanne de Spens de Perth, ballivo de Glendochirde, de et super autoritate et privilegijs cujusdam Reliquie Sancti Felani, que vulgariter dicitur Coygerach, per istos subscriptos, viz.: Karulum Cambell, Reginaldum Malcolmi, Donaldum M’Arthour, Cristinum Malcolmi, Johannem M’Nab, Patricium M’Nab, Johannem Alexandri M’Nab, Johannem Menzies, Duncanum Gregorii, Dugallum Gregory, Duncanum Elpine, Alexandrum M’Austillan, Nicolaum Gregorij, Johannem M’Callura, et Felanum Pauli, Qui jurati magno sacramento dicunt, Quod lator ipsius reliquie de Coygerach, qui Jore vulgariter dicitur, habere debut annuatim et hereditarie a quolibet inhabitante parochiam de Glendochirde, habente vel laborante mercatam terre, sive libere sive pro finna, dimidiam bollam farine, et de quolibet in dicta parochia habente dimidiam mercatam terre ut predicitur, libere vel pro firma, medium farine, et de quolibet in ista parochia habente quadraginta denariatas terre, dimidiam modij farine. Et si quivis alius inhabitans dictam parochiam magis quam mercatam terre haberet nihil magis solveret quam ordinatum fuit de una mercata terre. Et quod officium gerendi dictam reliquiam dabatur cuidam progenitori Finlai Jore latoris presentium hereditarie, per successorem Sancti Felani, cui officio idem Finlaius est verus et legittimus heres. Et quod ipsa privilegia usa fuerunt et habita in tempore Regis Roberti Bruys et in tempore omnium regum a tunc usque in hodiernum diem. Pro quibus commodis et privilegijs, prefati jurati dicunt quod si contigerit aliqua bona vel catalla rapta esse vel furata ab aliquo dictam parochiam de Glendochirde inhabitante, et is a quo ipsa bona vel catalla rapta essent vel furata, propter dubium sue persone vel inimicitias hostium, eadem bona vel catalla prosequi non auderet, tunc unum servum suum vel hominem mitteret ad eundem Jore de le Coygerach, cum quatuor denariis vel pare sotularum, cum victu prime noctis, et tunc idem Jore abinde suis proprijs expensis prosequetur dicta catalla ubicunque exinde sectum querere poterit infra regnum Scotie. Et hec universa per dictam iniquisitionem fuerunt inventa, anno, die, loco et mense predominates. In cujus rei testimonium sigillum Johannis de Spens ballivi antedicti presentibus est appensum, anno, die, et loco supradictis.

II.

Another Instrument, not hitherto printed, records that on the 9th of February 1468, Margaret de Striveling, lady of Glenurquha,–

In curia de Glendochyrt tenta apud Kandrocht Kilin per balivum ejusdem a Johanne M’Molcalum M’Gregour petiit firmas suas de terris de Coreheynan. Qui Johannes respondebat plane in facie prefate curie coram omnibus ibidem existentibus denegauit et dixit quod non accepit assedationem dictarum terrarum a dicta domina Margareta sed a Deore de Meser et quod non tenebatur in aliquas firmas de terminis elapsis quia solvit illas dicto Deor’ a quo accepit prefatas terras. Testibus, Colino Campbel de Glenurquhay milite, domino Mauricio M’Nachtag et domino Roberto M’Inayr, vicariis de Inchecadyn et Kilin, Johanne de Stirling, &c.

III.

LITERA PRO MALISEO DOIRE, COMMORAN’ IN STRAFULANE.

JAMES be the grace of God King of Scottis to all and sindri our liegis and subditis spirituale and temporale to quhois knaulege this our lettre salcum greting. Forsemekle as we haue undirstand that our servitour Malice Doire and his forebearis has had ane Relik of Sanct Fulane callit the Quegrith in keping of us and of oure progenitouris of maist nobill mynde quham God assolye sen the tyme of King Robert the Bruys and of before, and made nane obedience nor ansuere to na persoun spirituale nor temporale in ony thing concernyng the said haly Relik uthir wayis than is contenit in the auld infeftments thereof made and grantit be oure said progenitouris; We chairg you therefor strately and commandis that in tyme to cum ye and ilkane of you redily ansuere, intend and obey to the said Malise Doire in the peciable broiking joicing of the said Relik, and that ye na nain of you tak upon hand to compell nor distrenye him to mak obedience nor ansuere to you nor till ony uthir bot allenarly to us and oure successouris, according to the said infeftment and fundatioun of the said Relik, and siclike as wes uss and wount in the tyme of oure said progenitouris of maist nobill mynde of before; And that ye mak him nane impediment, letting nor distroublance in the passing with the said Relik throu the contre, as he and his forebearis wes wount to do; And that ye and ilk ane of you in oure name and autorite kepe him unthrallit, bot to remane in siclike fredome and liberte of the said Relik, like as is contenit in the said infeftment, undir all the hiest pane and charge that ye and ilk ane of you may amitt, and inrun anent us in that pairt. Gevin undir oure priue sele at Edinburgh this vj day of Julij, the yere of God jm iiijc lxxxvii yeris and of oure regnne the xxvij yere.

JAMES R.

The Coygerach of St. Fillan was long afterwards known in the Highlands of Perthshire. The last of these deeds was registered as a probative writ at Edinburgh, 1st November 1734 ; and M. Latocnaye, who made a tour in Britain in this notice of the 1795, gives notice of the Relic,– “Ayant vu l’annonce d’une fameuse relique, en la possession d’un paysan aux environs, nous avons demandé à la voir. Elle ressemble assez au haut bout d’une crosse d’évêque, et est d’argent doré. Le bon homme qui nous l’a montré, et qui gagne quelque pen d’argent avec elle, vraisemblablement pour augmenter notre intérêt, nous a dit très sérieusement, que quand les bestiaux étaient enragés, il suffisait de leur faire boire de l’eau passée par l’intérieur de sa relique; l’eau bouillone sur le champ quand le remède ne veut pas opérer, (d’où on pourrait conclure qu’il opère souvent,) et que l’on venait de plus de cent milles chercher de son eau. . . Quoiqu’il en soit, j’ai été charmé de trouver une relique parmi les Presbyteriens.”

The Relic, it is believed, has been for some years in Canada, but whether it retains its virtues in the New World is unknown.

— reproduced in Cosmo Nelson Innes’ Preface to The Black Book of Taymouth: with Other Papers from the Breadalbane Charter Room, Edinburgh, 1850.

Fareweel Our Ancient Glory

Scottish association football supporter waives the Saltire in Trafalgar Square with Gig Ben in the background.
Scottish association football supporter waives the Saltire in Trafalgar Square with Big Ben in the background.

Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory;
Fareweel ev’n to the Scottish name,
Sae fam’d in martial story.
Now Sark rins over Solway sands,
An’ Tweed rins to the ocean,
To mark where England’s province stands-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English stell we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

O would, or I had seen the day
That Treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay,
Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour,
I’ll mak this declaration;
We’re bought and sold for English gold-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Such a Parcel o’ Rogues in a Nation, Robert Burns, 1791.

Tae Win Oor Liberty

Crucifixion of St. Andrew; Carlo Braccesco, 1495; Galleria Franchetti, Ca’ d’Oro, Venice, Italy.
Crucifixion of St. Andrew; Carlo Braccesco, 1495; Galleria Franchetti, Ca’ d’Oro, Venice, Italy.

By the cross oor Andrew bore
By the sword oor William wore
By the crown our Robert swore
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the falcon frae the glen,
Ca’ the eagle frae the ben
Ca’ the lion frae his den
Tae win oor Liberty

By the man wha’s faith was old
By the man they sold for gold
By the man they’ll never hold
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the thieves o’ Liddesdale
Ca’ the spears o’ Annandale
Ca’ the brave o’ Yarrowvale
Tae win oor Liberty

By the arm that bends the bow
By the arm that plies the blow
By the arm that lays them low
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the banners frae the West
Ca’ the raven frae his nest
Ca’ the clans that dance the best
Tae win oor Liberty

By the field that once was green
By the shield of silver sheen
By the sword in battle keen
Tae win oor Liberty
Bless the man wha’s faith we hold
Bless the man in chains they sold
Bless the man in cloth o’ gold
Wha’ won oor Liberty
Bless the man in cloth o’ gold
Wha’ won oor Liberty

Liberty, The Corries.

St. Conan’s Kirk

Rex Scottorum

Seal of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.

Innis Chonnel Castle

Innis Chonnel Castle is a ruined XIII century castle on an island on Loch Awe near Dalavich, Scotland. It was once a stronghold of Clan Campbell.

Innis Chonnel was one of the earliest Campbell strongholds, certainly from as early as 1308 until the present day.

The massive walls of Innis Chonnel crown the rocky southwestern end of a small island half way down the eastern shore of Lochawe. The island and the adjacent shore are now heavily wooded, as they would not have been in the time when the castle was occupied. The trees screen the view of the island from the road and also screen the view of the castle down the loch from the north. The island runs northeast to southwest and is less than an hundred yards from shore.

In the first half of the XIII century, a square defensive structure of high stone walls about eight feet thick was built on solid rock on the southwestern end of the island. The wall enclosed a courtyard and had one or more square towers at the angles. In Norman fashion these were of very shallow projection and mainly served as reinforcing buttresses to the corners which faced the northwestern end of the island, the direction most vulnerable of attack. Within the enclosed courtyard, lean-to buildings of wood and thatch originally lined the walls, as at Castle Sween.

For the first 150 to 200 years after construction, Innis Chonnel appears to have remained much as it was when first built. During the first half of the XV century, most likely in the time of Duncan, first Lord Campbell, the whole castle was fundamentally remodelled.

The one existing stone building standing out from the original walls into the courtyard at the eastern corner was altered at ground level to provide a new adjacent gateway and was also extended upwards to provide more accommodation. A new tower was constructed at the southern corner and outside the original walls. Along the full length of the southwest side of the courtyard a new range was built with vaulted cellars and store rooms on the ground level and a spacious Great Hall above, likely with a roof of timber trusses. At one end the Hall adjoined a Chamber in the southern tower, and at the other, a pantry and Kitchen. Access was by an outside stair in the western corner of the courtyard. A hatch in the floor of the Chamber gave access to a dungeon. The Hall had a gallery over the pantry or ‘screens’. Heating for the Hall appears to have been by a central hearth as there is no evidence of a fireplace such as is found in the Kitchen and Chamber.

Northeast of the castle and outside the main entrance door, there is a ‘middle bailey’ or open entrance court which is similar in size to the plan of the castle itself. Beyond are the ruins of a Gatehouse, outside of which the defensive walls of the `outer bailey’ can still be discerned, skirting an oval plateau now clothed in trees.

Western approach to Innis Chonnel.

The survey of the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments reports: “The castle has little recorded history. It was probably built by a founding member of the Campbell family on Loch Awe, of whose origins little is known prior to the appearance of Sir Colin (Mor) Campbell at the end of the 13th century. The castle itself was first specifically mentioned in October 1308, when it was being held by John of Lorne on behalf of Edward II (of England), but it was almost certainly one of three MacDougall castles mentioned, but not named, by John in a well-known letter written to Edward probably in the Spring of the same year.”

“Following the defeat of the MacDougalls, the Lordship of Loch Awe reverted to the Campbells, being confirmed in free barony to Sir Colin Campbell, son of Sir Neil Campbell, by Robert I (the Bruce) in 1315. Thereafter Innis Chonnel seems to have remained the chief stronghold of the family until the time of Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll (1453-93), who made Inveraray his principle residence.”

Ruins of Innis Chonnel Castle.

Despite the conclusion by historian David Sellar that the Cambels were ‘great territorial lords’ by the end of the XIII century, the question has been raised as to whether it was the ancestors of the Lochawe Cambels or the MacDougall Lords of Lorne who first built Innis Chonnel. The construction of such a massive fortification clearly required extensive resources.

The Cambel Lordship of Lochawe is said to have been based upon the northwestern shore of the loch about Kilchrenan. However their hosting-ground, presumably an indication of their earliest establishment, was on a point jutting into the western shore of the loch immediately opposite Innis Chonnel at Cruachan Lochawe. This place gave rise to the clan war cry “Cruachan!”

The relationship between the early Cambel ancestors and the (MacDougall) Lords of Argyll may well have been amicable initially. The killing of Sir Cailein Mor in 1296 may only have been the initiation of conflict. Certainly, as has been mentioned, the castle was in the hands of the MacDougalls by 1308, but whether it came into their hands following the death of Sir Cailein Mor at their hands in 1296 or was already in their possession is not clear.

There is some evidence that Fraoch Eilean castle at the northern end of Lochawe was a royal initiative started in 1250-75. Had the Cambel ancestors had such backing for the construction of Innis Chonnel, the resources needed could more easily have been found.

Sir Duncan Campbell who was Sir Cailein Mor’s great-great-great-grandson and the 1st Earl’s grandfather, was no doubt responsible for the extensive reconstruction and additions to the castle. He was raised to the peerage as first Lord Campbell in 1445 and died in 1453.

During the following two centuries, the Earls used Innis Chonnel as a place of confinement for political and criminal prisoners. The earliest recorded Captain was of the family of the MacArthurs of Tirevadich, but from 1613 the privilege passed to the Lorne MacLachlans. They survived until the early years of the last century when they still owned Craigenterve.

The castle is still owned privately by the Argyll family and is not open to the public. However it can be viewed from the shore road along the east side of the loch.

Castle Sween

Castle Sween is located on the eastern shore of Loch Sween, in Knapdale, on the west coast of Argyll, Scotland. It is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, having been built sometime in the late XII century. The castle’s towers were later additions to wooden structures which have now since vanished.

Castle Sween takes its name from Suibhne, who is thought to have built the castle. Suibhne is believed to have been a grandson of Hugh “the Splendid” O’Neill who died in 1047.

In the XIII century the Clan MacSween, or descendants of Suibhne, governed lands extending as far north as Loch Awe and as far south as Skipness Castle on Loch Fyne. In the later half of the XIII the MacSween lands of Knapdale passed into the hands of the Stewart Earls of Menteith.

By the time of the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacSweens took the wrong side, and when Robert the Bruce became King of Scots, he displaced the MacSweens from their lands. After Robert the Bruce had defeated MacDougall Lord of Lorne in 1308, he then laid siege to Alasdair Og MacDonald in Castle Sween. Alastair gave himself up and was disinherited by Robert Bruce who then granted Islay to Alasdair’s younger brother, Angus Og, the king’s loyal supporter, who also received the Castle Sween in Kintyre from the King.

In 1310, Edward II of England granted John MacSween and his brothers their family’s ancestral lands of Knapdale (though by then Castle Sween was held by Sir John Menteith). It is possible that this could be the “tryst of a fleet against Castle Sween,” recorded in the Book of the Dean of Lismore, which tells of the attack of John Mac Sween on Castle Sween.

In 1323, after the death of Sir John Menteith, the Lordship of Arran and Knapdale passed to his son and grandson. In 1376, half of Knapdale, which included Castle Sween, passed into possession of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, by grant of Robert II of Scotland to his son-in-law John I, Lord of the Isles.

During the MacDonald’s century and a half of holding the castle, the castellans were first MacNeils and later MacMillans.

Castle Sween from the loch.

In 1490 Castle Sween was granted to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, by James IV of Scotland.

In 1647, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Castle Sween was attacked and burnt by Alasdair MacColla and his Irish Confederate followers.

Our Beloved William le Walois

The Safe Conduct or the Wallace Letter, was written on 7 November 1300 by King Philip IV of France to his representatives in Rome. Wallace had left Scotland for France in the autumn of 1298 after his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk and his resignation as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert the Bruce. Written in Latin, the letter commands that the King’s ambassadors ask Pope Boniface VIII to agree to Wallace’s requests.

Philip by the grace of God, king of the French, to his beloved and loyal people appointed at the Roman Court, greetings and favour. We command you that you ask the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favour our beloved William le Walois of Scotland, knight, with regard to those things which concern him that he has to expedite. Dated at Pierrefonds on the Monday after the feast of All Saints [7 November 1300]. [Endorsed]: Fourth letter of the King of France.

Bannockburn in the Annála Connacht

Statue of Robert the Bruce by Pilkington Jackson, near the Bannockburn Heritage Centre.

A battle at Srub Liath in Scotland, where the flower of the English fell at the hands of Robert Bruce in doing battle for the possession of Scotland, where many earls and knights and numberless other men were slain, along with the Earl of Gloucester, he who of all the English was of most nobility and dignity and inherited the greatest estate.

— Annála Connacht (Annals of Connaught), Annal 1314.5.

We Call to Our Help and Assistance

Therefore, on account of the aforesaid wrongs and infinite other wrongs which cannot easily be comprehended by the wit of man and yet again on account of the injustice of the kings of England and their wicked ministers and the constant treachery of the English of mixed race, who, by the ordinance of the Roman curia, were bound to rule our nation with justice and moderation and have set themselves wickedly to destroy it; and in order to shake off the hard and intolerable yoke of their slavery and to recover our native liberty, which for a time through them we lost, we are compelled to wage deadly war with them, aforesaid, preferring under stress of necessity to put ourselves like men to the trial of war in defence of our right, rather than to bear like women their atrocious outrages.

And that we may be able to attain our purpose more speedily and fitly in this respect, we call to our help and assistance Edward de Bruyis, illustrious earl of Carrick, brother of Robert by the grace of God most illustrious king of the Scots, who is sprung from our noblest ancestors.

And as it is free to anyone to renounce his right and transfer it to another, all the right which is publicly known to pertain to us in the said kingdom as its true heirs, we have given and granted to him by our letters patent, and in order that he may do therein judgent and justice and equity which through default of the prince [i.e. the King of England] have utterly failed therein, we have unanimously established and set him up as our king and lord in our kingdom aforesaid, for in our judgment and the common judgment of men he is pious and prudent, humble and chaste, exceedingly temperate, in all things sedate and moderate, and possessing power (God on high be praised) to snatch us mightily from the house of bondage with the help of God and our own justice, and very willing to render to everyone what is due to him of right, and above all is ready to restore entirely to the Church in Ireland the possessions and liberties of which she was damnably despoiled, and he intends to grant greater liberties than ever otherwise she has been wont to have.

– Remonstrance of the Irish Chiefs to Pope John XXII, A.D. 1317.