getting ones feet wet

Clan Campbell

Clan Campbell is historically one of the largest and most powerful Highland Scottish clans.


Origins of the clan

The origins of Clan Campbell are uncertain. The earliest attested Campbell is Gilleasbaig of Menstrie (floruit 1260s), father of Cailean Mór, from whom the chiefs of the clan are thought to have taken their style MacCailean Mór. The byname kambel is recorded at this time. Fanciful reconstructions derive it from the French de Campo Bello, but the likely source is the caimbeul, an Early Modern Irish or Gaelic by name meaning wry mouth, crooked mouth or twisted mouth.

Regarding the earlier ancestors of Clan Campbell, there is good evidence that the Campbells themselves traced their descent from an earlier kindred known as the Mac Duibne, or perhaps the Uí Duibne. It has been suggested that the family's early landholdings, around Menstrie, and in Cowal, were related to the partition of the Mormaerdom of Mentieth in 1213, and that Gilleasbuig may have been a kinsman of Mormaer Muireadhach Mór. The lands around Loch Awe, which would later form the core of their possessions, were not held at an early date.

The name begins to be established in Argyll at the end of the 13th century, as followers of the Earl of Lennox, with Campbells owning lands in Kintyre and the famous warrior Cailean Mór (Great Colin) knighted (1280) and established at Loch Awe. Cailean Mór's older brother established at Strachur forming the oldest branch of Clan Campbell, see Campbell of Strachur.

Between 1200 and 1500 the Campbells emerged as one of the most powerful families in Gaelic speaking Scotland, dominant in Argyll and capable of wielding a wider influence and authority in the Hebrides and western Highlands.

Wars of Scottish Independence

The family of Colin Campbell went on to become firm supporters of King Robert the Bruce and benefited from his successes with grants of lands, titles and good marriages. They fought for the Bruce against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 during the Wars of Scottish Independence. During the 14th century the Clan Campbell rapidly expanded its lands and power. This is partly explained by the loyalty of Sir Niall Campbell (Niall mac Caile), (d.1315), to the cause of Robert I of Scotland (the Bruce) – a loyalty which was rewarded with marriage to Bruce's sister Mary.

The family was closely associated with the Bruces and Stewarts in the time of Cailean Mór and his son Sir Niall mac Cailein. Cailean Mór was killed in battle against the Clan MacDougall, enemies of Bruce and Stewart, and Sir Niall was a staunch ally of King Robert Bruce. Cailean Mór's mother Affrica of Carrick was probably the first cousin of King Robert's mother, Marjorie, Countess of Carrick.

15th century & royal relations

Descendants of Sir Duncan Campbell, 1st Lord Campbell (Donnchadh) and his wife Lady Marjorie Stewart would be descendants of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland and Robert II Stewart, King of Scotland. Lady Marjorie Stewart, b. 1390 was the daughter of King Robert II's son, Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany. This would make all descendants of Sir Dunchan Campbell and Lady Marjorie Stewart descendants of Robert I Bruce and most of the early Kings of Scotland.

The first Lord Campbell was created in 1445. It was from the 15th century that the Campbells came to take an increasingly prominent role. The personal reign of James I of Scotland, saw that king launch a geat political assault on the Albany Stewarts and their allies in the west, however Duncan Campbell, 1st lord Campbell (Donnchadh), escaped the fate of his Albany kinsmen who were all either executed or exiled.

Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll (Cailean) was en-nobled as the Earl of Argyll in 1457 and later became Baron of Lorn and was also granted lands in Knapdale, signs that the Argylls were one of the major forces in Scotland. In 1493 after the forfeiture of the MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, the Campbell lords may well have viewed themselves as natural successors to the Clan Donald in terms of leadership of the Gaels of the Hebrides and western Highlands. The Campbell lordship thus remained one of the most significant bastions of Gaelic learning and culture in late medieval and early modern Scotland.

16th century & clan conflicts

17th century & Civil War

  • During the Civil War, the Clan Campbell fought as Covenanters. In 1644, the Clan Irvine, who were staunch royalist supporters, found themselves surrounded by Covenanter clans. The Irvine's Drum Castle was sacked on May 2, 1644 by the Clan Campbell. A chair with Drum symbols, now in the Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, is believed to have been taken from Drum Castle either in 1644 by the Campbells or in 1640 when a previous raid was carried out by General Robert Monro.
  • Battle of Inverlochy (1645), The Scottish Argyll Covenanter forces of Clan Campbell led by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll were defeated by the Royalist forces of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose mainly made up from Clan MacDonald, Clan MacLean and other MacDonald allies from Ireland. After the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645 James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose laid siege to Castle Campbell but was unable to beat the Clan Campbell defenders and failed to take the castle.
  • In 1646, the Clan Campbell, neighbours of the Clan Lamont, had steadily encroached the Lamont's lands. After the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645, the Clan Lamont took the opportunity to lay waste to the Campbell's territory. The following year, the powerful Clan Campbell army invaded the Clan Lamont taking their Castles Toward and Ascog. Sir James Lamont surrendered after accepting fair terms for his people, but the Campbells then slaughtered over two hundred of Lamont's men, women and children. Elsewhere, one tree was said to have carried thirty five bodies from its branches, and another thirty six men were buried alive. The two Lamont castles were decimated and Sir James Lamont was thrown into a dungeon for five years. This event became known as the Dunoon Massacre.
  • In 1647, the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, led by Stuart A Campbell, attacked and laid siege to Duart Castle of the Clan MacLean, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of the Clan MacLean.
  • Battle of Stirling (1648), The forces of Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll were defeated by the forces of Sir George Munro, 3rd of Obsdale who supported the Earl of Lanerick. Among Argyll's dead was William Campbell of Glenfalloch and Sir Colin Campbell of Ardkinglas killed in action.
  • Battle of Altimarlech, 1678, A battle took place between the Clan Campbell and Clan Sinclair. Legend has it that so many Sinclairs were killed that the Campbells were able to cross the river without getting their feet wet. Clearly, however, the Sinclairs had influence in high places as a few years later, in 1681, they regained the earldom by an order of Parliament.
  • In 1678 Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, son of the Marquess of Argyll, successfully invaded the Clan MacLean lands on the Isle of Mull and garrisons Duart Castle. Later in 1691 Duart Castle was surrendered by the Clan MacLean to the chief of Clan Campbell, Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll.
  • In 1692, 78 unarmed MacDonalds were murdered in the Massacre of Glencoe when a government initiative to suppress Jacobitism was entangled in the long running feud between Clan MacDonald and Clan Campbell. The slaughter of the MacDonalds at the hands of the soldiers, led by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, after enjoying their hospitality for over a week was a major affront of Scottish Law and Highland tradition. The majority of soldiers were not Campbells, but a roll call from a few months before included six Campbells in addition to Cpt. Robt. Campbell: Corporal Achibald Campbell, Private Archibald Campbell (elder), Private Donald Campbell (younger), Private Archibald Campbell (younger), Private James Campbell, Private Donald Campbell (elder), and Private Duncan Campbell. Retrieved from: Earl of Argyll's Regiment of Foot

18th century & Jacobite Uprisings

1715 to 1719 Jacobite Rising On 23 October 1715, chief John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll having learned that a detachment of rebels was passing by Castle Campbell, towards Dunfermline, sent out a body of cavalry which came up with the party and defeated it, taking a number of gentlemen prisoners, with the damage of one dragoon wounded on the cheek and one horse slightly injured. A month later the British government forces of Clan Campbell fought and defeated the Jacobites at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. However there were in fact a small number Campbells who took the side of the Jacobites led by the son of Campbell of Glenlyon whose father had commanded the government troops at the Massacre of Glencoe 22 years earlier. The two young men "buried the hatchet" and swore to be brothers in arms, fighting side by side in the Sheriffmuir. However the British government forces led by the Argyll Campbells defeated the Jacobites. The Black Watch

In 1725 six Independent Black Watch companies were formed. Three from Clan Campbell, one from Clan Fraser, one from Clan Munro and one from Clan Grant. These companies were known by the name Reicudan Dhu, or Black Watch. Taking advantage of the partisan nature and warrior instincts of the highlanders, these men were authorised to wear the kilt and to bear arms, thus it was not difficult to find recruits. The regiment was then officially known as the 42nd Regiment of Foot.1745 to 1746 Jacobite Rising During the Jacobite Uprisings of 1745 to 1746 the Clan Campbell continued their support for the British Government. They fought against the rebel Jacobites at the Battle of Falkirk (1746) where government forces were defeated. However shortly afterwards the Clan Campbell held out during the Siege of Fort William. The Jacobites could not defeat the Campbell defenders who had been well supplied. Eventually the Campbells sent out their own force from Fort William who defeated the besieging Jacobites and captured their siege cannons.

Soon afterwards men of the Clan Campbell who formed part of Loudon's Highlanders Regiment helped to finally defeat the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Campbell's castles

Clan profile

  • Origin of the name: Cam Beul (Gaelic for "Crooked mouth") (Surname)
  • Other Gaelic names: Cambeulach (Singular) &O Duibne (Collective)
  • Motto: Ne Obliviscaris (Latin for "Forget Not")
  • Slogan: "Cruachan!" (from the mountain north of Loch Awe, overlooking the bulk of the Campbell lands in Argyll)
  • Pipe music: "Baile Inneraora" (The Campbells Are Coming)
  • Plant badge: Bog Myrtle


Clan Campbell has several recognised tartans:

  • Campbell: More commonly known as the Black Watch tartan or the Government Sett. The Black Watch, first raised in 1725, was the first Highland Regiment in the British Army. All Campbell tartans are based upon the Black Watch tartan, as are many clan tartans. The tartan was used, and is in current use, by several military units throughout the Commonwealth.
  • Campbell of Breadalbane: This tartan may be worn by Campbells of the Breadalbane, or Glenorchy branches.
  • Campbell of Cawdor: This tartan may be worn by members of the Campbell of Cawdor branch.
  • Campbell of Loudoun: This tartan may be worn by members of the Campbell of Loudoun branch.



Septs of Clan Campbell

  • Arthur, MacArtair, MacArthur, MacCarter.
  • Bannatyne, Ballantyne, Blanton.
  • Burnes, Burness, Burnett, Burns.
  • Caddell, Cadell, Calder, Cattell.
  • Connochie, Conochie, MacConachie, MacConchie, MacConnechy, MacConochie.
  • Denoon, Denune.
  • Gibbon, Gibson, MacGibbon, MacGubbin.
  • Harres, Harris, Hawes, Haws, Hawson.
  • Hastings.
  • Isaac, Isaacs, Kissack, Kissock, MacIsaac, MacKessack, MacKessock, MacKissock.
  • Iverson, Macever, Macgure, MacIver, MacIvor, Macure, Orr, Ure.
  • Kellar, Keller, Maceller, MacKellar.
  • Lorne.
  • Louden, Loudon, Loudoun, Lowden, Lowdon.
  • MacColm, MacColmbe, MacLaws, MacLehose, MacTause, MacTavish, MacThomas, Taweson, Tawesson, Thomas, Thomason, Thompson, Thomson.
  • MacDermid, MacDermott, MacDiarmid.
  • MacElvie, MacKelvie.
  • MacGlasrich.
  • MacKerlie.
  • MacNichol.
  • MacNocaird.
  • MacOran.
  • Macowen.
  • MacPhedran, MacPhederain, Paterson.
  • MacPhun.
  • Moore, Muir.
  • Ochiltree.
  • Pinkerton.
  • Torrie, Torry.

See also


  • Boardman, Steve, The Campbells 1250–1513. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2006. ISBN 0-85976-662-4.

External links

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