The Lairds of Glenlyon: Historical
JOHN CAMPBELL of Glenlyon who came afterwards to
be called, "An Coirneal Dubh""The
Black Colonel," received his commission as a lieutenant in the Black
Watch, or 42nd regiment, in December, 1744, but he was connected
with an Independent Company long before the regiment was embodied.
When appointed a lieutenant of the additional companies then about
to be raised, he was with the army in Flanders. His conduct at
Fontenoy attracted the notice of the Duke of Cumberland, and he was
promised a captaincy without purchase as soon a vacancy occurred.
That promise was fulfilled in March, 1748, when he was made an
additional captain ; but instead of remaining with the Highlanders,
he went on half pay, and almost immediately exchanged into the
Marines. The true explanation for this proceeding is to be found in
the strange fatalism of the man. From his boyhood to his grave he
believed that it was his fate to bear an inherited curse. As a man
who remembered him once told me"Bn duine air leth an Coirneal
Dubh, oir b'e bheachd fhein riamh gu'n robh seun mallachd
Ghlinne-comhann air!' "A man by himself was the Black Colonel;
for he ever believed that the evil spell of the curse of Glencoe was
upon him." It became his and Captain James Menzies of Comrie's sad
burden to be ordered to burn the houses, drive away
the cattle, and capture the persons of Perthshire Highland friends
and relatives who had been with Prince Charlie. They performed their
disagreeable duties with as little harshness, and as much
forbearance, as their orders and duty permitted. That, however, did
not save them from Jacobite obloquy, and the coarse satires of Allan
Stewart of Innerhadden. To young Glenlyon, whose father and brother
were fugitive rebels, the cross was particularly heavy. He
attributed his misfortune to the curse of Glencoe, and the feeling
that he was fated to drie an evil weird through a long life grew
upon him. The Caledonian Mercury of March, 1747, contains the
following paragraph :
"Lieutenant John Campbell of Glenlyon, and Ensign
John Grant of Glenmoriston, with a strong detachment from the
additional companies of the Black Watch, sailed in the fleet for
Flanders. When it was notified to the men that only a part of them
was to join the army, all claimed the preference to be permitted to
embark, and it was necessary to draw lots, as none would remain
Glenlyon fought with distinction through the
campaign in Flanders, and got his step without purchase; but when
his regiment returned to England in 1748, he exchanged into the
Marines because he wished to sever himself as much as possible from
all scenes and associations which recalled the curse of Glencoe. A
few Highlanders of his district followed him, however, rather
against his wish, into a branch of the service which had not
hitherto been popular with them. These men used long afterwards to
tell their children and grandchildren how the shadow of the curse
darkened Glenlyon's life wherever he went. They described him as a
man who seldom laughed, except on battle days, a stern
disciplinarian, but a just and kindly commander, who took greater
care of his men than of himself. "B'e car aid a dhaoine e's
b'e'n laoclis an iomairt e." "He was the friend of his men and the
hero in the strife," said a man whose grandfather had long served
under him, and who no doubt faithfully repeated that grandfather's
opinion of his commander.
He put the affairs of his estate in the best
order he could, and constituted his mother his factrix before
leaving for Flanders in 1747. From that year till 1769, he was
always on active service in different parts of the world. He was
with Admiral Rodney's expedition, and commanded eight hundred
Marines at the capture of Havannah in 1762. On that occasion he
earned not only a great deal of praise, but of prize money also. His
estate meanwhile had been cleared of debt. His motheradvised in
difficult cases by "John Campbell of the Bank,"proved herself
to be the best of managers. She and her daughters lived quietly,
plainly, but hospitably and happily, at Glenlyon House. For some
time after his rehabilitation, Archie Roy, the young ex-rebel, lived
with his family, and no one could, if we may trust the reports
handed down, go nearer extracting sunshine from cucumbers than he.
His sister Molly was also full of merriment, while Kitty was
sarcastic, and Jennie, the youngest, was quaint and credulous. In
1749, the Rev. Fergus Ferguson, minister of Fortingall, died, and
the Jacobites of the parish were far from sorry. They had done their
best to ostracise him; but he was not the man to stand that sort of
thing. It was whispered, however, that his death resulted from being
tumbled into the river, as if by an accident, out of the ferry boat
at Laggan, on a dark night, by a vengeful Jacobite. The plunge into
the wintry water gave him a cold, which he neglected, and the cold
carried him off. It was said that "he walked" after his death. He
had acted manfully and faithfully according to his conscience and
views, and if he was not to be stopped by trifles from keeping his
parishioners by all means in his power from rushing into rebellion,
after Culloden he appears to have acted more kindly towards the
rebels than some of them were prepared to act towards him.
Archie Roy, like his brothers John and David, was
well educated. They all possessed in a remarkable degree the gift of
writing sprightly, well-composed, and well-spelt letters. But the
Coirneal Dubh, until he retired from active service, was generally
content with sending home short business missives, and David was at
times prosy while some way or other the youngest brother always
bubbled over with light-hearted humour, even when he wished to be
solemn and serious. They all received their early education at the
Fortingall parish school, which had then an excellent classical
scholar as teacher, but I suppose they must have afterwards been to
St. Andrew's, or Edinburgh, before going out into the world,
although' it is sure in Archie's case that he had not been to
college before he followed Prince Charlie. He had however plenty of
time afterwards to complete his education. The sisters were by no
means so well educated as the brothers, perhaps because they could
not be sent, like the boys, to the parish school, and because
governesses were then scarce. Sarcastic Kitty could write smartly,
but her spelling was of the most irregular phonetic kind imaginable.
Molly wrote like a school-girl, with some trouble, and uncertain
efforts at correctness, while Jennie could do little more than just
sign her name.
On the 5th January, 1757, Archie Roy received a
commission as lieutenant in the 75 th Regiment, or Fraser's
Highlanders, the colonel and many officers and men of which were
ex-rebels like himself. The regiment was instantly sent to America.
It landed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in June, 1757. Many Glenlyon and
Fortingall lads followed Archie Roy to the field, as they did eleven
years earlier, when he was only a boy, to Prestonpans, Derby,
Falkirk, and Culloden. The 75th joined the expedition against
Lewisburg, and fought nobly throughout the whole of the war, which
ended in the British conquest of Canada. Archie Roy was one of the
officers wounded in the successful defence of Quebec, on the 28th of
April, 1760. It was supposed at first that he could not recover, and
although he did recover, and that quickly too, his wound gave him a
good deal of trouble for the rest of his life, and in the end
shortened his days. He received his commission as captain before he
was out of hospital, and remained at Quebec for the next two years,
and then returned home with his regiment, or at least with as much
of it as wished to return home instead of settling on land grants in
Canada. As the regiment was disbanded on coming home, Captain
Campbell retired from the service on half-pay, and lived at Glenlyon
House for some years with his mother and sisters.
The following case in which he acted as Major
Mac-pherson's agent, while at Quebec, shows how the purchase
system,worked in the old times.
"Copit of the claim given in by Capt.
Archibald Campbell to the gentlemen arbitrators.
I shall here lay before you, as briefly as I can,
everything relating to the purchase and sale of Major M'Pherson's
Company, late of the 78th Regiment.
"When the said major gave in his resignation,
October, 1760,Captain Campbell of the said regiment was recommended
to be his successor to the majority, and Lieutenant David Baillie
was also recommended, as purchaser of Captain Campbell's Company,
for both which the said major was to receive ^1,500 sterling to be
paid to him in the following manner:
"Major Campbell to pay ,£400 for the majority,
Lieut. Baillie to pay ;£8oo for the company, the lieutenant and
ensign to pay the remaining ^300 which made up the sum above
"Colonel Fraser engaged to give sterling bills to
this amount (on Baillie's account) if Lieut. Baillie was approved of
and got the company. On account of Baillie's youth and short
service, His Excellency, General Amherst, refused giving him the
purchase at that time, but gave Major M'Pherson leave to go home.
"On this occasion the major left a power in my
hands to receive the price of his company, and to give his
successor, or any concerned, discharges for the same.
"About the middle of March, 1761, Lieut. John
Nairn was recommended as purchaser of the said company, whose former
service and rank in the regiment instituted to the purchase,
preferable to Lieut. Baillie. Sometime in June following his
commission was sent to the commanding officer of the regiment, dated
24th April, 1761.
"In July after, Captain John Nairn paid j£6oo of
the purchase money in sterling bills of exchange, and made an offer
of ^400 more in cash to Major Campbell at the exchange of 4s. 8d. or
4s. rod. per dollar, as no bills of exchange could be purchased at
that rate in town. The said major or any concerned could not accept
of this money, as they could not remitt it home without a
"I Imagine, as Lieut. Nairn succeeded to Lieut.
Baillie's purchase, he is certainly liable to all the agreements
made with the said Baillie, as there was no other made with him, or
any other on his account.
"I beg that the gentlemen arbitrators will
consider theabove, and determine whether it is not in like cases
agreeable to the practice of the army^that Captain Nairn should be
made liable to pay the sum promised and agreed upon with Baillie,
and also the manner in which the same ought to be paid ; and lastly,
whether it is not agreeable to the said practice, that the purchaser
should pay the lawfull interest for the money agreed upon from the
date of his commission till the arrival of the bills, and until
these bills are accepted of; especially as the payment is so long
deferred, as in this case it is, and by what appears to me an
omission in the purchaser.
"I beg leave to inform you, gentlemen, that the
aforesaid sum of ,£400 lies still in Major Campbell's hands, dead to
the purchaser and seller since July last,
And am, &c,
"Copie of the Sentence of the Arbitrators.
"Whereas the Honourable James Murray, Esqr.,
Governor of Quebec, in behalf of Captain John Nairn, of the 78th
regiment, on the one part, and Captain Archibald Campbell of the
said regiment in behalf of John M'Pherson, Esyr., late major also of
the said regiment on the other part, have thought proper by an
instrument dated the 5th day of this present month of April, to
nominate and appoint us whose names are underwritten to be
arbitrators and umpires in a dispute arisen between said Major
M'Pherson and Captain John Nairn, in relation to a company purchased
by the latter from the former in the said 78th Regiment.
"We, the arbitrators, having taken the same into
our most serious consideration, and heard all that the several
parties had to say on the occasion, having also enquired into the
usual price paid for companies in the 78th Regiment, which we find
by the concurrent testimony of Captains Archibald and Alexander
Campbell of the said regiment, to have never at any time exceeded
one thousand pounds sterling.
"We, the said arbitrators, unanimously award that
Captain John Nairn do pay unto Major John M'Pherson the sum of one
thousand pounds sterling for the company according to the custom of
the said regiment, and as it would be the height of injustice for
Captain Nairn to be bound by a bargain made with his junior in the
same regiment, to whom on that account and by reason of his youth it
was of the highest consequence at any price to gain rank.
"As the delay of payment has been owing to Major
M'Pherson's claiming what does not appear to be his right, we, the
arbitrators, further judge that Captain Nairn should pay the four
"And that during the
said period he shall appoint Pat. Murray as his depute, and that Mr.
James Murray continue Clerk of Supply.
Campbell pay to the said Patrick Murray the like sum of £6$ during
his continuance in office, but with the burden of relieving
"For the foregoing
reasons the Arbitrators cannot think Major M'Pherson entitled to any
interest on the said purchaser's money.
"Given under our
hands at Quebec, this 6th day of April, 1762.
"P. jEMIS. IRVING.
"H. T. CRAMAHE.
"A true Copy, H. T.
In 1766, Captain
Campbell was a candidate for the office of Collector of Cess in
Perthshire. The Earl of Breadal-baneJain Dubh na rionnaig"Black
John of the Star," was his chief patron, and he had a good many
other friends, but as the issue was doubtful, he and other
candidates entered into the following strange agreement:
Coffee-House in Edinburgh. $th March, 1766.
preventing any struggle among the friends of Captain Campbell,
Captain Stewart, and James and Patrick Murray, three candidates for
being chosen Collector of the Supply, in the County of Perth, at
next annual election.
"That the friends of
these three parties unite their interest in the choice of Captain
Campbell as collector.
"That the captain
have the right of exaction as to the cess, so of the whole salaries,
fees, and perquisites thereto belonging.
"That during his
continuance in office he give security to Captain Stewart, annually,
for ,£65 sterling. lying in Major Campbell's hands in Sterling at
the Exchange, current in Quebec at the time that money was
deposited, said rate to be ascertained by two paymasters of
regiments, or two merchants at the option of the parties.
the collector of his salary establisht, or to be
establisht, by the county to the said James Murray as Clerk of
The Black Colonel, after twenty years' absence on
active service, paid a visit to his property and people in 1769. The
following letter to "Captain Archibald Campbell, Brother Germain to
Glenlyon," from the Laird of Macnab, fixes the date of his
"Dear Sir,This moment I was favoured wt yours,
and the verry agreeable news to me of Glenlyon's safe arivall in
good health, which I wish he long enjoy. The gardner here has
engaged with me thir three ensueing years ; and if he had not I
would have recommended him sooner than any of his business I ever
saw in this pairish. Fran and his brother went this morning for
Stirling mercat. The young terriers are sent, and as good in kynd as
ever I saw. How soon the lads return I shall have the pleasure of
waiting on Glenlyon, and family ; to whom my wife with me joyne in
compliments, and to the good old and young ladies, not forgetting
I ever am,
Your affectionate cusine and humble servant,
Kinnell, 30th October, 1769."
The "Fran" of the letter was Francis the heir of
Macnab. He was the last chief of his clan that possessed the
paternal acres, and a strange character he was. The reference to old
as well as young ladies, shows that the Black Colonel had the
pleasure of finding his motherwith whom he was always in closer
sympathy than he ever had been with his fatheralive on his return.
She died either that or next year.
Soon after the coming home of the Coimeal Dubh,
he and his brother the captain went out to shoot hares, patridges,
and whatever else they could find in the Cuil Wood, which was then
more extensive than it is now. They were attended by their
dependent, John Campbell, whose son, an old veteran of Abercromby's
expedition to Egypt, told me the story. It happened that the captain
fired at a hare while his brother stood in the line of his fire. The
horrified attendant shouted, "You have shot your brother," and both
he and the captain rushed to the colonel, who, showing them his
cloak riddled with shot, said to his brother: "Don't be
afraid. I am not touched. The curse of Glencoe is a spell upon me. I
have been in mortal strife many a time, and remained untouched by
ball or steel while friends and foes were falling round me. I must
drie my weird."
The colonel did not remain long at home. The
services of officers of his experience and proved capacity were in
high demand ; for the first upheaval of the American revolt had
taken place, and war was immediately expected. So he went back to
his marines, taking a few volunteers, who would not be denied, with
him. During the next two years he and his marines went here and
there, wherever they were told to go, and did as well as they
could whatever they were told to do. At the end of that time
occurred the incident which General Stewart relates as follows, and
quite accurately too, with this exception that he forgets to mention
it was the colonel himself who by extreme efforts had obtained the
man's reprieve :
"In 1771, Colonel
Campbell was ordered to superintend the execution of the sentence of
a court-martial on a soldier of marines condemned to be shot. A
reprieve was sent, but the whole ceremony of the execution was to
proceed until the criminal was upon his knees, with a cap over his
eyes, prepared to receive this volley. It was then he was to be
informed of his pardon. No person was to be told previously, and
Colonel Campbell was directed not to inform even the firing party,
who were warned that the signal to fire would be the waving of a
white handkerchief by the commanding officer. When all was prepared,
and the clergyman had left the prisoner on his knees, in momentary
expectation of his fate, and the firing party were looking with
intense attention for the signal, Colonel Campbell put his hand in
his pocket for the reprieve, and in pulling out the packet, the
white handkerchief accompanied it, and catching the eyes of the
party, they fired, and the unfortunate prisoner was shot dead. The
paper dropped through Colonel Campbell's fingers, and, clapping his
hand to his forehead, he exclaimed, 'The curse of God and of Glencoe
is here: I am a ruined man.' He desired the soldiers to be sent to
the barracks, instantly quitted the parade, and soon afterwards
retired from the service. This retirement was not the result of any
reflections or reprimand on account of this unfortunate affair, as
it was known to be entirely accidental. The impression on his mind,
however, was never effaced."
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