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Other Pages of Historical Interest
Colin Campbell of Glenure
by J J Jardine from Scottish Journal, August 1999


After the Battle of Culloden (1746), the brother of King George II, Frederick, Duke of Cumberland (commonly called "The Butcher" ), set about destroying the clan system and Jacobite sympathies in the Scottish Highlands. Those sought out for special, spiteful and cruel punishment were the followers of Prince Charles Edward that remained in their lands. Cameron of Locheil ("Gentle Locheil") and the Stewart of Appin had fled to France and their lands, in many cases, were confiscated, the natives driven off and Factors (managers/supervisors) were put in charge of their lands. This handed a nice profit to the factors whose task it was to rent out the lands to outsiders.

Colin Campbell of Glenure, also known as "Red Colin", was not present at Culloden although he held a commission in Lord Loudens regiment during the uprising. After resigning his commission, Glenure became one of these factors, having sway over the Cameron lands of Lochaber and Stewart lands in Appin.

Let us pause a moment to reflect over the fact that most of the Scottish vs. English conflicts were in fact Scottish vs. English and Scottish. And so it was in the 1745 uprising. There was Scottish cavalry and foot soldiers fighting for the Hanovarian Government and quite a few clans came out for the Government such as Clan Gunn and Clan Campbell.

Colin of Glenure's Mother was a Cameron of Locheil which added to the hatred towards him by members of Clan Cameron as they considered him to be a traitor. By his zeal in evicting and persecuting the hapless people of Lochaber and Appin, he accrued a lot of money and even more enemies than was good for his personal well being.

An example of his actions can be found in an incident wherein he learned the whereabouts of a MacColl who had retrieved his own sequestered cattle. Colin set out to arrest him. Upon hearing of Colin's arrival, MacColl ran for it and Colin drew his gun. MacColls mother- in- law threw herself in the way and Colin shot her in the chest. Nothing more was said of this as Colin said that "she had no right to place herself between me and an outlaw".

The Laird of Fasnacloich owned some land on which some relatives of Colin were tenants. When the tenant's leases expired, Fasnacloich took back the land and re-let the lands to some Stewart relatives.  When Colin heard of this he flew into an uncontrollable rage and swore an oath that he would now make sure that no person of the Cameron name would own one piece of Lochaber; and not one person of the Stewart name would own  one piece of land in Appin.

An important part in this tale appears now in the person of James Stewart of Ardshiel, brother of the exiled Charles Stewart of Ardshiel.  He rented land very cheaply from Colin of Glenure. At one point he was even a sub-factor for Colin.  He collected the rents, kept as much of it as he needed for himself and gave the balance to his exiled brothers wife, The Lady of Ardshiel. She in turn used the money to assist exiled Jacobites in France. Some blabber-mouth reported this to Colin. After the prosecution and conviction of James (also known as James of the Glen), he was stripped of all his possessions and left impecunious. He succumbed to alcohol and through the drink became a loud mouth and a braggart. His behavior became bellicose and belligerent in tone. He never let a chance go by without bad-mouthing Colin Campbell of Glenure. A local wag, in front of a crowd seeking to have sport with James, asked him what he would do if he saw Colin Campbell hanging on the gallows. James unfortunately replied that he would pull on his legs. A remark like that alongside many others in the same vein were remembered; and would come back and (as we say today) bite him !

With so many people hating him, it is small wonder that there were attempts upon his life. The people of Lochaber knew where Colin usually took an afternoon stroll and the Laird of Callart took a gun and was determined to put a bullet through Colin and rid the Highlands of him. The plan went awry when someone accosted Colin and they went back to the house.   Callart spent the night with the Laird of Fasnacloich and it was probably there that the beginning of the plot to kill Colin was begun.

They convened a meeting between some men of Lochaber and Appin near a place called Glenstockdale, but far enough away that no shots could be heard. Those that met decided that as they only had three guns between them, the best shot should be fired from the best gun, regardless of ownership. Donald Stewart, a nephew of The Laird of Ballachulish, had a good Spanish gun; the Laird of Fasnacloich also had a Spanish gun; Dugald MacColl had a double-barreled Spanish gun called the "Slinneanach".  They all took turns at firing all three guns and it was decided that Dugald's double-barrelled gun, the Slinneanach, was the best gun and that Donald Stewart was the best shot. The Laird of Fasnacloich was the second best shot so he was chosen as companion to Donald Stewart.

Colin of Glenure and his nephew Mungo were returning from Lochaber where they had completed some evictions and collected some rents. He never felt safe in Cameron country, the land of his Mother - and who knows what his Mother thought of him -  and felt more secure in the lands of Appin and Argyle.

It was on that day, those who were to settle the final score put themselves into the order they had decided upon. Donald and Fasnacloich were on the southern bank of Loch Linnhe, after Ballachulish. Others in the plot, The Laird of Callart and the Laird of Onich were on watch at Onich; while Big Donald MacMartin of Dochnassay was at Corran with John Stewart (not to be confused with Ardsheil).

Colin, Mungo and a young ghillie named John MacKenzie passed Corran without mishap. Big Donald berated his companion, John Stewart, for being asleep when the party passed by - and he, in turn berated  Big Donald for being  late anyway. As the ill fated party passed Onich and now being aware of hostiles in the area, ghillie John MacKenzie rode closer to Colin to protect him. As MacKenzie was a local man and a neighbor, they were afraid to fire lest they hurt the wrong man.  Big Donald went after Colin's party until he reached Onich where the  Lairds of Callart and Onich had lain in wait. Big Donald was furious that they had passed unscathed again. He told them he did not care if MacKenzie was in the way or not, they should have shot them both. After berating them more he sat down and said that he would wait until he heard the shot from the other side of the Loch, as he was sure Donald Stewart and Fasnacloich would perform a better job than his bungling companions

Upon meeting the Laird of Ballachulish and refusing his offer of overnight hospitality; also refusing to listen to Archie MacInnes,the ferryman with one eye and second sight, Colin crossed that part of Loch Linnhe and proceeded in the direction of Ardsheil where he had some important evictions to perform.

Colin and Mungo rode ahead of Laird Ballachulish and the ghillie. Colin and Mungo reached the Black Rock near the entrance to the woods at Lettermore. It was there that Donald fired the long double-barreled "Slinneanach" and two balls hit Colin in his left side between his ribs and armpit. His horse reared and threw Colin against a post and to the ground. He never spoke again.

As Mungo tried to staunch the life's blood that was flowing out of his uncle, there passed a woman with a new linen shawl around her shoulders. Mungo asked her to sell it to him and she replied in the negative saying that she had bought the shawl at the shop and if he wanted one then he should go and buy one himself.  Mungo pleaded that this was Colin Campbell of Glenure and he had been shot and was dying, to which  she is supposed to have replied, "Then let the hunter drink his soup".

Mungo sent John MacKenzie to get help from a relative at Kentallan. The relative not being home, he rode on to Aucharn where he told James Stewart of Ardshiel the horrifying news. James wanted to go and help as, asked to, but his wife forbade it. She was afraid of what would happen to him in the midst of so many Campbells.  Reminding himself of his past boasting and bitter utterances against Glenure;  he said that no matter who did it , they would blame him.

And blame him they did. He was arrested, tried and convicted on perjured testimony and hanged.  This became a very famous case in Scottish legal history which deserves a complete story of its own and has already been written about extensively (See "Notable British Trials" by D.N.Mackay).

Now we have the aftermath of the trial. The Campbell Clan ransacked the Appin territories looking for recompense. Someone informed the Sheriff that the Laird of Fasnacloich had been seen the same day as the murder, armed and on the moors. he was brought in and tried and acquitted for lack of evidence

A new character appears in the person of a gentleman named Allan Breck. There were not many gentlemen in the region who could be counted upon to be above suspicion and they feared for their lives and their property. On receipt of a certain amount of money, Allan Breck of the Stewart clan fled to France and wrote a letter of confession to the killing of Colin. The letter did not arrive in time to help James Stewart of  Ardsheil. Breck joined the French army and received a commission and fought in the British-French war in North America. A story  handed down relates that Breck's French troops had encircled the British force and would annihilate them at dawn. Breck went to the British camp where he knew there were many men from Argyle and out of kinsmanship, left a break in the circle by which they could escape. While he was with the men of Argyle, he gave the officer a letter recanting his confession to the murder.

Some years later the same nephew  of the  Laird of Ballachulish, Donald Stewart, was out hunting on the moor with the younger brother of Colin Glenure, Alexander. Donald had the long double-barreled "Slinneanach" with him and shot a stag. Upon inspection Alexander noted that the two balls were exactly the same as those that shot his brother. Donald retorted that if Alexander suspected him in complicity of his brother's death, then he would not leave this moor alive today. Alexander backed down but their friendship cooled after that incident.

General John Campbell of Manmore succeeded as the new Duke of Argyle and was made inspector of all Scottish castles. Part of his route passed near Ballachulish whereupon the Laird went out and offered the Duke overnight hospitality. After ingratiating himself into the Duke's good graces, the Duke gave them a parcel of woodland from which he may earn an extra living.  The relations between the Campbells and Stewarts grew warmer than at any time since the murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure.

This is only one of the legends concerning the demise of Colin Campbell of Glenure but I do think that it is the more romantic and probably as close to the truth as we may get.

The letter from Allan Breck would have cleared James Stewart if it had arrived in time. Now the actual culprits will never be officially known and the killers did go free.

The present chief of the Clan Campbell, H.G. Ian, Duke of Argyle, is reported to have remarked soon after his succession that he seemed to be spending a lot of time apologizing for his ancestors.  No need for an apology this time, Your Grace!



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