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The Great Historic Families of Scotland
The Campbells of Breadalbane


THE Campbells of Breadalbane are the most powerful branch of the house of Argyll; indeed, in the extent and value of their estates they surpass the parent stock. They are descended from Sir Colin Campbell, third son of Duncan, first Lord Campbell of Lochaw, by Marjory Stewart, daughter of Robert, Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland. In the ‘Black Book of Taymouth,’ printed by the Bannatyne Club, from an old manuscript preserved in Taymouth Castle, it is stated that ‘Duncan Campbell, commonly called Duncan in Aa, Knight of Lochaw (lineallie descendit of a valiant man surnamit Campbell quha cam to Scotland in King Malcolm Kandmore his time, about the year of God 1067, of quhom came the house of Lochaw) flourished in King David Bruce his dayes. The foresaid Duncan begat twa sons, the elder callit Archibald, the other namit Colin, wha was first laird of Glenurchay.’ That estate was bestowed on him by his father. It was the original seat of the M’Gregors, who were settled there as early as the reign of Malcolm Canmore. It was gradually wrested from them by the Campbells in pursuance of the hereditary policy of their family, and in the reign of David II. they managed to procure a legal title to the lands of Glenorchy, but the M’Gregors continued for a long time to retain possession of their ancient inheritance by the strong hand. Sir C0LIN CAMPBELL, the founder of the Glenorchy or Breadalbane branch of the clan, Douglas says, ‘was a man of high renown for military prowess and for the virtues of social and domestic life. He was a stream of many tides against the foes of the people, but like the gale that moves the heath to those who sought his aid.’ He was born about A.D. 1400, and, says the ‘Black Book,’ ‘throch his valiant actis and manheid maid knicht in the Isle of Rhodes, quhilk standeth in the Carpathian Sea near to Caria and countrie of Asia the Less, and he was three sundrie tymes in Rome.’ After the murder of James I., in 1437, Sir Colin took prompt and active measures to bring the assassins to justice, and succeeded in capturing two of them, named Chalmers and Colquhoun. For this service James II. afterwards conferred upon him the barony of Lawers. In 1440 Sir Colin erected the Castle of Kilchurn (properly Coalchuirn) on a rocky promontory at the east end of Loch Awe, under the shadow of the majestic Ben Cruachan, at no great distance from the Pass of Brander, where the M’Dougalls of Lorne were defeated by Robert Bruce. This ‘child of loud-throated war,’ as the castle is termed by Wordsworth, is now a picturesque ruin, which has been repeatedly sketched by eminent painters. [‘From the top of the hill,’ says Miss Wordsworth in her Journal, ‘a most impressive scene opened upon our view—a ruined castle on an island (for an island the flood had made it) at some distance from the shore, backed by a cove of the mountain Cruachan, down which came a foaming stream. The castle occupied every foot of the island that was visible, thus appearing to rise out of the water. Mists rested upon the mountain-side, with spots of sunshine; there was a wild desolation in the low grounds, a solemn grandeur in the mountains, and the castle was wild yet stately—not dismantled of turrets nor the walls broken down, though obviously a ruin.’—See ‘Address to Kilchurn Castle, upon Loch Awe,’ Wordsworth’s Poetical Works, pp. 117—125.]

According to tradition, Kilchurn Castle was built by Sir Colin’s lady during his absence in the Holy Land on a crusade, and the greater part of the rents of his lands during seven years is said to have been expended on its erection. An old legend ascribes to Sir Colin an incident which has been frequently told of other barons who have chosen to remain long absent from home, and is embodied in Sir Walter Scott’s ballad of the ‘Noble Moringer,’ translated from the German. It is said that during his long absence Sir Colin had a remarkable dream, which a monk to whom he related it told him was intended to warn him of an impending domestic calamity that could only be averted by his presence in his own castle. He immediately hastened to Scotland with all possible speed, and arrived at a place called Succoth, where an old woman dwelt who had been his nurse. In the disguise of a beggar he solicited from her food and shelter for the night, which was readily granted. She recognised him by a scar on his arm, and informed him that as a report had been spread that he had fallen in battle in the Holy Land, and as no tidings had been received of him during his long absence, his wife believed that he was dead, and was about to marry another husband on the following day. It turned out that the messengers whom Sir Colin had repeatedly sent with intelligence to his wife of his welfare had been intercepted and murdered by a neighbouring chief, named M’Corquodale, who had at length succeeded in persuading the lady that she was a widow, and had obtained the promise of her hand. Early next morning Sir Colin, still disguised as a beggar, set out for his castle of Kilchurn, and readily obtained entrance into the courtyard, which on this festive occasion stood open to all comers. On being accosted by one of the servants, he asked that his hunger might be satisfied and his thirst quenched. Food and liquor were immediately placed before him. He partook of the former but refused the latter, unless it was given him by the lady herself. On being informed of the poor man’s wish, she approached and handed him a cup of wine. Sir Colin drank her health, and dropping a ring into the empty cup returned it to her. On examining the ring she at once recognised it as one she had given to her husband on his departure, and threw herself into his arms. M’Corquodale was permitted to depart unmolested, but he was subsequently punished for his treachery by Sir Colin’s son, who attacked him and expelled him from his castle and lands.

The legend turns on an incident which, as Sir Walter Scott remarks, was not unlikely to happen in more instances than one when crusaders abode long in the Holy Land, and their disconsolate dames received no tidings of their fate. A story very similar in circumstances is told of one of the Braidshaighs, the ancient lords of Haigh Hall, in Lancashire, now possessed by the Earl of Crawford, their descendant in the female line. The particulars are represented in a stained-glass window in that old manor-house, and are narrated at length in the family genealogy. Sir Walter mentions that he adopted the idea of the tale of ’The Betrothed’ from the Haigh Hall tradition.

Sir Colin was four times married. His second wife was one of three daughters and co-heiresses of the Lord of Lorne, with whom he received a third of the estates of that ancient and powerful clan, still possessed by his descendants, and thenceforward quartered the galley of Lorne with his paternal coat of arms. His nephew, the first Earl of Argyll, to whom he was guardian, married another of these heiresses. By his fourth wife, a daughter of Stirling of Keir, Sir Colin had a son named John, who was the ancestor of the Earls of Loudoun.

SIR DUNCAN CAMPBELL, Sir Colin’s eldest son, obtained in 1498 the office of Bailiary of the King’s lands of Discher, Foyer, and Glenlyon, with the view, it is supposed, of strengthening the efforts of the Campbells to ‘cut off the tribe of the M’Gregors root and branch.’ The office was hereditary, and on the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions in Scotland in 1747, the second Earl of Breadalbane received the sum of one thousand pounds in full of his claim of six thousand. Sir Duncan appears to have been very successful in carrying out the acquisitive policy of the Campbells, for he obtained grants of the crown lands at the port of Loch Tay, along with the lands of Glenlyon, Finlarig, which became the burying-place of the family, and other property in Perthshire. Sir Duncan was killed at Flodden, along with his chief, the Earl of Argyll, and his sovereign. Of his four sons, the eldest, COLIN, succeeded him as third laird of Glenorchy, and the second was the ancestor of the Campbells of Glenlyon, one of whom commanded the soldiers who perpetrated the shocking massacre of Glencoe. Sir Colin is mentioned as having ‘biggit the chapel of Finlarig to be ane burial for himself and posteritie.’ His three sons enjoyed the paternal estates in turn, and the last of these, another Sir Colin, who became Laird of Glenorchy in 1550, ‘conquessit the superiority of M’Nabb his haill landis.’ The M’Nabs were an ancient clan who at one time possessed considerable property on the banks of the Docherty, near Killin, on the right side of Loch Tay, but their lands were long ago incorporated with the vast estates of the Breadalbane family. Sir Colin carried out in all its severity the ruthless policy of the Campbells against the M’Gregors, and he is said in the ‘Black Book of Taymouth’ to have ‘behiddet the laird of M’Gregor himself at Kandmoor in presence of the Erle of Athol, the Justice-Clerk, and sindrie other noblemen.’ It was this laird who erected the castle of Balloch, the site of which is now occupied by the splendid mansion of Taymouth Castle. When asked why he had built his house so near the extremity of his estate, he replied, ‘We’ll brizz yont’ (press onward). The possessions of the family have however extended in the opposite direction.

The documents preserved in the Breadalbane charter-chest, of which an account is given by the late Dr. Stuart in the ‘Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts,’ throw great light on the state of society in the central Highlands at this period, and mention various usages and modes of life which were quite unknown in the Lowlands of Scotland. One of these was the practice of adoption, repeated examples of which occurred in the Breadalbane family. Thus on 31st July, 1535, John M’Gillespic, at the castle of Glenorchy, ‘having in view his own good and that of his son and offspring, then received John Campbell of Glenorchy as his own son, and took him on his knee, calling him "uilium adoptivum," that is to say, his chosen son; and then, he being thus on his kn’ee, delivered to the said John all and whole the half of his goods, movable and immovable.’ A few years after this, by another instrument, John McBay and his wife took the said John Campbell of Glenorchy as a bairn of their own, and their special overman, and delivered to him a glove in token of all their goods and of his right to a bairn’s part thereof after their decease. And for farther security they gave their oath on the Mass - book and touched the Holy Gospels to observe the present obligation and gift.

Another long series of documents exhibits in operation the custom of fosterage, which was long prevalent and exerted great influence in the Highlands. By one of these, dated at Glenorchy, 12th August, 1584, Duncan Campbell of Duntrune, and his wife, acknowledged to have received in fosterage Colin Campbell, son and heir of Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy.

The Laird of Glenorchy had himself been fostered in the house of Duntrune; and with the view of perpetuating the love and favour existing between the houses of Glenorchy and Duntrune, it was agreed by the Laird of Duntrune that Agnes his wife should receive the said Colin in fostering, she promising to be to him a favourable and loving foster-mother; and when he reached the age for going to the schools, to do her duty to him in all things according to the custom and condition of a favourable foster-mother. And for the more sure declaration of her good will towards her foster-son, and to move him the more to do his duty to his brethren and friends hereafter, the said Agnes disponed to him a bairn’s part of all the goods belonging to her at the time of her death.

On the other hand, the said Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy, having in recollection his own fostering in the house of Duntrune, and the present delivery of his son to the said Agnes, he therefore promised to be a true and constant friend to her and his brethren [fosterbrothers], to receive her and them in heartlie kindness and favour, and to defend them in all their lawful actions and quarrels, the authority of the Earl of Argyll being excepted.

By another contract, dated at the castle of Glenorchy, 5th November, 1580, Duncan Campbell, Fiar of Glenorchy, gave his son and heir, Duncan, in fosterage to his native servant, Gillecreist Macdonchy Duff Vic Nokerd, and Katherine Neyn Douill Vikconchy, his spouse, to be sustained by them and nourished till he be sent to the schools, and to maintain him at the schools with reasonable support; the said father and foster-father giving between them of makhelve goods to the foster-child at Beltane the value of 200 merks of cows, and two horses or two mares worth forty merks, which, with their increase, were to belong to the child, but the milk to the foster-parents, so long as they maintained him and till his going to the schools. If the child should die before he is sent there, his father agrees to send another of his children, ‘lass or lad,’ to be fostered in his stead, the foster-parents in either case being bound to leave at their death a bairn’s part of gear, as much as they leave to their own children, lands being excepted.

By these arrangements, as Dr. Stuart remarks, a close tie was formed between the chief and the neighbouring clans and families, by which the whole members were bound together for mutual aid at times when the protection of the law was weak, or could not penetrate into the remote districts which were the scene of action. An even closer tie was thus formed between the chief and the minor dunniewassels of his own clan. It was no uncommon occurrence for foster-brothers to protect him from danger by the sacrifice of their own lives.

Another series of papers gives examples of those bonds of man-rent service which were entered into with a like object between the Lairds of Glenorchy and the heads of the neighbouring tribes and families. Thus on the 2nd of June, 1548, the M’Gillekeyrs agree for themselves and their successors that they have chosen, an honourable man, John Campbell of Glenorchy, to be their chief and protector in all just actions, ‘as ane cheyf dois in the countries of the Helandis;’ and when any of them died they were to leave to him ‘ane cawylpe of kenkynie’ (the best four-footed beast in their possession at the time of their death), as is usual in the neighbouring district; and among other obligations undertaken by them were those ‘of ryding and ganging on horse and on futt in Heland and Lowland.’ This right was at times transferred by one chief to another, as when Archibald, Earl of Argyll, on 24th December, 1566, conveyed to Colin Campbell of Glenorchy the man-rent service and calps due to him and his predecessors by the Clantyre in Balquhidder, because they were nearer to the said Colin, and he was therefore better able to protect them. At other times the transference originated on the other side. Thus in 1552 Gregor M’Gregor, son to the Dean of Lismore, and Donald Beg M’Acrom and his brethren in the Brae of Weem, with many other families, renounced the Laird of M’Gregor as their chief, and bound themselves to Colin Campbell of Glenorchy and his heirs as their perpetual chief in the usual form, agreeing to bequeath to them their calps.

Other obligations undertaken were to visit the chief’s house ‘with suitable presents twice in the year,’ and to give him and his heirs reasonable help and support when they have lands to redeem or buy, daughters to marry, or any other good or honourable turns ado, tending to the advancement or weal of their house. They were also to attend and serve in hosting and hunting, and to pass out at all times to the watch with the chief and his tenants for preserving the country from the incursions of malefactors. In the case of the Tutor of Inverawe it is specified that in addition to these services he and his tenants were to help Sir Duncan home with wine every summer, as the rest of the lairds did, and that they were to bring in no claimed men upon the lands, nor dispose his kindness thereof to any other, excepting his own heirs and surname of the clan Donochie, without Sir Duncan’s consent.

Sir Colin was succeeded by SIR DUNCAN CAMPBELL, his eldest son, usually termed Donacha dhu na Curich, Black Duncan o the Cowl, who seems to have been a man of considerable force of character, but unscrupulous and treacherous. He was appointed by James VI., 18th May, 1590, one of the barons to assist at the coronation of his queen, Anne of Denmark, when he received the honour of knighthood. Sir Duncan was one of the six guardians of the young Earl of Argyll appointed by the will of his father, the sixth Earl, in 1584, all of them cadets of the family, and one of their number, Campbell of Lochnell, was the nearest heir to the earldom. Sir Duncan was deeply implicated in the conspiracy to which the Lord Chancellor, Lord Maitland of Thirleston, and the Earl of Huntly were parties, to murder the Earl of Argyll, Campbell of Calder or Cawdor, one of his guardians, and the Earl of Moray (see ARGYLL FAMILY). Mr. Gregory, in his ‘History of the Western Islands and Highlands,’ expressly charges Sir Duncan Campbell with being the principal mover in the plot which led to the murder of Calder. ‘Glenorchy,’ he says, ‘knowing the feelings of personal animosity cherished by Campbell of Ardkinglas, his brother-in-law, against Calder, easily prevailed upon the former to agree to the assassination of their common enemy, with whom Glenorchy himself had now an additional cause of quarrel arising from the protection given by Calder to some of the clan Gregor who were at feud with Glenorchy. After various unsuccessful attempts, Ardkinglas procured, through the agency of John Oig Campbell of Cabrachan, a brother of Lochnell, the services of a man named M’Kellar, by whom Calder was assassinated with a hackbut supplied by Ardkinglas, the fatal shot being fired at night through one of the windows of the house of Kepnoch, in Lorne, when Calder fell pierced through the heart with three bullets. Owing to his hereditary feud with Calder, Ardkinglas was generally suspected as the instigator of this murder, and being in consequence threatened with the vengeance of the young Earl of Argyll, Glenorchy ventured to communicate to him the plan for getting rid of the Earl and his brother, and for assisting Lochnell to seize the earldom. Ardkinglas refused, though repeatedly urged, to become a party to any designs against the life of the Earl, and proposed to make his peace with Argyll by disclosing the full extent of the plot. The inferior agents, John Oig Campbell and M’Kellar, were both executed, but all the influence of Calder’s relations and friends could not obtain the punishment of any of the higher parties. Glenorchy was allowed to clear himself of all concern in the plots attributed to him by his own unsupported and extrajudicial denial in writing. He offered to abide his trial, which he well knew the Chancellor Thirlstane and the Earl of Huntly were deeply interested in preventing.

Though Sir Duncan was ambitious and grasping like his race, and utterly unprincipled, he was distinguished for his efforts in building, planting, and improving his estates, and in stimulating the industrious habits of his clan. He employed artists to decorate his house, and at a later period he was one of the most liberal patrons of George Jamesone, the Scottish Vandyke. He lived in a style which shows the mistaken notions cherished by those who imagine that at this period the Highlanders were in a state of barbarism and poverty.

The Household Books, which contain minute details of the economy of the Breadalbane establishment from the year 1590 downwards, show that the cheer was always abundant and of excellent quality. It consisted of fresh and salt beef, salmon and trout from Loch Tay, herrings from Loch Fyne, dried fish of several kinds, mutton of wedders from the Braes of Balquhidder, capons, geese, wild geese, brawn, venison, partridges, blackcock, ‘birsell’ fowls, and rabbits. The drink consumed by the chief and his own family and guests was ‘claret wyne,’ ‘quhyit [white] wine,’ ‘Spanis wyne;’ and judging by the chalders of malt which appear in the accounts, the consumption of ale and beer must have been wonderful. There were three kinds of ale in use—ostler ale, household ale, and best ale—for the different grades of persons in the family. In 1590 the oatmeal consumed in the household was 364 bolls, the malt 207 bolls (deducting a small quantity of struck barley used in the kitchen). They used go beeves (‘neats,’ ‘stirks,’ or ‘fed oxen ‘), more than two-thirds consumed fresh; 20 swine, 200 sheep, 424 salmon, far the greater portion being from the native rivers; 15,000 herrings, 30 dozen of hard fish; 1,805 ‘heads’ of cheese new and old, weighing 325 stone; and 9 stones of butter, 26 dozen loaves of wheaten bread; of wheat flour 3¼ bolls. The wine, brought from Dundee, was claret and white wine, old and new, in no very large quantities. Of spices and sweetmeats we find notice only on one occasion of small quantities of saffron, mace, ginger, pepper, ‘raises of cure plumdamas, and one sugarloaf.’

These books also furnish us with the names of the Laird’s guests, which is a feature of great interest. Thus in the week beginning 18th September, 1590, besides Sir Duncan and Lady Campbell, there were at table the Laird of Tullibardine, the Laird of Abercairnie, the Bishop of Dunkeld, the Tutor of Duncrub, the Laird of Inchbraikie, the Prior of Charterhouse, ‘with sindrie other cumeris and gangeris [goers].’

The Inventories of Plenishing, which commence in1598, are of great value for understanding the habits and style of living of a powerful Scottish family. Besides the more homely furnishing of beds, sheets, blankets, and napery, there are entries of arras, work coverings, sewed coverings, woven Scots coverings, black and red mantles, Irish and Scottish ‘caddois’ (a kind of woollen cloth), white plaid curtains—some of red and green plaiding, others of black worsted; green ‘sey,’ champit red ‘sey,’ purpour plaiding pasmentit (decked with lace) with orange green, and blue ‘canabeis [canopies?] pasmentit with orange;’ ‘damewark burde claithes, serviettes, and towelles,’ ‘sewit cushions, woven reid and orange,’ ‘green couterclaiths of French stennyng,’ ‘buffet stuillis.’ The lists comprise all the articles used in the kitchen, the brewhouse, ‘woman house,’ and other divisions of the establishment. In 1600 are enumerated the pieces of armour in the House of Balloch—cut-throat guns, brazen pieces, hagbuts, muskets, two-handed swords, a steel bonnet, ‘a gilt pece with the Laird’s armes, that come out of Dundie, stockit with brissell [Brazil wood],’ ‘brasin pistollettes,’ ‘Jedburgh staves,’ Lochaber axes, ‘gilt harness quhilk was gotten fra the Priour of Charter-house, one stand embracing twelve peces.’ Curiously connected with the last entry is ‘ane Bibill,’ which may have come from the same reverend donor. There is an enumeration of articles indicative of the means which the chief, we fear too frequently, employed to vindicate his authority—’great iron fetters for men’s feet and hands, long chains in the prison, high and low, with their shackles, &c.,’ and, most ominous of all, ‘ane heading ax.’

An Inventory of the ‘Geir [goods, effects] left by Sir Colin, not to be disponit upon,’ made up by Sir Robert Campbell in 1640, contains a list of jewels and silver plate of no ordinary extent. Of the former is ‘ane targett of gold, set with three diamonds, four topacis, or jacincts, ane rubie, and ane sapphire enammeled, given by King James the Fyft, of worthie memorie, to ane of the Laird of Glenurchay his predecessoures; item, ane round jewell of gold sett with precious stones, containing 29 diamonds and 4 great rubies, quhilk Queen Anna of worthie memorie, Queene of Great Britane, France, and Ireland [James VI.’s Queen] gave to umquhile [the late] Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenurquhy, and uther four small diamonds quhilk the said Queene Anna, of worthie memorie, gave to the said Sir Duncane; item, ane fair silver brotch sett with precious stones; item, ane stone of the quantitie of half an hen’s eg sett in silver, being flat at the ane end and round at the uther end, lyke a peir, quhilk Sir Colin Campbell, first Laird of Glenurquhay, wore when he faught in battell at the Rhodes against the Turks, he being one of the Knychtis of the Rhodes; of great gold buttons 66.’ The ‘silver work’ comprehended ‘plaittes,’ ‘chargers,’ ‘layers, with basons partly overgilt,’ ‘silver trenchers,’ and ‘sasers partly overgilt,’ ‘great silver cups,’ some of them ‘engraved’ and ‘partly overgilt,’ and some with the Laird’s arms, ‘little long schankit cups for acavite [whisky], silver goblets, saltfats, masers, spoons, some of which had the lairdis name on them.’

Besides these heirlooms of the precious metals, the inventory contains many swords, guns, and armour, silk beds with rich hangings of taffety, one of them with ‘ane pend of blew velvett,’ embroidered with the names and arms of the laird and his lady; another bed of ‘incarnatt London cloath imbrouderit with black velvett;’ a third of ‘greine London cloath passimentit with green and orange silk lace;’ a fourth of ‘changing taffite greine and yellow;’ ‘sixteen uther weill and sufficient common furnischt beds with their furniture requisite;’ ‘great cramosie velvett cuschiones for the kirk,’ ‘cuschiounes of Turkey work;’ twenty-four pictures of the kings and queens of Scotland; ‘thirty-four pictures of the lairds and ladies of Glenurquhay, and other noblemen; ane great genealogie brod paintit of all the Lairds of Glenurquhay, and of those that ar come of the House of Glenurquhay.’

Sir Duncan, in 1617, obtained the office of heritable keeper of Mamlern, &c. King Charles I. afterwards conferred on him the sheriffship of Perthshire for life, and he was created baronet of Nova Scotia in 1625. He died in 1631, leaving seven sons and three daughters. His fifth son was the ancestor of the Campbells of Monzie, Lochlane and Finnab, in Perthshire. As might have been expected from his character, the policy of the family towards the ill-fated M’Gregors was pursued with unabated severity by Sir Duncan. His second son headed an attack upon them in 1616, at a place called Bintoich, or Ronefray, in the Brae of Glenorchy, at the head of two hundred men. The M’Gregors were only sixty in number, but though thus overmatched, they fought with the fury of despair, and slew a number of their ruthless enemies in the conflict which ended in their defeat, with the loss of four of their leaders and twenty of their clansmen.

Little is known of SIR COLIN, eldest son of Sir Duncan, except that he commissioned Jamesone, the celebrated painter, to paint for him a large number of family portraits, for which he paid the artist ‘ane hundred four scoire -pounds, quhilk are set up in the hall of Balloch’ (now Taymouth). His brother and successor, SIR ROBERT, was a Covenanter—a character which could not have been expected to descend from such a stock or to flourish in the wilds of Breadalbane. In consequence, ‘in the year of God 1644 and 1645, his whole landes and esteat betwixt the foord of Lyon and point of Lismore were burnt and destroyit be James Graham, some time Erle of Montrose, and Alexander M’Donald with their associattes. The tenants, their whole cattle were taken away be their enemies; and their comes, houses, plenishing and whole insight, weir burnt; and the said Sir Robert pressing to get the inhabitants repaint, wairit [spent] £48 Scots upon the bigging of every cuple in his landes, and also wairit seed comes upon his own charges to the most of his inhabitants. The occasion of this malice against Sir Robert and his friends and countrie people, was because the said Sir Robert joinit in covenant with the kirk and kingdom of Scotland in maintaining the trew religion, the kingis majesty, his authority and laws and libertie of the kingdom of Scotland; and because the said Sir Robert altogether refusit to assist the said James Graham and Alexander M’Donald, their malicious doings in the kingdom of Scotland, so that the Laird of Glenurquhay and his countrie people, their loss within Perthshire and within Argyleshire exceeds the soums of 1,200,000 merks.’ Sir Robert had five sons and nine daughters. William, the third son, was the ancestor of the Campbells of Glenfalloch, from whom the present Marquis of Breadalbane is descended. The daughters were all married to Highland lairds, and the eldest became the mother of the famous Sir Ewan Cameron, of Lochiel.

Little is known of Sir Robert’s eldest son, SIR JOHN. He married the eldest daughter of the powerful but ill-fated Earl of Strathearn, and had by her a son, JOHN, the first Earl of Breadalbane, born about 1635. The character of this powerful and unscrupulous chief has been drawn in dark but true colours by Lord Macaulay. ‘He could bring seventeen hundred claymores into the field, and ten years before the Revolution he had actually marched into the Lowlands with this great force for the purpose of supporting the prelatical tyranny. In those days he had affected zeal for monarchy and Episcopacy, but in truth he cared for no government and no religion. He seems to have united two different sets of vices, the growth of two different regions, and of two different stages in the progress of society. In his castle among the hills he had learned the barbarian pride and ferocity of a Highland chief. In the Council-chamber at Edinburgh he had contracted the deep taint of treachery and corruption. After the Revolution he had, like too many of his fellow-nobles, joined and betrayed every party in turn; had sworn fealty to William and Mary, and had plotted against them.’ Mackay, in his ‘Memoirs,’ says, ‘the Earl is of a fair complexion, and has the gravity of a Spaniard, is as cunning as a fox, wise as a serpent, and slippery as an eel.’ ‘No Government,’ he adds, ‘can trust him but where his own private interest is in view.’

Breadalbane had claims upon the gratitude of the royal family for the great assistance which he gave, in 1653, to the forces collected in the Highlands under General Middleton, in the cause of Charles II., and for his endeavours to persuade Monk, after Cromwell’s death, to declare for a free Parliament, as the most effectual way of bringing about the restoration of the Stewarts. He was a principal creditor of George Sinclair, sixth Earl of Caithness, whose debts were said to have exceeded a million of marks; and, in 1672, that nobleman executed a disposition of his whole estates, heritable jurisdictions, and titles, in favour of Campbell of Glenorchy, who took on himself the burden of the Earl’s debts. On the death of Lord Caithness, without issue, in 1676, Sir John Campbell obtained a patent creating him Earl of Caithness; but George Sinclair, of Keiss, the heir-male of the family, disputed his right to that title, and the Parliament having decided in his favour, Sir John was created, in 1681, Earl of Breadalbane and Holland, Viscount of Tay and Paintland, Lord Glenorchy, Benderaloch, Ormelie, and Wick, with remainder to whichever of his sons by his first wife he might designate in writing, and ultimately to his heirs-male whomsoever.

The honours thus heaped upon him by the reigning sovereign failed to secure his fidelity when the trial came. After the Revolution of 1688 he gave in his adherence to William and Mary, though there was no end to ‘the turns and doublings of his course’ during the year 1689 and the earlier part of 1690. But after the battle of the Boyne had apparently ruined the Jacobite cause, the Earl became more steady in his support of the new sovereigns; and, as it was at this time his interest, as he affirmed, to promote the stability of the Government and the tranquillity of the country, it was resolved by the Ministry to employ the Earl to treat with the Jacobite chiefs, and a sum of fifteen thousand pounds was placed at his disposal? in order to induce them to swear allegiance to the reigning monarchs. It was an unwise and unfortunate selection. Breadalbane’s reputation for honesty did not stand high, and he was suspected of intending to cheat both the clans and the King.’ He alleged that the Macdonalds of Glencoe had ravaged his lands and driven away his cattle; and when their chief, M’Ian, appeared along with the other Jacobite heads of the clans, at a conference which he held with them, at his residence in Glenorchy, the Earl, who ordinarily bore himself with the solemn dignity of a Castilian grandee, forgot his public character, forgot the laws of hospitality, and, with angry reproaches and menaces, demanded reparation for the herds which had been driven from his lands by M’Ian’s followers. M’Ian was seriously apprehensive of some personal outrage, and was glad to get safe back to his own glen.’ His pride had been wounded; he had no motive to induce him to accept of the terms offered by the Government. He was well aware that he had little chance of receiving any portion of the money which was to be distributed among the Jacobite chiefs, for his share of that money would scarcely meet Breadalbane’s demands for compensation. M’Ian, therefore, used all his influence to dissuade his brother chiefs from accepting the proposals made to them by the agent of the English ministers; and Breadalbane found the negotiations indefinitely protracted by the arts of the man who had long been a thorn in his side. He contrived, however, in one way or other, either to spend or to pocket the funds entrusted to him by the Government. ‘Some chiefs,’ says Sir Walter Scott, ‘he gratified with a share of the money; others with good words; others he kept quiet by threats. And when he was asked by Lord Nottingham to account for the money put into his hands to be distributed among the chiefs, he returned this laconic answer, "My lord, the money is spent; the Highlands are quiet: and this is the only way of accounting among friends."’

Before this pacification was effected, however, a most shocking tragedy had been enacted, in which Breadalbane was deeply implicated. His estates had suffered severely from the depredations of the men of Glencoe, and he hated them as ‘Macdonalds, thieves, and Papists.’ His anger against them was deepened by his knowledge of the fact that their chief had employed all his influence to thwart the negotiation with the clans, from which the Earl had hoped to gain credit with the Government. Its failure had indeed led the advisers of King William to entertain strong suspicions of Breadalbane’s fidelity.

The authority of the Earl to conduct the negotiations was dated 24th April, 1690, and at the close of the autumn of 1691 the chiefs had not come to terms. The Scottish counsellors of the King, therefore, resolved to try the effect of threats as well as bribes, and on the 27th of August they issued a proclamation promising an indemnity to those who should swear the oath of allegiance in the presence of a civil magistrate before the 1st of January, 1692, and threatening with military execution those who should hold out after that day. There is abundant evidence that the Master of Stair, the Earl of Linlithgow, King William himself, and in all probabjlity the Earl of Breadalbane also, expected and wished that some of the Highland chiefs should refuse to avail themselves of the offer of indemnity within the prescribed period, and thus expose themselves to the summary vengeance of the Government. The Earl of Linlithgow, one of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, recommended Breadalbane to ‘push the clans to do one thing or other, for such as will stand it out must not expect any more offers, and in that case those who have been their friends must act with the greatest vigour against them. The last standers-out must pay for all; and, besides, I know that the King does not care that some do it, that he may make examples of them.’ Stair declared to the Earl, on the 3rd of November, that ‘pulling down Glengarry’s nest as the crows do, destroying him and his clan and garrisoning his house as a middle of communication between Inverlochy and Inverness, will be full as acceptable as his coming in.’ A month later, in a letter to Breadalbane, he refers to the Earl’s ‘scheme for mauling them,’ probably much such a scheme as was adopted; and he adds, ‘Because I breathe nothing but destruction to Glengarry, Tarbet thinks that Keppoch will be a more proper example of severity, but I confess both’s best to be ruined.’

It is well known that M’Ian of Glencoe was caught in the net spread mainly for the Macdonalds of Keppoch and Glengarry, that the massacre of the chief and his clansmen was carried out in a manner peculiarly treacherous and cruel, and that though it excited deep and universal indignation, both the devisers of the shocking and bloody deed and the instruments employed in its execution escaped the punishment they deserved.

Breadalbane at once took guilt to himself. A few days after the massacre he sent Campbell of Barcaldin, his chamberlain, to the men of Glencoe to say that if they would declare under their hands that his lordship had no concern in the massacre, they might be assured the Earl would procure their ‘remission and restitution.’ It was not until 1695, three years after the Glencoe massacre, that a commission was appointed to inquire into the shocking affair. They reported that they did not find it proved that Breadalbane was implicated in the slaughter, but they discovered that the Earl had laid himself open to a charge of high treason by the manner in which he had acted in his negotiations with the clans; that he had professed to be a zealous partisan of James, and had recommended the chiefs to accept the money offered them by the Government, but at the same time to be on the watch for an opportunity of taking up arms in favour of the exiled monarch. The Parliament immediately committed Breadalbane a prisoner to the Castle of Edinburgh, but he was speedily released by the Ministry on the plea that the treacherous villain had, as he alleged, professed himself a Jacobite merely in order that he might discover and betray the plans of the Jacobite chiefs.

The Earl of Breadalbane was three times married. His first wife was Lady Mary Rich, third daughter of the first Earl of Holland, who was executed for his loyalty to Charles I. She had a fortune of £10,000, a large sum in those days, and out of numerous candidates for her hand the Earl of Breadalbane was the successful suitor. He was married to her in London, 17th December, 1657. According to tradition, after the marriage he set out with his bride for his Highland home, on horseback, with the lady behind him. Her locker, which was all in gold, was deposited in a leather bag on the back of a Highland pony, which was guarded by a full-armed gillie on each side of the precious horse-load. The strange cavalcade passed unscathed through the Borders, and arrived safe at Balloch. A small room used to be shown in the old castle which, it was said, formed for some time at once the parlour and the bedroom of the newly married pair after their arrival.

The Earl died in 1716, and was succeeded by his second son— 

JOHN CAMPBELL, Lord Glenorchy, born in 1662, whom he nominated in terms of his patent as his successor in the earldom and in his extensive estates. There is no reason to suppose that his eldest son, Duncan, Lord Ormelie, whom he passed over, had given him any personal offence, or had done anything which warranted this treatment. The probability seems to be that the cunning and suspicious old Earl was apprehensive that though the part his clan, under the command of his eldest son, had taken in the Rebellion of 1715 had been condoned by the Government, they might after all revive the offence and deprive him of his titles and estates. He therefore disinherited Lord Ormelie in favour of his younger brother. The unfortunate youth seems to have passed his life in obscurity without any steps having been taken to preserve a record of his descendants. In 1721, however, at a keenly contested election of a Scottish representative peer in the room of the Marquis of Annandale, the right of the second Earl to the peerage was called in question on the part of his elder brother on the ground that any disposition or nomination from his father to the honours and dignity of Earl of Breadalbane ‘could not convey the honours, nor could the Crown effectually grant a peerage to any person and to such heirs as he should name, such patent being inconsistent with the nature of a peerage, and not agreeable to law, and also without precedent.’ Strange to say, these weighty objections were overruled by the peers, and by a decision which is quite unique, Lord Glenorchy was confirmed in his ancestral honours and estates. He was remarkable only for his longevity, having died in 1752 in his ninetieth year.

His only son, JOHN, third Earl, born in 1696, was noted for his precocious talents and attainments. In 1718, at the age of twenty-two, he was sent as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the Court of Denmark, and in 1731 was appointed ambassador to Russia. He sat for a good many years in the House of Commons as member first for the borough of Saltash and then for Oxford, was a steady supporter of Sir Robert Walpole, and was for some time one of the Lords of the Admiralty. After his accession to the peerage he was appointed, in 1761, Lord Chief Justice in Eyre, and in 1776 was nominated Vice-Admiral of Scotland. His first wife was Lady Annabella Grey, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Henry, Duke of Kent, an ancient and illustrious English house, and by her he had a son, who died in infancy, and a daughter, who succeeded her grandfather as Baroness Lucas and Marchioness de Grey (see HUMES OF MARCHMONT). By his second wife Lord Breadalbane had two sons, who predeceased him. The younger, who bore the courtesy title of Lord Glenorchy, died in 1771 at the age of thirty-four, leaving no surviving issue. He married in 1761 Willielma, second daughter and co-heiress of William Maxwell of Preston, a cadet of the Nithsdale family—a lady of eminent piety and great accomplishments, as well as personal beauty. She built and endowed a church, called by her name, at the Old Physic Gardens in Edinburgh, which have now been incorporated with the station of the North British Railway. The church has been rebuilt in a more convenient spot. She also erected and endowed a chapel at Strathfillan, and employed at her own expense two missionaries in the Highlands, under the direction of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The memory of her ‘works of faith and labours of love’ is still fragrant both in Edinburgh and in the Highlands. 

On the death of the third Earl of Breadalbane, in 1782, the male line of the first Earl was supposed to have become extinct, though it is not improbable that his eldest son had left issue who had the first claim to the family titles and estates. But JOHN CAMPBELL OF CARWHIN, who was descended from Colin Campbell of Mochaster, second son of Sir Robert Campbell of Glenorchy, took possession of both without opposition. He raised a regiment in 1793, called the Breadalbane Fencibles, for the service of the Government, and in various other ways displayed a patriotic spirit during the protracted war with France. He was created a peer of the United Kingdom in 1806 by the title of Baron Breadalbane of Taymouth, and in 1831 was raised to the rank of Marquis of Breadalbane and Earl of Ormelie. His attention was chiefly devoted to the improvement of his extensive estates, great portions of which he planted with trees fitted for the soil, and by his costly improvements he rendered the park at Taymouth one of the most extensive and beautiful in the kingdom. The Earl married, in 1793, Mary Turner, eldest daughter and co-heiress of David Gavin, Esq., of Langton. Thereby, as we shall see, hangs a tale.

The Marquis of Breadalbane died in 1834, at the age of seventy-two, and was succeeded in his titles and entailed estates by his only son, JOHN CAMPBELL, Earl of Ormelie, second Marquis. The whole of his personal estate, amounting, it was said, to upwards of £300,000, was directed by his will to accumulate for twenty years, and was then to be laid out in the purchase of landed property to be added to the entailed estates. The Marquis of Chandos (afterwards Duke of Buckingham), however, who had married the younger daughter of the Marquis, succeeded in getting the settlement set aside, so far as his wife was concerned, by a decision of the Court of Session, confirmed by the House of Lords, that she was entitled to legitim. The large sum of money thus awarded to Lord Chandos was swallowed up in the bottomless pit of his debts. The elder daughter of Lord Breadalbane, who married Sir John Pringle, of Stichell, was not so fortunate, owing to the difference in this respect between Scottish and English law. But after the death of her brother, Lady Elizabeth Pringle inherited the beautiful estate of Langton, which is now possessed by her daughter, Mary Gavin, who married the Honourable Robert Baillie Hamilton, second son of the tenth Earl of Haddington.

The second Marquis of Breadalbane represented Perthshire in the Parliament of 1832, was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1838, was elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow in 1841, and in 1848 was appointed Lord Chamberlain. His lordship was a zealous supporter of the Free Church. He married, in 1821, Eliza, eldest daughter of George Baillie, Esq., of Jerviswood, a lady of great amiability and of remarkable beauty, who predeceased him. At his death, without issue, in 1862, the Marquisate and Barony of Breadalbane and the Earldom of Ormelie, in the peerage of the United Kingdom, became extinct. The Scottish honours were claimed by John Alexander Gavin Campbell, of Glenfalloch, and by Charles William Campbell, of Borland. Both claimants were descended from the fifth son of Sir Robert Campbell, Baronet, ninth Laird of Glenorchy, and both were the great-grandsons of William Campbell of Glenfalloch. James Campbell, the grandfather of John A. G. Campbell, was the second son, John Campbell, the grandfather of C. W. Campbell, was the third son, of Glenfalloch. (The issue of the eldest son was extinct.) But James Campbell, who was an officer in the army, eloped with the wife of Christopher Ludlow, a medical practitioner of Chipping Sodbury, in Gloucestershire. It was alleged that their eldest and only surviving son was born while Dr. Ludlow was alive, and was consequently illegitimate. It was contended that the subsequent marriage of Captain Campbell to Mrs. Ludlow could not render legitimate a child born in these circumstances. The case excited great attention, both on account of the peculiarity of the circumstances and the importance of the interests at stake. There was a want of definite information respecting the precise time of Dr. Ludlow’s death, and the decision of the House of Lords was given, though with considerable hesitation, in favour of Campbell of Glenfalloch. He died in 1871, and was succeeded by his eldest son, the seventh Earl of Breadalbane, born in 1851, who was created a peer of the United Kingdom in 1873, by the title of Lord Breadalbane of Kenmore, and was elevated to the rank of Marquis in 1885.

It is stated in the ‘Doomsday Book’ that the family estates in Perthshire and Argyllshire consist of 372,729 acres, with a rental of £59,930.

There is an interesting story related by Mr. Hay, in his valuable work on the Abbey of Arbroath, respecting the manner in which the estate of Langton came into the possession of the Breadalbane family.

‘In the parish church of Lunan, in Forfarshire, there is attached to the pulpit a brazen support for a baptismal font, and likewise to the precenter’s desk, or lectern, a sand-glass stand of the same material. Each of these articles bears this inscription, "Given to the Church of Lunan by Alexander Gavin, merchant there, and Elizabeth Jamieson his spouse, 1733." A bell also belonging to this church, which used to be rung at funerals, bears a like inscription. This Alexander Gavin was for many years beadle of the parish of Lunan, an office which he added to his business as a merchant or retailer of groceries and other provisions. His father, James Gavin, had also held the office of beadle. It happened in his time that a Dutch vessel was wrecked in the bay of Lunan, and the beadle taking pity on the destitute condition of the castaway skipper, invited him to share the hospitality of his humble abode. This kindly offer was readily accepted, and the acquaintance thus so strangely formed resulted in the marriage of the Dutch skipper with the beadle’s daughter, Catherine Gavin. Soon thereafter the skipper with his wife left for Holland, where he renounced the seafaring life and betook himself to the less dangerous and more lucrative pursuits of commerce. After Catherine’s departure Alexander succeeded his father in the office of beadle. He married Elizabeth Jamieson, and had a son named David. This David Gavin, while a young man, was invited to Holland by his uncle and aunt, became in course of time a partner in the business carried on by the skipper, and married his cousin, the skipper’s daughter, who, however, soon thereafter died. Having amassed a considerable fortune, David returned to Scotland, and purchased, in 1758, the estate of Langton, [The barony of Langton belonged to the Cockburns, an old and distinguished family, who had possessed it since 1358. Admiral Sir George Cockburn, an eminent naval officer, was the eighth baronet of this family, and Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn, late Chief Justice of the Queen’s Bench, was the tenth.] in Berwickshire, as well as some other property, and married, in 1770, Lady Betty, daughter of the Earl of Lauderdale. The issue of this marriage was three daughters, one of whom, Mary Turner, married, in 1793, the Earl (afterwards Marquis) of Breadalbane, and was the mother of the second Marquis, of Lady Elizabeth Pringle, and of the Duchess of Buckingham. Alexander Gavin, the kirk beadle of Lunan, was thus the father-in-law of an earl’s daughter, the grandfather of a marchioness, and the great-grandfather of a marquis and a duchess. Not many years ago there were people alive in the parish of Lunan who knew Alexander Gavin, and remembered him after he had become, through his son’s affluence, independent of the emoluments of his office and profits, sauntering about dressed in a long vest of scarlet embroidered with lace of gold, and carrying in his hand a gold-headed staff. It was after he reached this state of comparative independence that he presented to the parish the sand-glass and baptismal font supports and the bell, memorials of the duties he had long discharged, and acknowledgments of the kind Providence he had so strongly experienced.’

Mr. David Gavin effected extensive and beneficial improvements in the district where his estate lay. The old village of Langton was a mean, straggling place in the immediate vicinity of his mansion, and he offered to the inhabitants on easy terms a piece of ground, in a pleasant situation, about half a mile distant. This was readily accepted, and the old village of Langton in a short time disappeared, and the neat and thriving village of Gavinton arose in its room.


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