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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 28

THE influence of friends, and the remonstrances of those who were then at the head of the War Department, and who wished, with the American war looming in the near distance, to retain him in the service, failed to alter the Coirneal Dubh's determination to retire as soon as possible after the tragical death of the reprieved marine. He returned to his home at the beginning of May, 1772, and on the 30th of that month, gave his brother, the captain, a discharge on settled accounts for intromissions as his factor, during the four years from Martinmas 1767, to the end of 1770. It appears from this account, that besides having paid to them the small sums due from their father's nearly bankrupt estate, the colonel had, as soon as he could, settled, most generously, liberal annuities on his three unmarried sisters. His old nurse, also, figures in the account for house rent and aliment, and other old dependents of the family and needy relations participated in his generosity. After his return he increased his benefactions. Very little of his rent ever went into his own pocket. His half-pay, prize money, and savings, however, brought him in more income than he required; and so in course of years he grew rich without an effort. He was abstemious and simple in his habits, and kept very little company, although those who visited him were treated with Highland hospitality. Towards the local gentry he had a stand-off air which made him more respected than popular among people of his own class. The Earl of Breadalbane, and Mr. Duncan Macara, the minister of Fortingall, were, outside his own family, his only intimate friends. He became much interested in the minister's son and only child, David Macara, who died forty years later at Quatre Bras, at the head of the Black Watch, a colonel in the army and a Knight Commander of the Bath. David Macara, however, had no intention of becoming a soldier, when his youthful dreams of ambition and abundant hopefulness amused and cheered the Black Colonel. He studied medicine, and served long as a doctor in the East Indian Company's service, before he took up the sword. Angus Robertson, from Chesthill, the lad he selected for his gillie when he entered the company's service, went seven times with him to the East Indies. Dr. Macara caught the infection of the national fighting spirit at the outbreak of the great war with France, and having saved a good deal of money, and seen, also, a good deal of fighting, he had no difficulty in changing his profession, and in getting on in the army with more rapidity than younger men, with smaller means, and less ability.

Captain Archibald left the shelter of the family roof in 1770, on being appointed, by the Earl of Breadalbane, chamberlain of his Lome property. Henceforward, until his death, the captain resided at Ardmady Castle, and his sister Mary, or Molly, kept house for him. He became very popular with both the gentry and common people in Argyleshire. Thirty years ago his memory was still green among the tenantry of the Breadalbane estate in Lome. Their highest idea of "the good old times" was derived almost solely, from the period of Caiptein Ruadh Ghlean-nliomhunn's chamberlainship. They had many stories about his official goodness and personal liberality. One of these stories told how he punished a miserly man who tried to take his brother's farm underhand. Here it is:— Two brothers lived side by side on farms of unequal value, although they were let at the same rents. Both brothers were married. The elder brother, who had the better farm, was without children. The younger brother, with the worse farm, had many children too young yet to help him. It was a struggle to him, therefore, to pay his rent and maintain his family; and in a bad year he fell behind in his accounting with the chamberlain. Now his miserly elder brother, knowing this, went to the Caiptein Ruadh and offered to take his brother's farm at the old rent, and pay, too, his brother's arrears. And the Caiptein Ruadh let him have the farm on the said terms. Now when the struggling brother heard of the affair, he was in a great strait, and sore perplexed; but his wife said to him—"Take heart and go to the Caiptein Ruadh yourself. He is a just man, and he will not see honest hard-working people ruined." And the man went and asked the Caiptein if he had really given his farm to his unkind brother? The Caiptein laughed merrily and said:—"Yes, indeed, your brother has got your farm and paid your arrears; but he forgot to take his own farm at the same time. So if you wish to have his farm, you can have it." And so it was settled. The bad brother was punished as he deserved, and the struggling brother prospered ever afterwards. Notwithstanding his sociality and generous disposition, the captain was a money-making and hard-working man, who liked to keep accounts and everything else very straight. He lent out his savings to needy land owners on heritable security, and exacted good regular interest. He and his sister entertained Pennant during his tour in the Hebrides, and were vastly pleased with him. He was probably an old friend of their brother, the colonel; for on the colonel's coming to Glenlyon House in 1769, he was immediately visited by Pennant, who was on his first tour, and at the time Lord Breadalbane's guest at Taymouth. The colonel showed his visitor the ancient Glenlyon brooch, which he pictured for his book, and the sword-stick of Donnachadh Ruadh Mac Cailein. In 1772, the Earl of Breadalbane specially asked his chamberlain in Lome to organise Pennant's tour—that is, to find gillies, horses, and boats, for him; and the captain carried out his instructions' with pleasure. He was not a bad antiquary of the Highland traditional class himself, and Pennant got much information both from him and his brother the Black Colonel.

In his letters to his brother in Jamaica, the captain, ever since his return from Canada, had been constantly harping on the matrimonial string. He hoped for a long time that his brother, the Black Colonel, would marry; and he always assumed that only one of the three brothers ought to marry. The reason for this limitation to one marriage was that from their early days the brothers were determined to work in common for the rehabilitation of the family position, and the recovery of the lands lost through the extravagance or misfortunes of their grandfather. When the colonel came home to settle down for good in 1772, the captain saw at once that there was no hope of his ever marrying. He therefore wrote to Dr. David urging him, as the next brother, to choose a wife. Philosopher David, who was fifty years old, pooh-poohed the proposal of matrimony in his own person, but advised the captain himself, who was a good deal younger, to look out for a wife. The captain, apparently after a family consultation at home, sent word to Jamaica that he was determined to marry as soon as ever he met "a lassie he liked, and whom he could get to like him in return." But although he was rather an eligible parti, and was acquainted with all the landed families of the Highlands of Perthshire, and most of Argyleshire, time passed on without seeing him married. Still he had the idea in his mind to the end of his life. Here is one of his later letters "To Doctor David Campbell, at Watermount, St. John's, near Spanish Town, Jamaica:

"Ardmady, 28th May, 1778.

"My Dear Brother,

I wrote you last harvest by London, and soon after by the Clyde, and this spring I wrote you two letters in the same way. My letters to London were sent there under cover to Mrs. Campbell Carwhin, who wrote me both times that she forwarded them by the Jamaica Pacquet. Last night I was informed that Captain Neil Campbell was soon to go out in a Letter of Marque of 20 guns, which induces me to write by him, as I hope he will get through safe from American Privateers. I must fear, from the number of ships taken to and from your island, that but few of my letters get your length, which makes me take all opportunities to write you. I wrote you in most of my letters concerning the money you remitted home; that the bill came safe and was duly paid; that I had paid our nephew, Harry Balneavis, the £200 on his account, and sent to John, Ann, and Elizabeth Campbell of Stirling. John came, but brought no power from his sisters, or any discharge. I told him I lodged the £100 in the Perth Bank, and should pay it to them when they brought me a proper discharge. But considering his character (which is none of the best), and that you wrote me you were to draw upon me in their favour, when I would have time to negotiate the bill, I was advised to let the money lie on their account in bank till we heard again from you, and there it still remains. If you do not draw on me, in their favour, it will be necessary you let me or them know from whom the money comes through your hands to them, that by this they may be enabled to give a proper discharge.

"I was glad to see by your last, which I received about a twelvemonth ago, that David Balneavis was like to do better. I wish he may. I formerly wrote you, in all my letters, that I got Archy Balneavis a lieutenancy in General Fraser's Highlanders. He was unlucky enough to be taken prisoner, along with Colonel Archibald Campbell, in Boston Bay, and was a prisoner till January last, when he and others got to New York on parole. According to the last accounts from that quarter he was there ; but it was thought they would be obliged to return again to their former bondage, as General Howe did not wish them to be absent from the men, till they were exchanged; but it was hoped a general cartell would take place and that all of them would be exchanged. I wish it may be so on all their accounts.

"All other friends are well—your brother John, Kitty and Janey at Fortingall, as usual, and Molly here with me; no matrimonial change has yet taken place in the family. I wrote you last harvest, and in all my letters since, that Mr. Menzies of Culdares was dead, and had left but one daughter—by which the estate of Glenlyon comes to be divided betwixt his daughter and the heir of entail; the daughter's part being the lower end of Glenlyon, near the one half, must be sold to pay his, Culdare's, personal debt; and as Stewart of Cairnies, who succeeds, is the last in the entail, and a light horseman, it is believed he can and will sell what remains. My brother and I will go all the length our purse or credit can go, to get the ancient inheritance again. But it will throw us greatly in debt to purchase the daughter's part of the estate. I wish you were at home, to join stocks in the common interest; and laying that aside, considering the drumly situation we are in with America (which if we lose we fear our West Indian Islands will follow), I most sincerely wish you out of it.

"Notwithstanding my often desiring it, you never let me know what I can send you from Scotland that will be of use to you in Jamaica. I once more beg you'll but only mention it. I can assure you it would be a pleasure to me, or your sister, to send it. And from here we have, every month, opportunities to Greenock. If eatables in these scarce times that will carry—salmon or herrings, &c.—if linen or checks for coarse clothes for your slaves; I beg you'll inform me. I live here very comfortable in the midst of plenty, and you making hard fare of it makes my morsels sometimes go down with a worse relish.

"We have been all this year plagued, raising men for home and foreign service. God grant a speedy end to these troubles. Your sister joins me in love and affection to you, and in best compliments to David Balneavis, cousin John, and Colin Ardincaple, who, I hope, is doing well. I send enclosed a letter from his mother. When you write, please mention them all, and how they are. Mr. Archy Campbell's brothers and father are well. Believe me always, my dear David,

Your Affectionate Brother,


As regards the £100 sent to the Campbells at Stirling, Dr. David in this, as in several other cases, acted as unpaid broker—or friend at need—to humble Highlanders in Jamaica who wished to send home money to their relations.

Two years after sending the preceding letter to Dr. David, the captain's Quebec wound, which had never perfectly healed, broke out again, and he died rather suddenly, but not before he had settled his affairs, at the age of 51. To Dr. David he left, above his equal share, the "Feu of Coupar," for which he claimed to be enrolled on the list of freeholders of Perthshire in 1776. Although a peculiar one, this Feu of Cupar was a real and valuable property, and not one of the sham qualifications by which Parliamentary election votes were often created, up to the passing of the first Reform Bill. He left, in all, about

£5,000 sterling, which was considered a gentlemanly fortune at that time. Had he lived a very little longer he would have received a large legacy from his employer and fast friend, John, Earl of Breadalbane, the last of the first earl's stock, who died in 1782.

The captain's funeral cost £145 16s. gd., which was a tremendous sum for that age: but the funeral itself was so extraordinary, that for a generation or two it formed a fixed date from which the lapse of time was calculated. The gentry of Argyle and the tenants of Lome carried the coffin, Highland fashion—that is, shoulder high—towards the Perthshire march. They were reinforced by the men of Glenorchy before reaching the border; and on Drumalban they were met by the men of Glenlyon and Breadalbane. Thence they marched, such a funeral host as had been rarely seen, to the family burying place at Fortingall, where he was laid beside his Jacobite father.

The death of the ever-joyous, ever-hopeful captain was a great blow to his brothers and sisters. Dr. David, writing from Jamaica on receipt of the sad news, lost his customary calmness, and mourned like David over Jonathan. Miss Mary, it was said, never again held up her head. But the melancholy Black Colonel, who kept his grief to himself, except when he let Mr. Macara get glimpses of his inner being, was probably the most grieved of all. He was building his hopes on his youngest brother when taking steps to avail himself of any opportunity that might offer to buy back a portion, or the whole, of his family's "ancient inheritance." He had seemingly resolved, when still quite a young man, that the cross of the "Curse of Glencoe," which was such a burden to himself should never be transmitted to a son of his. But Archie Roy laughed at his fancies, and enjoyed life in spite of fate: so the colonel thought that if Archie Roy married and had children, the curse would not touch him nor his posterity. At this time he had three nephews, sons of his eldest sister and her husband, Balneaves of Edradour. Harry Balneaves, the eldest of the three, is the person mentioned in the captain's letter, to whom his uncle, Dr. David, had sent £200. Archibald, the lieutenant, who soon afterwards returned •from America with the rank of captain, was the second nephew. The third was David Balneaves, an unsteady character, who was sent out to his uncle in Jamaica, and became a planter. David was rather prosperous as a planter; but he would not keep from drink, and the climate killed him before his doctor uncle left the island. These Balneaves brothers had one sister, Catherine, who married Mr. Peter Garden of Delgaty.

There was not much prospect that the Campbells of Glenlyon should be perpetuated, in the male line and main stem, after the death of the Captain Roy ; but prospect or no prospect, the Black Colonel pertinaciously adhered to the purpose of buying back what he could of the "ancient inheritance," whenever the opportunity presented itself. The "light horseman" who succeeded to the Meggernie estate was not able, although perfectly willing, to sell. The entail held good when put to the test; but the Chesthill estate was so drowned in debt that it was sure, sooner or later, to come into the market. The Black Colonel lay in wait for it with his money at command. But death prevented him from effecting his purpose. He died in 1784, at the age of 69, before the Chesthill estate was sold.

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