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Records of Argyll
By Lord Archibald Campbell (1885)

Legends, Traditions, and Recollections of Argyllshire Highlanders collected chiefly from the Gaelic


THOSE who have stood on the summit of Ben Cruachan, the mighty triple-peaked hill overlooking the Pass of Brander, and who have drunk at the well of “living water” bursting through its granite cone, are not likely during a lifetime to forget the prospect unfolded to their view. On the west lies the land of Lorne, sea-girt by the vast Atlantic, studded with countless islands; Scammadel Loch in an oasis of green hills; and the ground around Ardmaddy Bay and house,—as fair a region of copse-wood-covered hills as the eye could rest on. Eastward tower range after range of glorious mountains belonging to Breadalbane, and on the north lie wild corries and savage crags and far-distant peaks paling in the purple distance. To the south, the lower range of hill trending towards Glenara, the braes of Sonachen clothed in brilliant green, shaggy moorland crowning the higher ground, and the dark-coloured Lochow, with its fringe of hazel, ash, and rowan—Lochow, one of the most dangerous as it is one of the loveliest of West Highland lochs. It is to this land, lying at our feet, between us and the sea, that these Records of Argyll chiefly refer.

My aim as Editor of this volume has been to rescue from an oblivion that is fast overtaking them, some of the more characteristic traditions of the Clans of Argyll and the Isles. Every year the chances of preserving the Gaelic legends that exist only in the recollections of the older generation of Highlanders are becoming less and less possible. The art of storytelling, which has shown a longer vitality among the Scottish Gael than among any of the other British races, is no longer cultivated with the same success as in days that are not very long gone by; and many a fine old legend perishes with the death of its only possessor.

Much excellent work has been done to preserve the surviving stock of Gaelic oral tradition while a possibility yet remains, and I desire that this volume, dealing chiefly with the tales of my native county, should be regarded as a contribution to the good cause.

The bulk of the "Records of Argyll" consists of tales, written down for the most part from the recitation of their possessors, and rendered as closely to the original Gaelic as the difference of the two languages permitted. Many of these appear for the first time in an English form ; others are presented as offering a different version of tales which have already been translated; while a few, which have already appeared elsewhere, have been included, to give completeness to a work designed to illustrate the characteristics of Argyllshire legend.

Some scarce pamphlets and family papers, inaccessible to the general public, have also been quoted as tending to throw light upon the unwritten Records of Argyll. The interest excited by the recent controversy regarding the antiquity of the Highland dress and the distinctive character of Clan Tartans, has induced me to add some notes on a subject which I trust will not be regarded as alien to the main object of my work. These papers are but offered as a contribution towards the final settlement of the question of Clan Colours having existed long anterior to the making of the regimental Tartan called by the name of the Forty-Second.

Foremost among those who helped in the compilation of the ‘ Records of Argyll ’ was Campbell of Dunstaffnage. I am also deeply indebted to the Rev. D. Maclnnes, a gentleman of high integrity and great knowledge, for some' of the best and quaintest of the tales to be found in this volume; also to Mr N. M. K. Robertson, and to very many more, whose names I append in each case where allowed so to do. In my London researches I was greatly assisted by the loving labours of Mr John Forbes Robertson, the well known writer and art critic, a sturdy Scot and enthusiastic Highlander, much of whose work, I regret to think, cannot be included in this volume. The British Museum library was gone over by him in search of matter bearing on Highland lore, and by the able Mrs Ellen Salmon, the decipherer of ancient Scottish and Irish MSS., whose untiring and unabating energy I most gratefully acknowledge in hunting up out-of-the-way matter bearing on the history of Argyllshire. I am indebted, too, to many a Highlander,—to the ladies, to the gentry, the clergy, schoolmasters, farmers, and the labourers of my native county.

It was with much disappointment that I found myself quite unable to publish a mass of matter very kindly furnished by many interested in these ‘ Records.’ I had perforce to limit my book to a certain number of pages. I apologise for such exclusion, and wish to express my regret to all whom I may offend by non-insertion of matter very kindly supplied.

If the collecting of these tales, and giving the names of the narrators as a voucher of authenticity, induce others who have hitherto withheld any they may have, to send their contribution to the Records of Argyll, the editor would gladly make use of the same, in case a continuation of this work be undertaken.

I should deeply regret to think that in publishing these tales there may be found some passage or passages which might have been left out in the opinions of some of my readers.

Should I have caused any pain by publishing forgotten tales, I most heartily apologise.

I have endeavoured, while giving what appeared quaint, and in a measure to lift the veil overshadowing bygone days, to avoid giving offence. Should these records encourage others to treasure up the tales of the past, my object will have been fulfilled.

Inverary Castle, September 1884.


Records and Traditions of Inverary
Dunstaffnage Papers and Legends
The Breadalbanes
Lochnell Tales
Campbells of Inverawe
The Goibhnean or Smith Campbells
Tales of the MacDougalls
Tales of the MacLachlans
Traditions of Alasdair MacDonald (MacCholla Ciotach)
Kintyre Tales
Tales from Islay
Tiree Tales
Folk-Lore Tales
Miscellaneous Tales and Traditions
Notes on the Antiquity of the Dress, Clan Colours, or Tartans of the Highlanders

You can download this book here

See also...

Passages from the Past
By His Grace The Duke of Argyll in 2 volumes (1907) (pdf)
Volume 1   |    Volume 2

Inchmarnock Island Estate

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