WITH a name deriving from the Gaelic for ‘curved mouth’ (Cam beul), Clan Campbell is one of the most prominent in Scottish history.
The family’s connection with Argyll came prior to the 1200s, when a Campbell married the heiress of the O’Duines, bringing with her the Lordship of Lochawe. Thus the Clan’s early name was Clan O’Duine, later supplanted by the style Clan Diarmid, after Diarmid the Boar, a hero from Celtic myth.
As a result, Innis Chonnell Castle on Lochawe is considered one of two possible original seats of the Clan, the other being Caisteal na Nigheann Ruaidh on Loch Avich.
Although the Clan’s power began to spread throughout Argyll, the Campbells were initially dominated by the Lords of Lorne, chiefs of rival Clan MacDougall.
Campbell Clan chief Cailean Mór (Colin Campbell) was killed by the MacDougalls in 1296, and all of the subsequent chiefs of Clan Campbell have taken MaCailein Mor as their Gaelic patronymic.
Rise to prominence 1200-1500
Between 1200 and 1500, the Clan rose to prominence, emerging as one of the most powerful in Scotland and capable of influence and authority from Edinburgh to the Hebrides and western Highlands.
Colin Campbell’s family went on to become big supporters of King Robert the Bruce, benefiting from his successes with grants of lands, titles and favourable marriages. They fought against the English at the Battle of Bannock burn in 1314 during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with Sir Neil Campbell’s loyalty to Bruce rewarded with marriage to the King’s sister Mary and a rapid expansion of Campbell land and power - including extensive lands taken from the forfeited MacDougall Lords of Lorne in Argyll passing over to Sir Neil.
Anglo-Scottish Wars of the 1500s
By the end of the 15th century, the power of the Clan Donald chiefs (the Lord of the Isles) who were the Crown’s strongest rivals had eroded, with the Campbells assuming power and, due to their support for the Crown throughout the century, acted as the main instrument of central authority in the area, thought to be the real cause of the long-standing emnity between Clans Campbell and MacDonald.
At the Battle of Flodden in 1513, during the Anglo-Scottish Wars, Clan Campbell, under the leadership of 2nd Earl of Argyll Archibald Campbell, fought on the side of King James IV of Scotland against an English army. Later, they numbered among the Scottish forces who battled the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, and in 1568, 5th Earl of Argyll, also Archibald Campbell, commanded forces who fought for Mary Queen of Scots against the forces of Regent Moray at the Battle of Langside.
In 1692, 38 unarmed members of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed in the Massacre of Glencoe, when a government initiative designed to suppress Jacobitism became mixed up in the long-running feud between the two clans.
The slaughter of the MacDonalds at the hands of soldiers led by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon - after enjoying their hospitality for over a week - was seen as a major affront of Scottish law as well as Highland tradition.
Most of the soldiers were not Campbells, but the massacre is widely viewed as a result of the emnity between the two clans.
Jacobite uprisings of the 18th century
During the Jacobite uprisings in the 1700s, Clan Campbell backed the British-Hanoverian Government, and a number of men from the clan fought on the side of British government forces at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715 - however, there were Campbells on the side of the Jacobites, believed to have been led by the son of Campbell of Glenlyon, whose father had commanded the Glencoe Massacre against the MacDonalds 22 years earlier.
The two families settled their differences, fighting side by side in the Sheriffmuir.
The British government forces under the leadership of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, were victorious.
The strength of Clan Campbell had been estimated at 5,000 men. During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Clan Campbell maintained its support for the British government, fighting against rebel Jacobites at the Battle of Falkirk in 1746, where government forces were defeated.
But the Campbells held out during the Siege of Fort William, defeating the Jacobites.
In 1746 at the Battle of Culloden, the Jacobites were finally defeated, with four companies from the Campbell of Argyll militia.
Battle of Red Ford
Taking place in around 1294, this was a battle fought over disputed lands between Clan Campbell and Clan MacDougall, in Lorne, Scotland.
It ended in defeat for the Campbells of Lochawe. The battle took place on the borders of Loch Awe and Lorne, with the battle site named ‘Red Ford’ (or Ath Dearg in Gaelic) after the ford which ran red with blood following the clash.
Clan MacDougall seized Innis Chonnell Castle after the battle.
Battle of Glenlivet
Fought in October 1594 near Allanreid and Morinsh, this is often seen as a religious conflict, fought by the Catholic forces of George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly and Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, against the Protestant forces of 7th Earl of Argyll Archibald Campbell. When a decree in November 1593 stated that Catholics must give up their faith or leave the country, Huntly refused to obey. with his continued resistance culminating in the Battle of Glenlivet, where, along with Erroll, he engaged Argyll’s army above Allt a’ Choileachain.
Huntly’s retainers prepared for battle with mass, confession and communion, their weapons were sprinkled with holy water and a cross was placed on their armour, symbolising the fact they fought in defence of the Cross of Christ.
Huntly’s men, numbering around 2,000 routed the Earl of Argyll’s forces of 10,000 - a dramatic victory of horse and artillery over irregular infantry.
Battle of Altimarlach
A clan battle that took place on July 13th 1680 between the Campbells and Sinclairs, the Battle of Altimarlach came about after debt-ridden 6th Earl of Caithness George Sinclair was forced to resign his titles and estates in favour of Sir John Campbell, who took possession of the estates on Sinclair’s death in 1676, becoming earl of Caithness the following year.
Sinclair’s heir, George Sinclair of Keiss, disputed the claim and seized the land in 1678.
In July 1680, Campbell took 800 men north to evict Sinclair of Keiss, who was waiting for him with 500 men near Wick. The drink-fuelled Sinclairs attacked the Campbells and were routed.
Legend has it that so many Sinclairs were killed that the Campbells could cross the river without getting their feet wet.
The Campbells’ piper also composed a tune before the battle, with the English translation ‘Gaffers in Trousers’, designed to mock the Sinclairs who wore tartan trews rather than the kilted Highland dress favoured by the Campbells.
Clan motto: Ne Obliviscaris (Forget Not)
Notable lords: Hugh Rose, 10th of Kilravock, a confidante of Mary, Queen of Scots; David Rose, 26th of Kilravock, the current clan chief
Sub septs: Arthur, MacArtair, MacArthur, MacCarter, Bannatyne, Ballantyne, Blanton, Burnes, Burness, Burnett, Burns, Caddell, Cadell, Calder, Cattell, Connochie, Conochie, MacConachie, MacConchie, MacConnechy, MacConochie, Denoon, Denune, Gibbon, Gibson, MacGibbon, MacGubbin, Harres, Harris, Hawes, Haws, Hawson, Hastings, Isaac, Isaacs, Kissack, Kissock, MacIsaac, MacKessack, MacKessock, MacKissock, Iverson, Macever, Macgure, MacIver, MacIvor, Macure, Orr, Ure, Kellar, Keller, Maceller, MacKellar, Lorne, Louden, Loudon, Loudoun, Lowden, Lowdon, MacColm, MacColmbe, MacLaws, MacLehose, MacTause, MacTavish, MacThomas, Riddell, Taweson, Tawesson, Thomas, Thomason, Thompson, Thomson, MacDermid, MacDermott, MacDiarmid, MacElvie, MacKelvie, MacGlasrich, MacKerlie, MacNichol, MacNocaird, MacOran, Macowen, MacPhedran, MacPhederain, Paterson, MacPhun, Moore, Muir, Ochiltree, Pinkerton, Tanner, Tonner, Torrie, Torry.
Notable castles: Inveraray Castle, Castle Gloom, Innis Chonnell, Kilchurn Castle, Taymouth Castle, Castle Sween, Dunoon Castle, Carnasserie Castle
Current clan base: Inveraray Castle, Argyll
Current Clan Chief
Torquhil Ian Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll is the current chief of Clan Campbell.