In Lochaber, where some Campbell families have lived
for many years, there is
still a Catholic
church (recently restored) from early times. Many of
the Campbell families in
that area of Scotland were
always Catholic as it was a wild area and the
reformation of 1560 did not reach all corners of
Scotland. The outer Isles were also areas where
Catholic communities survived
and there were Campbells there also. Travel in the
Western or coastal Highlands and certainly the islands
was most often by boat where possible and so travel was
relatively easy despite no roads, and so people did move
about a lot - particularly younger sons who would not
inherit a farm or even a tenancy.
Some people went to other areas in the train of a
daughter of a chief marrying the son of another chief -
as her bodyguard and ‘servitors’ (better educated
helpers rather than servants). This happened with
Campbells going to the Isle of Skye to live among the
The story of how the Campbells came to Lochaber is
that they were descendants of Campbells from the
district of Glassary in Argyll. A ‘crowner’ (local
official - what he did has been lost to knowledge) began
to bother Campbell’s wife. So he hid up on the hillside
and watched his door when the crowner was coming and
when he saw the crowner bother her he ran down and
killed him, so they had to leave Argyll.
They went to Lochaber and are said to have been the
bodyguards of MacDonald of Keppoch. They also acted as
foster-parents to different members of that family.
The Gaelic bard Iain Lom who was violently
anti-Campbell in the 17th century Civil Wars is believed
to have been one of them, or descended from them, and he
was taken to task for his vitriol by other Gaelic bards
for being too extreme. It was thought it was because he
was going against his kin that he was so wild.
This family are known as the Glassarach or
MacGlassarach Campbells because they originated from
Glassary, now Kilmichael Glassary in mid Argyll. Thus,
the name MacGlasrich can be found on the Clan Campbell
sept list. One branch of these Campbells settled in
Breadalbane. According to the Black Book of Taymouth,
Donald McGlassrich in Foss gave a bond of manrent to
Campbell of Glenorchy in 1560. This branch of the family
apparently did not last, for Black states that `the
family died out on Loch Tayside as a result of a curse
laid on them by a witch’.
Bheare & Loch Awe
The time from Samhain (Celtic New Year, now called
Halloween) to Imbolc (February 1, Bridget’s Day) was
called by Celtic people “the time of the little sun.” In
Celtic folklore, this season is ruled by the one-eye
Cailleach Bheare, also called Mag Moullach and the Storm
According to the Celts her home was Ben Nevis. It
was she who formed the Inner Hebrides by dropping peat
and rocks into the sea and who ushered in winter by
washing her clothes in the Corrieveckan, a huge
whirlpool between the isles of Jura and Scarpa. Stories
abound throughout Scotland concerning the Hag’s hand in
forming many lochs and bens, including Loch Awe, the
original homeland of the Campbells.
The Cailleach Bheare once lived on the Mull of
Kintyre, the southernmost tip of the major peninsula in
Argyll. Each day she would take her cow to Ben Cruachan
to graze. The only water available there was from a
magic well, which was covered by a huge granite slab.
Upon her arrival on Ben Cruachan, the Hag would
lift the granite slab and set it aside. And each evening
she would replace it, as it was known that, if left
uncovered, the magical well would flood the world.
One fine day she fell asleep on the hillside as
her cow grazed. She didn’t rouse until evening, when she
was awakened by the roaring of a torrent of water.
Although she hurriedly replaced the granite slab, by the
light of the moon she could see that the entire glen
below Ben Cruachan had been turned into what we now call
“The hill road known as the Lundavra road branches to
the left between stone walls from the main Fort William
road about 100 yards south of the town court house...At
the highest council house of Fort William on this steep
road there is a burn or stream now frequently called the
Burn, but its earlier name was Allt nan Dathadairean,
meaning the dyers burn, probably relating to the small
industry of wool and cloth dying in Fort William which
dates about the time of the Jacobite rising of 1745.
Around the upper reaches of this stream and on the
east side of the road, the moorland is known as Achan
a’chath meaning the little field of the fight, or
battle, because it was here that some Campbell clansmen
made a stand against their pursuers when fleeing from
the battle of Inverlochy in 1645.
A remnant of Argyll’s clansmen hastened over this
road . . . in their escape from the battle of Inverlochy
in 1645, when there would have been a track, not a road.
They were pursued by some of the MacDonalds of
Montrose’s army to a spot about half mile east of the
branch road to Loch Lundavra, but having a good start
the Campbells escaped.
To mark the spot where they turned back, the
MacDonalds raised a large stone on the south side of the
track and close to it. The stone became known as Clach
nan Caimbeulach (stone of the Campbells), and is
mentioned in The New Statistical Account of
Later, a cairn of stones was erected close to this
large stone, and on the same side of the road to
indicate its exact position, because there are a number
of somewhat similar large stones lying around nearby on
According to the traditional custom, every MacDonald
or those who sympathized with Montrose who passes this
way should add a stone to the cairn, and every Campbell
or those who sympathized with Argyll should throw down a
stone from the cairn.
The winter storms have reduced the cairn to a low
heap of stones almost undistinguishable as a cairn, and
the principal stone seems to have sunk into the peat and
heather so far that it is no more conspicuous than other
Very few persons now traverse this track and still
fewer will be aware of the cairn."
From Romantic Lochaber, by Donald. B. MacCulloch
Inveraray Ghost Story
Most of you know the legend commonly referred to as
the Ticonderoga ghost story. You might also know that,
in addition to Duncan Campbell of Inverawe, many other
Campbells were killed or
wounded in the famous Black Watch assault on French
forces. But did you know that there is another
Scottish legend connected to that battle?
On July 10, 1758 a doctor by the name of William
Hart experienced a strange vision while at Inverary
Castle. He was walking the castle grounds, along with a
friend and his servant, when his friend gasped. Turning
to see what had so upset his friend, he was met with the
sight of a battle taking place in the sky. The vision
appeared to show Highland forces attacking French troops
stationed behind battlements. Over and over again the
highlanders attacked, only to have their ranks
devastated by musket fire.
Later that day two young Campbell ladies arrived in
Inverary and described having witnessed a battle in the
sky. This clearly frightened them, and all involved were
at a loss as to what they had witnessed.
Weeks later, official news arrived in Inverary that
more than 300 men of the Black Watch had been killed in
an assault on a French held fort in North America. The
fort was called Ticonderoga, and the date had been July
Escape from Inveryne
Before Castle Toward was built, on the southern end of
the East Cowal penninsula, the home of the chief of the
Lamonts was at Inveryne. Inveryne is near the present
day Kilfinan, on the eastern shore of Loch Fyne, looking
across to Knapdale.
During one of the many Highland conflicts, the
Lamonts managed to take prisoner15 Campbells, and had
them held at Inveryne, in a high tower room reached only
by a narrow stair on which a guard had been placed.
After several days of captivity, the Campbells made
an escape plan. That evening, they began to sing, and
they continued to sing until it was far into the night.
But their singing was simply subterfuge: while they sang
they took their blankets, ripped them up and tied them
together to make a rope. The guards on watch gathered at
the bottom of the stair to listen to the songs, and were
not able to see what the prisoners were doing.
The prisoners secured one end of the rope and threw
out the other end out the single window. One by one,
they lowered themselves to the ground and melted into
the evening. The guards on watch noticed that fewer and
fewer voices were joined in song, but must have believed
that the prisoners were going to bed. Finally, they
heard but one very sweet voice, so beautiful that they
listened raptly to his song. When he had sung his song
to the end he said in a loud voice, "since you have all
gone to bed, I shall go to bed also," and off he went
out the window, down the rope and followed the rest into
The next day, when the Lamonts went to see their
prisoners, there was not one of them left to be found."
Bless the Duke of Argyll
How many times have you scratched your back
against a tree, post or other object, being unable to
reach an itch? An old story, confirmed by the 12th Duke
of Argyll, is that the eighth Duke, on seeing cattle and sheep being irritated by
flies and other beasties dining on
their nether regions, erected posts on his estate
against which the animals could rub and scratch
themselves. This caught the attention of the nation and,
whenever Scots would scratch their backs against a post
or other object, it became a custom to use the phrase,
“God bless the Duke of Argyll.”
long ago, Campbell of Barbreck was visiting his cousin,
Campbell of Craignish. While
Craignish had long kept the old tradition of retaining a
piper, his cousin Barbreck, although he could more than
afford the cost, would not spend the money to keep one.
As he was about to leave, he met his cousin's piper
and said, "The New Year will be upon us soon. New Year's
morning, after you have played a proper salute for my
cousin, I would much appreciate you coming to Barbreck
and playing for me; as you know, I do not have a piper.
Perhaps you could spend the day with us."
The piper promised to visit and, after playing for
his master on New Year's day, went to Barbreck with his
pipes. He played and played until he was quite tired.
Having to hint strongly that he was both hungry and
thirsty, he was finally given something to eat and
drink. The amount of food was meager, and the drink was
not much better.
Before long, tiring of his inhospitable host, the
piper stated that he must leave. "Give us one more tune
before you go," said Barbreck. "I will that," said the
piper, and began to play the tune, Tigh Bhròinein,
"House of the Miserly one."
And for long years after, Barbreck's home was
called Tigh Bhròinein.
Scottish history has often been simplified, with the
implications that undying enmity
particularly the Campbells and MacDonalds, was the norm.
Here is a story that belies such a simplistic view.
In 1647, during the Scottish civil war, Campbell of
Kilberry was called to arms by Argyll. Apparently tired
of having to march his tenants off for another foray, he
none-the-less prepared to do so. Arriving in Tarbert, he
found his brother-in-law, MacDonald of
who, along with his followers, was making ready to march
off to support the other side in the conflict. The two
gentlemen retired to an evening of a few drams and
exchanges of information about their respective
In the morning the two awoke to find, much to their
embarassment, that their troops had left without them.
Largie immediately decided to take action, and
"kidnapped" Kilberry, taking him off to Kintyre. The
Lady of Largie, nee Campbell of Kilberry, was less than
enthused, as she was in the middle of cleaning her home.
The two stayed there for a while until she made it too
uncomfortable to remain. Kilberry single-handedly
"kidnapped" Largie and set off for home in a small boat.
When they arrived, Mrs. Campbell, nee MacDonald, was
less than welcoming. It seemed that during Kilberry's
abscence his home had been besieged by Islemen for three
days. The siege ended only when she had lowered a barrel
of ale over the wall. The Islemen drank up, and wandered
off to cause mischief elsewhere. Mrs. Campbell was
rather upset that, while her home was under siege, these
two were sitting around comfortably eating, drinking and
So, back to Largie they went, only to return once
again to Kilberry. Evidently, these sojourns might have
continued without interuption. However, they were seized
by MacNeill of Gigha, who ardently threatened to
denounce the two slackards to their respective sides in
the conflict. Kilberry and Largie need not have worried,
though. Returning to Kilberry with the two gentlemen,
MacNeill fell in love with one of Kilberry's daughters,
and joined the two in their boycott of the conflict.
One evening in 1755, Duncan Campbell of Inverawe was
walking near his castle when a stranger, whose kilt was
torn and bloody, approached him. The stranger begged
Duncan to hide him, as he had killed a man in a dispute
and was just ahead of his pursuers. Duncan led him to a
recess in the castle, and swore that he would shelter
A short time later the stranger's pursuers arrived
at Inverawe. They informed Duncan that a man had killed
Duncan's cousin (some versions say his foster- brother),
that they were giving chase and asked Duncan if he had
seen anyone. Remembering his oath to the stranger,
Duncan declared that he had seen no one.
In the middle of the night Duncan woke in a state of
terror. Standing over him was the ghost of his murdered
cousin. "Inverawe, blood has been shed. Avenge my
death!," wailed the ghost, and faded away.
The next morning Duncan went to the stranger's
hiding place and informed him that he could no longer
give him shelter, as it was Duncan's kinsman that the
stranger had slain. "You have sworn to shelter me,"
answered the stranger. Duncan, torn between loyalty to
his kin and having given his word, decided on a
compromise. Once again promising not to betray the
stranger, Duncan led him to Ben Cruachan and hid him in
That night, as Duncan lay tossing, the ghost
appeared again. "Inverawe, blood has been shed. Avenge
my death," cried the ghost. Duncan refused. "I have
sworn to give the man shelter," he replied to the ghost
of his cousin, as the ghost, once more, faded away.
The third evening the ghost returned, again
demanding that Duncan avenge him. When Duncan once more
refused the ghost responded, "Farewell, then. We shall
meet again at Ticonderoga." The strange name meant
nothing to Duncan, or anyone else.
Three years later Duncan, now a major in the Black
Watch and second in command, was sent with his regiment
to fight the French in North America. His fellow
officers were well aware of both Duncan's story of his
cousin's ghost and his terror at the name of
Ticonderoga. The regiment received orders to attack Fort
Carillon (the French name for the fort, and they kept
from Duncan the fact that this was also known by the
natives as Ticonderoga.
The evening before the attack Duncan received another
visit from his cousin's ghost. The next morning he awoke
and went to his brother officers saying, "You have all
deceived me. He came to my tent last night and told me;
this is Ticonderoga! I shall die here."
Duncan was wounded in the battle that day and died
of blood poisoning three days later.
Return of Black Colin
In 1400 a son was born to Sir Duncan Campbell and his
wife Margaret, a granddaughter of King Robert III. His
name was Colin, and was known to the Campbells of Glen
Orchy as Cailean dubh na Roimhe - Black Colin of Rome.
Black Colin was responsible for much of the building of
which sits beneath Cruachan Ben at the northern end of
The reference to Rome in his title signifies that he
visited there three times. An account from the Black
Book of Taymouth refers to a stone that he carried on
his journeys: ‘Ane stone of the quantity of a hen's eg
set in silver, whilk Sir Coline Campbell first Laird of
Glenorchy woir when he fought in battel at Rhodes
agaynst the Turks, he being one of the knychts of
The Scots were fierce Crusaders, and it was not
unusual for them to carry charms with them on their
journeys to the Holy Land. The stone mentioned above was
the one that Black Colin took with
him on his journey as a Crusader, which brings us to the
story at hand.
Colin learned of the Crusades and vowed to go. His young
wife, Margaret, was not keen to see him leave but Colin
was adamant. Before he left, he had a ring made,
inscribed with both their names. He broke the ring in
two and gave Margaret one half, saying, ‘If you come to
receive my half of the ring you will know me to be
dead.' He then took ship at Leith for Rome where, after
an audience with the Pope, he left to join the knights
fighting at Rhodes.'
Seven years passed. Lady Margaret was besieged by
suitors during that time, who insisted that Colin must
be dead. She replied that she had never received the
token that Colin had promised to have sent upon his
death, and that he must, therefore, still be alive.
Unknown to Lady Margaret, one of her suitors, Baron
Neil MacCorquodale, had intercepted messages that Coling
had sent, killing the messengers. He remained steadfast
in his pursuit of her, despite her refusal to marry him,
as the lands of Glen Orchy would add nicely to his
Despite her refusal to describe the token, MacCorquodale
came up with a plan. He arrived to visit her with a
raggedly dressed man who said that he bore a letter with
news for the Lady of Glen Orchy. When she opened it she
found that it described the death of her husband.
‘Is there no token?,' she asked.
‘There is no token,' said the man. ‘But I received
word in Rome from the only survivor of the Campbells who
accompanied your husband. He told me that, as he lay
dying, your lord entrusted a token to this man. However,
the man was sorely wounded in a battle with the Saracens
after that, and the token was taken from him.'
Lady Margaret was overwhelmed by grief. But, as time
went by, MacCorquodale remained attentive, and continued
to press for her hand. Finally, she agreed to marry him
as soon as the tower of Kilchurn Castle was completed.
Despite her agreement, she still retained hope that
Colin would return. She ordered the workmen to build as
slowly as possible.
Another woman also had doubts about Colin's death;
it was his old foster-mother. She disliked and
mistrusted MacCorquodale, and hated the idea of him
taking her lord's place. She called her eldest son to
her and told him to go to Rome, and find out what he
could about Colin.
Colin's foster-brother made his way to Rome, where
he came face to face with Colin. He told him what was
occuring at home, and they immediately took ship for
When they landed Colin sent his foster-brother home
alone, told him to tell his mother that he had been
unsuccessful, and said that he, Colin, would follow in
disguise. Dressed as a beggar, Colin followed him to the
home of his elderly foster-mother. Unrecognized by her,
Colin asked for hospitality of the house, which was
readily granted. Colin then revealed himself to his
foster- mother, and asked for news of the wedding. She
told him that it was planned for the following day.
The next day dawned and found Colin making his way
to the castle in his beggar's disguise. He arrived to
find that the wedding feast was under way, and entered
the hall, seating himself at the lowest table. When wine
was brought to the table he announced in a loud voice
that he would only accept a drink from the Lady of Glen
While some found this declaration by a beggar
offensive, the lady made her way to the apparent beggar
and offered him a cup. Colin, took the cup from her
hand, drained it in one gulp and handed it back to her.
Margaret looked down into the cup, where she saw his
half of the token ring. Startled, she looked at the
beggar, who raised his eyes to meet hers, and Margaret
saw her husband who had left so many years before.
Their reunion was a time of great joy for the two of
them, as it was for Colin's clansmen. Obviously, the
wedding was called off, the wedding feast turned into a
celebration of Colin's return and the news was spread
throughout Glen Orchy.
MacCorquodale was terrified at Colin's return but,
as he had already accepted the hospitality of the house,
he was allowed to return to his own lands unharmed. That
did not, however, stop Colin's clansmen from later
hunting MacCorquodale down and killing him for his
trip out of Oban Bay, heading toward Tobermory on Mull,
one passes the southern tip of Lismore, and a rock that
would barely be noticed but for the small light tower
that sits atop it. This is Lady’s Rock, a small rock
that, while exposed during low tide, is completely
submerged at high tide. How it came by its name follows.
During the early 1500's life was uncertain in the
western Highlands. The rising power of the Campbells, a
direct result of their constant support of the King’s
interests in the Highlands, made many uneasy. Added to
this was the continued intransigence of Clan Donald
toward the Crown, a situation which was central to the
conflict between these two great Highland clans, and
which impacted on many of the other clans in the area,
among whom were the Macleans on the Isle of Mull.
MacDonalds and Macleans had banded together against the
rising power of the Campbells, ravaging some of the
Campbells’ richest lands. Soon after this the son of the
Clan Donald Chief married a sister of Colin Campbell,
the 3rd Earl of Argyll. Finding himself
isolated politically, Lachlan Cattanach, 11th
Chief of the Clan Maclean followed suit, and wed another
sister of Argyll, Lady Elizabeth Campbell.
followed after is unclear. One story is that Lady
Elizabeth was barren and did not provide him with a son,
another that Lachlan Cattanach had supported MacDonald
of Lochalsh in his attempt to proclaim himself Lord of
the Isles, and resented Earl Colin’s role in suppressing
the uprising, another that Lady Elizabeth had twice
sought to take Lachlan’s life. But history tells us that
in 1523, Lachlan Cattanach abandoned his wife on what is
now known as Lady’s Rock as the tide was coming in. He
returned home to Duart Castle, and dispatched messengers
to Earl Colin in Inveraray, to say that his sister had
been lost at sea.
Unbeknownst to the Chief of the Maclean’s, things
weren’t going exactly as planned. As his wife stood
helplessly on the rock, watching the tide rise, a small
ship sailed around a point. She was overjoyed to
discover the ship manned by several of her clansmen, who
swept her off the rock and sailed for Inveraray with the
days later, when Lachlan Cattanach’s messengers arrived
in Inveraray with the news that Lady Elizabeth was lost
at see, they found her seated at the table with Earl
Campbell clansmen were quick to anger, but were held in
check by their Chief. However, memories last for a long
time in the Highlands. Several years later Lady
Elizabeth’s other brother, John Campbell of Cawdor,
found Lachlan Maclean in Edinburgh. He followed him to
his lodgings, and there stabbed Lachlan Maclean to death
as he lay in his bed, affording him as much opportunity
to defend himself as Maclean had Lady Elizabeth.
from this story that the poet, Thomas Campbell, formed
his poem, Glenara.
"I dreamt of
my lady, I dreamt of her grief,
I dreamt that her lord was a barbarous chief;
On a rock of the ocean fair Ellen did seem;
Glenara! Glenara! now read me my dream!"
Gray John & a Campbell Pipe Tune
In 1669, Iain
Glas, Gray John Campbell, 11th laird of
Glenorchy, was asked by the King’s Privy Council to
travel to Caithness in the north of Scotland. There he
was to stamp out plundering by William Sinclair of
Dunbeath and his followers. He was joined by part of the
King’s Guard, Lord Linlithgow’s foot regiment and later,
George (Sinclair), 6th Earl of Caithness.
They took Dunbeath Castle, and carried out the Privy Council’s
orders. But while there, an opportune situation
The Earl of Caithness, who was married to a daughter of the Marquis
of Argyll, was deeply in debt. Gray John lent him money,
and continued to do so until he was in control of
Caithness’ finances. By 1672, the Earl conveyed his
‘estates and heritable jurisdictions’ to Gray John in
writing. In return for this, Gray John agreed to pay the
Earl £1000 a year for the remainder of his life.
Gray John waited until the Earl died in 1676, and then stepped
forward to claim the Caithness title. His claim was
approved by King Charles II, which surprised many
people. However, when George Sinclair of Keiss the next
in line for the earldom, protested, the king reversed
In consolation, in 1681 King Charles II made Gray John Earl of
Breadalbane and Holland, Viscount of Tay and Paintland,
Lord Glen Orchy, Benderalloch, Ormalie and Wick.
This did not satisfy him though, and he decided to take
the Caithness lands by force, as he regarded them as his
own. He gathered an army of 700 men, requiring that each
be able to leap over a double plaid (4' 9") in full
armor and gear, and marched them into Caithness.
There is a traditional tale told by Breadalbane Campbells that they
allowed a train of pack ponies carrying whisky to be
captured by the Sinclairs and, after the Sinclairs had
drunk themselves into inebriation, had fallen on them.
In any event, the Campbells routed Sinclairs at Allt
nam Mearlach, the Burn of Thieves. Gray John began
collecting taxes in Caithness after the battle, but his
men were so harassed by the Sinclairs that they were
forced to withdraw. However, eventually he was able to
seize control of the lands, and gathered rents from them
during the rest of his lifetime.
It was from the battle at Allt nam Mearlach that one of the most
famous of Campbell pipe tunes arose. Known as
Breadalbane’s March, or Salute, the original Gaelic
title, Tha Bodaich nam Brigais, addressed with
derision that the Sinclairs not only ran, but were not
in the kilt. Composed by Finlay MacIvor, Campbell of
Glen Lyon’s piper, as he watched the Sinclair’s turn and
run, he wrote . . .
bodach nam brigais,
Nam brigais, nam brigais,
Tha bodach nam brigais
A nis retréuta."
"The carles (old men) with the breeks
the breeks, the breeks,
The carles with the breeks
Are flying before us."
It was to this air that
Sir Walter Scott later wrote the words to the song,
"Hail to the Chief."