Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Campbell of Inverneill, on Canna

This is a really good book! John Lorne Campbell was a scion of the Campbell of Inverneill family, and if it had not been bankrupt, would probably have succeeded his father as 'laird' of that estate.

In fact, it was John's grandfather, "Old Inverneill" who, at the beginning of the 20th century, placed an unsustainable debt upon the Estate. This fact was kept secret until John's father, Duncan, died in 1954. (Really!) This silence very probably helped destroy Duncan's first marriage (not to speak of his life), and certainly made John Lorne believe that his father had rejected him as a capable successor as 'laird' of Inverneill. He could not understand why he was never given responsibility in overseeing even parts of the Estate. In the meantime, Duncan worked as an engineer, fended off creditors, and rarely saw his John Lorne, or indeed, Inverneill. John Lorne's parents did not attend his marriage to Margaret Fay Shaw.

The story, then, is at heart, about a man who, crippled by his own introversion and sense of failure, became Scotland's leading Gaelic scholar, as well as the owner and finally (in actual fact) the 'laird' of the Island of Canna. Also, he and Margaret Shaw made a solid marriage that lasted until John died. In an attempt to protect Canna's future, John Lorne and his wife deeded Canna to the National Trust for Scotland.

I must admit that I have been cynical about the Gaelic spellings on street signs, and Gaelic language courses, and Scottish Nationalism, etc. However, this book showed me why such a movement is strong. The story of the Norwegian fishing industry being allowed to fish inshore along the Western Coasts, with no reaction by the British government would have certainly made me into a nationalist. It took 30 years of constant hammering by John Lorne and friends to make the government move on this issue, and by that time, the western islands' small populations had almost disappeared along with the fisheries.

Today, Canna has a population of 20 people. It's future is a fragile one, but it exists today and may tomorrow. The school has 4 children! And John Lorne's amazing collection of Gaelic folklore, songs and linguistics is on Canna, an invaluable source for scholars. The photo below is one of Margaret Shaw Campbell, and 2 Spanish girls who were close friends of the Campbells. The girl on the right is Magdalena, who curates the John Lorne Campbell Collection on Canna today.

(I might also mention that Perman cites my knapdalepeople website as the basis for the biography of Archibald Campbell of Inverneill. I am honoured!)

A Countess of the Covenant Times

Another book has helped me understand the Civil Wars and their effects upon Scotland: a biography of Anna, daughter of Lord Seaforth, wife of Alexander Lindsay (Earl of Belcarres), and then, the wife of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, the one who was beheaded in 1685 by James Stewart, King of England and Scotland. Anna's story is one of military success and failure, exile in Holland, poverty and fortitude. Her first husband was a strong Covenanter who fought against the Royalists; and then against Cromwell on the side of the King. It was all very romantic, and hugely expensive.

At the age of 32, and having given birth to 6 children, she accompanied her ailing first husband through the very primitive Highlands during the failed Glencairn Uprising, and then over the Channel to Holland. And every now and then, when she had a chance, she brought Belcarres from bankruptcy and disaster back to financial stability. She was quite a lady.

Her life gave me some idea as to the true disaster that fell on the Highlands in the 1600s. The fact was that Scotland could not afford to carry on the battles that they fought during the English Civil Wars. Its population was relatively small and its economy was primitive; it was necessary to hire and support professional soldiers who had fought in the European Wars; and weaponry was rapidly changing, while gaining in value and expense.

She was, by the way, the mother in law of Sir Duncan of Auchinbreck. She was, therefore, Sir James Auchinbreck's grandmother, he who fought on the losing side in 1745., and ended his life at Gairloch. A lot of 'history' at this time is about family connections.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Reading about the Covenanter Wars

As a result of my work at the Lochgilphead Archives, I have collected material on the Argyll Militia and on the Free Church of Scotland.

The Free Church story has me wading through a history of the Covenanters and the Killing Times, in the 1600s. We all live in 'history' whether we know it or not; and so, to understand the Free Church, I find myself wondering about the history of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland.

My background on this topic is pretty much zero, and so the book is - for me - hard going, but I think, worth it. So far, I find that King Charles I of England and Scotland was a political moron, as well as being a liar and a faithless friend.

Auchendrain Outdoor Museum

Auchendrain Museum lies between Inveraray and Lochgilphead. It was a working village, and was donated by the Duke of Argyll for purposes of study and tourism. It is beautifully presented, with everything from a pauper's house to a tacksman's home.

I have used a number of my photos from previous visits to illustrate 'everyday life' in the early 1800s.

One item of real interest to me, on this visit was this handloom. It was very probably built and used by a family of weavers, the McTaggarts. They lived and worked at Kilmory Knap through the 1800s.

Auchnabreck Hill Walk

On a hill overlooking Lochgilphead and Loch Fyne, there is an "Auchnabreac Walk." We got lost a couple of times, but made it out to civilization finally.

It is a 'nature' walk, and has along it some very old and outstanding stone 'squiggles'. No one knows what exactly these carvings mean, but they are definitely of interest to those who study the prehistoric aspects of Argyll.

This is Mary, at one of these prehistoric centres:
"Auchnabreck" is of course, a reference to the Campbells of Auchenbreac. Apparently, the Castle in this area is long gone.

Gairloch, and Auchnabreac

One of my interests is the last Campbell of Auchenbreac. Back in the 1600s, he was the foremost Knapdale landowner. He was the 2d in command to Campbell of Argyll. One of these Auchenbreacs led the Campbells at the Battle Inverlochy, and was killed by Alasdair (Colkitto) MacDonald at its conclusion. Going into the 1700s, the Auchenbreacs were very close to bankruptcy. This could be why (unlike the Duke of Argyll), they fought with the Jacobites in 1746. Official bankruptcy followed, and the last home of this unfortunate man was at Gairloch by Loch Fyne.

Gairloch Castle Marion Campbell dates the building to the late 17th century or early 18th century. It was probably intended as a lookout post.

Recently, it has been completely renovated, and made into a modern home.

Lochgilphead Free Church

On the lochside street, there is the imposing stone Free Church. Inside, it is very lovely, with a warm light from its large windows and pale peach-coloured walls.

I attended services here for the 3 Sundays I stayed in Lochgilphead. My Campbell and MacIntyre ancestors were members and early supporters of this Church, as you can see by reading the Duncan McGilp letters on Knapdale People Website.

The Free Church is similar to the Orthodox Jewish Synagogue in that it maintains that its members must not work on the Sabbath. The 20th Century has been one of secularism, and the large numbers of people who built the Free Church after 1843 have dwindled. However, as the Rev. Morrison, pastor in Lochgilphead, noted in one of his sermons, the Christian church has lasted some 2,000 years, and continues to do so through thick and thin.

One of the debates current in the Free Church is whether to include pianos or organs as accompaniments for the songs. I was astonished and impressed by the people who led the singing during the service. Another factoid: the Free Church is not 'teetotaler', but - of course - does not encourage drunkeness either.

I am glad I attended this church, and probably, if I lived in Scotland, would be a member of the Free Church. Most of Canada's Presbyterians have become United Church, and (in my opinion) lost a large part of its backbone in the process..

Lochgilphead has a Golf Course!

This is within the town, and walking distance from the shopping area.

Really, Lochgilphead is a very attractive town!


Lochgilphead's architecture is of the traditional highland variety. This is the street that runs along the lochside. Note that the bus stop is right there, beside the Information Scotland centre. Very handy, that.

The main attraction of Lochgilphead, (for me) was the Argyll and Bute Archives. Its collection is among the best of its kind, and the Council has even provided the public with a small reading room. The archivists are extremely helpful, too. And, right next door, there is the excellent local library! If this sounds like I am gushing, well, I am: anything to encourage the Council to build on this archive. It is most useful for those interested in family history, etc.


Lochgilphead is the most populous town in mid Argyll. The photo on the left shows you the lovely park-like atmosphere along that harbour.

There is a mysterious fountain on the other side of that white building. Murdo MacDonald, Argyll's historian, has recorded, in "The Kist 63", Spring 2002, page 13, the foll0wing information:

It commemorates Dr. Alexander Rodger Fraser, ship surgeon, who died 4th Sept 1894, in the Gulf of Suez on board SS Manora. He was the son of the Rev. William Fraser, Minister of the Free Church Congregation in Lochgilphead. Dr. Fraser was a graduate of the U of Glasgow..."

On the south side of the Loch, there is Kilmory Castle, which is now the headquarters of the Argyll Bute council. Around it is a truly lovely garden. Apparently, this was laid out in 1830. Wikipedia has an extensive description of this building.

The Crinan Canal lies on the south edge of Lochgilphead. It connects Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne on the east, to Crinan and Bellanoch on the Jura Sound on the west. Today, it is the path taken by yachts who travel through the West Highlands in summertime. On the other side of the canal lies a very old and historic estate, "Auchindarroch", or "Oakfield".


Keills lies south of Tayvallich and faces Jura Sound. It is here that the a pier was built in the early 1800s. Cattle from Islay and Jura were conveyed across the Sound to this part of Knapdale. The pier, build with Thomas Telford's guidance, is, like its twin at Lagg on Jura, is gradually disappearing into the water. To refresh your memory, this is the pier on Jura:

This area was once part of the Clan McNeill territories However, by the early 1800s, this part of the clan had either moved to Colonsay, or become bankrupt. Obviously, ownership of this section of Knapdale was a valuable source of income, given the large cattle industry of the 1700s. But after Waterloo, there was a post-war depression that particularly affected the Highland's droving business. In 1831, John MacNeill Esq, "formerly of Oakfield, now of Gigha", gave up Keills, Keilmore and Keilbeg, and the Ferry and privilege of Ferrying, and the Mill built back in the day of Sir James Campbell of Auchinbreck, etc etc to his major creditor, the Renfrewshire Banking Company. By 1837, the latter bank had sold the estate of Neill Malcolm of Poltalloch.

On the other side of a ridge from the Keills farm, there is a very old, historical Keills Chapel, dating from the 8th century. Knapdale People site has along with its cemetery inscriptions, an archaeological description of this building. The very large cross inside the chapel shows St Michael trampling on the dragon, above a nest with three eggs symbolizing the Trinity, and a cleric holding a book. A copy of this cross has been erected outside, up the hill from the chapel.

Carsaig near Tayvallich

Carsaig Bay faces Jura across the Jura Sound. The earliest Free Church congregation built a church at Carsaig. As far as I know, it has been demolished, although the Manse remains, as a private home. I'm very interested in the Free Church in Knapdale, and so was disappointed that the building has disappeared!

However, the cemetery is there. Alison Dawson did a fine job in recording the inscriptions in the old part of this cemetery. There was a puzzle, though: a stone enclosure with no entrance, and no inscription that I could see. However, Ms Dawson found her way inside, and notes that inside this ruin there is a mural:

This is erected over the remains of ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL OF STRONDOUR who died on Novr ye 13th 1719 in the 42nd year of his age, by the direction of DANIEL CAMPBELL OF CARSAIG and ALEXANDER CAMPBELL JUNR Mercht in Glasgow, his sons 1748.
(followed by inscription in Latin)

On the outside wall of this ruin, there is a memorial to John Campbell an Innkeeper and Sheriff Officer, with his wife, Agnes McNab. It has been erected in by his descendants in the year 2000. This particular John Campbell appears a multitude of times in my people data base. He was a merchant as well as an innkeeper, and as such did a lot of business with the Inverneill Estate. In 1803, he appears on a list of men eligible to be balloted for membership in the Argyll Militia. Also, he and his wife had a number of children. When you go to the data base, go to the 'advanced search' and enter his name and "Tayvallich".

We were lucky (again), in that the weather was very fine and sunny. This is a photo of the cemetery on our day in Carsaig:


Tayvallich surrounds a harbour facing east towards Loch Sween. When we were there, a ferry operated from this harbour to Jura.
The village's website is a good one, informative, with a listing of 'things to do' when you are visiting.

In the bad old days, it's geographical setting meant it needed plenty of 'duns' on the surrounding hills. "Tayvallich" is an English form of the Gaelic, "Tigh Bheallich", meaning "House of the Pass". It sits on the east end of a narrow piece of land that almost divides its peninsula in half. On the other side of this neck, less than a mile away, is Carsaig.

Marion Campbell's booklet, Mid Argyll, an Archaeological Guide includes a splendid description of the route from Bellanoch on the Crinan Canal south to Keills. She notes on page 21, that Tayvallich village is covered by 2 forts on the west, and one on the south. They are hard to find, but she said that Dun a'Chogaidh ('Fort of War' or a'Chrocaidh, 'of hanging' ) can be reached by scrambling up from a caravan-site at the north of the bay. I would say that if Marion Campbell found it difficult to find that dun, then it is REALLY difficult!