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Campbell Ancient

"Forget Not"

One of the most recognisable setts on the Scottish Register of Tartans, with the registration number of one. This tartan is described as a "moving centre" - the position of the tram lines (double black lines) in the tartan move around but can still act as central anchors of the tartan. The black line on the green band isn't a centre as the design of the sett on either side of it are always different.

Campbell has many tartans affiliated to it, here are some examples:

The Campbell sett was adopted as the Government Tartan, appointed to the Highland Companies in 1725, followed by the Black Watch in 1739. Black Watch differs slightly to the Campbell Ancient tartan featured - it's essentially Campbell Modern, a much deeper colour variation but the sett remains the same. Throughout the restrictions of the Dress Act 1746, following the Battle of Culloden, Black Watch was still worn and produced across Scotland for the Highland Regiments despite other tartans for more commercial use being widely eradicated.

Clan Campbell was historically one of the largest and most powerful in the Scottish Highlands. Their lands sprawled across Argyll and consequently the Clan Campbell Chiefs became the Dukes of Argyll. The history of Clan Campbell is extensive and can be traced back to the ancient Britons of Strathclyde with the earliest documented record dating back to 1263. The clans name developed throughout the centuries too as a result of marriage and gaining land - from Clan O'Duine, to Clann Diarmaid - developed from Celtic mythology referring to hero "Diarmid The Boar" (the Boar still a main feature of the Campbell clan crest), and finally to Campbell as we know it.

Their history his bloody and dramatic. Before their power spread throughout Argyll the Clan was under the domination of the Lords of Lorne - Clan MacDougall. The MacDougalls killed Campbell Chief Cailean Mor (Colin Campbell) in 1296 and since Campbell chiefs have taken the name MacCailean Mor - son of Cailean Mor, a hero of the Clan (this is what we call a Gaelic patronymic name). Despite this loss to the Clan, the Campbells grew in prominence between the 12-1500s, capable of wielding influence from Edinburgh to the Hebrides.

The Campbells' were staunch supporters of Robert the Bruce and benefited greatly from the Scottish victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314 and Bruce's success as King of Scots. The were privy to excellent titles, lands and marriages - one particular marriage being between Sir Neil Campbell and Robert the Bruce's sister, Mary. There were also Campbells married to prominent Clan Stewart nobles too - a great card to play as they would be the next ruling Clan in Scotland.

By the 15th century, the power of one of Clan Campbell and Clan Bruce's rivals, the Lords of the Isles - Clan MacDonald, was broken, opening the door for the Campbell's to take yet more power. The Campbell's saw themselves as the natural successor of the Clan Donald lands.

Campbells' were present at a number of the most famous battles in Scotland, Bannockburn for one and the 1513 Battle of Flodden to name another - another article goes into this historic and landmark battle in much more detail. Campbells' also fought for Mary, Queen of Scots at the Battle of Langside, 1568, commanding her forces.

Throughout the 1600s the Campbells' continued to hold a great deal of power and military prominence across Scotland...however, it was within this century that things began to change. They had long been loyal to the Kings and Queens of Scots...but now the tables began to turn. Clan Campbell fought to suppress Jacobitism during the early Jacobite risings and depose the Catholic Stuart James VII & II - this became known as the Monmouth Rebellion, a rebellion the 9th Earl of Argyll, Archibald Campbell was beheaded for in 1685. Seven years later, in 1692, 38 unarmed MacDonald Clansmen were massacred at Glencoe - The Glencoe Massacre - when the long running Campbell/MacDonald feud became intertwined with a Government plan to suppress Jacobitism. Six Campbell soliders had been part of the Goverment force responsible for this and the event was lead by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon.

Throughout the 18th century Jacobite risings, the Campbell's remained loyal to the British-Hanovarian forces, fighting to suppress the Jacobite armies from 1715 to 1746. It's worth mentioning that not all of Clan Campbell took the Governments side - some small groups of Campbells' did join the Jacobites - the Campbell's of Breadalbane for example. In 1724, General Wade reported Campbells' made up a Goverment force of 4000 men, while the Breadalbane Jacobite force was just 1000 strong. By 1725, six Highland Companies were joined together to create a Goverment force - three of these were made up of Campbell troops. These companies became known as the Black Watch. The Campbell's remained a prominent force against the Jacobites throughout the 1745 Rising.

It almost goes without saying that Clan Campbell had more than its fair share of rivals: Clans Donald, Dougall, Gordon, Arthur, Lamont, MacLaren, Sinclair just to name a few. Perhaps it is their famous rivalries and switching from being staunch Scots supporters to Government troops that adds to the intrigue of this huge and powerful clan.


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© Emma Wilkinson | The Kiltmakers Chronicle

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