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Like most Europeans, the Scots are a blend of races: Neolithic survivors mixed with Celtic "Pict", Britonic Celt incomers, Celtic "Scots" invaders from Ireland, Viking and Norse raiders and settlers, Norman and Flemish knights and even some few Angles in the south. All these joined to add their genes to this sturdy race of people. Until cures for Scurvy (vitamin deficiency) and Smallpox were discovered in the 18th century, the people's hardiness was ensured by the survival of the fittest.

Like most Scots, all Campbells are a blend of races through maternal ancestry, although there were times from the 16th through the 18th centuries when, among some leading families in Argyll and Perthshire, they had grown so numerous as frequently to intermarry, intensifying their characteristics as a kin. Many also share the Scots Gaelic blood of the Dalriadic O'Duibne people whose heiress their ancestor married on Lochawe in the 13th century.

Their paternal ancestry is apparently from the Britonic Celts of Strathclyde, sometimes called the "Romano British" from the northwestern part of the early "Kingdom of Strathclyde".

The capital of Strathclyde was Al Cluit or DunBriton (now Dumbarton Rock) in the area known as the Lennox. According to legend, here in An Talla Dearg, the Red Hall of Dun Briton, was born the first ancestor of the Campbells who appears in all three of the early Gaelic genealogies; Smervie or Mervyn, son of an Arthur, who became known as "the Wildman of the Woods", perhaps being a notable hunter. If the legend is based upon a real character, he likely lived in the eleventh or twelfth century. However those names at that period can have absolutely no actual connection with the legendary Arthur, whose possible existence is said to have been many centuries earlier.

The name Campbell did not come into use until several generations later.


It was Sir Cailein Mor Campbell's grandfather Dugald on Lochawe who is said to have been the first given the nickname "Cam Beul" since he apparently had the engaging trait of talking out of one side of his mouth. Cam beul means curved mouth in the Gaelic. This Duncan was so much loved by his family that they took his nickname as their family name and held to it even beyond Argyll.

The spelling of the surname (family name) was originally Cambel. Then when Robert the Bruce's son King David came to the throne as King of Scots he brought with him a number of Norman knights to whom he gave lands in an attempt to introduce Norman efficiency in administration. David had been at the English court and admired the Norman system of feudalism. The use of the spelling "Campbell" may perhaps have been as a result of Norman rather than Gaelic scribes attempting to write the Gaelic name.

The name Cambel was first used by the family in the 13th century. The first chief of the clan to appear on record as "Campbell" may well have been Sir Duncan of Lochawe when he was created Lord Campbell in 1445


Clan means family group in the Gaelic. There came to be roughly three uses of the word clan: for the large clans like Clan Campbell, Clan Donald and Clan Gordon; for the smaller clans like Clan Callum or Clan Lachlan; for the sub-clans or name groups within the larger clans like Clan Tavish or Clan Arthur (the McTavishes of Dunardry and McArthurs of Tirevadich).

The idea of all members of a clan being of one name is a Victorian misconception. Clans begin to emerge as recognizable units in the 12th and 13th century. Initially the Chief and the Chief's close kin were the leaders of the clan while their followers were the local people who were their tenants or who looked to them for leadership in defense. So while the Clan Campbell were led by Campbells, until about the 18th century, many of their followers, and sometimes even they themselves often used patronymics or father's names.

Patronymics lie behind many modern Scottish family names, particularly those now beginning with the `Mac' or `Mc' prefix, meaning `son of'. Further, in early records these sometimes appear with `Vic', meaning `grandson of'. For example Archibald MacDougall V'Gillespic (Gaelic for Archibald) was Archibald son of Dougall son of Archibald. Sometimes, such as in the 16th century, such names might even appear followed by `alias Campbell'. In modern times families who were not of Campbell origin yet who had long given their allegiance to the Chief of the clan have come to be called "septs".


For four hundred and fifty years, from 1457 onwards, the Chiefs of Clan Campbell played leading roles in the government of Scotland and later of Great Britain. When Colin Campbell of Lochawe was made first Earl of Argyll in 1457 and then Chancellor of Scotland, until the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England in 1707, the Argyll family and their numerous followers had always to be taken into account where Scottish affairs were concerned.

In the mid 16th century, the time of Elizabeth of England and Mary Queen of Scots, the fifth Earl of Argyll could bring a larger army to the field than that of either queen and he was the only noble in the British Isles to have his own artillery. In the mid 17th century the 8th Earl and Marquis of Argyll ruled Scotland for a time.

From 1701 and for the next two hundred years, the Dukes of Argyll were frequently involved in the government of Great Britain. In the first part of the eighteenth century the second Duke both commanded British armies and served in the Cabinet, while the third Duke, his heir, administered Scotland. The 8th Duke was a Cabinet Minister in the British government. In the second half of the nineteenth century Lord Lorne, heir to the 8th Duke, married Queen Victoria's daughter and was Governor General of Canada. Two Dukes have been Field Marshals and one a 4-star General.

Today most of the aristocratic families of Britain, including the Duke of Argyll, prefer to serve their country in commercial, cultural and charitable roles and in preserving the extraordinary heritage of their architectural and archival treasures through free enterprise for the public good.



(The following information on the Septs of the Clan Campbell has been extracted from Volume I of The History of Clan Campbell by Alastair Lorne Campbell of Airds.) The name 'sept' is given to members of a branch of a clan who do not share its name, although they may or may not be of the same blood.

Within a clan, following the Highland fashion of designating people by the names of their fathers, grandfathers, and sometimes more remote ancestors, other names could be used for certain family groups. Hence in Clan Campbell we have the MacTavish ('Son of Thomas' in Gaelic) sept, descended from a Thomas Campbell, the MacConnochie ('Son of Duncan', in Gaelic) sept, descended from a Duncan Campbell and early offshoots like the MacArthurs and the MacIvers who descend from the chiefly stock before the adoption of the name Campbell.

Other family kindreds who had no blood connection but who might be nativi or 'native men', former inhabitants of lands taken over by a new chief might also choose to follow him and to become septs of his clan.

The word Clann in Gaelic need signify no more than 'family' or 'children' and there were hundreds of such groups who made no pretence to set up as major powers on their own but who followed the local chief and became members of his clan.

Sometimes these smaller kindreds were widely spread and their branches could follow different Chiefs. And very often the same name could come from a whole range of unrelated sources particularly in the case of Mac-names, or patronymics as they are called, which mean 'Son of'.

The 19c enthusiasm for clans, fostered for their own reasons both by the tartan manufacturers and the Clan Societies, resulted in the attribution of as many names as possible to particular clans as septs - sadly only too often with ludicrous results. The idea that all Millers should belong to Clan Macfarlane or all Taylors to Clan Cameron is clearly untenable; this is not to say that the names were not used by members of those clans on occasion but they are both work-names of trades carried on in practically every community across English-speaking Britain. Nor is the suggestion that all sons of Harry, Gib, Thomas or Arthur, to take four names as examples, should descend from the same person of that particular name any more tenable. The same point needs to be made about names which derive from a place name and where the original form included 'de' or 'of'' and which would be used by anyone, related or not, who came from the place in question.

But every effort was made, often on the slimmest of reasons, to attach as many names as possible to the well-known clans. Some of these claims are based on nothing more than a lively imagination, others depend entirely on one single recorded instance of a connection, this being judged enough to assign all holders of the name to one clan or another.

Our list of septs is by no means perfect; there are some names whose inclusion would seem to be due more to this sept-hunting enthusiasm than to historical accuracy and there are many names which loyally followed the Campbell Chiefs for centuries which have not been included. Quite who was responsible for the compilation of this list or when, is unknown.

But rather than encourage still further confusion, our Chief has said that he does not wish to make any alterations to the 'official' list of Campbell sept names which follows.

Rather than do that, he said some years ago that he was prepared to accept as members of Clan Campbell all those of Scottish descent who were prepared to acknowledge him as their Chief. This very much follows what actually happened in past times when 'broken men' - those without a chief - attached themselves by his permission to a chief and became his men.

As will be seen different versions of the same name which have a common origin are grouped together. Names appear here which also appear under other clans; this is quite proper since, as already explained - in many cases there were quite different, unrelated ancestors in different parts of the country who gave their name to their descendants. If, in modern times, people with a sept name which appears under more than one clan, wish to show allegiance to a clan and have no idea from which area they originate, then they should chose one of the clans which is said to include their name. It is quite wrong to try to 'belong' to more than one clan.

Several septs have tartans assigned to them. This makes absolutely no difference to the status of the sept concerned and in no way implies that the name is a clan on its own. In cases where a sept quite properly appears under the name of more than one clan and is known to derive from more than one, unconnected source, the attribution of the tartan is actually misleading and those of the sept name should wear the tartan of the parent clan.

Spelling was an uncertain art and there is no significance in the various forms of spelling the same name. Nor is any significance to be taken from the various spellings of Mac, Mc, M', Mak or whatever.


While the existence and power of the Chiefs to lead their kinsmen and followers was increasingly acknowledged as a political fact of life in Scotland, clans were never organized into the system of government.

The first Clan Associations or Societies were founded in the late 18th century as a means of keeping a sense of kinship among the increasingly scattered members of clans who were being drawn or driven away from their home communities by over-population, the industrial revolution or by opportunities for emigration.

Clan Societies are legally constituted bodies, generally run upon a democratic basis and with the Clan Chief as figurehead. Ideally they are non-political and with emphasis upon kinship and family above all else.

The culture of the Gael (Highlanders and Islanders) was long based upon the features of the landscape and association with landmarks. Consequently those who moved away soon lost all touch with their cultural heritage. Today modern travel and media make possible a re-forging of the links to that heritage for which many yearn as a point of stability in a swiftly changing world. The Clan Societies help each member to re-forge those links.

For membership please contact:
Walter Jean Campbell
6412 Newcastle Road
Fayetteville, NC 28303-2137
Phone (910)864-4231


In Scottish heraldry there are NO "Clan Arms" or "Family Coats of Arms", whatever those attempting to sell you `authentic' arms may state. The arms of the Chief, or of any individual, are their personal property and in Scots law may not be displayed except where indicating their presence or authority.

In Scotland the control of heraldry is equal in a certain sense to the United States registration of official seals and trade marks. It is official in law. The Lord Lyon is the Monarch's `Supreme Officer of Honour in Scotland' to whom all heraldic matters have been delegated. He is a Judge of the Realm with considerable powers. While it can be argued correctly that Scots law does not extend beyond Scotland, members of Scottish clans and clan societies outside Scotland have an obvious vested interest in upholding the Scottish laws governing that clan's heraldry.

Every Scot granted arms is distinct from each other. Preference of the individual is taken into account subject to the laws of arms in designing new coats. Campbells display some version of the gyronny of eight which marks them as descendants of the forebears of the Chiefs of Clan Campbells.


Campbell castles and lands could be found in six parts of Scotland: Argyll, Angus, Ayrshire, Clackmannan, Nairnshire and Perthshire, although principally in Argyll where the home of the Chief, Inveraray Castle, is the most important to any Campbell visitor. The castle at Inveraray is open to the public in the summer season, except on Fridays.

Loudoun Castle in Ayrshire, southwest of Glasgow, is a magnificent but unsafe ruin still in the hands of the family and not open to the public. The original keep or tower is encased in a later baronial palace. The castle was for centuries the seat of the ancestors of the Campbell Earls of Loudoun. Their descendants still own the land.

Castle Campbell in Clackmannan, north of Edinburgh and east of Stirling, stands in one of the most spectacular positions in Scotland. Now in the hands of the government, the castle is partly restored and is open to the public. The walk up the glen from Dollar is rough but very worthwhile. The castle was the eastern place of the Earls of Argyll, who were often at the royal residences of Stirling and Falkland nearby.

Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire, just east of Inverness, stands massive amid flower gardens and is open to the public in summer. The oldest part of the castle was built in the thirteen hundreds and, since the family spent two centuries in Wales, it is one of the best preserved and least altered early castles. The estate is still in the hands of the Campbell Earls of Cawdor whose maternal ancestors were the medieval Thanes of Cawdor.

Taymouth Castle in Perthshire at the east end of Loch Tay is west of Pitlochry and Aberfeldy. This early Victorian gothic pile has a remarkable interior. The grounds are a golf course and the drives have public access. The house was the seat of the Campbell Earls and Marquises of Breadalbane.





Clan Campbell Tartan


One of the very few things which many Scots, both in Scotland and overseas, know about the Clan Campbell is that it was at times in conflict with Clan Donald.

American Campbells are now often surprised by the vehemence they encounter when mentioning their name among Scots. The jokes and rancour about Campbell and MacDonald have their roots both in truth and in the lack of real knowledge of the average Scot, both in Scotland and overseas, about the facts of their history. Too often it is much easier to take color from the trite inventions of Victorian novelists or the shallow captions of modern tourist literature. But the historical truth is often far more stimulating.

The strength of feeling has been stirred in recent years by the greater number of overseas Scots who have visited Scotland and are interested in their history. They have sometimes run into the unexpected depth of feeling about the Campbells and found it intriguing.

The truth about the Campbells and the MacDonalds is that they had a love-hate relationship for reasons beyond their control. Surprisingly often they were allies and surprisingly often they inter-married.

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