Clan Campbell Customs To Know

Chief of Clan Campbell

THE 13TH DUKE OF ARGYLL ~ In Gaelic, the chief of the Clan Campbell is known as "Mac Cailein Mór" meaning "Son of Colin the Great", called from his ancestor Sir Colin Campbell, Knight of Lochawe, who was killed in battle in 1294.
(Pronunciation: Maa HI len more)

Chief's Seat - Ancestral Home of the Duke of Argyll

Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Argyll, Scotland
(Pronunciation: inver AIR y, ArGYLL)

Chief's Motto

"Ne Obliviscaris" - Latin for "Do Not Forget"
(Pronuciation : NAY ob lee vis KAR iss)

Clan Campbell Plant

Bog Mirtle, or sometimes Fir Club Moss.

Clan Slogon or Clan War Cry

"The Campbell war cry is Cruachan! and this refers not, however, as has long been assumed, to the mountain which dominates Loch Awe and much of Argyll besided but to the farm of the same name on the west bank of Loch Awe directly opposite Innischonnell Castle. This is an obvious place for a rallying point. The slogan is also used by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Regiment)." ~ Alastair Campbell of Airds, Unicorn Pursuivant, A History of Clan Campbell, Volume 2, From Flodden to the Restoration (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002), page 290.
(Pronunciation: CROO a han/CROO a h ' n)

Clan March

"The Campbells Are Coming!" Also known under a variety of names including, in the Gaelic "Baile Inneraora", " The Town of Inveraray". Read More.

Clan Tartan BOOK

There are four patterns of tartan authorized by Mac Calein Mór. Campbells of Breadalbane, or Campbells of Cawdor, or Campbells of Loudoun, may wear their respective tartans, but all Campbells may wear the blue, green and black Campbell sett. Often sold as "Ancient Campbell" or "Campbell Ancient" or simply "Clan Campbell". Offically known in tartan registeries as "Tartan #1".

The sett known as "Campbell of Argyll" is NOT authorized by the Chief of Clan Campbell and members of Clan Campbell are strongly urged not to buy or wear "Campbell of Argyll" setts.

Clan Crest / Clanmans' Badge

The Chiefs full heraldic achievement includes, as Crest on his helmet, "a boars head, erased" or torn from its shoulders. This boar's head, on the wreath of twisted threads that bound the 'Mantling' or cloth protection to the back fo the helmet against the sun, may be worn by Clansmen and Followers of Mac Cailein Mór within a buckled strap on which is displayed the chief's motto "Ne Obliviscaris".

Origin of the Campbell Name BOOK

There are various theories. Usually accepted now is that it comes from the Gaelic "CAM BUEL" meaning "Crooked Mouth" the nickname of Sir Colin Mor's grandfather. One possible modern medical explanation is a form of Torticollis (from the Latin torti, meaning twisted, and collis, meaning neck), or "wry neck", a condition in which the head is tilted toward one side (cervical rotation), and the chin (mouth) is elevated and turned toward the opposite side (cervical extension) thereby producing a "Cam beul" or curved mouth in some cases.

The version that gives the Campbell name a Norman origin - "De Campo bello" - can be completely ignored as it has been disproven by numerous sources over the past two centuries.

Highland Customs

  • Sometimes there is a difference between official language and common usage. To the Lord Lyon a Chief may be chief of the Name or Family or House. To his clan the Chief is chief of the clan.


  • In some clans those bearing heraldic arms who were the heads of families who long held lands from the Chief, often as his acknowledged kin, are considered Chieftains. In Clan Campbell while some were called Chieftains in government documents, the situation was never made formal by the Chief and the term is not currently used.


  • The chiefly kin are those of proven descent from the Chief, but this again is only of genealogical and not of organizational significance in Clan Campbell.


  • Most often the heads of the houses of the chiefly kin and other prominent members of the Clan are denoted by being given their territorial designation, whether the lands of the name are still owned by the family or not. Examples today would be Alastair Campbell of Airds and Alan Campbell of Inverawe. Territorial designations may be recognized or given by Lord Lyon King of Arms (Chief Heraldic Officer for Her Majesty in Scotland), where appropriate, on a grant or matriculation of arms.


  • Territorial designations in Scotland, when made official by the granting of such recognition, become legal surnames. In that sense the `of' is similar to the French `de', Alan Campbell of Glenfeochan being the equivalent in that sense of Couve de Murville, for example. This means that any "Esq." or "Bt." should be placed after the territorial designation, as in "Sir Ilay Campbell of Succoth, Bt."


  • In order to preserve the integrity of such designations, where a family no longer owns the lands of their territorial designation, the Lord Lyon will seldom allow a new owner to use the designation. Modern owners are expected to use `the intrusive comma', as in `Charles Struthers, Ardmaddy' where, although Mr. Struthers owns Ardmaddy, he has not received official recognition from Lyon.


  • When the county of Argyll was full of Campbells whose fathers mostly had the names Colin, Neill, Duncan, Dugald, James, John or Archibald, those who moved about on the business of the county often found it helpful to refer to or identify a man not by his name but by the name of his place. Alastair Campbell of Airds, now chief executive of Clan Campbell, could be refered to as `Airds', or Alan Campbell of Inverawe as `Inverawe'. While this is somewhat archaic, the practice still has a certain value.


  • In order to differentiate between a landowner and a tenant in the Highlands, the custom arose of calling the owner, for example, `Donald Campbell of Airds' and of calling the tenant `John Campbell in Airds'. This has proven to be very useful for genealogists and historians researching the history of families or the lives of individuals. Whimsically it means that in a clan context (or publication) `Sigismund McGutteral of Minneapolis' would more likely be described as `from' or `at' Minneapolis in order to avoid the inference that he owned the city.


  • In the 18th century and earlier, the wife of a laird or chieftain who today would be called `Mrs. Campbell' was often mentioned, even in legal documents as `the lady Airds' or `the lady Inverawe' (note the small "L" for lady). This, however, is now considered to be archaic.


  • The eldest daughter of a Laird or Chieftain, if she did not marry, could continue to call herself `Miss Campbell of ...', whereas her younger sister was merely Miss Campbell.