Campbells are a Scottish family and, with Clan Donald, now one of the two largest Highland clans.
The origins of the male line ancestors of the Campbells are Celtic, likely from the Britonic Celts based upon Alcluit, later known as Dun Briton and now spelled Dumbarton, on the Clyde.
Our Chief today is Torquhil Ian Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll (pron. ArGYLL).
Our Chief's Gaelic (pron. Gallick) title, which he likes us to use, is Mac Cailein Mòr (pronounced Mac Callen MOR).
Mac Cailein Mòr means "Great Son of Colin". "Cailein" (pron. Callen) is the genitive form of the name, i.e., it means "of Colin." "Cailean" (pron. Callan) is the nominative (basic) form of the Gaelic name for Colin.
The name Campbell comes from the Gaelic "Cam beul", meaning curved mouth.
The homeland of the Campbells since the twelve hundreds has been Argyll.
The county of Argyll is pronounced arGYLL, never ARgyll, the emphasis is on the second syllable, even for North American Campbells.
Practice saying it to yourself: "arGYLL, arGYLL. arGYLL, arGYLL". The place was also spelled Argyle in earlier times.
From the 13th century onwards the Campbell Lordship in Argyll was on freshwater Loch Awe, sometimes written Lochawe, (pronounced Loch AWE, as in awesome).
Loch Awe is pronounced with a soft "ch" in the word "loch," which means lake or arm of the sea in the Gaelic, and with the stress on the word Awe.
According to Alastair Lorne Campbell of Airds in A History of Clan Campbell , vol 1, pg. 3: "Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, the late, great Lord Lyon . . . gives Diarmid O'Dhuine as the generally accepted founder of the clan, with the heiress Eva marrying the first Campbell, to whom she brings the chiefship of the tribe." In the Gaelic an early collective name for the Campbell kin was not the Clan Campbell, but the Clann Duibhne (pron. Clown Doon-yuh).
The early Campbell chiefs became the knights of Lochawe.
In 1296 Sir Colin Campbell the Great, Cailean Mòr, was killed by MacDougalls in the hills between Lochawe and the sea. A cairn of stones still marks the place.
In 1457 Cailean Mòr's descendant, another Sir Colin, was created 1st Earl of Argyll.
Archibald 5th Earl of Argyll's followers were of both Clan Donald and Clan Campbell and the host he could bring to the field was larger than the armies of either of his royal contemporaries, Mary Queen of Scots or Queen Elizabeth of England. He alone among Scots and English nobles had artillery.
In 1641 Archibald, 8th Earl of Argyll, was made Marquess of Argyll and ruled Scotland for a time during the Civil Wars. He was beheaded in 1661.
In 1685 the son of the Marquess, the 9th Earl, invaded Scotland as part of Monmouth's Rebellion. He was captured and beheaded and many Campbells who had risen for him escaped to Ulster in Ireland, many later moving on to North America.
In 1701 the 10th Earl was made first Duke of Argyll.
The Second Duke of Argyll, a Field Marshal, was one of the two greatest soldiers in Britain and was renowned as a statesman who helped to unite the parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707.
Archibald, third Duke of Argyll, administered Scotland for the British government and did his best to prevent the cruelties of the Duke of Cumberland in 1746.
The castle of the early Chiefs was at Innis Chonnel (pron. Insh Conul) in an island in Lochawe.
From the time of the first Earl of Argyll the family of the Chiefs moved to a new tower house at Inveraray (pron. Inver-AIR-ah) on the sea at Lochfyne.
In the mid 18th century the tower of Inveraray was found to be both unsuitable and unsound and was replaced by the present magnificent country house, Inverary Castle, the private home of the Chief. An impressive part of the Castle is open to the public in season.
The castles of the three main branches of Clan Campbell were at Loudoun in Ayrshire, Kilchurn at the mouth of Glenurchy on Lochawe, and at Cawdor in Nairnshire near Inverness.
Campbell tartan has only three colors: black, green and blue. In the trade it is called "ancient" Campbell and is the same as Black Watch, although generally lighter in color.
Three branches of Clan Campbell have their own tartan: Loudoun, Breadalbane and Cawdor. Descendants of those branches may also wear "ancient" Campbell.
The origins of the Campbell tartan are obscure as "clan tartans" as such did not appear until the early 19th century. However, it is the same as the Black Watch tartan, the Highland regiment with which many Campbells have always been associated.
Membership is open to all Campbells, Campbell septs, those married to a Campbell or Campbell Sept, those descended from Clan Campbell, and to those interested in learning about the Clan Campbell, Scottish history and culture, and who acknowledge Mac Cailein Mòr as their Clan Chief, as he is the Chief of Clan Campbell, the greatest family in all of Scotland! (We're a "wee bit" biased.)
Remember, those who get the most out of being a member of the Clan Campbell Society... are those who participate. We welcome you as our kinsmen to join us in our many activities.