INTRODUCTION TO CLAN CAMPBELL HISTORY
- THE LOST HERITAGE
- THE QUALITY REMAINS
- SOLACE AND INSPIRATION
- THE INWARD ESSENTIAL
- GUARDIANS FOR TWO CENTURIES
- THE AWAKENING AND THE SCOTS
- THE FIGHT FOR A CLEAN HERITAGE
- THE BANNER BEARERS
Cuir an aireamh na treud me, 'Smise chaora bha caillte.
No overseas Campbell should ever feel that because they are out of touch with the incredible riches of their clan heritage that they are in any way less a "Campbell" by blood. The genes are there. Whether the "heart is Highland" is a matter of understanding and of personal style. What may be missing is that informed knowledge and lively practice of the culture of the Highlander. Well found elements of that can be learned and taught to the next generation so that it is once again a living heritage.
The purpose of this special issue is to attempt an outline or ABC of that living heritage so that those who yearn to investigate it further, and to make it their own, can start from a knowledge base which is sincere. If you can happily absorb the facts, inferences and courtesies indicated here, one thing is certain. You will know more of the facts about the Campbell background than do most Campbells.
Because there are those for whom time is precious or reading a pain, most articles are provided with introductory `fast track' paragraphs in Italics. There are a couple of pages of facts which all Campbells should know. You could try reading these before you go to sleep for three evenings in a row.
But for those with the time or depth of interest, the fuller articles are an attempt to provide you with the basic essentials and enough of the subtleties to entice you into further reading and research.
Most Campbells whose families no longer live in Scotland, or have contemporary cousins there, find that little of the heritage of their Campbell ancestors has come down to them in their families.
There are likely two main reasons for this: The cultural heritage of the Gael and the Highlander was firmly based upon the land. Removed from the landmarks of Scotland, the legends and even the genealogy and history of oral tradition were no longer real to the second or third generation of emigrants. The Gaelic was not used by those in charge of overseas communities, and in a new country all energies were needed to assimilate into the new culture successfully. The past was often left behind as irrelevant.
Later it would be found to have slipped away with the old folk, leaving little but a half forgotten tune, a yearning, haunting fragment of song whose words are lost. Turning to find replacements, too often all that was available was a tartan box of shortbread or a jaunty music-hall ditty.
But there is a great depth, a great richness of knowledge and experience of high quality to be found for those who will venture beyond the tartan veil of tourist literature, beyond the Brigadoonish fakery and tartan tamfoolery which sadly encrusts too much of your heritage today. With your growing understanding both of the past and of currently evolving customs, you can help to peel that away for future generations, uncovering the riches of your clan.
The land and Clan Campbell endure. Our Chiefs and your kinsfolk evolve. Their history and culture are still real and unsullied for those who would find them and keep them that way. But the riches you find are directly related to the care and interest you invest in discovering them and in making them your own.
In time you too may want to add to them in your own honest way. As a Campbell, your life is as much a part of the history of the clan as anyone's. The question remains whether we will grow together or apart, either in making the past and present of Clan Campbell our own or in choosing to stay unhinged from the continuing living expression of our Highland culture. At worst we could do neither, but take some superficial aspects of our heritage and invent a mutant monster of our own.
In the swiftly changing world of today, the knowledge of how our ancestors survived in rougher days can be a comfort and inspiration. Even if we cannot trace the earlier reaches of our own personal family, we can learn how those like them lived in even wilder times. That understanding and the knowledge of how life has improved or changed is a support in the face of the challenges of a more egalitarian world.
For many, the glamour of strife long past, the panoply of arms in defeat and victory which so garnishes the history of the clans, offers an extension of our self esteem today. Our people have run a proud and colorful race through the centuries and, in linking ourselves to that history by uniting with our kinsfolk and learning of that heritage, we make ourselves more complete as human beings.
Remember always that the Highland life, born in a warrior culture and nurtured in harsh weather and on meager fare, was most of all one of subtlety and courtesy. However colorful their morals or empty their girnel, the Highland people considered themselves to be gentry. They expected to be treated as such and to treat each other as such. Many were poorer than peasants but never would have thought of themselves as being peasants.
In the 18th century this was a matter of great humor for English tourists whose concept of quality was based first upon the outward expressions of property and wealth, a class structure. For the Highlander who had next to nothing but inward quality by comparison, learning to treat each other with courtesy was free and a matter of pride.
Since the concept of being strong yet `gentle' is very out of fashion in our culture today, you may need to think carefully what this means for you if you want to appreciate the core of your Scottish heritage. It is in no way contrary to the concept of equal opportunity because it is independent of wealth and sets you above or below no-one.
Because of their innate sense of self-respect, the Highland people tended to be equally at ease with those of all backgrounds. They did not need to fear their Chief or Chieftains because they were brought up with a clear sense of the conventions of mutual respect.
This difference from the Lowland and English populations became obvious when the Highland regiments were first raised and it was found that the men performed much better under Highland officers who understood that the differences in rank were those of military organization and not of class. Sadly the effects of class crept in time, but in Scotland the residue of the difference remains to this day.
Highlanders are still far less abashed by rank and yet far more respecting because to them the `pecking order' which always evolves in any human society is a natural aspect of life and in no way artificial. Too many utopian societies attempt to deny this reality, with Russian results.
Clan Campbell became the greatest of the clans because the people of the Clan were loyal to their Chiefs, not in any grovelling subservience but because their respect for the paternal authority of the position of Chief was freely given by free people. They held a deep respect for inward quality and accepted the reality that however equal man is in the grave, there will always be leaders for the led in life.
Despite the claims of most writers that "the clan system died at Culloden" in 1746, the sense of clanship of Clan Campbell has been carried for the last two hundred years in a formal way by Highland regiments, particularly by the Argylls and Black Watch, and in an informal way by the Chiefs and the families of the chiefly kin who have kept pride in their relatives within the clan.
Our Chiefs have often sacrificed to hold ancestral lands and castles in their families. The families of the chiefly kin have kept a knowledge of their genealogy and heraldry and of their old lands, many now lost. They, their Chiefs and Chieftains, have kept alive the stories of the family and told them to their children. They have kept alive the evolving customs of Highland dress, sport, dance, ballads and music, and have most often been those who worked to revive and run the Highland Games in their country.
They have sponsored or researched clan history, genealogy, heraldry and art. They have served as the officers of the Highland regiments and as Lords Lieutenant or Deputy Lieutenants, Justices and County and District Commissioners and Councillors in Argyll, Perthshire, Nairnshire, Ayrshire and elsewhere. Surely it is only courteous that some heed should be given to the style in which they have upheld the clan when considering how these traditions should be carried on across the globe?
The awakening of overseas Campbells to their background in the clan and in Scotland is an extraordinary phenomenon. Do not be surprised if you find that it is viewed by native urban Scots with some suspicion because they have not been involved as numbers of the chiefly kin have been. While all Scots are stirred by the call of the pipes and the sight of a Highland regiment on the march, most think that all that remains of clans are a few eccentric chiefs who make a living (which is neither true nor possible, considering the upkeep) by opening their castles to the public and perhaps a few oddballs who have a dinner once a year and lament the clearances or Glencoe.
At the same time you will find many native Scots place great value upon several aspects of what is in fact the heritage of the clans: The Highland regiments, their pipers, dancers, museums and monuments; other pipe bands; the Highland Games; An Comunn Gaidhealach and their `Mods' for music and poetry competition; the Highland castles, historic houses and gardens; popular music groups such as Capercaillie, the Corries and Run Rig. all these and more are sources of pride because they play clearly understood roles in the modern culture and economy of the country.
Clans and their societies, however, seem to be associated today in the popular Scottish mind with either history, which is well respected and enjoyed, or, in terms of economics, with the tourist trade. And the tourist trade, which is vital to the economy of many areas like Argyll, has inevitably had an image of being somewhat superficial, like recreation as compared to production. Add to this seeming superficiality the natural `commercial exploitation' which goes with any such trade and the reasons for a level of disassociation or at least caution on the part of some native Scots where clans are concerned becomes more understandable.
Those who carry the banner and the burden of the Highland heritage in and for Scotland, beside and including the Chiefs, the regiments and chiefly kin, are surprisingly numerous. But they remain somewhat conservative and so not always easily found.
Even when not conservative by nature, many feel obliged to bend over backwards to disassociate themselves from the embarrassing aspects of what they see as `tartan tamfoolery'. This is partly a Lowland derisive term for the superficial aspects of the tourist trade and partly a jab at ill-informed `playacting' attempts by both native and overseas Scots to recreate past customs and events without rooting them in well-researched reality. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong in playacting, yet for those whose concern is to keep their living culture strong and clean, `tartan tamfoolery' can at times seem to be the enemy.
For Campbells from North America it is sometimes confusing to run into this conservatism but it is entirely understandable if you take time to consider. That is why you will seldom find a native Highlander in a kilt today, outside his wedding or a Highland regiment or when officiating at a Gathering. That is the reason for some of the caution with which the enthusiasm of overseas Campbells is often viewed by their native kinsfolk who desperately hope that they will search out the genuine article and not make them look bad by association with tartan tamfoolery. It explains the unease with which the Scots view the seeming worship of tartan by some overseas Scots in the USA. Neither are right or wrong but understanding is important to kinship.
Today those who carry the banner for Clan Campbell can be found in all parts of the globe. Some are members and officers of the Clan Campbell Societies, others may still view the societies with suspicion as being dangerously close to exemplifying too much of the shallow exploitation of their Highland culture. But increasingly the clan societies are beginning to gain a grudging respect, often through their publications, The Clan Campbell Society (NA) among them. Who are these hidden banner-bearers? The girl who dedicates herself to perfection in Highland dancing competition; the boy whose determination is to play the pipes like a MacCrimmon or to win the hill race or wrestling match at the Games; the man whose caber toss is not good enough but is falling straighter with each throw; the maiden aunt whose efforts at genealogy have surprised her family and who is documenting all her sources; the old bachelor whose historical research has uncovered unexpected facts about one of the branches of the Chiefly kin and been published with complete footnoted references in an historical magazine; the craftsman who builds an exact replica of a dag by John Campbell of Doune; the antique buff who identifies the Campbell heraldry on a plate for a museum; the poets who makes ballads of their family tales; the seamster who is thorough in heraldic research before making a banner; the clarsach player who learns the Gaelic beyond the songs; these and many more are carrying on the mainstream of the unsullied heritage of their clan.
And yet there are others still, mostly in Scotland although not all, who are professionals: The archaeologists, architects and social historians who, through academic institutions, are unearthing and preserving the structures of our past; the masons and craftsmen and owners who keep the old castles and places in repair; the historians who are researching and analyzing the original documents of clan history and are publishing papers correcting the extravagant misconceptions with which we have all been bombarded in popular literature; the folklorists who have recorded the tales, ballads and songs of the old people; the musicians who write new music in the tradition of the Highlands and for old instruments; the heralds who keep pure and alive the evolving pageant of Campbell arms; the spinners, weavers and kiltmakers who still make and use Campbell tartan, even if they call it "ancient"; the booksellers who help collectors build libraries of clan literature; the breeders and showers of Scottish and Highland cattle; those who, against all the odds, still farm the land in Argyll.
These lists touch only the more obvious of those who, sometimes professionally and sometimes in their own time but with professional standards, carry the banner of the best of our Campbell heritage.
The purpose of this issue of the Journal, and of The Clan Campbell Society, is to offer a way for you to re-forge your links with the strength of your cultural birthright in Clan Campbell, and to provide you with a base of initial understanding from which to chose your own areas of interest, participation and contribution. Perhaps, in time, as more and more overseas Campbells become banner-bearers for depth and excellence in their areas of interest in their ancestral culture, they will both find fulfillment themselves and win the trust of their Scottish kinsfolk for the concept of the clan as a valid network of kinship in the increasingly multi-cultural 21st century.