Campbell in Kilmartin

elaborately carved stone head on mausoleumMany impressive gravestones are on display in Kilmartin graveyard, not to mention the famous crosses. But Kilmartin is also worth a closer look, one that takes you further back in history. Campbell name gravestoneThere is one name that pops up on many of the gravestones is Campbell and the Campbells have a long and eventful history. If there is a name that belongs to Argyll, that’s the name Campbell. The clan shaped the fate of the region for centuries.

carving medieval knightThe first Campbell, who founded the line of Glenorchy Campbells, was called (like most of the following) Colin. He got the land from his father Duncan (himself chief of his clan for forty years), the first Lord Campbell. He belonged to the Campbell line, which later became the Dukes of Argyll. From his father, he got land in Glen Orchy and by an advantageous marriage and wise management, he managed not only to consolidate his property, but also to expand it.
Once there had been an unsuccessful murder attempt on Colin Campbell, but he could save himself via a burning building. However, he then had to jump into the river to cool his glowing chain mail. These are stories that make heroes.

It was the middle of the fifteenth century, and the Campbells aspired to power. They were an influential family and Colin served his country not by staying at home, he travelled a lot, he went to Rome, which earned him the nickname Cailean Dubh na Roimh, the black Colin from Rome. The Scots’ habit of giving nick names to people may seem strange, but it is helpful and necessary for differentiation, as the male first names traditionally continue through the generations. But Colin not only travelled to Rome, he also fought side by side the Knights Templar in Rhodes against the Turks.
In his possession was the stone of Glenorchy, who granted protection to his wearer. This founder of such a powerful dynasty as the Campbells died in 1475 Strathfillan and was buried in Kilmartin as were countless Campbells after him.

sources and further reading: 

Rise of the Glenorchy Campbells

W.H. Murray: The Companion Guide to The West of Highlands of Scotland. London, Collins; 1968

6 thoughts on “Campbell in Kilmartin

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  1. The headstones and slabs on show at Kilmartin church are 16th century and less interesting.
    In the grassy graveyard there are many (un-counted) simple flagstone grave lids with single swords
    carved into them length-ways. One or two were exposed a few years ago when I was last there.
    I reckoned there maybe at least 50 of them by prodding the soil.
    IMO these are most definitely Templar tombs.
    Why have they not been investigated – at least surveyed?
    Are there some who wish the Templar myth to stay secret?

  2. Nellie
    Glad you confirm the tombs under turf.
    There are doubters who believe they are my invention!
    Best wishes, Peter

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