August 23, 2022

Infamous Scots. Captain Robert Campbell.

Captain Robert Campbell, the 5th Laird of Glen Lyon, lived from 1630 to 2 August 1696. He was a minor member of the Scottish nobility, being a cousin of John Campbell, the 1st Earl of Breadalbane, but is chiefly remembered as the officer commanding the government troops that massacred the MacDonalds of Glencoe on 13 February 1692.

As the 5th Laird of Glen Lyon, Robert Campbell inherited Meggernie Castle from his father and spent freely on converting and extending a traditional castle into a grand mansion. Campbell’s expenditure on his castle was only one aspect of a lifestyle that might have been calculated to ruin him. He also gambled and drank excessively and invested in a range of speculative and unsuccessful ventures.
He initially tried to avoid bankruptcy by borrowing heavily from family, friends and even his tenants. He then sold all the timber in the parts of the Caledonian Forest clothing much of Glen Lyon at the time. After being cut down this was floated down the River Lyon, in places blocking the river and causing widespread flooding. Even this was not enough to clear Campbell’s debts, so he sold his estate to the Earl of Tullibardine in 1684, moving from the grandeur of Meggernie Castle to the much more modest house owned by his wife at Chesthill, near Fortingall. In 1689 even Chesthill was lost when Jacobite MacIains of Glencoe, relatives of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, sacked Glen Lyon after the Battle of Dunkeld.

In a final effort to support his family of a wife, three sons, and four daughters, the 59-year old Robert Campbell became an officer in the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot, a regular line regiment of the British Army based at Inverlochy (Fort William) under the command of Colonel John Hill, an English officer who had fought with Cromwell during the English Civil War. Campbell was appointed to the rank of Captain with a salary of 8 shillings a day.

In August 1691 King William III/II offered to pardon all the Highland clans who had taken up arms against him in the 1689 Jacobite uprising. These included the Glencoe MacDonalds. The pardon was conditional on their taking an oath of allegiance to him by 1 January 1692.
A number of clans failed to take the oath, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, Sir John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair, decided to demonstrate his firm grip on the country by punishing one of them. Although some clans had made no effort at all to take it, the Glen Coe MacDonalds, who had tried to take the oath but failed to do so on time, were selected to set this example because they were unpopular, they had no stronghold, and they lived in a valley whose exits could easily be blocked.

Captain Robert Campbell had no reason to like the MacDonalds. The Campbells and the MacDonald’s had shared centuries of enmity and it had been the latter’s close associates who had destroyed his last holdings in Glen Lyon. And as an elderly, drunk, bankrupt who was heavily dependant on his army salary, he was unlikely to question his orders. He must, therefore, have seemed the ideal man to command the troops billeted with the MacDonalds in order to massacre them.

And, deliberately or not, by placing a Campbell in charge of the 130 troops (who also included 11 more Campbells) who committed the atrocity, Colonel Hill helped generate the enduring myth that the Massacre of Glencoe was simply another episode in generations of clan feuding.
Although the outcry following the massacre led to the resignation of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Sir John Dalrymple, it had no effect on the careers of any of the army officers involved. Captain Robert Campbell later accompanied the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot to fight in Flanders, where it was part of the army defeated by the French at the Battle of Diksmuide in 1696. Later in the same year, Campbell died, drunk and in poverty, in a gutter in Bruges.

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Public Poetry. Robert Burns.

Address to the Devil.

O Prince, O chief of many throned pow’rs!
That led th’ embattled seraphim to war!
(Milton, Paradise Lost)
O thou! whatever title suit thee,—
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie!
Wha in yon cavern, grim an’ sootie,
       Clos’d under hatches,
Spairges about the brunstane cootie
       To scaud poor wretches!

Hear me, Auld Hangie, for a wee,
An’ let poor damned bodies be;
I’m sure sma’ pleasure it can gie,
       E’en to a deil,
To skelp an’ scaud poor dogs like me,
       An’ hear us squeel!

Great is thy pow’r, an’ great thy fame;
Far ken’d an’ noted is thy name;
An’ tho’ yon lowin heugh’s thy hame,
       Thou travels far;
An’ faith! thou’s neither lag nor lame,
       Nor blate nor scaur.

Whyles, ranging like a roarin lion,
For prey a’ holes an’ corners tryin;
Whyles, on the strong-wing’d tempest flyin,
       Tirlin’ the kirks;
Whyles, in the human bosom pryin,
       Unseen thou lurks.

I’ve heard my rev’rend graunie say,
In lanely glens ye like to stray;
Or whare auld ruin’d castles gray
       Nod to the moon,
Ye fright the nightly wand’rer’s way
       Wi’ eldritch croon.

When twilight did my graunie summon
To say her pray’rs, douce honest woman!
Aft yont the dike she’s heard you bummin,
       Wi’ eerie drone;
Or, rustlin thro’ the boortrees comin,
       Wi’ heavy groan.

Ae dreary, windy, winter night,
The stars shot down wi’ sklentin light,
Wi’ you mysel I gat a fright,
       Ayont the lough;
Ye like a rash-buss stood in sight,
       Wi’ waving sugh.

The cudgel in my nieve did shake,
Each bristl’d hair stood like a stake,
When wi’ an eldritch, stoor “Quaick, quaick,”
       Amang the springs,
Awa ye squatter’d like a drake,
       On whistling wings.

Let warlocks grim an’ wither’d hags
Tell how wi’ you on ragweed nags
They skim the muirs an’ dizzy crags
       Wi’ wicked speed;
And in kirk-yards renew their leagues,
       Owre howket dead.

Thence, countra wives wi’ toil an’ pain
May plunge an’ plunge the kirn in vain;
For oh! the yellow treasure’s taen
       By witchin skill;
An’ dawtet, twal-pint hawkie’s gaen
       As yell’s the bill.

Thence, mystic knots mak great abuse,
On young guidmen, fond, keen, an’ croose;
When the best wark-lume i’ the house,
       By cantraip wit,
Is instant made no worth a louse,
       Just at the bit.

When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord,
An’ float the jinglin icy-boord,
Then water-kelpies haunt the foord
       By your direction,
An’ nighted trav’lers are allur’d
       To their destruction.

And aft your moss-traversing spunkies
Decoy the wight that late an drunk is:
The bleezin, curst, mischievous monkeys
       Delude his eyes,
Till in some miry slough he sunk is,
       Ne’er mair to rise.

When Masons’ mystic word an grip
In storms an’ tempests raise you up,
Some cock or cat your rage maun stop,
       Or, strange to tell!
The youngest brither ye wad whip
       Aff straught to hell!

Lang syne, in Eden’d bonie yard,
When youthfu’ lovers first were pair’d,
An all the soul of love they shar’d,
       The raptur’d hour,
Sweet on the fragrant flow’ry swaird,
       In shady bow’r;

Then you, ye auld snick-drawin dog!
Ye cam to Paradise incog,
And play’d on man a cursed brogue,
       (Black be your fa’!)
An gied the infant warld a shog,
       Maist ruin’d a’.

D’ye mind that day, when in a bizz,
Wi’ reeket duds an reestet gizz,
Ye did present your smoutie phiz
       Mang better folk,
An’ sklented on the man of Uz
       Your spitefu’ joke?

An’ how ye gat him i’ your thrall,
An’ brak him out o’ house and hal’,
While scabs and blotches did him gall,
       Wi’ bitter claw,
An’ lows’d his ill-tongued, wicked scaul,
       Was warst ava?

But a’ your doings to rehearse,
Your wily snares an’ fechtin fierce,
Sin’ that day Michael did you pierce,
       Down to this time,
Wad ding a Lallan tongue, or Erse,
       In prose or rhyme.

An’ now, Auld Cloots, I ken ye’re thinkin,
A certain Bardie’s rantin, drinkin,
Some luckless hour will send him linkin,
       To your black pit;
But faith! he’ll turn a corner jinkin,
       An’ cheat you yet.

But fare you weel, Auld Nickie-ben!
O wad ye tak a thought an’ men’!
Ye aiblins might—I dinna ken—
       Still hae a stake:
I’m wae to think upo’ yon den,
       Ev’n for your sake!

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