Top left are the arms of none other than Cailean Mór Cambel himself–Colin, as it’s rendered in English–the man considered the projenitor of the majority of Campbells, including the line that came to be senior, thus the line which gives the clan its chief. In 1280 CE King of Scots Alexander III knighted Cailean, and the next reigning king appointed him chief (Baile) of Loch Awe, the highland area Cailean’s dad or grandad had first established themselves in around 1220. And as every good pupil of Campbell-ania knows, in the First War for Scottish Independence he sided with the Bruce (Robert, Earl of Carrick) in Robert’s ultimately successful push to be King of Scots. And though he died 10 or so years before it all worked out for Robert, Cailean’s son Nial (Neil) maintained the support his father had spearheaded, and these combined efforts certainly helped secure this branch of the family’s fortunes. Neil was the first to bear the patronymic, “Son of Great Colin”, or Mac Cailean Mór, the title borne down to the present day by the eldest male line descendant, Chief of Clan Campbell, the 13th Duke of Argyll. It was these original arms of Colin’s that later got “differenced” into the form most Campbells & those who love us recognize, and which is seen as part of the arms that appear above, top right.
These are the arms of one of the Lords of Craignish, and strictly speaking–as it’s seen there–it wasn’t contemporaneous with the other two. More on that later, but the reason it’s up there is because it’s the oldest branch of the clan, or “cadet”. A certain Dougal was the younger son of an early Gillespic; Dougal’s older brother was Duncan, father of the man who gained the nickname which named the family. On this page further below you’ll find a map putting Craignish in context (hint: it’s west of Loch Awe, sort of nestled in the ragged western coast of Argyll).
The middle shield up top holds particular intrigue and unknowns. The man who bore these arms was Sir Arthur Cambel, Captain of Dunstaffnage Castle. He was 1st cousin to Sir Colin who bore–at the same time–the arms up top left. The 1st cousin from Colin’s older uncle. Sir Arthur and his line enjoyed the seniority accorded these days to Colin’s male-line descendants, the House of Argyll. Arthur’s line does survive today, though. How the junior line came to be in the position of dominance doesn’t seem to be known too well, or discernble from the extant documents or other evidence. But from what can be gathered from the fantastic, exhaustive and very well-written, witty and enjoyable History of the Clan Campbell, by Alistair Campbell of Airds, it seems like it could have been more situational and emergent than the result of devious acts, or ruthless glory hunting and ambition.
A New Chart of Early Campbells
Immediately below this paragraph is a chart I’ve done of these earliest attested fellows who came to be called Cambels…and later Campbells. (That first link in the last sentence, by the way, goes to a page that has a hi-res image and transcription of the actual first record of a Campbell: father of the above-mentioned Colin, it is Gillascoppe Cambell in 1263). On the chart below I’ve put maps I made in Google Earth for some of the people showing their stomping grounds, and some of these are highlighted separately below the charts. And as always, remember to click the chart and then click it again in the new tab so as to see it large in all its glory.
(If you’d like this one or any of them printed, please contact me for info; you’ll get free shipping on most.)
2. A more typical or traditionally style chart, with boxes around each person.
2a. What the above chart would look like in a fancy old frame, printed on parchment colored paper. (Available, btw, as any of the charts here can be; frame not inlcuded; if you’re interested in getting one the charts, contact me.)
“Out of the mists…”
Earliest arms for Loch Awe
Sir Colin’s arms
Early arms for Strachur
Arms of Sir Arthur, whose line became known as “of Strachur”; the senior line, acknowledged as such in ~1290, but whose fortunes …changed.
Early arms for Craignish
And the arms of the Campbell Lords of Craignish, the 1st cadet branch of Clan Campbell to sprout, back in the 1200s.