BOOK REVIEW - OLIVER THOMSON – THE GREAT FEUD. THE CAMPBELLS AND THE MACDONALDS. 2000. Suton Publications.
The story of the 500 year Scottish clan feud between two powerful family clans, and how members of both clans have achieved fame, fortune, and in a few cases, notoriety in the years since the feud ended, as they have migrated around the World. The Civil War events were merely a middle ground chapter in a much more complex web of intrigue and violence.
The feud originates from 1296. The Campbells owned Dunstaffage Castle, a reward for their support for Robert The Bruce. The MacDonald’s descended for The Lord Of The Isles, or Lord Somereld, a descendent of the Vikings who had settled in Ireland and Hebridean Scotland. Big Colin Campbell approached the MacDonald’s to negotiate territorial and patriotic issues. The MacDonald’s killed him. Campbell oppression of the MacDonald’s now had royal approval. In 1515 The MacDonald’s destroyed Mingary Castle. The 3rd Earl of Argyll gained permission from the royal regent for retaliation attacks.
By the mid 16th century post-Reformation Protestant and Catholic divisions tore Scotland into schism. The MacDonald’s supported the Stuart line and the Catholic Mary Queen Of Scots, while the Campbells stayed loyal to Elizabeth. In Ireland, Infighting eventually gave the Macdonald clan leadership in Ireland to Sorley Boy. He took over Ulster’s Dunluce Castle, but the English snatched it back in 1586. After much fighting, Sorley begged so movingly that he would be loyal to Elizabeth that he was promptly handed back the castle. Sorleys sons became important too. With the rise of Archibald the Grim (7th Earl of Argyll), the Campbells were eager to oust MacDonald’s from the isles of Islay and Colonsey. They snatched Dunyveg Castle from the MacDonald’s in 1609, but the MacDonald’s snatched it back and left in the control of Col Keitach, (Colkitto), later to become the father of Alastair Macdonald. When the Campbells came to retake Dunyveg, Colkitto saved himself by betraying his allies, who were all executed, and he became a fugitive, pirate and cattle rustler. The Civil War period of the feud is well documented of course, though Thomas fuddles the dates, having Alastair Macdonald and Montrose uniting in arms two years early in 1642.
It is the post-Civil War period that gets really interesting. The clan system was itself now under serious threat. Gradually, the two clans moved into a wider circle of activity; leaving one another alone to face greater challenges. The Campbells were among the first recruits of the Black Watch Regiment formed in 1725 (named after its dark tartans). The last direct serious conflict between the clans came when the MacDonald’s supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the campaigns that led up to Culloden. 40% of his force consisted of MacDonald’s. Recognising that this was a fight against the government for the rights of clans to settle their own differences with private armies and feuding, many Campbells also fought for the Bonnie Prince. They lost, and like the MacDonald’s, they paid the price in execution, imprisonment, forfeit of their lands and in some cases exile or slavery. Many also fought for the King. However, just as many in both clans refused to serve him, recognising rightly, how badly organised his expedition force was.
Overseas expansion of the populations of both clans increased dramatically through forced exile. By 1762 Scots owned two thirds of Jamaica. Most of these Scots ran plantations, and owned slaves, which is why so many black people are now descended from people with Scottish surnames. (I.e., today’s newsreader Trevor MacDonald, and supermodel, Naomi Campbell))
Both clans served the British in the Napoleonic Wars, though surprisingly a few Scots also fought for Napoleon. Jaques Ettiene Macdonald, descended from exiled Scots who had fled after Culloden, was ordered by Napoleon to take an army through the Alps at the height of Winter. He succeeded. Napoleon became intensely jealous of a man whose heroism and leadership proved to many to be comparable to his own and refused to talk to him ever again. However, at the Battle of Wagram in 1809, when Macdonald saved the day despite heavy losses, Napoleon was the first to congratulate him and made it clear that his long-standing grudge was forgotten. Macdonald declined to reserve Napoleon after his escape from Elba, so he was not at Waterloo.
In 1867, John Alexander Macdonald became the first Prime Minister Of Canada.
In 1785, John Campbell. Of Languine, Scotland, discovered that sheep could graze more efficiently than cattle on certain pastureland, so he drove fifty Languine families were evicted to make room for more sheep. Other landlords followed suit. It was the beginning of the deeply hated Highland Clearances. Thousands of people lost their homes and livelihoods.
Both clans produced an English prime Minister, Ramsey Macdonald, and Henry Campbell-Bannerman. In 1948, brothers Dick and Maurice Macdonald opened a restaurant in San Bernardino. The MacDonald’s fast food Franchise was launched. The Campbells had launched Campbells Soup as early as 1869.
Ian Douglas Campbell, 11th Duke Of Argyll, sued his wife for divorce for her affairs with 88 different men, including, allegedly, the actor, Douglas Fairbanks Junior.
Admiral J. Macdonald led the US invasion of Grenada in 1983 on behalf of Ronald Reagan. Today, both clans are widely represented globally, i.e.; Menzies Campbell, Liberal MP; Alistair Macdonald, the Labour Party spin Doctor. A fascinating catalogue that moves from atrocity to achievement with some optimism for the future of two proud and strong families who have always stood at the heart of Scottish history. www.sutonpublishing.co.uk
Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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