Wherever you turn whether researching or just plain reading about the Clan Campbell it is difficult to keep track of their wide achievements. Not least among these is the fact that there are no less than 18 Houses or branches, including Argyll, in the Campbell pedigree. Not all the  houses are still extant of course, but the history of the United Kingdom, let alone that of Scotland, would be the poorer without their contribution.

It is with the greatest of the branches, that of the Campbell`s of Glenorchy and Glenfalloch, that there is an interesting tale to be told. Sir Colin Campbell of  Glenorchy was, among other things, responsible for the building of Kilchurn Castle the ruins of which can be seen on a peninsula in Loch Awe.  He was also responsible for building Inveraray Castle for his nephew, the first Earl of Argyll, and both Sir Colin and the Earl married into the Stewarts, Lords of Lorn, thereby acquiring further large estates.

He was born about 1400 and although we know little of his early life we do know that he was a valiant warrior and a Knight Templar who was honoured as a knight of Rhodes. In this role he spent time away from home in Europe and in Palestine in the Crusades. The Lady Campbell knew the absences of her Lord were long and with scanty news of his doings, so in his absence she is said to have spent time extending Kilchurn Castle and making it an imposing stronghold with a great tower five stories high.



Aware of the need to let his Lady know of his well being, Sir Colin took with him men of his own clan whom he trusted. Thus he was able to send a messenger home from time to time. He was in Rome having been absent for some seven years, when he had a particularly vivid dream about his home and his wife. He was unable to forget the dream and was so filled with unease that he sought the wise counsel of a monk who advised him to go home because, in his opinion, a serious calamity threatened.

Sir Colin departed for Scotland and after a hazardous journey arrived, disguised as a beggar, at a place called Succoth, near Glasgow. Here he sought food and lodgings at the home of an old woman, a former nurse of his when a child. Having settled  him by the fire the old woman prepared food and watched as he reached out to warm himself. In so doing his rags fell back from his wrist and she caught sight of a scar that she knew . Like so many others , she had feared he was dead and was overjoyed at his return. She soon told him of all that had happened while he was away and the reason for his uneasiness following the dream became a reality.

It appeared that despite his sending messengers back no word of him had been heard nor any letters recieved by his wife. Not only that, but it was rumoured that he had been killed in battle in the Holy Land. Sir Colin knew that he had sent messengers and letters and it was highly unlikely that all of them had failed to get through.

His old nurse explained that the rumours emanated from a neighbouring laird, MacCorquodale, who was seeking the Lady Campbells hand in marriage and was set to marry her soon. It seems that MacCorquodale had intercepted the messengers and had them killed and was inducing the Lady Campbell to believe her husband was dead. She had finally fallen for his blandishments and agreed to marry him.

Highly indignant at this news Sir Colin set off for Kilchurn , hastening to reach his home as the wedding feast was due the next day. It is said that as he followed the winding River Orchy he heard the sound of bagpipes and shouts of his clansmen gathering for the wedding. Reaching the castle he entered unchallenged with nobody taking a close look at his beggars rags. He stood and watched for a while until a servant asked what he wanted. Sir Colin asked for his hunger to be satisfied and his thirst quenched which hospitality was soon brought him. He ate but refused to drink requesting that the Lady of the castle give him a cup with her own hands. Strange though the request was, the Lady Campbell honoured the hospitality of the day and came and handed him a cup. Drinking her health Sir Colin handed the cup back into which he had slipped his signet ring. Observing this the Lady Campbell took the ring from the cup and recognised it as that of her husband, given to him when he departed all those years ago. Greatly upset she demanded to know where he had got it from but all was revealed as Sir Colin stood up and shrugged off his rags to reveal the white cloak and scarlet cross of the Knight Templar.

So there was a happy ending  and MacCorquodale slunk off, lucky to still have his life. Like all family tales there is possibly a smattering of truth in it. The one thing I can vouch for and share with you is the very real beauty of Glen Orchy in late spring, with the River Orchy sparkling in the sunshine and gorse and heather blooming.



Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material