The Campbell Family

Within the Campbell family of Nether Lorn there are 3 people (grandfather, father, son) that are frequently named in the story of the Campbell canntaireachd volumes: Donald, Colin and John. In Angus MacKay's brief "account of the Campbell's, hereditary pipers to the Campbell's of Mochaster" he describes these three as "all excellent pipers".

Donald Campbell was born around 1727 and at a very early age went into service of MacDonald of Glenalladale, who paid for his education (it was unusual for pipers to be educated in those days). It is said that Glenalladale sent him to Borreraig to receive tuition from the great Patrick Og MacCrimmon, but unfortunately there is no substantial proof for this. At the date of the battle of Culloden Donald is said to have been about 17 years old. He served Glenalladale at the battle, supposedly as a piper, and when Glenalladale was wounded, he carried him off the field. Prince Charles gifted Donald a chanter a few days after the battle as a token of appreciation. After the 1745 rebellion he left Glenalladale's service and went on to work for Campbell of Carwhin, who settled him at Ardmaddy.

Donald's son Colin Campbell is the one credited with writing the big volumes of canntaireachd. According to the late Miss Ann Campbell, from whom the manuscripts were recovered, Colin was married twice and had 12 children in total. We do not know when exactly he was born, but one of the first records available on him shows that he was invalided out of the Western (Argyll) Fencible regiment. It's not know for which injury or illness, but apparently it was bad enough for him to resist any further enlistments. Unfortunately we have no records of Colin's abilities as a piper, but an article in the Glasgow Herald describing a meeting with one of his sons shows that he taught all his sons the pipes, just as he himself was taught by his father.

One of Colin's sons, John (born 1745), took part in the Highland Society's piping competitions in Edinburgh at least from the year 1815. He won the prize pipe for first place in 1819 after having placed 4th, 3rd and 2nd previously. In the society's records it states that he was paid for writing music in staff notation in 1816, 1817 and 1818. He eventually went to work for Walter F. Campbell of Shawfield and Islay, where he was placed in charge of the raising of his employer's son, John Francis (J.F.) Campbell. J.F. would later write about his nurse being "of an old family of pipers who were natives of Lorn", whom he often saw "reading and practising music from an old paper manuscript and silently fingering tunes". Miss Ann Campbell was a niece of John.

For a short family tree of the Campbell family, please click here

Note: The family tree linked to above is an easy-read version of the one made by Keith Sanger, his original document can be found on the Piobaireachd website by clicking here.