The Indictment of Argyll

In January 1661, Parliament met in Edinburgh for the first time in nine years and on the 18th of that month, Sir James Lamont initiated proceedings against Argyll, Ardkinglas and others that were involved with the murderous events that took place in Toward, Ascog and Dunoon, in June 1646. Sir James sought to petition Parliament for warrant to cite the Defenders. Five days later, on 23 January 1661, a Charge of High Treason was laid before Parliament. The Charge goes into great detail of the injustices suffered by the Lamonts at the hands of the Campbells, but there were additional citations that had nothing to do with the Lamonts.

Indictment of High Treason

On 31 January 1661, a Grand Indictment of High Treason exhibited against Argyll was submitted to Parliament by His Majesty’s Advocate. One can imagine how the Lamonts had longed for the day Argyll would be charged. It is also worth noting how quickly this Indictment was brought, which may be an indication of the hatred against Argyll and his kinsmen for their own actions over the years.

And the speed of this Indictment was not slowed, as later on that same day, a Herald appeared before Argyll to serve him formal summons before Parliament to answer the Charge.

There were three groupings of charges contained in the Indictment.

The First Class referred to Argyll and his conduct during the civil war; his share in the invasion of England in 1644; the delivering up of Charles I to the English forces at Newcastle and the execution of the Marquis of Huntly and the Marquis of Montrose.

The Second Class concerned the Lamont killings.

The Third Class concerned the charges of having concurred in the usurpation of Oliver Cromwell; having been present on the proclamation of Cromwell as Protector and having sat in his Parliament.

The Complainers were Sir John Fletcher, Knight ‘our Advocate for our interest’ and Sir James Lamont of Inneryne Knight ‘for himself and in the behalf of his kindred, friends, vassals, tenants and servants parties grieved and damnified in manner specified’.

The accused named in the Indictment were Archibald Campbell the Marquis of Argyll, George Campbell ‘his justice and sheriff deputy’, the chiefs of most, if not all, the Campbell clans in Cowal, ‘Mr. Colin Macklawlachlan’, minister at Lochgoylisheid and at the end are included ‘All or the most part of them, being the said Marquis of Argyll’s friends followers of complices under his command and as he might have stopt or let’.

The Seventh Charge

The charges that regarded the Lamonts began with the Seventh Charge. The Preamble to the Charge is notable in that it brings strong emphasis to the importance of the Commission granted Sir James by His Majesty (yet the Commission granted by Montrose is not mentioned). ‘Our said deceased Lord, and dearest father, having granted Commission upon day of March 1643 years under His Majesty’s hand authorizing and giving express order to the said Sir James Lamont to prosecute a war and levy forces in his Majesty’s name against those in rebellion and particularly against the said Marquis of Argyll, and to invade his bounds and lands, as he was the principal promoter of those odious and rebellious practices against His Majesty’s authority obedience whereunto the said Sir James according to his allegiances and bound duty levied all his friends and followers for promoting whereof until the year 1646. That after His Majesty’s coming to Newcastle and casting himself upon the trust of his army lying there, the said Sir James did then lay arms, and with his friends retreating in a peaceable manner to his own houses at Toward and Escog, the being no other houses for the shelter of his friends of the country having been formerly wasted and burnt’.

The Seventh Charge then goes on with details of the crimes alleged against the Lamonts:

‘The siege of Toward and Ascog Castles and subsequent capitulation and the plundering afterwards of the Castles and their contents the robbery of money cloth and livestock, the value of which being stated at ?50,000.

The murder of a number of ‘innocent women’. Three are named (none bearing the Lamont name) and ‘certain others’ and the charge is completed with the words ‘and inhumanely left their bodies as a prey to ravenous beasts and fowls’.

The Eighth Charge

The Eighth Charge alleged:

‘Binding the hands of two hundred persons of the said Sir James and his friends and followers, detaining them prisoners with a guard, their hands being bound behind their backs like thieves’ for the space of several days; then carrying Sir James to Ascog when ‘for fear of Sir James’ life’ the keepers of the said castle surrendered upon capitulation which was most traitorously and perfidiously broken'; and after plundering the Castle and its contents, ‘they most barbarously cruelly and inhumanely mirdered several young and old yea suckling children, some of them not one month old.’

That they carried the whole people within Ascog as prisoners to Toward. That they burned Ascog and destroyed the whole orchards and plantations.

That they then carried all prisoners from Ascog and Toward to several boats sending Sir James and his two brothers and other relatives to George Campbell Sheriff Depute and Inveraray.

That they then burned Toward Castle.

The Ninth Charge

The Ninth Charge alleged: That ‘contrary to the capitulations, our laws and Acts of Parliament’, they carried the whole persons to Dunoon.

In Dunoon they hanged upon a tree near the number of thirty six persons, most of them being special gentlemen of the name of Lamond and vassals to the said Sir James.’

In Dunoon, they unchristianly murdered with durks and cut down with swords and pistols 28 persons whose names are given followed by the name of John Jamieson, then Provost of Rothesay who being shot thrice through the body finding some life in him did thrust severall durks and skanes in him, and at last did cut his throat with a long durk; the said John Jamieson not only representing His Majesty’s authority, as prime magistrate of his royal burgh was so cruelly murdered in contempt thereof.’

That they manifested their further cruelty by casting some of these persons into ‘holes made for them who were spurning and wrestling whilst they were suffocated with earth having denied to them any time to recommend themselves to God.’

(The Ninth Charge also relates the rather strange story of the tree upon which the Lamonts were hanged. This is an interesting story that we will examine in a future article.)

The Tenth Charge

The Tenth Charge tells of Sir James being brought before a ‘conventicle’ at Inveraray, consisting of George Campbell Sheriff and Justice Deputy to the Marquis of Argyll, James Campbell of Ardkinglas, Dougall Campbell of Inverawe and certain other persons. At this time, Sir James was asked if he would submit ‘his life and fortune to them’, upon which Sir James refused, citing His Majesty’s Commission.

The Eleventh Charge

The Eleventh Charge addresses the attempt to locate Sir James at Southannan. The Twelfth Charge The Twelfth Charge refers to a visit Argyll paid to Dunstaffnage, when proposals were submitted to Sir James to renounce his property rights. The Thirteenth Charge

The Thirteenth Charge refers to Sir James being compelled to grant a bond for 4400 merks for ‘alledging four years entertainment’ in Dunstaffnage Castle, when the said Sir James Lamond was violently traitoriously and illegally detained prisoner.

The Fourteenth Charge

The Fourteenth Charge deals with Patrick Lamond fiar of Escog and John Lamond of Auchengylle who were, as prisoners, brought before George Campbell at a pretended Court of Justices at Inveraray. John Lamond was absolved, but George Campbell held a second court which convicted John Lamond, leading to both men being hanged. The Charge mentions the children of these two men, who Argyll refused to support, despite possessing their lands at Ascog and Auchengylle. The Charge also states they brought before them Duncan Lamond of Stronalbanach, Patrick Lamond’s uncle, an old man who was being held prisoner at Castle Lauchlane, threatening him with hanging if he did not renounce his whole rights to the lands at Kames.

This Charge goes on to name Colin Macklauchlane Minister of Lochgoilhead, who was present at Dunoon when the killings took place, accusing him ‘most villainously and treacherously in the said village of Dunoon in the month of June 1646, contrary to the said capitulation, was a main counsellor, actor, author, aider, assiter, abetter, promoter and art and part of the foresaid murders committed at Dunoon.’

This Charge then charges Duncan Campbell of Ellangreg of taking possession of Lamond of Couston lands of Stroan and Cowston and also that in Marh 1646 he came to Stroan and Cowston and murdered men and children to the number of forty persons.

The Charges accused James Campbell of Ardkinglas, ‘Intending to never put a period to their cruelty so long as any of the name of Lamond and their friends and followers were left’, murdered a Lamond a beggar and another John MacPatrick alias Lamond.

The Charge concludes with a charge of murder against Alexander Campbell of Pennymuir on a Robert Lamond, and Irish Merchant while visiting on business in the Isle of Cumbrae.

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Lamonts and Campbells from 1646 to 1659

What follows here is a story of treachery and not a story of clan warfare. McKechnie wrote: ‘ To the lasting disgrace of the seven who signed for Clan Diarmid, the agreement was treated as a scrap of paper and a campaign of murder robbery and oppression was begun which can have had no other object but the extermination of the Lamonts as a clan.’

lamont_tartanThe Campbells, on the other hand, with their clear memories of the killings of over 800 Campbells and the sacking of their districts by Royalist troops, offered this excuse, saying that ‘no capitulations should be kept with traytors to God and his covenant’.

At Ascog, the Lamonts were seized and carried to Toward. Silvereraigs was the lone person rescued, he being saved by Mr. Ewan Campbell, his good brother. Both Toward and Ascog were stripped of all furniture and the Lamonts suffered the loss of all their possessions and clothes. The entire stock of sheep, goats, horses and cattle were removed.

McKechnie suggests it is a gross exaggeration, but a witness to the event said the Campbells took 7000 sheep and goats, 600 horses, 300 head of cattle and also removed or destroyed over ?60,000 of household furniture. They took from Sir James his charter chest, which held all the documents related to his Baronies and land holdings. (This was fortuitous, as it saved these documents from being destroyed when the castle was torched.)

Sir James said the Campbells: ‘spoyled himself and his brethren of their whole clothes, yea they were not ashamed to dispoyle his lady and their sisters of their gowns and petticoats leaveing little more upon them wherewith to cover their shame bu their smocks and also the said Sir James and his children were robbed of their little garments and thus they used all his friends and followers, their wives and children.’

At some point in the night, Sir James managed to elude his captors and met with his sister. He confided in her that it was clear the Campbells were not going to adhere to the written terms of capitulation and he was fearful they would take from him his own copy of these terms. (He was later searched at Inveraray for his copy of the terms). He gave his sister his copy, saying: ‘there is no remedie but you must take it for it is not only all the evidence for our whole lands and estates but also the securytye we can pretend for our lives and blood which these wicked people by all appearances are likely unjustly to robb us of.’

She, being dressed only in a smock, loosened her hair and wrapped the copy of the terms in the plaits of her hair, where she kept it during the time she was imprisoned in the garrison. This is the copy that was ultimately delivered to Edinburgh and which helped separate the Marquiss of Argyll from his own head.

It is notable that Sir James gave this copy to his sister and not to his own wife, who was the sister of Ardkinglas.

The Lamont women and children were carried away by boat to ‘other countries either to get by begging or starve’.

Sir James, his brothers Archibald of Stillaig and Ninian, Ascog with his son and brother and Auchagoyl were then taken to Inveraray, the principal house of the Marquis of Argyll and later moved to other other castle prisons.

On 14 June the remaining defenders of Ascog and Toward were taken by boat to Dunoon, where they were court-marshaled in the Kirk, where the Campbells sat in their Council of War. Groups of men were then led outside to be murdered.

Sir James, unaware of the Dunoon massacre, was court-marshaled by George Campbell and was encouraged to sign a paper declaring his quarrel had been unjust and that he wished to repent. McKechnie suggests this paper was signed because the alternative was another Dunoon.

On 22 June, Sir James was transferred to Dunstaffnage, near Oban.

MacColla had managed to escape away to Ireland, but his father, old Colkitto, was taken prisoner at Islay and shared the Dunstaffnage prison with Sir James. Colkitto was hanged and buried at Dunstaffnage.

Sir James’ sister had managed to make her way to Edinburgh with the concealed copy of the capitulation agreement, yet the Marquis of Argyll had such great power and influence that she was unable to get a single hearing before Parliament, to protest the ‘rapine, murders and cruelties committed upon herself brethren and kindred’.

King Charles I was executed on 31 January 1649. Ten days after King Charles II was proclaimed, Sir James was appointed a Commissioner for War for his country, even though he was still being held at Dunstaffnage.

In April 1650, Sir James was transferred to Innis Connel Castle, on Loch Awe. On 1 January 1651, Charles II was crowned at Scone by the Marquis of Argyll, which speaks volumes as to the efforts of Sir James’ sister to have been able to present the terms of capitulation to the King. On 25 June, Argyll was ordered to produce his prisoners immediately and Sir James was released and taken to Stirling ‘for security from the tyranny of Argyll’, but ’till they should be brought to a tryall’. Argyll then petitioned Parliament that the Lamonts be brought to trial for ‘certain enormities committed in 1645'. Sir James responded by bringing a process against Ardkinglas and his men for their breach of the terms of capitulation. As a result, the Campbells were ordered to appear. However, at this same time, Stirling Castle surrendered on 14 August to General Monk, who was Cromwell’s lieutenant in Scotland.

The capitulation of Stirling Castle provided for the release of all prisoners, at which time Sir James made for cover with his mother’s people, the Semples at Southannan by Fairlie, which is near Largs.

Before the end of the year, Argyll had traced Sir James and Campbell of Ardtarig’s son arrived with twenty or thirty armed men. They searched Southannan and then Crosbie, whose lady was Anna, wide of Crawford of Auchinanes and also sister of Sir James. Sir James escaped to Arran, where he approached Anne, Duchess of Hamilton. She was unable to shelter him and he was forced to live in the woods during the winter months. In the summer of 1652 he went to live with his cousin, the Earl of Wintoune, but after five years he was once again forced to flee a murderous party of Campbells.

Argyll then tried to bring up civil charges at inveraray against Sir James, citing all of his many unpaid debts, but the effort went without success.

In early 1658, Sir James was at Kilmory in Glassary. He ended up quartered at Rothesay, assuming he would be safe from Argyll, as Campbell forces had murdered their Provost at Dunoon.

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Lamonts and Campbells – Early 1646

In the Spring of 1646, Sir James Lamont and Alasdair MacColla Ciotach MacDomhnaill (Alasdair the son of Colla the Left-handed, of the Clan MacDonald) determined they should once again join forces with Montrose.

lamont005It should be remembered that Montrose had suffered defeat on 13 September 1645 at Philliphaugh, And Montrose had called Sir James and his men to to join with him at Atholl. Despite the Commission Sir James had received from Montrose, he ignored the call and continued with his campaign against the Campbells in Argyll. And remember also that MacColla had gone to join Sir James against Montrose’s wishes.

At this point, we would do well to recognize some facts about Sir James Lamont and MacColla. Sir James later protested he had observed the humanities of the day’s warfare, which you are left to determine for yourselves. However, it is plain that MacColla did not share in this. When Montrose took Inveraray and when Sir James attacked Strachur, Driep and Kilmun on his return to Toward, it can be clearly seen that excessive force was used. And by this time in early 1646, the Campbells had to be bitter about the Commission both Sir James and MacColla held, which gave them free rein to raise fire and sword against the Campbells.

Just as the Marquis of Argyll was indicted for crimes that took place outside both his knowledge and his presence, it would seem that Sir James should have been held accountable for the ravaging of houses and lands by his forces, when joined with the forces of Montrose.

Sir James never answered the charges against him for failing to answer the rallying call of Montrose. Perhaps MacColla had something to do with this decision? However, we do know Sir James offered the following in his own defense, saying that he was guilty of ‘doing no further harm than taking the necessary sustenance’, which simply does not hold up in the light of historical events.

Hector McKechnie wrote: ‘…the Laird of Lamont with his associates came to the number of 600 men when he killed and destroyed and burned all the folks of Strachur, their houses, barns and barnyards with corn and barley and destroyed their cattle both horse and ky (cows) sheep and goats and slew men and women and children to the number of 33 persons; of corn and barley 700 bolls; and of ky and horse 17 score; of small goods (sheep) 400; of houses and barns 21.’

Sir James was further accused of taking one Archibald MacPhum of Driep (who was apparently disabled in some way) from his house, stripping him of his clothing and leaving him to die in the frost and snow.

This should suffice to make Sir James’ comments absolutely indefensible. This was more, much more than ‘taking the necessary sustenance’ and having ‘never suffered he any harm to done to old or impotent people women and children’.

Please remember the lands of Strachur were owned by Ardkinglas, who was Sir James’ own brother-in-law. Lady Lamont was the sister of Ardkinglas, who was the leader of the Campbell forces that besieged both Ascog and Toward in May 1646.

Stevenson wrote: ‘Sir James was married to a sister of James Campbell of Ardkinglas but when his wife’s fourteen year-old brother [Archibald Campbell] fled to him for safety, Sir James handed him over to Alasdair McColla with the recommendation (so young Archibald later swore) that he be hanged or kept prisoner. Archibald was kept prisoner in Tarbert in irons for a month before being sent to Mingary for a year until exchange was arranged.’

McKechnie also reports that young Archibald Campbell was handed over to MacColla (although he mistakenly refers to MacColla as Colkitto, who was Alasdair MacColla’s father), although his report seems to indicate that young Archibald was handed over to MacColla by Archibald Lamont (Sir James’ brother), and not Sir James, at Strachur, when Sir James was not present.

This opens up the possibility that MacColla was holding Lady Lamont’s young brother without her knowledge (or that of Sir James) as a bargaining counter in the event of any future disagreements with Sir James. It is also entirely possible Ardkinglas knew MacColla was holding his young brother prisoner, which doubtless fueled his fires for revenge.

At Kilmun, the Lamonts are said to have taken the Provost’s kinsmen from the tower and ‘after quarter and capitulation given, taken some of these kinsmen and their soldiers some three miles from the place and killed them’. In addition, Lamont is also charged with burning and destroying all of the Provost’s lands and houses and possessions. The Provost at Kilmun was a student of Sir James, who was tutoring him, yet this violence was still brought against him.

McKechnie wrote: ‘the incident at Kilmun is a serious charge and if true, would afford a precedent for the massacre at Dunoon after the capitulation at Toward.’

The Kilmun capitulation details were never made public until the indictment of the Marquis of Argyll in 1661, so it would appear to have been a masterful cover-up on the part of someone.

When Sir James arrived at Toward on 12 February 1646, Archibald Lamont reported that he was provisioning the castle. He mentioned he has taken five score of cattle from Strathechaig (Argyll lands) and it was also reported by one Baron McGibbon of Auchnagarron of Glendaruel that some thirteen men of the Lamont garrison had demanded he yield thirteen cows under the promise of being left uninjured. After the cows had changed ownership McGibbon was placed in prison, from which he later escaped. Of the thirteen Lamont men involved, six were killed at Dunoon.


he Lamonts claimed the Campbells of Eilean Greg attacked and destroyed the Lamont lands of Couston and Strone, murdering forty persons in the so doing.-

The Siege of Ascog & Toward

So there is little doubt that Lamont was fortifying Toward against siege, in early 1646.

Shortly after the King’s surrender at Newcastle on 5 May 1646, the Campbells began to gather together from all areas of Argyll. Dunstaffnage, Lochnell, Inverawe of Lorn, Ardtarig, Otter, Ballochyle and Kilbride, they came together. They were even joined by two of Sir James’ vassals, Achavoulin and Evanachan, which will show either the great Campbell influence, the distate these vassals felt at Lamont’s earlier actions or both.

One force of Campbells was sent to attack Ascog, which was being defended by the clansmen of Kerry and Glassary Auchagoyl, Stronalbach and Silvereraigs. The Campbells claimed there was ‘a dreadful battle in the moor above Loch Ascog lasting three days’. The Lamonts in the east were at Toward, including Couston and Knockdow.

In True Relation, Sir James says Ardkinglas came on 17 May ‘with ships boats and great cannons and beleagured Sir James within his owne principal house’.

Mckechnie reports this ‘Godless horde’ included the Reverend Colin Maclachlan, minister in Lochgoilhead, who was also named in the Indictment against Argyll.

(I find it interesting to note the Campbells had benefit of clergy, yet were identified by McKechnie as a ‘Godless horde’, whereas Lamont had no such benefit in Strachur and Kilmun. One can only wonder at McKechnie’s personal thoughts of those particular events.)

If Sir James had hope that MacColla would provide relief against the Campbell siege, his hopes were certainly misplaced.

In True Relation, Sir James reports the bombardment began on 1 June, claiming that one cannon was so well placed that a cannon ball ‘crashed through the castle wall into the room where the principal people were dining and knocked the joint from the butler’s hands as he was bringing it in’.

(I always found this to be an excellent example of Highland composure. With Toward under siege and cannon bombardment, they were sitting down to dinner.)

Capitulation of Ascog & Toward

All the accounts of the day place the siege of Ascog and Toward at fourteen days. And, strangely enough, it was the Campbells who initiated the cease-fire, sending men to Sir James with the offer of an honorable capitulation. Of this event, McKechnie shrewdly remarks: ‘He (Sir James) seems to have forgotten an old Gaelic saying, “as long as there are trees in the woods there will be treachery in the Campbells”.’

Sir James is said to have drawn up the terms of capitulation, which were agreed to by the Campbells and signed at Auchinwiullin on 3 June 1646. They were signed on behalf of the Campbells by James Campbell of Ardkinglas, Colin Campbell of Strachur, John Campbell Campbell fiar of Dunstaffnage, Dougal Campbell (alias Makconnachie of Inverawe), Duncan Campbell uncle to Lochnell, john Maclachlan fiar of Craigenterive, Duncan Campbell of Ellengreg and Sir James Lamont for the Lamonts.

Bear in mind these terms were drafted by Sir James –

‘IMPRIMUS: It is agreed that the said Sir James Lamont shall overgive his house at Toward and shall have libertie to goe himself his brethren souldiers wives and children towards Sir Alexander Mack Donald or anie of his quarters (districts) who for that effect shall have safe conduct and boates sent along who shall deliver them withour aine harm of anie person to beedone to them under the said Sir James’ command, without prejudice to such women as intent to go to the east side (i.e. to the Lowlands) or to the isle of Boote to be safely conducted there with boats.

SECONDLY It is agreed that the said Sir James shall have libertie to transport out of the house all baggage belonging to himself or anie gentlemen within the same, the said Sir James always delivering anie such weapons as were gott in anie of the name of Campbells’ houses or abroad in the Fields.

THIRDLY The said Sir James has power to transport with him all kinds of baggage that is within the house except ammunition and all manner of other provision requisite for the use of the said house for carrying where the said James Cambell shall furnish boates, reserving always such bagge as belongs to anie person whatsoever that is in the companie of James Campbell or under his command.

FOURTHLY The said Sir James for his part gives full assurance upon his honour and credite that these who goes under his conduct shall be safely sent back with those whole boates without anie harm to bee done to them by anie manner of person that belongs to the enemy of the said Sir James.

FIFTHLY It is agreed that the said Sir James shall be reddie to remove with the baggage aforesaid before tomorrow at eight of the clocke in the morning, the keepinge and keyes of the house beinge presently delivered to the said James Campbell or anie he shall appoint and that a speciall man se the baggage put up that nothinge be taken away but what is right.

Which Articles above written both parties on their honour and conscience obliges to performe and keep to other hic inde and have subscribed the same day year and place foresaid.’

These were the agreed terms upon which the Lamonts were willing to hand over their castles to the Campbells. That they be allowed to go to MacColla with arms intact and transport provided by the Campbells. Once this surrender had taken place, negotiations opened with Ascog, under the same promises of no harm coming to the Lamonts or their goods.

It must now be noted that up to this point in time, the Lamonts and Campbells had carried out their disputes by usual means of clan warfare. They took turns burning pillaging ravaging and killing one another. These were hard times and disputes were usually settled by hard measures, but they were the generally accepted settlements of the time.