In July 1660, the Marquis of Argyll went to London to pay respects to King Charles. When he arrived, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
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.
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.’
The 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.
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.
It 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.
The 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.
After scoring a victory at Tippermore, Alasdair MacColla persuaded Montrose that an invasion of Argyll was in order. Stevenson says: ‘Alasdair stressed the importance of the Marquis of Argyll. Not just as an enemy of the MacDonalds, but as the leading figure among the Covenanters; to destroy his power would not just advance the interests of the Clan Donald, it would shake the Covenanting regime in Edinburgh. And, once free from fear of the Campbells, “The whole Highlanders with one consent would take up arms for the King.”‘
Argyll thereafter fled to the lowlands, at which time the entire area around Inveraray was laid to waste. The stories told say that the attacks did not stop until every man fit for Argyll’s service had fled the district. Entire villages were burned. The devastating attack ran from 13 December 1644 to either 28 or 29 January 1645. It is said that in a corner of Inveraray a spot is still marked, ‘the wall of old Quinton where a corps of Campbells slaughtered by Inverlochy dogs lie under a Latin stone.’
Stevenson reports: ‘It was, as far as Alasdair MacColla and his allies were concerned, the first major success in a campaign to destroy the Clan Campbell completely, reviving MacDonald in its place. But military victory in itself would not free land for restoration to its rightful owners, the Clan Donald and other clans who had suffered at Campbell hands; therefore it was a brutal logic as well as a lust for revenge that dictated that all Campbells who were captured should be killed.’
It is said that in the devastation of Argyll territories, 895 men were killed. Perhaps this same ‘bruatal logic as well as a lust for revenge’ would be seen again, in little more than a year at Toward, Ascog and Dunoon?
Sir James Lamont did not take part in the attack on Inveraray and Mckechnie did not overlook this fact, saying: ‘What ailed Sir James at this juncture will never be known but to his everlasting disgrace he held back and did not acknowledge his Commission and take the road with his clan.’
In January, Montrose, who was on Lochaber, found himself threatened from the north by troops under Seaforth and on the south by troops under Argyll. After a forced march, on 2 February 1645, Montrose caught Argyll’s forces by surprise at Inverlochy and Argyll suffered a heavy defeat.
One report said the Laird of Auchinbreck was killed, along with 14 Campbell barons, twenty-two men of ‘qualitie taken prisoner, and seventeen hundred of the covenanting armies killed.’ And it is clear McKechnie thought Sir James and Silvereraigs were among those twenty-two men captured.
‘It is idle to pretend that they can have been among those highlanders who were ‘forced to serve against their will’, for they had their opportunity to join Montrose and neglected to seize it.’
Stevenson was even more clear in his own report: ‘Allies of the Campbells captured were led by Sir James Lamont, chief of his clan, and Robert Lamont of Silvereraigs…All the prisoners were spared, being men of qualitie’. Being men of sufficient status, they were doubtless seen as being valuable for ransom demands!
McKechnie is rather quiet as to further Lamont involvement, bu Stevenson says: ‘Only two clans of note had been persuaded to fight alongside the Campbells, the MacDougalls and the Lamonts and they had shared in the losses and humiliation of defeat stating their belief that the best policy was to obey and serve the Campbells.’
If this is not strange enough, after taking Sir James and Sivereraigs to task for supporting Argyll at Inverlochy, McKechnie then reports: ‘Still and all they were not long to see the error of their ways and once under the spell of the great Marquis their loyalty to the Stewart King revived.’
Sir James and Sivereraigs returned to Toward and on 15 August 1645, they learned of Montrose’s victory at Kilsyth. Montrose now appeared to be all-powerful, as he had celebrated victories at Tippermore, Aberdeen, Inverlochy, Dundee, Auldeam, Alford and now Kilsyth. This is what doubtless led Grimble to state that Montrose was ‘the man who was to prove himself the most brilliant soldier in Scotland’s history’.
Sir James met Montrose at Bothwell and received a new Commission from him, dated 26 August 1645. (Why this new Commission was issued is unknown, as Sir James already held the King’s Commission.)
It appears that the 17th century came without much ado for the Lamonts. In 1612, James Lamont was born and the Barony passed to him in 1624. In 1634, he married his cousin Margaret, daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Ardkinglas. Later in 1634, he succeeded his father as Chief of Clan Lamont. In 1637, he was made a member of the next Court of high Commission in Scotland and also became a Justice of the Peace.
Sharp eyes will note this was all taking place at about the time of the signing of the National League and Covenant.
On the other hand, the Campbells were prospering at a tremendous rate. Their Chief, who was hereditary heir to title of Earl of Argyll since 1457. He was now backed by a large clan whose lands nearly surrounded those of the Lamonts. In 1638, the Earl of Argyll passed and was succeeded by Archibald, the Eighth Earl of Argyll and after 1641, the first Marquis of Argyll.
And Now, the Stage Is Set
The problems arising during King Charles I’s reign saw both the Lamonts and the Campbells doing what they could do to ensure they would be on the winning side. As pointed out in an earlier article, the Lamonts were only too familiar with the consequences of backing the wrong side. Scotland was in upheaval as most people had made the choice to back either the King or the Covenant. In 1639, the Treaty of Berwick was signed, in an effort to bring pacification to Scotland. James Lamont was a member in the Assembly and in Parliament, both of which saw Covenanters in the majority.
Also in 1639, James Lamont determined to join with other clan chiefs in an effort to support King Charles against the Presbyterian Earl of Argyll and his allies. And this decision ended up in a curious state, as Lamont’s trustworthiness would be called into question.
The plan to support King Charles became known and James Lamont was eager to not offend the opposite party. Lamont made a full disclosure in a document known as ‘Lamont’s Declaratione’, which McKechnie saw as a shameful act. This Declaratione is not dated, but its approximate time of writing can be determined as Lamont made reference to events which took place when the Earl of Traquair was Lord High Commissioner. The document, as described in The Lamont Papers refers to Sir James Lamont signing a Bond of Loyalty and ‘absolute obedience’ to His Majesty and it was intended that a similar document be signed by McLeod, MacLean, Seaforth and McDonald of Clanranald, which, ‘should make the Illesmen stand sure to His Majestie, and to his forces, and that they should be directed to come and invaid Lorne, quhile the King’s other forces (I.e. the irish) should land in Kintyre and Tarbette’.
Lamont made clear his desire was to be free of the Earl of Argyll’s jurisdiction. ‘And Lykwise the said Sir Donald (Sleat) assured me that he had heard the King swear that if he brookit the Crowne, he should ruin the Earl of Argyll and all that would stand by him.’
Sir James went on to say: ‘he would never be ane advyser to his Majestie to invaid us by hostilitie bot to make show upon our borders that thereby we might ever be in armes, and thereby consume our means and be impoverished, that so the King might the more easily obtaine his end’.
MacKechnie observes ‘The chiefs of the north-west were only too ready to pay off old scores against Argyll under royal sanction’.
Sir James stated that MacDonald of Sleat had promised to furnish the King with 2000 men to make service against Scotland ‘if supplied with 1000 stand of arms’. he also claimed Sir Donald had ‘sworne Sir Lauchlan Mackleane having laid the Bible on his head’.
Sir James closes by saying ‘I heard the Commissioner to say that for thie wronges the Earl of Argyll had done to His Majestie in this business that if he ever could overtake him in law or otherwise that His Majestie should be equall with him.’
McKechnie shows his impartiality by saying ‘Lamont’s Declaration does its author little credit for it shows him to be two-faced.’
There is evidence in The Lamont Papers which says some of the Covenanting Party had given in with Lamont’s Declaration, giving information as to the secret meetings between ‘the Earl of Seaforth, McDonald of Sleat, McLeod of Dunvegan, MacLean of Duart, Stewart of Bute, Stewart of Blacknall and Laird of Lamont who all, except Seaforth, met in Euphame Wilsons in the Channongaite, and Dixone in the Potteraw’, with regard to bringing in an army from Ireland and from the Isles.
McKechnie goes on with his criticisms of Sir James, saying ‘Although he soon reverted to his old allegiance to the King, if will be seen tht Sir James and Silvereraigs were in Argyll’s army when it was routed at Inverlochy by the King’s forces under Montrose. By such arbitrary actions Sir James could not be looked on as a reliable ally.’
McKechnie made the following observation about the position of the Lamonts in the early 1640’s:
‘As they stood poised and ready to plunge into the civil wars, the Lamonts were at the height of their power. Never again in the history of the clan did they attain the same position while it seemed that they might regain the domination of Cowal which Sir Laumon had achieved before. Alas! Their hopes were doomed to disappointment.’
It is at this point I feel I must question McKechnie’s observation, as records clearly indicate Sir James was in dire financial straits prior to 1640. Even McKechnie records that Sir James had admitted in 1636 that he was some £64,000 in debt, which clearly exceeded one-third of the estimated value of his estate.
Prior to his indictment, Argyll had a note prepared that stated ‘In 1640 he (Sir James) being drowned in debt made ane fashion to undertake some service for the King as one means to recover his estate’.
If this debt seems to be insignificant, it should be pointed out that this amount would be approximately £4,000,000 ($8,000,000) by current standards.
It is easy to accept McKechnie’s observation that ‘If only he could back the winning side he would be able to ride roughshod over the hated Clan Diarmid and his loans, in the old Highland phrase, “would be sent laughing home”. What would happen if he lost he did not stay to consider.’
The Marquis of Montrose
It now is time to introduce the Marquis of Montrose into this story. Montrose was one of four noblemen who signed the National Covenant. It is known Montrose attended at the Treaty of Berwick and in the General Assembly of 1639 he showed his personal dissatisfaction with respect to the Covenant. It is known that in 1640, Montrose entered into a secret agreement with Argyll and it was also leaked that he had been communicating with the King. Montrose was then brought before the Scots Parliament and was imprisoned for five months in Edinburgh Castle. upon his release, he went to England and returned in disguise in 1644. When he arrived in Perthshire, an important meeting took place between he and Alasdair MacColla.
On 24 March 1644, Sir James Lamont was issued a Royal Commission, ‘with power to invade the countrie and bounds of Archibald, Marquis of Argyll’.
The Commission also read, ‘We would have you confident that we shall ever preserve a livlie memory of your forwardnes and faithfulness to reward it fully whenever God shall enable us so to do and we bif you heartily farewell’.
As McKechnie points out, this Commission was significant, on two counts. First, it forms the basis for the main count of the indictment brought against Argyll. Also, it shows the siege and plunder of toward and Ascog couldn’t be viewed as matters of clan dispute, as they were actually held under King Charles’s Commission.
Sir James wasn’t finished with his picking and choosing of sides, however. He claims to have received his Commission in late April 1644 from the Marquis of Montrose, who asked Sir James to meet him in Dumfries near the beginning of May. This meeting never took place as the rebels had sent their forces to the Borders and he was forced to retreat to England.
Later in May, Lamont was chosen as a Presbytery Representative to the forthcoming General Assembly and on 24 July, was also made Commissioner for War for Argyllshire. Had Lamont decided to once again become a supporter of the Covenant?
2 July 1644 saw the Royalist forces defeated at Marston Moor in Yorkshire. Shortly thereafter, Montrose formally declared support for the King and the King drew up a plan whereby the Earl of Antrim would land with an Irish force to meet up with Montrose who would bring troops from England.
And so we now introduce Alasdair MacColla, Ciotach MacDomhnaill (Alasdair, son of Colla, the Left-handed, of the Clan MacDonald). His rank was Lieutenant General Alasdair MacDonald, but was known simply as MacColla. His uncle, the Earl of Antrim, was well-known and trusted by the King as the Earl had married the widow of the Duke of Buckingham, who was a former favorite of the King’s.
The Earl of Antrim approached the king and made the offer of his forces, with MacColla to lead them. The King would have been aware of the hatred the Earl and MacColla had for the Campbells. The Earl, on the other hand, hoped the Covenanters in Ireland would be withdrawn if defeated in Scotland.
Professor D. Stevenson, in Alasdair MacColla and the Highland Problem in the 17th Century said this of MacColla:
‘He must have been brought up in an atmosphere of nostalgia for the great days of the MacDonald power and of bitterness at how his own clan Ian Mor (MacDonald of the Isles) still in the mid-sixteenth century had lost it through treachery and deceit on the part of the Campbells; in such tales the major contribution the MacDonalds had made to their own downfall by internal feuding was no doubt conveniently forgotten. Stories, poems and music relating to his father exploits in trying to uphold the Clan Ian Mor and describing the cunning which had enabled him to survive the disaster must have surrounded Alasdair throughout his youth. Coll (Colkitto), his father, must have been an old man when Alasdair came of age. The rebellion of the Covenanters led by the Earl of Argyll against king Charles I was looked upon by Coll as a heaven-sent opportunity to give his clan a chance to regain what he regarded as its place as the premier clan of the Highlands.’
In his Clans and Chiefs Ian Grimble says this:
‘It was the Campbells who advanced down through the centuries to the most powerful position of all among the clans, earning for themselves in the process a reputation for perfidy and unscrupulousness that had passed into Scottish folklore. For the most part they were as others did given the opportunity, and their greatest crime was that they were so much more frequently successful. This they owed to the gift for strategy and tactics of so many of their chiefs, who seemed to have possessed in an uncommon degree a sense of the direction in which events were moving, of the course of unfolding history, which enabled them to remains so often in the van of circumstance. Where the Great Clan Donald was so frequently to be found in opposition to the tide of events which swept their redoubts one after another, the Campbells displayed a hereditary flair for joining the winning side.’
MacColla was the subject of many tales, some more factual than others, which pointed him out to be a most fearsome adversary. He was said to have been a man of great strength and stature and trained in the use of all weapons.
When MacColla arrived in Scotland, he brought with him 1500 Irish troops, who are variously described as ‘expert soldiers’ and ‘an undisciplined horde’. It is unfortunate that the latter description may have been the more accurate of the two.
MacColla met with Montrose in Perthsire where they joined forces. They marched on Perth (St. Johnstone) and at Tippermore defeated the Royalist forces on 1 September 1644. Sir James Lamont and his men were absent at Tippermore, as his men were all at Toward, surrounded by Campbell land holdings, with the sea as his only route out of Cowal.
It is difficult to prepare an article that accurately describes the difficulties between the Lamonts and the Campbells, without looking at a lot of very ancient history (which is typically vague) and examining the geography of Cowal.
I hope this effort will provide some background information for those seeking to understand.
Dunoon is known as a seaside resort, particularly to citizens of Glasgow who will yet today take a ride ‘doon th’ water’ to visit. Dunoon’s history is quite old and we must examine portions of it, in order to place it in its proper place within this article.
For those approaching Dunoon via ferry, the Old Parish Church (later known as The High Kirk and now known as Dunoon Old & St. Cuthbert’s) can be seen standing on high ground, overlooking the Castle Gardens and the Dunoon Pier. The Church has written records showing it to be a place of worship as far back as 1270, although it is believed the Church may have existed as much as two or three centuries prior to that date. This hypothesis could easily be supported by the archaeological discoveries in Ardnadam Glen, located just outside Dunoon. There are findings there to indicate settlements dating back to 4000 B.C., including a Christian settlement dating back to a period around 500/600 A.D.
The ruins of Dunoon Castle stand atop Castle Hill. This castle would have had great strategic value, for its placement would have allowed seeing as far as Ailsa Craig, the Renfrewshire coastline, the area near Dumbarton Castle, the entrance to the River Clyde, Gareloch, the area between it and Loch Long and the entrance to Holy Loch.
It was at the Castle Gardens and at the Church where the terrible events of 1646 took place, finally resulting in the execution of the Marquis of Argyll in 1661.
For all intents and purposes, it would appear the bad blood between the Lamonts and the Campbells began in the period prior to the Battle of Bannockburn when Robert the Bruce was attempting to establish himself as the King of Scots.
Who were the Lamonts?
History tells us the Lamonts are one of the oldest (if not the oldest) clans in Scotland. There are many ideas as to where the name Lamont originated. The generally accepted theory is the name was derived from ‘Lauman’, who was the son of Ferchar.
Unfortunately, there are many variations of Lauman. Black’s Surnames of Scotland suggests it was ‘Lawman’ and draws the obvious line to the name being derived from the clan chief having been an overseer of the law. Hector McKechnie’s The Lamont Clan says ‘Lauman’ was correct and the name was Norse. He goes on to say that Sir Lauman’s mother was a daughter of Somerled, who was known as ri Innse Gall,or King of the Hebrides.
There is some possibility of this, as Somerled in the Scots Gaelic is Somhairle, which is anglicized as Sorley, another name connected to Cowal.
Brown’s Memorials of Argyllshire mentions an MS of 1450, where the genealogy of the Lamonts is traced to the same source as that of Somerled, Thane of Argyll.
Moncrieffe suggests the name was ‘Ladman’, a chief whose history can be traced to 1239 Cowal.
There is also possible evidence that traces Ferchar’s genealogy back through generations of Irish names, to Niall Glumdubh (Black Knees), who died in 919. Mckechnie mentions this particular line, which may have given Moncrieffe reason to say that Ladman was descended from from the Irish Prince Anrothan, son of Aodh O’Neill, who was king of the North of Ireland from 1030-1033, who crossed the Irish Sea to Argyll and married a daughter of the local King.
At any rate, Sir Norman Lamont points out, in The Lamont Papers ‘Cowal has been the home of the clan for the indisputable period of 700 years and probably for 700 more, as the origin of the clan which seem to me to have the greatest inherent likelihood is that its founders came over from Ireland in the so-called Dalriada invasion of 503 A.D.’
There is written evidence that at some point around 1238, Duncan, son of Ferchar and Lauman, son of Malcolm, son of Ferchar, granted to the monks of Paisley the Church of Kilfinan with its patronage; along with ‘those three halfpenny lands which they and their ancestors had at Kilmun’ and some land with a Chapel at Kilmory in Loch Gilp.
Lamont goes on to say – ‘These grants are of great importance as providing the wide extent of the possessions of the clan at that period; and this is confirmed by a description of those possessions on record before the death of Alexander III in 1285, when the Clan Lamont owned all Cowal and a part of Argyll proper from a point on Loch Awe to Braeleckan on Loch Fyine.’
it is commonly felt that Lamont’s comment suggesting ‘Clan Lamont owned all Cowal’ might be based on Brown’s Memorials, which says ‘the family of Lamonts possessed all Cowal and part of Argyll proper’.
It must be pointed out this hypothesis is repeated in Brown’s History of Cowal, yet there are no source citations for this statement.
Dr. C.M. MacDonald’s History of Argyll refers to the 1153 Charter granted by Duncan to the monks of Paisley and further comments this hypothesis points to a period of Cowal’s history when the Lamonts held a much greater territorial sway than they did in later years – ‘When they were as powerful in Cowal as the MacDougalls in Lorn and more important as an Argyll clan than the Campbells of Lochawe, who had barely emerged at that time into historical importance.’
The decline of the Lamont estates and the rise of the Campbells can be linked with Dunoon Castle and its own rise in importance to Scottish history from the 14th century through the 17th century.
It is suggested the Lamonts built Dunoon Castle as it was known to have existed in the 14th century. McKechnie says that even the traditions of the Campbells states ‘the Lamonts built Dunoon Castle which they held until the wars of the Bruce.’