Parish of Campbeltown

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2021.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Links to the Historical Statistical Accounts of Scotland are also available:
(Click on the link to the right, scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Browse scanned pages")

1791-99: Campbelton
1834-45: Campbelton

Campbeltown, a town and a parish of Kintyre, Argyllshire. A royal and parliamentary burgh, a seat of considerable manufacture, a seaport, and the centre of a fishery district, the town is situated at the head of a bay, called Campbeltown Loch, on the E side of Kintyre, 11 miles by land NE of the Mull of Kintyre, and 35 SSW of Tarbert, whilst by water it is 39 miles W by S of Ayr, and 83 SW of Glasgow. To quote from the Memoir of -Norman Macleod, -D. -D. (1876), ` Campbeltown lies at the head of a loch which, ¾ mile in breadth, curves westward for 2¾ miles into the long promontory of Kintyre, not far from its southern termination. The loch forms a splendid harbour. The island of Davarr (300 feet), thrown out like a sentinel from the hills, and connected with the shore on the SW side by a natural mole of gravel, protects it from every wind; while, from its position near the stormy Mull, whose precipices breast the full swing of the Atlantic, it affords a secure haven to ships which have rounded that dreaded headland. The external aspect of the town is very much like that of any other Scotch seaport-a central cluster of streets, with one or two plain churches lifting their square shoulders above the other houses, a quay, a lean steeple, the chimneys of some distilleries, thinner rows of whitewashed houses stretching round the "Locheud," and breaking up into detached villas buried in woods and shrubberies. The bay of Campbeltown is, however, both picturesque and lively. Cultured fields clothe the slopes of the hills, whose tops are purple with heather, and beyond which ranges of higher mountains lift their rough heads. There are fine glimpses, too, of coast scenery, especially to the S, where the headlands of Kilkerran fall steeply into the sea. But the bay forms the true scene of interest, as it is the rendezvous of hundreds of fishing - smacks and wherries. There is continual movement on its waters-the flapping and filling of the brown sails, the shouts of the men, and the "whirr" of the chain-cable as an anchor is dropped, keep the port constantly astir. Larger vessels are also perpetually coming and going - stormed - stayed merchant ships, smaller craft engaged in coast traffic, graceful yachts, and Revenue cruisers.' A plain, 5 miles in length and 3 in breadth, extends from the head of the bay westward to the shore of the Atlantic; and from both sides of the bay and of the plain, the surface rises into groups of hills. Those to the N are bare, and, not exceeding 710 feet above sea-level, do little more than diversify the landscape; but those to the S have a considerable aggregate of wood, and go boldly aloft, with diversity of contour, to a culminating altitude of 1154 feet in Beinn Ghuilean, 1¾ mile SSE of Campbeltown. The site of the town was the original seat of the Dalriadan monarchy, then bearing the name of Dalruadhain. It was long the centre of a numerous population; but, after the removal of the seat of the Dalriadan kingdom to the shores of Lorn, it became comparatively deserted. St Ciaran, one of the 'Twelve Apostles of Ireland,' landing in the 6th century at Dalruadhain, spent much time in a cave about 4 miles distant, still known as Cove-a- Chiaran, and founded a great number of small churches throughout Kintyre, vestiges of some of which yet exist. He came to be regarded as the apostle and the patron saint of all Kintyre, and was viewed as specially the founder and patron of the mother church at Dalruadhain, insomuch that the place changed its name to Chille-a- Chiaran, or, in modernised form, Kilkerran. The Macdonalds, Lords of the Isles, sprung from a powerful chief of Kintyre, adopted Kilkerran, the quondam Dalruadhain, as a sort of capital of their territory; and, renovating or rebuilding the town, with addition of a strong castle, called it Kinlochkerran, signifying the head of Ciaran's Loch. James V., in the course of his conflicts with the Macdonalds, brought a strong force against the town, but he met much resistance, and could scarcely be said to subdue it; afterwards he made a grant of it, and of all the surrounding territory, to the Campbells of Argyll, and gave them authority to seize and hold it by their own military power. The terrible struggle that followed was prolonged through many years, and so depopulated Kinlochkerran and all Kintyre as to convert them almost into a desert- The famous Earl of Argyll sent hence, in 1685, his notable declaration of war against James VII.; and, notwithstanding his own immediate fall, led the way to a grand change of the local fortunes after the revolution of 1688. The Lowlanders who had joined his standard were encouraged to settle in Kintyre, specially on and around the site of the ancient Dalruadhain; others came from the opposite mainland, bringing with them their servants and dependants, and speedily these formed a community of pious and industrious inhabitants. The town had been made a burgh of barony, but was then no more in reality than a fishing village; it had undergone change of name from Kinlochkerran to Campbeltown, in honour of its new proprietors, the Campbells of Argyll; it began now to be much improved, or almost reconstructed, by its new masters; and, in 1700, it was constituted a royal burgh. Its history thenceforth is simply a record of progress and steady prosperity.

The town, curving round the head of the bay in the segment of a circle, has streets more picturesque in grouping than orderly in detail; but includes, scattered about the shore and on the slopes of the hills, a number of villas and other houses which add much to the pleasant aspect of the bay, and give a general aspect of taste and opulence. The ancient castle, said to have been rebuilt by James V., has left no traces. A granite cross, richly sculptured with foliage, stands in the main street; appears to date from the 12th century; was thought by Gordon, in his -Itinerarinm Septentrionale, to be a Danish obelisk: is commonly believed to have been brought from either Oronsay or Iona-most probably from Iona; but, not impossibly, was cut and carved near the spot on which it stands. The prison, as altered and enlarged in 1871, contains 15 cells. Other public edifices are the county buildings (1871), a handsome stone structure in the Baronial style; the town-hall, with a spire; the custom house; a public wash-house; and a Gothic Good Templars' hall (1872). Four parish churches and several small chapels were formerly in the town; but two of the churches are now in ruins, and none of the chapels are represented by more than fragments of wall or heaps of rubbish. One of the two existing churches occupies the site of the ancient castle, and is sometimes called the Castlehill church; it was built in 1781, and contains 1083 sittings. The second or Gaelic church was built in 1807, and contains 1528 sittings; its fine stone spire was added in 1836. There are also two Free churches, the one at Lochend, the other in Lorne Street, a U.P. church, St Ciaran's Episcopal church, and St Ciaran's Roman Catholic church (1850; 432 sittings), to which last a presbytery and schoolhouse were added in 1880. The U.P. church, rebuilt in 1872 at a cost of £11,000, is in the Greco-Italian style, with a massive tower 150 feet high, surmounted by an open-ribbed lantern dome; contains 950 sittings, arranged in amphitheatre form; and has behind it a meeting-hall with 200 sittings. The site of the previous church was immediately in front of the present one, and is now laid out in shrubberies. Five schools under the burgh schoolboard (Grammar, Millknowe, Argyll Street female industrial, Campbeltown do., and Dalintober Miss Campbell's charity), with respective accommodation for 420,400, 155,138, and 239 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 222,338,108,124, and 236, and grants of £186,7s., £299,5s., £84,18s., £78,11s., and £226. There are further an athenæum, an agricultural society, a national lifeboat establishment, and various local charities. Campbeltown is the headquarters of the Argyll and Bute Artillery Militia, and has an artillery volunteer battery and a rifle volunteer corps; one of its privates, Alex. Ferguson, was Queen's prizeman at Wimbledon in 1880.

The town possesses a head post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, offices of the Royal, Commercial, and Clydesdale banks, a savings' bank (1827), 17 insurance agencies, 5 chief hotels and inns, gas and water works, and 2 Saturday papers, the Independent Argyllshire Herald (1855), and the Conservative Campbeltown Courier (1873). Friday is market-day; and horse fairs are held on the first Thursday of February, the second last Wednesday of May, the second Thursday of August, and the third Thursday of November. The harbour, with a depth of from 3 to 15 fathoms at low water, possesses three piers; and a lighthouse on Davarr island, built at a cost of £4916 in 1854, shows every half minute a white revolving light, visible at a distance of 15 nautical miles. On 31 Dec. 1880,45 vessels of 2830 tons were registered as belonging to the port, 4 of 517 tons being steamers, against a total tonnage of 2251 in 1835,1488 in 1843, 1724 in 1861,2355 in 1873, and 3046 in 1878. The following table gives the tonnage of vessels that entered and cleared from and to foreign and colonial ports and coastwise, in cargoes and also (for the three last years) in ballast:-

Of the total, 937 vessels of 86,390 tons, that entered in 1880,451 of 60,901 tons were steamers, 116 of 13,516 tons were in ballast, and 905 of 81,465 tons were coasters; whilst the total, 920 of 85,748 tons, of those that cleared, included 447 steamers of 60,228 tons, 434 ships in ballast of 29,372 tons, and 912 coasters of 84,615 tons. Of coal 28,903 tons were received coastwise in 1879, other imports being barley, timber, and general merchandise; the chief exports, whisky, fish, live-stock, potatoes, etcIn 1880 the value of the total exports was £754, of foreign and colonial imports £65,609 (£78,200 in 1879). Steamers sail daily to Glasgow in summer and thrice a week in winter. Campbeltown also is head of the fishery district between Fort William and Inverary, in which, during 1880, there were cured 44,788 barrels of white herrings, besides 105,155 cod, ling, and hake-taken by 639 boats of 3404 tons, the persons employed being 1607 fishermen and boys, 45 curers, 10 coopers, and 475 others, and the total value of boats, nets, and lines being estimated at £38,232. Shipbuilding is a recent development, 8 vessels of 1142 tons having been launched here during 1878-80 (against none in the three preceding years); and of these 6 of 1030 tons were iron steamers. The whisky distilleries, however, are still the distinctive feature of the place, there now being 20-a decrease of 5 since the New Statistical Account was written- The quantity of proof spirits annually produced is 1,934,856 gallons, the duty on which is £967,428, and which, bearing a high repute, are exported to the Lowlands, England, Ireland, and foreign countries. There are, besides, a small woollen factory, a net factory, a ropewalk, the neighbouring Drumlemble colliery, etcThe burgh is governed by a provost, a senior and a junior bailie, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and twelve councillors. A sheriff court is held every Friday, and a justice of peace court on the first Monday of every month. The town council are police commissioners. The town, as to its police force, is united to the county, and is the superintendent's station for the district of Kintyre. The corporation revenue, inclusive of income from the harbour, was £1544 in 1852, £1870 in 1862, £3334 in 1870, and £11,377 in 1880. Campbeltown unites with Ayr, Irvine, Inverary, and Oban in sending a member to parliament, its municipal and parliamentary constituency numbering 597 in 1881- The annual value of real property-£14,182 in 1863-was £27,339 in 1881. Pop- of parliamentary burgh (1841) 6797, (1851) 6829, (1861) 6084, (1871) 6688, (1881) 7558. Houses (1881) 1633 inhabited, 75 vacant, 13 building. The parish of Campbeltown contains also the villages of Dalintober and Drumlemble. Comprising the four ancient parishes of Kilkivan, Kilmichael, Kilkerran, and Kilchousland, it was consolidated, under the name of Kinlochkerran or Lochhead, soon after the Reformation. It is bounded N by Killean and Saddell, E by the Firth of Clyde, S by Southend, and W by the Atlantic Ocean. Its length from N to S varies between 5½ and 11¾ miles, its breadth between 45/8 and 105/8 miles; and its land area is 44,220 acres. The extent of western coast is about 8, of eastern 14, miles. Campbeltown Loch on the E, and Machrihanish Bay on the W, lie opposite each other, and render the plain between them much the narrowest part of the parish. The shore on the E is chiefly rocky toward the N, a sandy beach on both sides of Campbeltown Loch, and boldly precipitous toward the S; but on the W, except to the S, is entirely sandy. The plain of 5 miles in breadth, already noticed as extending from the head of Campbeltown Loch to Machrihanish Bay, bears the name of Laggan of Kintyre; presents some appearance of being alluvial, or rather diluvial; and probably, at a comparatively recent geological period, lay under the sea. From it the surface rises northward to a hill near Aucha Lochy (710 feet), Ballivulline Hill (600), Ranachan Hill (706), Skeroblin Cruach (640), Easach Hill (1064), and Sgreadan Hill (1298); southward to Beinn Ghuilean (1154), Ballimenach Hill (379), Achinhoan Hill (980), Arinarach Hill (1031), Tirfirgus Hill (853), Skerry Fell Fad (781), The Slate (1263), and, on the Southend border, Cnoc Moy (1462). Of these Beinn Ghuilean, 1¾ mile SSE of the town, commands a magnificent view of the Ayrshire coast, the Firth of Clyde, Kintyre, the NE of Ireland, and the Islay and Jura group of the Hebrides. Sheets of water are Black Loch (1 x ½ furl.), the Reservoir (3 x 1 furl.), Aucha Lochy (2½ x 11/3 furl.), and three or four others; streams are Machrihanish Water, flowing westward, and Glenlussa Water, eastward. The rocks are variously eruptive, metamorphic, Silurian, Devonian, and carboniferous; and include quartz, porphyry, sandstone, limestone, coal. and ironstone. Drumlemble colliery, 3¾ miles W by S of the town, has been noticed under Argyllshire, p. 71. Porphyry on Davarr islet of not fewer than ten or twelve different kinds, very beautiful, easily wrought, and capable of a fine polish, has hitherto been neglected, but a kind of porphyry much used for local building is quarried on the estate of Kilkivan. Calc-spar and a kind of quartz, inclining to amethyst, are found in various places. Salt from sea-water was formerly manufactured, on a considerable scale, at a place on Machrihanish Bay, still called Salt Pans. The soils are of various character, according to the elevation or contour of the land, and to the character of the subjacent rocks; and range from very good on alluvial tracts to very poor on the hill summits. About two-thirds of the entire area are under tillage; a considerable aggregate is under wood; and the remainder is either pasture or heath. Vestiges of a battery, commonly called the Trench, raised for defence against the Irish allies of the Marquis of Montrose under Colkitto, are on a point of land at the entrance of Campbeltown Loch. Elizabeth, first Duchess of Argyll (d. 1735), the mother of the great Duke John and of Duke Archibald, lived for more than 20 years at Limecraigs, and was interred at the S corner of the now ruinous Loland Kirk; in the town was born the celebrated Norman Macleod, D.D. (1812-72), his father being parish minister from 1808 to 1825; and a well-known U.P. minister of Campbeltown was Thos. Finlayson, D.D. (1809-72). Mansions are Limecraigs, Kildalloig, Drumore, Kilchrist Castle, Lossett Park, and Askomil. The Duke of Argyll is chief proprietor, but 8 other landowners hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 30 of between £100 and £500,46 of from £50 to £100, and 100 of from £20 to £50. Campbeltown is in the presbytery of Kintyre and synod of Argyll. The charge is collegiate, and the two ministers officiate in both churches, at alternately the forenoon and the afternoon service, the income of the first minister being £254, of the second £292. Under the landward school-board are the four public schools of Auchencorvie, Drumlemble, Kilmichael, and Peninver, which, with respective accommodation for 50,136,72, and 52 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 59,110,33, and 22, and grants of £74,10s. 6d., £97,9s., £48,3s., and £39. The parish has a poorhouse for itself, with accommodation for 84 inmates. Valuation (1881) £29,866,2s. 7d. Pop. (1801) 7003, (1841) 9634, (1861) 8149, (1871) 8580, (1881) 9749.—Ord. Sur., sh. 12,1872. See Stewart's Collection of Views of Campbeltown and -Neighbourhood, with Descriptive -Notices and History of Campbeltown (1835).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better