BADGE: Dearcag fithich (empitium nigrum) crowberry.
SLOGAN; Chlanna nan con thigibh a so 's gheibh sibh feoil.
PIBROCH: Locheil's March, also Ceann na drochait mohr.
In all the Highlands there is no clan more famous for valour and chivalry than Clan Cameron. Their deeds of brqavery in the Great Glen and out of it are not marked by the bloody ruthlessness which characterises so much West Highland story, and alike for the chivalry with which he took up the cause of Prince Charles Edward when it seemed a forlorn hope, and for the influence which he exercised on the Highlanders during the entire rebellion, the Gentle Lochiel, as he was called, of that time remains on the page of history a type of his family and race.
The name Cameron signifies Crooked Nose, and the story of the founder of the race remains embedded in the traditions of the West Highlands. In a corrupted form that story may be found in the opening chapter of James Ray's Compleat History of the Rebellion of 1745, and the present writer has heard it direct from the shepherds' firesides in Lochaber, The tradition runs that the first of the Camerons was not a Gael, but of British or Cymric race, and came originally from Dunbartonshire. Being a "bonnie fechter" he was engaged in many quarrels, and in one of these suffered the disfigurement which gave him the name which he handed on to his descendants. Dunbartonshire having become too hot for him, he made his way to far Lochaber. There the Chief of the MacFhearguises was at the time in danger of being overcome by a neighbouring clan with which he was at feud. He welcomed the stranger, and made him the offer of his daughter's hand and a fair estate for his assistance. This offer Cameron accepted, and, having vanquished his host's enemies, found a settlement in the neighbourhood which his descendants have retained to the present day. A quaint part of the tradition as detailed by Ray is that, at a critical stage of his adventure, Cameron betook himself to his old nurse at Dunbarton. This dame, who was a noted witch, furnished her foster-son with a parcel of thongs, which she told him to tie to a fox's tail. This fox he was to let loose, and all the land it should run over on its escape should become his. Further, it would be converted to the same sort of territory as the last which the thongs touched on his father-in-law's estate. The sequel may be given in Ray's own words. "That Cameron might have a good estate as well as a large one he let the fox loose upon a fine meadow just bordering upon MacDonald of Glengarry's estate, expecting to have all the promised land and that it would consist of fine meadows. The charms were performed with great ceremony and the fox turned out as the old woman directed; and, that he might travel the faster and take the course they desired, they set dogs after him. The creature, glad of his liberty, and willing to preserve his life, endeavoured to elude their chase by running into a little brook which passed through the meadow where he was set at liberty. The dogs then entirely lost him, and he kept along the channel till he came to the estate of Glengarry. Water being the last thing the enchanted thongs touched, as fast as the fox ran the land was overflowed, so that in the space of a few hours all the country for several miles together became one continued loch. The MacDonalds, affrighted at this sudden inundation, such of them as had time to escape removed their habitations higher up into the mountains, and left the lake and the adjacent hills to he peaceably enjoyed by Cameron and his followers. What became of the fox, or where he stopped, history does not relate, but from this origin it is called Lochiel, or the Lake of Thongs, from which the Chief of the Camerons takes his title".
According to Ray, the founder of the name was Sir Hugh Cameron, and the chronicler is good enough, notwithstanding his strong prejudice against everything Jacobite, to say that there had been "a constant succession of great men down from Sir Hugh, Knight of the Wry Nose, to the present Lochiel, famous in the late Rebellion". From a later warrior, Donald Dhu, who flourished in the end of the fifteenth century, the Clan has also been known as the Race of Donald the Black, and, it is from this ancestor that the usual Christian name of the chiefs of the present day is derived. There is also a tradition that Lochiel is not the eldest branch of the family, this having been known as the Clan MacGillean Obhi, an heroic tribe mentioned in some of the early poetic fragments ascribed to Ossian. According to this tradition, Lochiel acquired the family property in Lochaber by marriage with the Mac-Martins of Letterfinlay. The family genealoies assert that the actual ancestor of the Cameron chiefs was_Angus who married a sister of Banquo, Thane of Lochaber, slain by Macbeth in the eleventh century, and present a long line of chiefs descended from this worthy, who distinguished themselves highly in the wars and other historic events of the country.
One of the most famous and desperate of the feuds in which the Camerons were engaged was that with Clan Chattan in the end of the fourteenth century, concerning the lands of Glenluie and Loch Arkaig, to which MacIntosh, the chief of Clan Chattan, laid claim. In the course of this feud the Camerons penetrated as far as Invernahaven at the junction of the Truim and the Spey. There they were met by MacIntosh at the head of a force of MacIntoshes, MacPhersons, and Davidsons. Just before the battle a dispute took place between the Davidsons and MacPhersons, who each claimed the post of honour, the right to lead the host. MacIntosh decided the delicate question in favour of the Davidsons, and as a result Cluny MacPherson in indignation withdrew his men. Thus weakened, Clan Chattan was defeated by the Camerons. That night, however, MacIntosh sent to the camp of the MacPhersons one of his bards, who treated the sullen clansmen to a poem in which their conduct in retiring from the fight was attributed, not to their sense of honour, but to their cowardice. This so infuriated the MacPhersons that they made a surprise attack upon the Camerons, whom they defeated and pursued with great slaughter to the confines of Lochaber. One of the results of this encounter remains among the most famous episodes in Scottish history. The MacPhersons and the Davidsons proceeded to fight out their claims to precedence with cold steel, and presently the uproar among the clans became so great that the King sent the Earls of Crawford and Dunbar to quell it. In the end it was agreed that the matter should be decided by a combat between thirty men on each side, and the upshot was the famous battle within barriers on the North Inch of Perth, fought before King Robert III in 1396.
Among those who fought on the side of Donald, Lord of the Isles, at the battle of Harlaw in 1411, was John Cameron of Lochiel. The Camerons, however, afterwards found themselves at feud with the Island Lords, and in this feud suffered most severely, and were brought almost to extinction. It was in this emergency that the famous Chief, Donald Dhu, already referred to, achieved fame. Along with his son, the still more famous Alan Cameron, he restored the clan to a state of prosperity. Alan obtained from the Crown feudal charters of the lands of Loch Arkaig and Lochiel, to which the MacDonalds of Clan Ranald had laid claim, and by this means dealt a blow at these Lords of the Isles which materially helped their downfall. The same Chief engaged in another feud with the MacIntoshes. At a later day he supported Ian Mudertach when that warrior assumed the chiefship of Clan Ranald, and he fought alongside the MacDonalds at Glen Lochy in 1544, when they defeated and killed Lord Lovat with nearly all his followers. In consequence of this last achievement the Earl of Huntly was sent into Lochaber with an overwhelming force, and, seizing Lochiel and MacDonald of Keppoch, carried them to Elgin, where they were both beheaded.
Sixty-seven years later, still another disaster befell the Camerons. In the course of his mission to carry justice and pacification into the West Highlands, the Earl of Huntly had obtained certain rights of superiority over Lochiel's lands, and in 1594, when the Earls of Huntly and Errol, representing the Roman Catholic faction in the country, were making a stand against the Government, Lochiel's forces were ranged upon their side. The Camerons fought on that side at the battle of Glenlivat, where the Earl of Argyll, commanding the Protestant. forces, was overthrown. For his distinguished share in this battle Lochiel was outlawed and lost part of his estate, which was never afterwards recovered. Nine years later Argyll attempted to wrest the superiority of the Camerons' lands in Lochaber from Huntly, Lochiel having agreed to become his vassal. On this occasion a number of the Camerons threw off their allegiance to Lochiel and entered into a plot to take his life. The Chief, however, laid an ambush for the plotters, slew twenty of them, and captured other eight. Again, for this, the Cameron Chief was outlawed, and Lord Gordon, Huntly's son, invading Lochaber, seized him, and imprisoned him at Inverness.
Perhaps the most famous of all Highland chiefs was Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel. Born in 1629, and brought up by the covenanting Marquess of Argyll as a sort of hostage for his clan, he afterwards took the side of King Charles I. When Cromwell's forces overran the country, after the battle of Dunbar, Lochiel held stoutly out against them. Twice with greatly inferior forces he defeated the English invaders, and so continually did he harass the garrison at Inverlochy that he kept it in a state of siege till the Governor was glad at last to accept peace on Lochiel's own terms. The Chief accordingly marched to Inverlochy with pipes playing and banners flying. He was received with a guard of honour, entertained to a feast, and, on giving his word of honour to live in peace, was not only granted nn indemnity for the crimes and depredations committed by his clan, but had all the loss sustained by his tenants made good, and received payment for the woods on his property which had been destroyed by the Inverlochy garrison.
The story is told how in one of these fights Lochiel found himself in death grips with a gigantic English officer. They lay on the ground together, neither of them able to reach his weapon. At last the Englishman saw his chance, and reached out to recover his sword. As he did so he exposed his throat, and this the Chief in his extremity seized with his teeth and held till his opponent's life was extinct. When upbraided at a later day with the savage act, he declared it was the sweetest bite he had ever tasted. It is this Chief who is said to have slain with his own hand the last wolf ever seen in the Highlands of Scotland, and his hardihood may be gathered from the story that on one occasion, when sleeping out in the snow, having observed that one of his sons had rolled together a snowball for a pillow, he rose and kicked away the support, exclaiming, "Are you become so womanlike that you cannot sleep without this luxury ?" It is told of him that on one occasion at a later day he attended the court of James VII to obtain pardon for one of his clan. The King received him with honour, and granted his request; then, purposing to make him a Knight, asked him for his own sword in order to give special point to the honour. But the sword was so rusted with the long rainy journey from Scotland that Lochiel found it impossible to draw it from its scabbard, whereupon, overwhelmed with shame before the courtiers, he burst into tears. The King, however, with ready tact, consoled him. "Do not regard it, my faithful friend", he said, "had the Royal cause required it your sword would have left the scabbard promptly enough". He then gave the Chief the accolade with his own royal weapon, which he forthwith bestowed upon him as a gift. A day came when Lochiel had an opportunity of proving the King's saying true. At the Revolution, when the Royal Standard was raised in the Highlands by Viscount Dundee, he joined the Jacobite army with his clan, and fought at Killiecrankie. After urging Dundee to give battle, with the words, "Fight, my lord, fight, if you have only one to three !" he himself charged bareheaded and barefooted in front of his men, and contributed largely to the victory. He lived, however, to see great changes, and died in 1719, at the age of ninety, never, after all, having lost a drop of blood in any of the fights in which he had been engaged.
The son of this Chief joined the Earl of Mar's rising in 1715, and was forfeited for doing so, and it was his son again - the grandson of Sir Ewen - who was the Gentle Lochiel of 1745. But for him it is likely that the clans would never have risen for Prince Charles Edward. Courageous and loyal, with the highest sense of honour, he was held in the greatest esteem in the Highlands. When he went to meet the Prince at Borrodale he was determined to have nothing to do with a rising, and it was upon a generous impulse, touched by the forlornness of the royal adventurer, that, against his better judgment, he decided to throw in his lot with Charles. Following Lochiel's lead the other chiefs came in, and the standard was raised at Glenfinan. Throughout the rising it was his influence which restrained the Highlanders from acts of plunder and violence. On one occasion during the march to Derby, an Englishwoman who had hidden her boy in terror of the cannibal habits which were attributed to the Highland army, exclaimed as Lochiel entered her house, "Come out, my child, this man is a gentleman; he will not eat you !" Among other things it is said Lochiel prevented the sack of Glasgow, and for this reason the magistrates ordered that whenever Lochiel should visit the city he should be greeted by the ringing of the bells. When the Jacobite cause was finally lost at Culloden he was severely wounded, but he escaped to France, where his royal master gave him command of a Scottish regiment. He died abroad in 1748. The events of that time are commemorated in the well-known piece of pipe-music, "Lochiel's away to France". It is pathetic to remember that the last victim of the Jacobite cause was Lochiel's brother, Dr. Archibald Cameron, who was arrested on the shore of Loch Katrine during a mission to this country when the Rebellion was over, and was tried and executed as a deterrent.
Another member of the clan who figures scarcely less notably in the literature of that time is Mistress Jean Cameron. This lady, as tutor for her nephew, Cameron of Glendessarie, in person brought a large body of the Camerons to join the Prince's Standard at Glenfinan. The Hanoverian annalists of the time, like Ray, have taken outrageous liberties with her reputation. Many writers, like Fielding in his Tom Jones, make suggestive references to her career. It is certain, however, that at least one other individual traded upon and besmirched her name. This person, according to Chambers' Traditions of Edinburgh, represented herself as a cast-off mistress of the Prince, and after imposing upon the sympathies and support of Edinburgh Jacobites, died in a stair foot of the Canongate. She masqueraded in men's clothes and had a timber leg. The actual Mistress Jean Cameron of Glendessarie, however, had a character above reproach. She was a good deal older than the Prince. In later life she settled at Mount Cameron in East Kilbride, and, according to Ure's History of that parish, she died and was buried there in all the odour of respectability.
The grandson of the Gentle Lochiel, another Donald Cameron, was a Captain in the Guards, and married the Lady Vere. His descendant again, the father of the present Chief, married a daughter of the fifth Duke of Buccleuch. And the present Chief himself, who succeeded in 1905, married Lady Hermione Graham, daughter of the fifth Duke of Montrose. Lochiel has had a distinguished career. He served in South Africa during the war in 1899 and in 1901-2. In 1901 he was aide-de-camp to the Governor of Madras; and he was a Captain in the Grenadier Guards till his marriage in 1906. He has also essayed politics, having contested Sutherlandshire in the Unionist interest in 1910. In all matters in which the welfare of the Highlands is concerned he takes an active part, and in the great emergency of the war of 1914 he came forward in a fashion worthy of his ancestors and characteristic of the Cameron clan, and raised four additional battalions of Cameron Highlanders for active service. One of these he himself commanded, and the esteem in which he is held was proved by the fact that the men required came forward to join the colours within a few days after the announcement that Lochiel had received the commission. Among other achievements, he led his Camerons in the tremendous charge at Loos in which his two brothers and so many clansmen fell. It is amply evident that the present Cameron Chief is as loyal and as active in his country's service as any of his ancestors, and against his name there falls to be written yet another most notable chapter in the history of the clan.
SEPTS OF CLAN CAMERON