BADGE: Luidh Cheann (octopetala) dryas
PIBROCH: Spaidsearachd Chaiptein Mille Laomainn
Among the clans of the West Highlands which appear to be able to claim actual descent from early Celtic stock, Clan Lamont may be considered one of the most assured. There is some reason to believe that the Lamont chiefs were originally a branch of the great house of O'Neil, kings of Ulster in early times. The hand surmounting the old Lamont crest is pointed to as being undoubtedly the "Red hand of Ulster", and the Lamont motto, "Nec parcas nec spernas", is also pointed to as indicating the close relationship, while the documents of early times which refer to the Chief as "The Great Lamont of Cowal" seemed to indicate a relationship with the Ulster title of "The Great O'Neil". The name Lamont appears to date from the middle of the thirteenth century. One feudal charter of that time was granted by "Laumanus filius Malcolmi, nepos Duncani, filius Fearchar", conveying lands at Kilmun and Lochgilp to Paisley Abbey, while another, dated 1295, is by "Malcolmus filius er haeres domini quondam Laurnani". It is from this Lauman that the later chiefs take their name, and are styled MacLaomainn. Before the date of these charters the chiefs are said to have been named Mac'erachar from their early ancestor, Farquhar, grandfather of Lauman, who lived about the year 1200. In any case, from a very early time the Lamonts appear to have possessed the greater part of Cowal, and the ruins of several of their strongholds still remain to attest their greatness.
The beginning of their eclipse may be dated from the middle of the fourteenth century. In 1334, when Edward Baliol had overrun Scotland, basely acknowledging Edward III of England as his suzerain, and when, as a consequence of the battles of Dupplin and Halidon Hill, it had looked as if all the labours and victories of Robert the Bruce had been in vain, Bruce's young grandson, Robert the High Steward, suddenly turned the tables. From hiding in Bute he escaped to Dunbarton, raised his vassals of Renfrewshire, and stormed the stronghold of Dunoon. This was the signal for the Scots to rise, and before long Scotland was once more free. Among those who helped the High Steward on this occasion, was Sir Colin Campbell of Lochow, and when Robert the Steward became King Robert II in 1371, he made Campbell hereditary keeper of his royal castle of Dunoon. From that day the Campbells used every means to increase their footing in Cowal, and before long a feud broke out between them and Clan Lamont, the ancient possessors of the district, which was to end, nearly three centuries later, in one of the most tragic incidents of Highland history.
One of the first episodes of the feud took place in the year 1400. The King's court was then at Rothesay Castle, and from it, one day, three young lords crossed over to hunt at Ardyne in the Lamont country. As a sequel to their excursion, they tried to carry off some of the young women of Cowal; at which four sons of the Lamont Chief came to the rescue and slew the ravishers. A garbled account of the incident was carried to the court, and as a result, the King confiscated the Lamont territory in Strath Echaig, and conferred it on the Campbell chief.
Forty years later another incident occurred in which the generosity of the chief of Clan Lamont was turned to account by his enemies. Celestine, son of Sir Duncan Campbell the Black Knight of Lochow, had died while being educated in the Lowlands. It was winter, and by reason of the deep snows, Campbell professed to find it impossible to convey the body of his son through the mountain passes to Loch Awe. He accordingly asked permission from the Lamont chief to bury his son in the little Lamont kirk at Kilmun on the Holy Loch. Permission was granted in terms thus translated from the Gaelic: "I the Great Lamont of all Cowal do give unto thee, Black Knight of Lochow, the grave of flags wherein to bury thy son in thy distress". Soon afterwards the Campbell chief endowed the burial-place of his son as a collegiate church, and from that day to this Kilmun has remained the burial-place of the Argylls. In 1472 Colin, Earl of Argyll, obtained a charter of further lands about Dunoon Castle, including the West Bay and Innellan, and the stronghold of Dunoon appears forthwith to have become a chief seat of the Argylls.
Still the Lamonts appear to have been willing to act the friendly part to the Campbells. In 1544, when Henry VIII was seeking to annex Scotland by forcibly obtaining possession of the infant Queen Mary, and when, to support the enterprise, the Earl of Lennox sailed with an English fleet up the Firth of Clyde, the Lamonts mustered to help the Campbells in defending the stronghold of Dunoon. On that occasion Lennox landed under cover of the fire from his ships, forced the Lamonts and Camp bells to retreat with much slaughter, burnt Dunoon, and plundered its church.
A pleasant contrast to that episode was the visit of Queen Mary herself nineteen years later. The Countess of Argyll was the Queen's favourite half-sister, and it is narrated how Mary, then twenty-one years of age, on July 26th rode from Inveraray and slept at Strone, a Lamont seat; how, next morning, she came to Dunoon, where she spent two days in hunting, and signed several charters; and how on the 19th she rode to Toward Castle, where she dined with the chief of Clan Lamont, Sir John Lamont of Inveryne, before ferrying across to Southannan at Fairlie, on the Ayrshire coast. On that occasion the,Queen may have been entertained with music from the famous ancient Celtic harp, which was a treasured possession of the Lamonts for several centuries. About the year 1640 this harp passed by marriage into possession of the Robertsons of Lude, and it is described and illustrated in Gunn's elaborate work on the music of the Highlands.
It was a few years after this that an event occurred which throws a vivid light upon the chivalric character of these old Highland chiefs. The incident took place either in 1602 or 1633. The tradition runs that the son of a Lamont chief had gone hunting on the shores of Loch Awe with the only son of MacGregor of Glenstrae. At nightfall the two young men had made their camp in a cave, when a quarrel arose between them, and in the sudden strife Lamont drew his dirk, and MacGregor fell mortally wounded. Pursued by MacGregor's retainers, the aggressor fled, and, losing all idea of his way in the dark, and at last espying a light, applied for shelter at MacGregor's own house of Glenstrae. The old chief was stricken with grief when he heard the tale, and guessed it was his own son who had been slain. But the Highland laws of hospitality were inexorable. "Here this night", he said, "you shall be safe"; and when the clansmen arrived, demanding vengeance, he protected young Lamont from their fury. Then, while it was still dark, he conducted the young man across the hills to Dunderave on Loch Fyne, and procured him a boat and' oars.
"Flee", he said, "for your life; in your own country we shall pursue you. Save yourself if you can! "
Years afterwards an old man, hunted and desperate, came to Toward Castle gate and besought shelter. It was MacGregor of Glenstrae, stripped of his lands by the rapacious Campbells, and fleeing for his life, Lamont had not forgotten him, and he took him in, gave him a home for years, and when he died, buried him with all the honour due to his rank in the little graveyard about the chapel of St.Mary on the farm of Toward-an-Uilt, where his resting-place was long pointed out.
As is well known, the Campbells had been engaged for over a century in making themselves masters of the ancient lands of Clan Gregor, and it may be that this act of hospitality to the old MacGregor chief formed the last drop in the cup of the ancient feud which brought destruction upon Clan Lamont.
The story of the final act of the feud was told lately by Mr. Henry Lamond, a member of the clan, in the pages of the Clan Lamont Journal for 1913. The original account is to be found in the charge of high treason and oppression brought against the Marquess of Argyll in 1661, included in Cobbett's Complete Collection of State Trials, vol.5; The author of this account rightly says that, while the massacre of the MacDonalds of Glencoe in 1692 still sends a shudder through the veins of the reader of history, not less horror would attend a perusal of the Dunoon massacre, were it as generally known. As a matter of fact, the massacre of the Lamonts by the Campbells at Dunoon was a much more dreadful affair than even the massacre of the MacDonalds by the Campbells at Glencoe. The incident took place after the defeat of the forces of King Charles I under the Marquess of Montrose at Philiphaugh in 1646. By that victory the Marquess of Argyll, chief of the Campbells and of the Covenanting party in Scotland, became absolute ruler of the kingdom, and he forthwith proceeded to use his powers for the destruction of three of the clans from whom his family had been engaged in seizing lands and power for several centuries bygone. First the MacDonalds were stormed and massacred in their stronghold of Dunavertie at the south end of Kintyre; then the MacDougals saw their last castles of Gylen and Dunolly overthrown and given to the flames; and, last of the three, the Lamonts were attacked and well-nigh exterminated in their own region of Cowal.
Sir James Lamont of Inveryne, knight, then chief of the Clan, had been educated at Glasgow University, had represented Argyllshire in the Scottish Parliament, and had been King Charles commissioner and a friend of the Marquess of Montrose. In fairness to Argyll it should be mentioned that the commission to Sir James, given under the hand of King Charles I in March, 1643, authorised and ordered him to prosecute a war and levy forces in His Majesty's name against those in rebellion, and particularly against the Marquess of Argyll, and that, in accordance with this commission, Sir James had gathered together his friends and followers. But upon the king's surrender to the Scottish army at Newcastle, Lamont had laid down arms and retired peaceably to his own houses of Toward and Ascog. The indictment goes on to relate how, after the overthrow of Montrose at Philiphaugh, James Campbell of Ardkinglass, Dugald Campbell of Inverawe, and other officers, under the order of the Marquess of Argyll, laid siege to these two houses. On the third of June, Lamont surrendered upon conditions, signed by seven of the Campbell leaders, which granted indemnity to the Lamonts in person and estate, with power to pass freely where they pleased. But no sooner were the strongholds yielded than the Campbells proceeded to plunder them utterly, and to waste the whole estates and possessions of the Laments, doing damage to the extent of £50,000 sterling, and in the course of their operations murdering a number of innocent women, whose bodies they left for a prey to ravenous beasts and fowls. While the plundering was going on, Sir James and his friends and clansmen were kept guarded in the house and yards of Toward, with their hands cruelly bound behind their backs in the greatest misery. The Campbells next burned Ascog and Toward to the ground, threw their prisoners into boats, and conveyed them to Dunoon. There they hanged thirty-six persons, most of them gentlemen of the name of Lamont, upon a growing ash tree behind the churchyard. The rest, to the number of over two hundred and fifty, they stabbed with dirks and skeans at the ladder foot, and cast, many being still living, spurning and wrestling, into pits, where they were buried alive. So much did the horror of the circumstances impress people's minds, that it was said the tree withered and its roots ran blood, till the Campbells at last found it necessary to "Houck out the root, covering the hole with earth, which was full of the said matter like blood".
Sir James Lamont himself was spared, and being carried to Inveraray, was forced to sign a paper declaring that he himself had been in the wrong; and he was afterwards kept a close prisoner at Dunstaffnage, where, under a threat of being kept in the dungeon "until the marrow should rot within his bones", he was forced to sign a deed yielding up his estates. He was also made to sign a bond for 4,400 merks as payment for his four years' entertainment in the castle. He was afterwards imprisoned at Inisconnell in Loch Awe, and in Stirling Castle, and was only liberated when Cromwell overran the country in 1651.
This act of massacre and oppression against Clan Lamont formed the chief item upon which Argyll was charged after the Restoration, and if it were for nothing but this alone, he may be held to have richly deserved his fate when his head fell under the knife of the "Maiden".
The massacre, however, had meanwhile exercised a farreaching effect upon the fortunes of the clan, many of whom, harried and driven from their lands, had been forced to assume other names, so that to the present hour there are many Browns and Blacks and Whites both in Cowal and elsewhere, who are of pure Lamont descent.
The incident of the massacre, terrible as it was, had been all but forgotten by everyone except the Lamonts themselves and a few people who took an interest in the history of Cowal, till, a few years ago, the Clan Society was formed, and set about erecting a monument on the spot where so many of the clansmen had suffered a violent death.
Sir James Lamont was reinstated in his property in 1663, but Toward Castle was never rebuilt by the Lamont chiefs, and stands a sad ruin yet among its woods. The modern Toward Castle was built by Kirkman Findlay, the famous East India merchant of Napoleonic times. The later seat of the Lamont chiefs was Ardlamont House, on the promontory between Tignabruaich and Loch Fyne, but following a notorious murder which took place there during the occupancy of some English tenants, about the beginning of the twentieth century, the estate was sold, and the chief of the clan now resides principally at Westward Ho in Devonshire.
The present Chief, twenty-first of the name, is Major John Henry Lamont of Lamont, and he has a record behind him of hard fighting in the great Afghan War, in which he took part as a lieutenant in command of a troop of cavalry in the famous march under Lord Roberts to the relief of Kandahar: and the crushing defeat of Ayoub Khan. Major Lamont is a famous polo player, steeplechase rider, and follower of hounds, and the only regret of his clansmen is that he no longer lives upon the acres of his ancestors. He is unmarried, and his apparent successor in the chiefship is Edward Lewis Lamont, Petersham, N.S.W., Australia, a great-grandson of the eighteenth chief. He is the eldest son of the late Edward Buller Lamont of Monidrain, Argyllshire, and grandson of the late Captain Norman Lamont, Member of Parliament for Wells Somersetshire, who was second son of the eighteenth chief: He is unmarried, but has numerous nephews to support the chiefship of the clan. The only landed man of the name now in Cowal is Sir Norman Lamont, Baronet of Knockdow. His father, the first baronet, who died on 29th July 1913, in his eighty-sixth year, was the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Lamont of Knockdow, whom he succeeded as laird in 1861. Sir James, who as a young man held a commission in the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders, was a noted big-game hunter in Africa, and had a story of strange adventures in Greece, Egypt, and Turkey, In his own yachts, the Ginevra and the Diana, he made several expeditions to the Polar seas which, though their primary object was sport, resulted in some valuable contributions to geographical and other knowledge. He published accounts of his adventures in two racy books.
Seasons with the Sea-Horses and Yachting in the Arctic Seas, and in 1912-3, over the signature "84", he published a series of ten articles of sporting reminiscences which attracted a great deal of attention. He was also for a time member of Parliament for Bute, for which also his elder surviving son, the present baronet, was member from 1905 till 1910.
Among many other members of the clan who have distinguished themselves may be cited David Lamont, D.D., who was chaplain to the Prince of Wales in 1785, Moderator to the General Assembly in 1782, and appointed chaplain in ordinary for Scotland in 1824; also Johann von Lamont, the astronomer and magnetician of last century, who was Professor of Astronomy in the University of Munich, and executed the magnetic surveys of Bavaria, France, Spain, North Germany, and Denmark. The work of John Lamont, the diarist of the seventeenth century, also remains of great value to the Scottish genealogist.
The latest evidence of the clan's activities is the Clan Lamont Society, instituted a few years ago, which is now a flourishing institution in the West of Scotland. Its inception in 1895 was largely due to Lieutenant-Colonel Lamont, V.D., a descendant of the MacPatrick branch of the clan. Colonel Lamont is the author of a brochure on the Lamont tartan, which has attracted wide notice among students of these things, and is of the deepest interest to the clan.
SEPTS OF CLAN LAMONT