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Extracts Concerning Camerons and Cameron Lands
from a report on the Highlands

Leaving Glenco, I crossed the Arm of the Sea called Lochleven and landed in Mamore 7 miles to the South of Fort William.  The Country and 8 or 10 Miles to the North of Fort William is entirely inhabited by Camerons and is mostly the Property of the Duke of Gordon tho' Lochiel, Cameron of Calart, and Cameron of Glenivas had each of them some property in it.  On the West side of the River Lochy Lye the Districts Commonly Called Lochiel, Strathlocky, Glenloie and Locharkeg, these formerly the greatest part of Lochiel's Estate, all of which he held of the Duke of Argyle, as he and his Clan held the lands they Inhabited on the other side of the Firth and the River of the Duke of Gordon.

All these Countries might be made Fertile if rightly Cultivated, a good part of them are on the one Side naturally enclosed either by the Sea, the River Lochy or Locharkeg (a Fresh water Lake 12 Miles Long).  On the South Side of this Lake for some Miles grows a Large and Beautiful Wood of tall Strait Firs, and on the North Side for some Miles there formerly grew Oaks of above three Feet diameter which were Cut Down for the Sake of the Bark, and the Timber, which was of the best kind and quite Sound, was allowed to Rot upon the Ground or to be used by the Country People for Firing.

The Camerons are a Lazy Silent Sly and Enterprising People; they were always deeply Disaffected to the Revolution Interest, and have a large share in all Plots and rebellions that were formed at the Revolution and ever Since.   Their Neighbours the McLeans, McDonalds and Stuarts used to upbraid them with being good Plunderers but bad Soldiers, 'till about 100 years ago that Sir Evan Cameron their Chief, a Bold Resolute man, brought them to perform Considerable Feats against Cromwell and afterwards against King William at Killicrankey, but in his Son's Time they behaved so shamefully at Sheriff Muir and were so often upbraided with their Cowardice and bad behavior that the Scandal of this did not a little Contribute to make them Exert themselves in the Late Rebellion, that they might (as they call'd it) Recover their Character.  They are mostly Tall Large well bodied Men.  They brought to the Field from first to last during the late Rebellion about 900 effective Men of which Number they Lost above 400.  That part of Lochiel's Estate that runs along the side of Locharkeg is a Den of Thieves, they are instructed in this Villainous Trade from their Cradles and Hand it down as an Inheritance to Posterity, and tho' the rest of the Camerons are not so Infamous as the Locharkeg People yet few of them are free from either Theft Receipt or Concealment.   Donald of Lochiel about 20 years ago made some Attempts to bring his People from Theft and Idleness' but some of his Neighbouring Chiefs prevailed upon him to allow his People to Continue in their Old way, as it was absolutely necessary for his men to be kept in the use of Arms if he intended to Contribute to the Glorious Cause of restoring the Stuart Family.  And tho' several persons who pretended to an intimate acquaintance with Lochiel extolled him as a man of great Honesty and Address, yet others who were better acquainted with his Schemes concluded that he protected his Clan in their Roguery; more especially at a time when they stole a number of Horses from the Leadmine Company at Strontian, for which some of them were prosecuted at Inverness, during the Course of which Tryal some things occurred which made Lochiel very Odious to all those who knew the Secret.

The Camerons boast of their firm adherence of the Protestant Religion in all the Periods of Time since the Reformation, and indeed Popish priests and the Ministers of the Established Church have been alike surprised at their Resolution in this point; but they showed so little Regard to any Religion in their practise that their adherence to Protestancy seems to have been a part of the Pretender's Political Scheme.  It would have appeared too glaring to have had none but Popish Clans appear zealous for his Interest.  The greatest part of the Gentry in Lochaber loves the Nonjuring Clergy, and their Children are Baptized by them, tho' they are not so madly fond of them; nor are they such Violent Jacobites as the Camerons in Morvine and Ardnamurchan.  The Common People in Lochaber employ the Parish Ministers to Baptize their Children and their Hearers as often as they can which is but Seldom as the Parishes there are of a very large Extent.

As the Camerons have ever been such a Wicked and Rebellious People I shall endeavour to give you a particular Account of the Several small Tribes which Compose the Clan.  I forgot to tell you sooner that the Head of every Clan is called the Chief, and those of the small Families that Compose the Clan are called Chieftains resembling the Colonel and Captains of a Regiment, and when they rise in Arms they rank thus; the Lieutenant Colonel and Major are the Sons or Brothers of the Chief, the Captains are those of next Authority among them, and the Cadets of the lesser families Compose the Subalterns.   And tho' these Chieftains have no property it does not lessen their Influence and Authority over what they term their Own Family.

Here are a small Tribe of the McLachlans who have resided for so many Generations in Lochaber that they are now incorporated with the Camerons.  Their Chieftain McLachlan of Corriwinnan raised a Company of his own Name with which he joined Lochiel; it is imagined he was killed at the Battle of Culloden, as he has never been heard of since.

With respect to the other Tribes who when abroad are Commonly called Cameron they have different Sirnames and were originally of the Clanchattan family in Lochaber as a great part of that Country was the property of that Family; but about 400 years ago this Estate devolved on an Heiress who was married to the Son of McDuff Thane of Fife.  From his Father's Title he and his Posterity assumed the name of McIntosh which is an Irish word signifying the Thane's Son; and his Successors having an Estate not far from Inverness they chose to reside there.  The Camerons who then possessed no more than that small Strath that runs North from North William called Lochiel, being more powerful than any of the Clanchattan Tribes which were five in Number under different Chieftains, and by the Policy of the Camerons at Variance among themselves, and McIntosh not being at hand to protect them from their Tyranny, they by degrees put themselves all under the protection of Lochiel and owed him for their Chief, which produced many Bloody Battles and Skirmishes betwixt McIntosh and Lochiel; but McIntosh being at last wearied of this War, he about 70 years ago sold the Lands possessed by these Tribes to Lochiel for above £3,000, which sum Argyle paid for him on Condition that Lochiel should hold these Lands of him and join him in his Wars, which Condition Lochiel performed when Argyle was obliged to dispossess McLean by force after all Legal steps had been taken in vain.

The Names of these old Tribes are as follows viz:

1st. The McLonicks whose Chieftain is Stron now an officer in Drumlanrig's.
2ndly. The McOvies whose Chieftain lives at the West End of Locharkeg.
3rdly. The McIlevoils whose Chieftain is called Murlagan tho' but a moveable Tenant of Lochiel's.
4thly. The McOvaisters whose Chieftain called Achadaleo is in the same Condition.
5thly. The McMartins whose Chieftain has a small Estate which he holds from the Duke of Gordon.  The Lochiel Family have always Caressed these Chieftains and given them the most profitable Farms with the Title of the Place tho' they paid Rent for it.

The true Camerons are originally Danes, and have been a Lawless Banditti for many Generations.  Evan McAllan from whom the present Lochiel is the eighth Descendant was the most famous Robber this Family ever produced.  I have heard some Gentlemen descended from him boast that he was Aged 80 years when he was Hanged, and that he had in that time brought into his Country 80 Great Droves of Cattle, besides a vast deal of Lesser Game.  That his Wife's Dowry by the Marriage Contract was to be the Cattle that he and his Clan should steal during the three first Michaelmas Moons of their Marriage.  The Contract was in writing and is still extant.  They further Relate of this their famous Ancestor, that in his 80th Year he assembled all his Clan, and went to Strathspey, where in the Night time he drove together all the Cattle in the Neighbourhood.  As he was marching the next morning by the Laird of Grant's House with his Booty, he sent him a Challenge to come out and Recover his Cattle, which he declined, saying that his Men were Scattered, and could not upon so sudden Notice be got together, but laid the whole Affair immediately before the King, after which Lochiel was enticed to Edinburgh, where he was apprehended, try'd and Condemned to be Hanged Drawn and Quartered, which was accordingly Executed and his Head set upon a Pole in the Road that Leads to the North.  But to show the present Disposition of than Clan, I will relate an Instance of their Barbarity which happened since the year 1725.  The possessor of a farm belonging to the Duke of Gordon, of the tribe of the MacMartins, about three miles to the North of Fort William, demanding an abatement of the usual rent, which the Duke refusing, he left the farm, boasting that no man would dare to succeed in it.  For some years it was untenanted, till at last the Duke prevailed on Mr. Sheldoich, who was then a minister of the parish, who could not find a place to reside in, to take the farm.  The former possessor lay still till the minister had plentifully stocked the farm with cattle and built a house upon it, then, with some other rogues, finding that the cattle were carefully watched, went to the place where the calves were kept, and with their durks cut off their heads, and cut the skins so that they would not be of any use...they pulled down part of his house, and fired several shots towards the place where his wife lay...

Each of these possessors has some very poor people under him, perhaps four or six in a Farm, to whom he lets out the Skirts of his Possession, these people are generally the Soberest and Honestest of the whole.  Their Food all Summer is Milk and Whey mixed together without any Bread, the Little Butter and Cheese they are able to make is Reserved for Winter provision, they sleep away the Greatest part of the Summer and when the little Barley they sow becomes Ripe, the women pull it as they do Flax and dry it on a Large Wicker Machine over the Fire, then Burn the Straw and Grind the Corn upon Quearns or Handmills.

In the End of Harvest and during the Winter, they have some Flesh, Butter and Cheese, with great Scarcity of Bread.  All their Business of to take Care of the few Cattle they have.  In Spring which is their only Season in which they work, their whole food is Bread and Gruel without so much as Salt to season it.  About 20 Years ago Lochiel erected two or three Water Mills, but by Reason of the great Distance of many of the People from them, and their Natural Laziness, with the Prejudice in favour of their Old Custom of Burning Straw etc., they were made very little use of.  This extravagant Custom of burning the Strwa prevailed of Old over all the Æbudae Islands and was much practised on the Continent, but it has been given up for some time except by the Camerons, the McDonalds, some McLeans and some People of the Isle of Skye.  Before I leave the Camerons I must tell you that the Firth that comes up by Fort William affords no Fish except a few Salmon,and now and then a few small Fish; but these are very Scarce.  So that the report which some People have been at great pains to establish as truth, of Lochiel's wanting to establish a Fishery among his Clan, seems to be an absolute improbability as they Ly at a great Distance from any other Sea.

(and in the section entitled "Ardgower")

Adjoining to Lingairloch on the North is Ardgower, which belongs to McLean of Ardgower whose Estate has been sunk in Debt for many Years past.  Neither he or his Son were in the Rebellion, nor seemed at all disposed to favour that Cause, tho' he could raise above 100 Good Men; but the Camerons who are his Neighbours and had Money Mortgaged on his Lands forced out more than one half of his Men.  In this Country lived Lodowick Cameron Uncle to Young Lochiel and Major to his Regiment.  He was known to be Concerned in many Dark and Wicked Plots contrived by Lord Lovat and others and to be a Ringleader and great Encourager of Thieves.  The Highlanders adored him as a man of great Parts and Knowledge but better judges soon found out how little he Merited that Character and that his whole Fort lay in a Low Wicked Cunning and that there was nothing extraordinary in him except that he could Contrive and Execute Designs which no man of an Ordinary Degree of Wickedness could ever head of without Abhorrence.

Editor's Notes:  Where to begin?  This report, written in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, is truly a classic piece of literature, perhaps the finest example preserved in the Clan Cameron Archives.  Why?  Quite simply, it contains a delightfully amusing combination of lies, half-truths, local superstition and innuendo, rolled together with some of the most complimentary comments ever placed onto parchment regarding the Camerons.  For a Whig of that era to call Camerons "Lazy Silent Sly and Enterprising People" might be considered "high marks" - after all, if an agent of the Crown actually considered Lochaber residents to be well mannered individuals, then there would have been something dreadfully wrong!  Other such comments, such as mentioning the men of Lochiel as "Lawless Banditti" and referring to Donald "The Gentle Lochiel" as having engaged in "schemes" are testimonies to this author's free wielding use of the quill!  One has to wonder as to the local Lochaber source of information for this report, for surely there must have been a number of informants whom delivered bits and pieces, with varied degrees of accuracy.

There is one piece of information that the author was absolutely correct about.  The Camerons loved to "liberate" cattle.  A reference once cited the moon as being called "Lochiel's Lantern," for under its pale glow the cattle were, "ripe for the pickin'."  Camerons and cattle, two words that go together like bread and butter!

It was surmised by John Stewart of Ardvorlich in "The Camerons - A History of Clan Cameron" that the author of this report may have been a Mr. David Bruce, a government official who was sent to survey the forfeited estates.   Stewart's observation, that "whoever the author may have been, he was violently Whiggish and anti-Jacobite" is very true to the mark.  As may be observed, the original author's spelling and grammatical errors have been left intact -  he was the master of the run on sentence.

The source of this report on the Highlands is preserved as M.S. No 104, in The King's Library, British Museum, and was published in "The Highlands of Scotland in 1750" with an introduction by Andrew Lang.