Peer to Pier: Conversations with fellow travelers
In late October, I had the pleasure of speaking with His Grace the Duke of Argyll at his family ancestral home Inveraray Castle on the west coast of Scotland. Born Torquhil Ian Campbell, among the 29 titles His Grace holds, he particularly prizes his designation as 28th MacCailein Mor, the 35th Chief of Clan Campbell.
He is the son of Sir Ian Campbell, 12th Duke of Argyll and Iona Mary Colquhoun, the daughter of Sir Ivar Iain Colquhoun of Luss 8th BT, Chief of Clan Colquhoun. From 1980 to 1983, he was a Page of Honour to Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II. His Grace, the Duke, was educated at Glenalmond College, Perthshire, Scotland, as was his father before him. He then went on to the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, where he was awarded a diploma in Rural Estate Management. He took a post as Assistant Land Agent for the Duke of Buccleuch at the Buccleuch Estates near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders where he remained from 1991 to 1993. The following two years were spent in London working as a sales manager for the Grosvenor House Hotel. In 1995 he joined the French company Pernod Ricard, with which he is still affiliated.
A focus of my two visits to Scotland this year was the country’s clan culture. The concept of “belonging” has always fascinated me and it was a privilege to speak to the head of the world’s second-largest such extended family. My meeting with His Grace happened to occur just weeks after my mother passed away, and his observations about the importance of valuing both individual strengths as well as family heritage were particularly poignant and meaningful for me. The conversation with His Grace was a reminder that while there are many branches of mankind’s family tree, we are all rooted in our shared human condition.
Meg: It’s my understanding that most Scottish clans can claim among their ancestors a mix of different races that include the Picts, the Celts, Viking and Norse raiders and Norman and Flemish knights. Could you tell me about the Campbell clan ancestry?
Duke of Argyll: I have a very unique position. I am a direct descendent of the ancient high kings of Ireland from the Hill of Tara in the 7th century. When I wear my dress kilt jackets, on it I wear silver salmon buttons; the silver salmon is the emblem of the ancient high kings of Ireland. The ancient kingdom of Dalriada, was ruled by the Irish kings. Their capital was Dunadd in the Kilmartin glen, which is a little bit further down the road from here. The Kilmartin glen is one of the most important archeological sites in Scotland with around 350 ancient monuments of which 150 are prehistoric.
I can therefore claim that my ancestors have been around for some time. The Campbells as a family came to notoriety in the late 1200s with Cailean Mor Caimbeul, also known as Sir Colin Campbell of Loch Awe and then grew to be what is arguably one of the most numerous Scottish families. The Vikings had a huge influence on the coastal regions of Scotland really through rape and pillage. My name is Torquhil, which is a deviation of the son of Thor, so there is still that Viking heritage there. I got the name through my mother’s side, who had a brother called Torquhil.