The Campbell Surname
by Phil Norfleet
The foremost 19th Century historian of the Highland Clans, R. R. MacIan tells us the following concerning the Campbell surname:
A modern (1988) discussion of the Campbell surname, with particular emphasis on the Campbells of Ulster, is given by Robert Bell of the Linen Hall Library, Belfast:
Another twentieth century historian of British surnames, the barrister L. G. Pine, makes the following statements concerning this surname and clan:
I personally can vouch for the unpopularity of the Campbell Clan among many of the Scots of modern-day Britain. During the years 1981-1986, I was seconded to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) staff at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), located near Mons, Belgium. During those NATO years, I had numerous occasions to meet with members of the British Forces who were of Scottish ancestry, not only in Belgium but also in the United Kingdom. It is characteristic among Europeans, that when meeting an American for the first time, they are almost always interested in ascertaining from which ethnic group the American has derived. Of course, they are always pleased if the American can cite ancestors from their own country. In my own case, I would always try to oblige if I knew of such an ancestor. For example, when among British of English descent, I would mention that the Norfleets derived from a family that had lived in northeast Kent. When among Germans, I always mentioned that I was descended from a Mueller (Miller) from Bavaria (my mothers side of the family). In the same manner, the first few times that I met British officers of Scottish background, I would mention that I had Campbell ancestors. Unfortunately, this usually resulted in me hearing a lecture about how unpopular the Campbells were in Scotland! Finally, I stopped mentioning my Campbell connection at all. Instead, I would only mention that I was descended from the MacFarlands and the MacNeals (also my mothers side of the family). This usually elicited a positive response and I soon found that such an approach was a great social "icebreaker."
It is difficult to ascertain just why the Campbells are so unpopular in Scotland. However, I think it is more than just the jealousy implied by L. G. Pine. A 19th century British historian of family surnames, S. Baring-Gould, has a somewhat different answer:
Robert Bell, previously cited, gives us a more modern but similar view:
"The chiefly house, the Campbells of Argyll, despite leading the covenanters against Charles I, despite their support for Cromwell (which cost the 8th Earl, later 1st Marquis, of Argyll his head at the Restoration) and despite coming out for the Monmouth rebellion (which cost the 9th Earl his head), grew in power throughout the seventeenth century at the expense of the McDonalds, Lords of the Isles. The 10th Earl was created 1st Duke in 1701 and his titles give the best illustration of the extent of clan territory at this point: Duke of Argyll, Marquis of Kintyre and Lorn, Earl Campbell and Cowal, Viscount Lochow and Glenlya, Lord Inverary, Mull, Morvern and Tiree. From that point they were avid supporters of the English Crown and led government forces against the Jacobites in the 1715 and 1745 rebellions. Under government orders, Robert Campbell of Glenlyon in Perthshire, a cadet of the house of Argyll, carried out the massacre of the Clan Iain Abrach MacDonalds of Glencoe in Argyllshire which gave rise to the famous feud." 
Overall, I believe that the unpopularity of the Campbells among the Scots primarily stems from the Campbell Clans consistent support of the English Crown against the forces of Scottish nationalism during the late 17th and early-middle 18th centuries. The Glencoe incident was a particularly notorious example of this support. Accordingly, I believe the Massacre of Glencoe should be examined in some detail.
1. R. R. MacIan, The Clans of the Scottish Highlands (1845), page 30.
2. Robert Bell, The Book of Ulster Surnames (1988), page 28.
3. L. G. Pine, The Story of Surnames (1965), page 112.
4. S. Baring-Gould, Family Names and Their Story (1910), page 377.
5. Robert Bell, The Book of Ulster Surnames (1988), page 28.