18th Century – Jacobites & Whigs

Jacobites, Whigs and ‘the Gael’ at the University of Glasgow

The wider political context

It is difficult to talk about Gaelic Scotland in the eighteenth century without a consideration of the wider political background. The Union of 1707, the abolition of Scotland’s parliament, and the bloody conflicts of 1689-90, 1715, 1719 and 1745, bound up with the self interested dynasticism of the royal families, all loom large. Discontent with the Union of 1707 probably fuelled support for the 1715 rising in favour of the Jacobites, but this and all other struggles between the Stuarts and Hanoverians (or Whigs), was over the throne of Britain rather than Scotland. Several notable Gaels who fought on each side in these campaigns received at least some of their education at the University of Glasgow. Lord George Murray, Dòmhnall Cameron of Lochiel, Sìm Fraser, apparent of Lovat, and Alasdair Macdonald of Keppoch all featured prominently on the Jacobite side. Keppoch, indeed, was killed at the Battle of Culloden, 1746. Glasgow was the institution of choice for much of Clan Campbell who were staunch supporters of the Hanoverian establishment and Uisdean Mackay of Bighouse and Uilleam Ross, apparent of Balnagown, leading members of two other prominent Whig clans also attended the University of Glasgow.

Morier_Culloden_(c) Royal Collection

A scene showing conflict between Jacobite clansmen and the Hanoverian Redcoats, 1745-46, painted by David Morier, 1746. Morier was in the employ of the Duke of Cumberland. It is thought that Jacobite prisoners were obliged to pose for the artist as he composed the image. The original painting is held in the royal collection and is reproduced here by kind permission of the Royal Collection Trust. David Morier, ‘An Incident from the Rebellion of 1745′ (RCIN 401243). Royal Collection Trust, © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014. This image was downloaded (with permission) from the following website: <http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/401243/an-incident-in-the-rebellion-of-1745>.

The way in which the Hanoverian forces won the final battle (and the whole campaign) at Culloden is well known, as is the campaign of repression waged by government forces against much of the Highlands: especially areas which had been supportive of Jacobitism. Clan chiefs were stripped of their powers, the Highlands were garrisoned and kept closely watched by the government for many years after this and harsh measures were taken to ensure that this area which had given the British State the fright of its life in 1745 would never again be capable of raising a comparable insurrection. This is a brief, overly-simplistic, representation of a much more nuanced situation. Many non-Gaelic speaking Lowlanders, of course, supported the Jacobites while many Gaelic speakers supported the Hanoverian (the ‘Whig’ or King George’s) position. Yet while support for Jacobitism was arguably more broadly-based nationally, government centred repression had a disproportionately greater impact on the clan society of the Gaelic speaking Highlands. The power of the chief was greatly diminished, the nature of the bonds between chief and his clan were irrevocably altered and the transformation to commercial values, already underway, was accelerated. This had profound consequences for the people of the Highlands and the language they spoke.[1] Having briefly discussed some of the wider themes at play in the Gaidhealtachd the attention on the remainder of the page will switch to the University of Glasgow. Who were the ‘Gaels’ at the University during this period and what was their story?


Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair

It is said that Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, c. 1698-c.1770, aka Alexander Macdonald, one of the greatest Scottish Gaelic poets, attended classes at the University of Glasgow at the beginning of the eighteenth century, perhaps, even around the time of the Union of 1707. He is not on record as a student (although his father is), but that is not untypical for this period (many students attended classes without matriculating far less graduating).  GUL Sp Coll_Ais eiridhAlasdair is widely admired for his introduction of novel themes such as nature poetry into the Gaelic canon and for his versatility and brilliance as a poet as well as for his command of the Gaelic language. However, the political message that emanates most clearly from his output reflects his committed Jacobitism. Jacobite themes were praised and anything smacking of Whiggery or Hanoverianism, such as Campbell fellow-travelling with the Hanoverian establishment was relentlessly satirised. He published the revolutionary – in all sorts of ways – Ais-eiridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich, no, An Nuadh Òranaiche Ghaidhealach (the resurrection of the old Scottish tongue, or, the New Gaidhealach songster) in 1751. This was the first secular book of Scottish Gaelic poetry ever printed. It was full of nature poetry and obscene verse and was reputedly burnt at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh by the common hangman.

The title page of Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair’s ‘Ais-eiridh’, published in 1751. This image is reproduced by kind permission of Special Collections, Glasgow University Library, who hold two copies of this edition of the book.

Such a treatment, seems likely, not on the grounds of prudishness, but because the authorities would have been alarmed by the overwhelmingly Jacobite nature and tone of the volume. (Public burning at the hands of the hangman was a fairly typical treatment for seditious writings in Hanoverian Britain.) Such a volume would have gladdened the heart of any Jacobite and dismayed any Hanoverians, such as Clan Campbell, who may have read it. Indeed the whiggish Clan Campbell were singled out for special treatment in one of Alasdair’s poems, An Airce (the ark).[2]

Alasdair was one of the dwindling band who was familiar with the old Gaelic writing system, classical Gaelic, that had been practised widely on Clanranald lands and in the south-western Scottish Gaidhealtachd (in common with Ireland) in previous centuries but was now falling into abeyance. There was a considerable gap between this archaic, stiff language and the vernacular Scottish Gaelic of Alasdair’s day. The texts pioneered and published by the Synod of Argyll in the previous century (psalms and catechisms) marked a beginning on the path from the old formal written language towards the vernacular, but nothing secular had been printed in vernacular Scottish Gaelic save Alasdair’s own bilingual wordlist of 1741. Alasdair may have had little to draw on as an exemplar other, perhaps, than the semi-vernacular Argyll synod religious texts (1659, 1694), when writing his Gaelic other than classical Gaelic and Irish texts. Mac Mhaighistir Alasdair compiled a manuscript, perhaps sometime in the 1740s, which is preserved in Glasgow University Library. This shows his notes drawing on Irish grammars and includes drafts of some of his poems. GUL SP MS Gen 9 Oran nam fineachan G - detailAlthough some scholars have cast doubt of the identity of the scribe, this manuscript, if it was indeed his (which seems possible), also shows some of the poetry which appeared in Ais eiridh, written in the poet’s own hand. It is not clear how Professor Thomas Reid, a philosophy professor at Glasgow, came into possession of this manuscript, but he gifted this to the University library in 1773. It contains some of the poems that appeared in Ais-eiridh (1751), such as ‘Moladh Móraig’ and ‘Òran nam Fineachan Gaidhealach’.[3]

Above, ‘Oran na Fineachan Gaidhealach’ or song of the highland clans, possibly written in Mac Mhaighistir Alasdair’s hand. GUL, Special collections, MS Gen 9. This image reproduced by kind permission of Glasgow University Library, Special Collections.

Alasdair’s probable attendance at the University and the possession of some of his writings by the library are some of the more tangible items linking the University with, perhaps, the most famous Gaelic poet of the eighteenth century. At first glance this may seem the most obvious connection between the University and the Gaidhealtachd during this period. The rest of this page will investigate the nature of of the other Gaels at the University during the eighteenth century. Who were they? And, were they Jacobites like Alasdair?


Who were the “Gaidheil”?

The simple question “who were the Gaidheil (Gaels)”? Might seem like a surprising point of departure. When the Comunn Oiseanach (Ossianic Society) started meeting at the University of Glasgow some eighty years later, from 1831, one of their primary functions was as a debating society. They discussed, in Gaelic, a wide range of topics but one which proved especially popular and to which they returned again and again was the Jacobite rising of 1745-46. Was it right, they asked, again and again, that the ‘Gael’ should have risen in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart ? [4]

MS Gen 1363 Taobh Duill 043 (aona earrann-duilleig)

A passage from the minute book of the Comunn Oiseanach, 1833, above, showing the minute recording the question discussed: “A cheist– An Robh na Gaedeil ceart an eirigh suas le Prionnsa Tearlach Iomhair Stiubhart.?” (was it right for the Gaels to have risen in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart ?) This image reproduced by kind permission of the Special Collections, the University of Glasgow, MS Gen 1363/43.

The popularity of the topic was shared by Iain MacChoinnich (1806-48), a native of Gairloch, who worked at the printer’s office at the University of Glasgow and was admitted as an honorary member of An Comunn Oiseanach in 1834. Iain gifted An Comunn a copy of An Nuadh Oranaiche Gaelach (or ‘Ais-èiridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich’), the volume published by Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair (1751).[5] Eachdraidh a Phrionnsa - duilleag aghaidh 2This Iain MacChoinnich (John Mackenzie) was the editor of the widely known collection of Gaelic poetry, Sàr Obair nam Bàrd Gaidhealach (1841), and also a history of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 entitled Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa (1844). The author referred to his honorary membership of An Comunn Oiseanach on the frontspiece of the latter book. This work, Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa, refers, as do members of An Comunn Oiseanach in their minute books, to the ‘Gaeil’ as being synonymous with support for the Prince.

(Frontspiece of Iain MacChoinnich’s book bearing the ascription, ‘ball-urramach de Chomunn Oisianach Ghlascho’, 1844)

The insistence shown by MacChoinnich in labelling Jacobite supporters as Gaels throughout his book seems all the more surprising given his awareness that the leader of the Whig opposition was the chief of a Highland clan. Iain Ruadh nan Catha (John, 2nd Duke of Argyll), the Campbell clan chief, followed by a considerable number of Gaelic speakers, commanded the Hanoverian forces arrayed against the ‘Gaels’ (Jacobites) in 1715. This identification of Jacobitism with Gaels must reflect to some extent, views held not only by An Comunn Oiseanach but also of the way in which contemporary Highland and Scottish society in the nineteenth century perceived events of the previous century.[6]

Later generations can, perhaps, be forgiven for conflating the Gaidhealtachd with Jacobitism given that their predecessors in the 1740s were similarly imprecise. People in the 1740s, particularly people from the Lowlands habitually referred to Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s army as the ‘Highlanders’. Gaelic speakers who supported the Hanoverian regime, on the other hand were often given more specific identities. The Whig supporters tended to be not identified as Gaels or Highlanders, but instead as ‘Argyllshire men’, as ‘Munros’, or ‘Grants.’[7] Part of the reason for this is that Jacobites, irrespective of whether they were Lowland or Highland, and even the Prince himself, identified themselves as ‘Highlanders’ and adopted tartan dress. The Jacobites were highlanders – in a visual if not always in a linguistic sense. [8]


The City of Glasgow, the University and the Jacobites

The city of Glasgow and the population in much of the surrounding countryside regarded themselves as beng staunchly Presbyterian and supported the Whig cause. The intermittent persecution of Presbyterians between the Restoration of 1660 and the Revolution of 1689 won the Stuarts few friends in the south west of Scotland. This was a city that not only failed to support the native royal family in any of the peak periods of the Stuart ‘risings’: they actively mustered in support of the Whig ‘usurpers’. Jacobitism found few supporters from the Glasgow area in the Risings of 1715 and again 1745.

GUL SP Coll EA5_X9_Slezer Glasgow Cathedral 17 (1693) (1)

An image from John Slezer’s “Theatrum Scotiae” (1693) of Glasgow Cathedral on the right together with a view of the city. The spires of the Old College of Glasgow and Blackfriars are among those that can be seen in the distance. This image reproduced by kind permission of Special Collections, Glasgow University Library.

The antipathy of Glaswegians to the Jacobite cause was readily apparent during the rising of 1745. When Prince Charles retreated north and passed through Glasgow, staying a week in December 1745, he was given a cool reception from the citizenry. Indeed, there was, in contrast, conspicuous public celebration when news reached Glasgow of the Jacobite army’s subsequent defeat at Culloden. One of the treatments given to ‘seditious’ papers and documents by the Hanoverian regime was public burning. This was extended to the regimental colours of the defeated Jacobites which had been captured at Culloden. Alasdair Macdonald of Keppoch, a son of Colla nam Bò and nephew of Gaelic poet Sìleas na Ceapaich, had earlier been a student at the University of Glasgow in 1713. In 1745-46 he was, as clan chief of the Macdonalds of Keppoch, prominent in the Jacobite army and he fell, together with many of his clan at Culloden in April 1746. The victorious Duke of Cumberland gave permission that the regimental colours of the Macdonalds of Keppoch be sent to Glasgow. Keppoch’s colours were treated in the following manner by the authorities in Glasgow, 25th June 1746:

they this day, being the principal weekly market, between the hours of twelve and one at noon, caused burn them publickly at the cross, by the hand of the common hangman, amidst the huzzaes and acclamations of many thousands of spectators and to the infinite joy of the whole inhabitants of this city.”[9]

One of Keppoch’s contemporaries as a student at the University of Glasgow, a William Carmichael (of unknown origins, possibly a Gael, alias MacGilleMhicheil?), was expelled in 1713 having ‘uttered some expressions in favour of the Pretender.’ Donald Cameron of Lochiel (c1745) NSC_WHIM_PCF_5Carmichael had also been accused of blasphemy, having ‘uttered most bitter reflections’ against Presbyterian ministers and calling them ‘bloody minded villains,’ accusing them of ‘having sold the nation for thousands’. Any hope Carmichael may have had of remaining a student probably died with his labelling of the principal as a ‘greeting hypocrite’.[10] Another two of Carmichael and Keppoch’s contemporaries as students at the College of Glasgow are worthy of note: Donald Cameron, apparent of Lochiel and his brother both attended at this time (1712) as did Lord George Murray, a fourth son of the Duke of Atholl.[11] Cameron of Lochiel, indeed, was the first Clan chief to declare for Prince Charles in 1745 and was also, apparently, a restraining influence on the Jacobite army in Glasgow at the end of 1745. Some elements in the Jacobite army, furious at the lack of support from Glaswegians, wanted to torch the town and Cameron’s counsel is said to have stopped them from doing so. Cameron of Lochiel’s younger brother, Gilleasbuig, who also attended the University of Glasgow in his youth, played a prominent role in the Jacobite rising. Gilleasbaig (Archibald) Cameron had trained as a physician, taking further study at Edinburgh, Paris and Leiden. He accompanied Prince Charles’s forces in the 1745-46 and gained a good reputation for treating captured Hanoverians humanely and just as carefully as he treated his fellow Jacobites. He accompanied his brother into exile to France following the defeat at Culloden. He was betrayed to the Hanoverian authorities when he visited Lochaber in 1753, suspected of espionage on behalf of the Jacobites. All appeals for mercy fell on deaf ears and Gilleasbaig Cameron became the last person to be executed for Jacobitism at Tyburn, 7th June 1753 by the vengeful Hanoverian authorities.[12]

Image, (above, right), Donald Cameron of Lochiel (c. 1700-1748), the ‘gentle’ Lochiel, possibly by George Chalmers. This image (c. 1745?) reproduced here by kind permission of the Trustees of the West Highland Museum, Fort William.

Image (below, right) of a painting by Sir Robert Strange of Lord George Murray (1700-1760). Murray, who attended the University of Glasgow, 1712, was a successful commander in the Jacobite army, 1745-46. Reproduced here by kind permission of the Scottish NPG 2754 Lord George Murray 1700-1760 by Sir Robert StrangeNational Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. ©Scottish National Portrait Gallery, PG 2754.

Lord George Murray (son of the Duke of Atholl), attended the College of Glasgow, 1712. He later led the Jacobite forces with a great deal of success. The Jacobites came out on top in each conflict in which he directed their forces. Unfortunately, Prince Charles chose not to heed Murray’s counsel prior to the Battle of Culloden.[13]

While a number of Jacobite students (or students who subsequently became Jacobites) can be discovered at the University most of them, unlike the voluble (and promptly expelled) William Carmichael, mentioned above, must have been more circumspect in proclaiming their views. Glasgow, as mentioned above, was no place for a Jacobite. The city of Glasgow raised a force of 50 men to go and fight the Jacobite Pretender in the 1715 rising, a figure matched by the Presbytery of Glasgow who raised a further 50. The city of Glasgow’s attachment to the Whig cause and their detestation of all things Jacobite was matched by the determination of the University to take a stand against pro-Stuart sedition. The authorities exhorted the populace not to take heed of Jacobitism. Principal John Stirling related, in a letter, how the city authorities were “warn[ing] the people of the danger and animat e’m to to stand by their soveraign, King George, in opposition to the Pretender…” The force of 100 men raised by the city and Presbytery of Glasgow in 1715 was complemented by an additional 50 men raised by the University. Principal Stirling outlined the manner in which the University’s forces of 50 men had been raised to serve for 40 days at a rate of 6/- a day. The Principal remained worried, however, that no support from the Whig authorities seemed forthcoming for Glasgow. “the friends of the government seem somewhat concerned that no officers have been sent by the government.” Similar concerns were to be voiced by authorities in Glasgow some 30 years later. [14]


Campbells, students and doormen

Clan Campbell were well represented at the University of Glasgow long before, during and after the Jacobite period. A perusal of the published matriculation and graduation lists for Glasgow in the period 1740-1749 shows the presence of at least 39 students from Gaidhealtachd areas during this decade (although there will have been other Gaels who attended classes without registering). Half of these students were Campbells: mostly the children of lairds or divinity students supported by the Church. Many of the remaining students were from Argyll-shire, a region which mostly (although by no means entirely) supported the Campbell and Whig order. Nevertheless, this list of students, underlines the essentially whiggish nature of the student body by the 1740s, if not in earlier decades. A list of the Gaidhealtachd students who can be readily indentified from the published records can be viewed by clicking here: Oileanaich Ghaidhealach aig OGh_1740-49

Campbells were also prominent more widely in the city (some 200 Campbells were members, for example, of the Glasgow Highland Society, 1727-61). Members of Clan Campbell can be found in roles other than as students. The porter or janitor of the College was a Campbell. The manner of his hiring, recorded in the Faculty minute books, 13 January 1739, is worth noting:

‘The principal acquainted the faculty that he had elected Colin Campbell to the porters office…

This Cailean (Colin) left this post in 1747 and the Faculty minute book entry from 18th June records how the University went about selecting his replacement:

“…Colin Campbell, late janitor demitted…   …the Principal informed the committee that he had appointed Daniel Campbell to be janitor in his place and presented him to the faculty…”

This new janitor Dòmhnall (Daniel) Campbell’s son, also Dòmhnall attended the University as a student in 1748. Before proceeding it is worth reflecting on the Principal’s striking fondness for Campbell personnel. Why might this have been ? [15]


The Principal, the Duke of Argyll and the Rising of 1745

The Principal, 1728-61, Mr Niall Campbell, was himself a Gael from Glen Aray but a strong supporter of the Hanoverian regime. A letter in his own hand, thanking the government for his appointment at Glasgow, highlights this, when he stated, 1727, that he a was “full of affection to His Ma[jes]ties Royal Person.”[16] This was no mere form of words, Mr Niall Campbell was also the Royal chaplain in Scotland and twice Moderator of the General Assembly (For more on Mr Niall Campbell, see the page on Principals of the University click here).

This image of the Faculty Minute book, 1728, shows Principal Niall Campbell’s signature in the middle of the page. This image reproduced by kind permission of the University of Glasgow Archive Services, GB0248, GUA 26635.

GUA 26635_28 - 1st signature Princl N Cmpbll Faclty mins 1728Given the closeness of Principal Campbell’s links with the Whig regime his allegiance during the Jacobite rising was never in doubt. The Principal, like his close ally, Gilleasbuig Campbell, the third Duke of Argyll, strongly opposed the rebels. The Duke had a strong influence on the University, something made clear by the research of Roger Emerson. The Duke’s influence can also be seen in a letter written by Principal Campbell, where the Principal admitted that he had acted ‘as my chief commands me’ in a recent election, and he related how he had kept the Duke updated on developments. The Duke’s influence on appointments within the University is further underlined by another letter from the Principal in 1752: “…I had on Monday a letter from the Duke of Argyll of May 26th signifying that Mr Ruot is made professor of Church History of w[hi]ch at the Duke’s desire, I have ordered to him…” [17]

The Principal and the Duke tried to use the University to mould young students into becoming supporters of the Whig government and tried to ensure that they did not drift towards Jacobitism. NPG 908 Archibald 3rd Duke of Argyll (1682-1761) by Allan Ramsay

Gilleasbuig (Archibald) Campbell(d.1761) was known as Lord ‘Ilay’ or the Earl of Ilay, and later succeeded his brother, as Duke of Argyll. He had been educated at the University of Glasgow, 1698-99, amongst other places, but his connections with the University of Glasgow lasted a lifetime. His portrait, by Allan Ramsay,1758, can be seen here. This image reproduced here by kind permissionof the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. ©Scottish National Portrait Gallery, PG 908.

The whiggish agenda of the Duke and the Principal can be seen clearly in the correspondence between Sìm Fraser, Lord Lovat (or MacShimidh) and his brother in law, Sir Seumas Grant, chief of Clan Grant. Lord Lovat, with a long track record of political chicanery and Jacobite proclivities, had been closely watched by leaders of the Whig regime. Lord Ilay put pressure on Lovat to send his son and heir to the Whig College at Glasgow, in order, no doubt, that Ilay and Principal Campbell would influence the young Master of Lovat. The father, Lord Lovat, was extremely unhappy with the prospect of his son attending Glasgow requesting, when his son left for the city, that he keep speaking Gaelic during his time in Glasgow.[18] In a letter, dated 16th March 1739, to Sir Seumas Grant, Lovat asked Grant to petition Lord Ilay to allow him to withdraw his son from Glasgow, offering the following reasons:

“…your son [the heir of Grant] and all my other essential friends presses me very much to take my son out of Glasgow, and acquent you, how horribly I was impos’d upon by those gentlemen [Gilleasbuig Campbell, Lord Ilay, & Principal Niall Campbell] on Glasgow, and I am fully determin’d to bring him from Glasgow. I therefore most humbly beg my dear Sir James that you will be so good as to speak to the Earl of Ilay…” (NRS, GD 248/97/4/12)‘

Lovat followed up this with another missive the following week, 23 March 1739, exhorting Sir Seumas Grant to keep up the pressure on the Campbells to release his son from study at Glasgow which he claimed was doing young Fraser no good:

…I find my dear Sir James that my son & your neveu is entirely lost at Glasgow. They have put it in his head there, that he is a great man, that he should wear nothing now but silks, & silver, & laces, so that they have turn’d his head, and therefore I am determin’d at any rate to have him out of that place the next month…’ [NRS, GD 248/97/4/15].

Lovat eventually got his way, and in another long letter to Sir Seumas (undated, c. 1739-40), he wrote a long, bitter complaint, stating that the University of Glasgow had been expensive, had wasted his son’s time and had ruined his son. It seems from Lovat’s letter that his son had stayed with Principal Campbell himself. This was a common practice by University staff, boarding students, which allowed staff to augment their income and by which the wealthier students could develop their education, conversation and manners. Here, Lovat complained, amongst other things, of the costs incurred by boarding with Principal Campbell.

‘It was happy for my son and for my family that… [they] …consented to bring my son from Glasgow, for if he had another year in it he would be entirely ruined, for when I sent William Fraser there to pay all his accompts he found that except an hour or two in the morning he spent the whole day in diversion, and was quite alter’d from what he was before he went to Glasgow to the worse. Prin[cipa]ll Campbell told William Fraser that the University of Glasgow were so much cuting anothers throats that children would not thrive in it, & that he believed all noblemen would take their children from it . You would be surprised at the extravagant expense of the child which William Fraser has paid. I would have kept him two years in the dearrest part of Scotland: & even in most parts of England for the money that he cost me in nine months in Glasgow. But when Mr Fraser remonstrate against the great expenses of my boy, the Princ[ipa]ll told me that my Lord Lovat need not grudge the expense of his son since the government had paid for his education. I wish that sweet lye had been true. However, I am glad to have him out of Glasgow if it had cost me £500 for he is now in most excellent hands. For Peter Cumming is not only a capable man, but he is a thorrow creature of the E[arl] of Ilay’s [NRS, GD 248/97/4/51].

The Peter Cumming with whom Lovat now placed his son was his blood relation but the main reason for his dissatisfaction with Campbell’s tutelage – apart from the costs – and not alluded to in this letter, was that Glasgow was a Whig College. Placing his son with Cumming at least removed him from the influence of Principal Campbell and also, to an extent, lessened Lord Ilay’s influence on his heir. Lovat, an inveterate Jacobite plotter, came unstuck in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745-46 and he was beheaded for treason, 1747. GUL SP Coll Mu 2-x17 Slezer 1693 Glsgw Coll (1874 ed) detail 2Young Sìm Fraser (1726–1782) his son and heir, who had attended Glasgow briefly in 1739 was more fortunate. Although a lukewarm Jacobite who had commanded a company of troops in 1745, young Lovat was pardoned surprisingly (if not suspiciously) quickly. He returned to the University of Glasgow in 1747 to complete his studies in the Faculty of Law under the watchful eye of Principal Campbell and Lord Ilay, (now the Duke of Argyll). Lovat the younger ingratiated himself with the Whig regime by serving as a soldier in the service of the British Empire overseas with great success, reaching the rank of Lieutenant General and becoming an active Member of Parliament.[19]

Detail from image of the old Glasgow College, High Street, by John Slezer, 1693, showing the main entrance. This image (from the 1874 reprint) reproduced by kind permission of Glasgow University Library, Special Collections.


Chief of Clan Campbell – Gall or Gaidheal?

Roger Emerson, the biographer of Gilleasbuig Campbell, Lord ‘Ilay,’ who succeeded his brother as third Duke of Argyll in 1743, thought that neither Gilleasbuig nor his elder brother (the second Duke) were Gaels given the nature of what is known of their education and upbringing. Yet the chiefs of Clan Campbell, known as MacCailein Mòr, were heads of a large, mainly Gaelophone kindred and while there is no doubt that most of their culture, learning and formative experiences were geared towards absorbing southern mores, it would be astonishing if these boys born near the end of the seventeenth century had no facility in Gaelic. The third Duke could speak 5-6 languages, according to his biographer – if so, Gaelic must have been one of them. Lachlann Campbell (at the University of Glasgow, 1690-91), a slightly older contemporary of the future second and third Duke, was hired as a tutor by the Argyll family shortly before his appointment as minister of Campbelltown (1703-07). Lachlann was a Gaelic scholar and a correspondent of Edward Lluyd, the pioneering Welsh scholar and author of Archaeologica Britannica (1707).[20] Might it be that Lachlann’s teaching duties included instructing the future second and third Dukes of Argyll in Gaelic ? There is no evidence for this, but given that previous Earls of Argyll, such as the boys’ grandfather, not a native speaker, is known to have learnt Gaelic c. 1640, and that the heads of noble families in the Gaidhealtachd at this time are known to have taken care to ensure their sons learnt Gaelic, it seems like a reasonable possibility. This would account for the familiarity with which, as Emerson noted, the third Duke, had for Highlanders, often favouring highland company throughout his life.

Even if one disagrees with Emerson’s opinion on the abilities of these Dukes to speak or understand Gaelic, his observation that the third Duke favoured the advancement English education is undeniable. He will have seen English language schooling such as that practiced in Inveraray as progress.[21] However, the Gaelic praise poems composed for both the second and the third Dukes are a reminder, that much as they advocated Anglicisation and progress, that they kept a weather eye on the cultural environment on their lands. An elegy was composed for the second Duke, known in Gaelic as Iain Ruadh a’ Chatha (Red John of the wars) on his death in 1743. A praise poem was composed for his brother and successor, Gilleasbuig Campbell, third Duke of Argyll, around the same time: ‘Fàilte Gilleasbuig ad Dhùthaich’ (welcome to your land, Gilleasbuig).[22] There is another indication that Gilleasbuig the third Duke (educated at the University of Glasgow, 1699), was aware of the value of Gaelic in his lands. He ordered that the oaths of loyalty to the Whig regime be translated into ‘Caledonian Gallic’ (Gàidhlig) in 1753. The translator was Alasdair MacFarlan (MA Glasgow, 1728), minister of Kilniver and translator of the Psalms and Hymns (1753). [23] (This Alasdair was the brother of Donnchadh ‘Rongais’ MacFarlan, minister at Drymen, whose Gaelic sermons are held in Glasgow University Library and an uncle of the future principal MacFarlan. Alasdair MacFarlan’s translation of the Hymns can be seen on the internet archive here.)


Given the close interest taken by the third Duke of Argyll in the affairs of the University of Glasgow, and the city and the University’s support for the Whig regime, it is no surprise that the Principal, Niall Campbell (and the Faculty) fully supported the government during the Rising of 1745-46 and wholeheartedly opposed the ‘unnatural and wicked rebellion’ of the Jacobites. There was a danger, from the point of view of the Faculty, that such a Jacobite rebellion would imperil their liberties and freedoms, not least the religious settlement. These sentiments informed the letter sent by Principal Campbell to the Marquis of Tweeddale, Secretary of State for Scotland, 28th November 1745. This declared the affection that the University had for King George and for his government and that as a token of that esteem they decided to take action as follows:

 ‘…My Lord, I have the honour to acquaint your Lordship that as this University of Glasgow is most firmly devoted to his Majesties Royal Person, Family & Government & inclind on this occasion to give the most solid proofs of loyalty in our power, especially at such a juncture as this. We have unanimously engaged to raise & maintain a company of fifty men to be employed wherever His Majestyis service in this cuntry requires it. This in name & in the degrie of the University is most humbly signifyed to your Lordship by, My Lord, Your Lordships most faithfull, most humble & most obedient servant,

Neil Campbell…’ [ 24] 


Whiggish jubilation

The fate of the this force of fifty men raised by the University is unclear. The University, in any case, remained steadfastly loyal to the Hanoverian government throughout the Rising as can be seen in the motion passed by the Faculty, below, when they heard that the Duke of Cumberland was arriving in Scotland to take charge of the army:

‘At the college of Glasgow, 3 Feb 1746…’ [University meeting… agreed…] “…that the rector and principal [Mr Neil Campbell] should be deputed from the University to go to Stirling and wait upon his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland and congratulate him upon his safe arrival to command his majesties forces and to assure him of the Universities inviolable attachment to his majestie and royal family and express their heartfelt wishes of his soon defeating the rebels and entirely extinguishing the rebellion…..” [25]

They had a number of months to wait after the Principal greeted Cumberland before the Highland army was eventually defeated at Culloden Moor, 16th April 1746. This is how news of that victory was treated by the faculty of the College of Glasgow:

‘At the college of Glasgow, 1st May 1746′ [Headed by ‘Sir John Maxwell, rector, and Mr Neil Campbell, principal….’:] ‘An University meeting duly summoned and conveened an address to his Majestie upon occasion of the signal victory obtained by his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland over the rebels at Drumossie Moor near Culloden House, two miles from Inverness upon the 16th of April last, was read, approved, and signed by all the members present. And the rector enclosed it in a letter to his Grace the Duke of Montrose to be presented be him to his majestie….’ [26]

Not only did the University greet the news with relief and celebrate, but they saw fit to recognise the Duke’s victory with a gift. They bestowed an honorary degree on Cumberland together with a gold box in which he could keep his award.[27] In this the University of Glasgow and other institutions such as St Andrews University, and many Scottish burghs were making an effort to stress their loyalty to a regime which was bent on retribution against the late rebels and which tended to view all Scots, irrespective of their political views, or record of loyalty, with suspicion and hostility. [28]


Campbell networks

A glimpse at the influence wielded by Principal Campbell can be seen in a letter from Pàdruig Campbell in Glasgow, 10 July 1735 to the Campbell laird of Barcaldine. This Pàdruig wanted to get a burgess ticket in the city of Glasgow. To this end he had been told that either Campbell of Blythswood or Principal Campbell would be able to get this for him ‘upon word of their mouth’. He urged Barcaldine to write to them to persuade them to help him. Networking of this kind was an integral feature of Campbell relationships in Argyll, Glasgow and further afield and could be crucial in helping people make their way in the city. Such relationships must also have been central to the Glasgow Highland Society, founded in 1727. A wide range of Highlanders, Campbells prominent among them, were members as were Mr Niall Campbell, the Principal of Glasgow University and Gilleasbuig, the third Duke of Argyll.[29]


Students, lodgings and expenses

The children of wealthy clan chiefs, such as MacShimidh (Lovat) discussed above, could board with Principals or masters such as Professor William Richardson, but few students could afford this and most lived in more humble circumstances. GUL SP Coll EA5_X9_Slezer Glasgow Cathedral 17 (1693) (3 detail)This applied to the children of the lesser lairds who often had a tighter budget than the heads of their name.

Detail of an image of Glasgow made by John Slezer, from Glasgow Cathedral, 1693, showing the houses in the city with the spires of the College and Blackfriars amongst those in the background. Image reproduced by kind permission of Glasgow University Library, Special Collections.

Despite this, one of these lesser lairds, could afford to keep a servant. Alasdair Campbell wrote home to his son Para Campbell of Barcaldine, 1730, to tell him that he had managed to acquire the services of a lad who had formerly been in the employ of Stewart of Castlemilk. The new servant could speak Gaelic (‘Irish’) as well as Scots.[30] A letter from October 1737 tells how another of Barcaldine’s sons, probably Gilleasbuig (Archibald) who matriculated in 1737, arrived at Glasgow and tried to find accommodation. He wrote home to tell his father how he had got home:

‘…I came here late a Monday night and went nixt day to wait of Glenshellach, who, I went along with me to James Campbell’s house, but he happened to be abroad all that day about some business, so that I could not deliver him the chamberlains letter all Saturday morning. Then he and Glenshaellach tryed severall houses that keipt borders, but could not do nothing, they were so dear. But accidentally, I met Thomas Campbell his wifes nephew who had a room and wanted a commerade with whom I have coall, candle, bed, board, and washing for three pound per quarter, in one Mrs Toads, a little below the Colledge. Butt when you write to me derect to be found in Archibald Campbell off Glenshellach in Bells Winde. I have sent the ryce (?) and highland cloathes along with the bearer; only keiped the sword…’

Young Gilleasbuig Campbell lodged in this manner with Mrs Toads (Todds?) near the University or College of Glasgow. Although not as prestigious as as the Principal’s quarters in which the Master of Lovat was lodged, it must have been comfortable enough. One hopes that the candle and the coal kept the son of Barcaldine in light and heat throughout the Winter and that the bed, board and washing kept him in good spirits. The letter is interesting as it gives an insight into the connections these Highland students made in Glasgow. Gilleasbuig (Archibald) Campbell of Glenshellach, living nearby on Bell’s Wynd (in the vicinity of Bell Street, just off the High Street) was to take his mail. The reference to sending home his ‘Highland Cloathes’ is intriguing and raises some questions. One hopes he did not have reason to use his sword! The identity of the Tòmas (Thomas) Campbell and the Seumas (James) Campbell mentioned in this letter is not clear – there were so many Campbells in the city – but Gilleasbuig Campbell of ‘Glenshilloch’ was admitted as a member of Glasgow Highland Society in 1745 and Para Campbell, one of Para Campbell Barcaldine’s sons had also been admitted as a member of the society some years earlier.[31]

It is unknown how young Gilleasbuig Campbell, lodged with Mrs Toads, fared at University. Some students reacted to the experience of leaving the parental nest and living alone in the big city for the first time by going on a spree. One senses the fury in Donnchadh Campbell of Glenure’s letter to his son, 6th April 1763, complaining that he blown the ‘exhorbitant sum’ of £60 in the space of seven months while at the University of Glasgow. Donnchadh refused to give his son any further funds until he received a full account of how the money had been spent. [32]


Other Gaels at the University of Glasgow during the eighteenth century

The preceding sections has concentrated on the kinship connections of the Campbells at the University whether as nobles (the Duke of Argyll), as Principal, janitors or students. This can obscure the wider connections of other surnames from the Gaidhealtachd and Argyll to the University. Two brothers, Iain (John) MacLaurin and Cailean (Colin) MacLaurin need to be mentioned in any account of the University in the eighteenth century. They were the sons of Mr Iain MacLaurin (1658-94), minister of Glendaruel and editor of the Gaelic edition of the Psalms, published in 1694. Mr Niall Campbell, minister of Renfrew, wrote (four years before he became Principal of Glasgow) a letter in 1724 relating how Mr Iain MacLaurin (1693-1754), the younger (MA Glasgow 1712), had taken responsibility for the Gaelic congregation in Glasgow by 1724 (more can be seen on this on the ‘Principals’ page). The MacLaurin brothers, born in Glendaruel and raised at Kilfinnan were cousins of Principal Campbell. Rev. Iain MacLaurin was, like the Principal, a recipient of the patronage of the Dukes of Argyll.[33]

NPG 1643 Colin MacLaurin (1698-1746) by the Earl of BuchanRev Iain MacLaurin’s brother, Mr Cailean (Colin) MacLaurin, is, perhaps, more widely known. Cailean became a famous scientist and mathematician. He took his MA at Glasgow in 1713 and continued thereafter to study divinity.

Cailean MacLaurin, A Gael who graduated MA, Glasgow, 1713, and was a mathematics and science genius. A painting of Cailean MacLaurin (seen here on the left) was made by the 11th Earl of Buchan (a copy of an earlier sketch by James Fergusson).This image is reproduced by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. ©Scottish National Portrait Gallery, PG 1643.

Cailean MacLaurin was appointed as a science lecturer at Aberdeen in 1719 and then at Edinburgh, 1725 and he collaborated with Sir Isaac Newton, editing the latter’s works. Although Cailean was based at the University of Edinburgh, he bought a house close by Hamilton, 1729-30 so that he would be closer to his kinsmen in Glasgow, such as Rev Iain MacLaurin and his cousin Principal Niall Campbell of Glasgow University. Here is how an account of MacLaurin’s life describes this move:

“…after he settled in Edinb[u]r[gh], his classes were generally very numerous and his labour during the session of college very considerable. In the vacation he sometimes went to London & particularly was there in 1727 at the time of his majesty’s coronation. [He] sometimes made visits to his freinds in the west where he purchas’d a pleasant place of retirement at Murehouse near Hamilton in 1730 or at the end of 1729 & not farr from Glasgow where he had so many old acquaintances & some of his neares relations: his cousin, Mr Niel Campbell having been made principal of the University there a little before & his brother one of the ministers of the city in 1723.”

Cailean MacLaurin, was a fervent Hanoverian in common with his Argyll kinsmen. He strenuously worked to oppose the Jacobites and supervised the unsuccessful defence of the City of Edinburgh.[34]


The Gaelic Church, Glasgow, and the University

Mr Iain MacLaurin remained as the minister serving the Gaelic congregation until his death in 1754. The City remained without a designated Gaelic minister for several years afterwards. Gaelic parishioners in the city were dependent of the efforts made by bodies such as the SSPCK (Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge) to provide services for them. (Highland Catholics met in a room on the High Street from about 1770).[35] The church played an important role in the lives of Gaels in the city and the letter that follows, below, from the Gaelic congregation addressed to the University, 1770, reflects this. The congregation made an appeal to the University for help in building new premises:

‘To the lord rector, the dean, the principal and professors of the University of Glasgow’

Memorial on behalf of the managers for building the Highland Church in Glasgow, To the Lord Rector, the Dean, the Principal and the Professors of this University in Glasgow,

Humble representeth,

That the managers being deeply affected with the deplorable situation of the numerous body of Highlanders in this city who cannot receive instruction in the knowledge of the Christian religion unless conveyed to them in their mother tongue, have, in order to to compass this charitable end, in which they were aided by voluntary contributions at a great deale of pains and expence, built a decent place to worship, no larger than sufficient to contain the said congregation. That the managers having no other view than the edification of the people had devoted the choice of a minister to them. And in consequence thereof, the people have unanimously made a choice of the Revd. Mr Ja[me]s Robertson, minister in Callander, to be their minister, and that the managers have no other fund for the support of a minister than what arises from the seat rents, which is very small as the managers were obliged to rent the seats very low, the bulk of the congregation being composed of poor labourers.

And that the managers are not only firmly perswaded that their undertaking will be approven of by the University but are also persuaded that the University will adopt any other scheme for rendering this undertaking more extensively useful, aither as to the progress of learning or diffusing the knowledge of the Christian religion. The managers therefore beg leave to lay before this University a rough draught of a scheme which they imagine will have an useful tendency. And they humbly submit to the confederation of the University, to be by them altered and improven as they in their wisdome shall think proper.

The managers will not trouble the University with the reasone that might be urges in support of this scheme other than those contained in this scheme itself as they will more readily occurr to the learned gentlemen themselves.GUA 43368 Memorial_Highland Church1770

In consideration whereof, we are, with the greatest respect, Gent[leme]n. Glasgow, 10th Decembr. 1770.  Your most obedient & Most humble serv[ant]s, George Black, Daniel Campbell, Alex Campbell, Daniel Love, John Campbell, Alex: Campbell. [36]

Detail of the signatures as they appear in this letter. Reproduced by kind permission of the University of Glasgow Archives ©University of Glasgow Archive Services, GB0248, GUA 43368.

It is not clear if the petitioners received the support they had hoped for on this occasion. Neither did they manage to get Mr James Robertson, the minister of Callendar to come to Glasgow. However, they were successful in erecting a new church on Ingram Street, 1770. Rev. Hugh MacDiarmaid was the first incumbent in the new church.[37]


Other notable Gaels at the University during the 18th Century

Dòmhnall MacKay, Lord Reay

Dòmhnall Mackay, the 4th Lord Reay attended the University of Glasgow in 1722. This family were steadfast supporters of the Hanoverian regime. The fourth Lord succeeded to his estate in 1748 and died in 1761. He knew the prominent Gaelic poet Rob Donn Mackay (1714-78) who composed an elegy following Lord Reay’s death.[38]



Dùghall Buchanan, the Spiritual Bàrd

If Glasgow can lay claim to an association with one of the greatest Gaelic poets of all time, Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair, rebel, Jacobite and Catholic (this page, above), a claim can also be made for a University of Glasgow link with another of the greatest Gaelic poets of all time, Dùghall (Dugald) Buchanan, the evangelical poet. Buchanan (1716-1768), a native of Strathyre in Balquhidder parish, Perthshire, was the polar opposite, in many ways, of Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair. Fervently evangelical and Protestant where Alasdair became Catholic, he worked hand in glove with the Hanoverian authorities, between the 1740s and the 1760s, while Alasdair was a committed Jacobite. Dùghall was also, in common with Alasdair, employed as a teacher by the Scottish Society for Propogation of Christian Knowledge, although it is fair to say that Dùghall, unlike Alasdair, believed in the Hanoverian establishment’s mission and aims. Dùghall Buchanan was described in 1760 as having been ‘very dilligent & successful in civilising one of the most barbarous places in the Highlands’. Buchanan’s Gaelic poetry, the vehicle for his message, has, according to Ronald Black, ‘extraordinary power, derived from his ability to relate his scriptural message to the daily lives and natural environment of his audience.’ His collection of Gaelic spiritual poems, Laoidh Spioradail (1767), was reprinted about forty times (to see the second edition, published in 1773, click here). It was first published while Buchanan was engaged with the work of helping the Rev. James Stewart of Killin in the first translation and publication of the New Testament into Scottish Gaelic, 1767. The evidence for Dughall Buchanan’s association with the University of Glasgow seems slight – (as it does for mac Mhaighistir Alasdair) – although it seems Buchanan did later attend classes at the University of Edinburgh. Buchanan appears neither in matriculation or graduation records for Glasgow, but he did, nevertheless, attend divinity classes at the University of Glasgow in the early 1740s. The Gaelic minister in Glasgow, Rev. Iain MacLaurin, wrote, in 1740, to his brother, the mathematician, Professor Cailean MacLaurin (both discussed elsewhere on this page), relating how he had heard the Master of the College speak about one of the students currently in our divinity hall:

 ‘one Mr Buchanan who has Irish from Balquhidder…’

who was:

‘…one of our best students & particularly as one well skill’d in the learn’d languages & it’s divinity.’

Such praise was tempered only slightly by the observation that Buchanan was considered:

‘too monkish & retir’d.’

His most recent editor, Professor Dòmhnall Meek, suggests that this apparent monkishness may have been the reason that Buchanan never became a minister and remained a schoolmaster, preacher and catechist. On the other hand, his later career shows him to have been no shrinking violet and it may also be possible that he simply never completed his studies and therefore could not become a licenced minister. Buchanan’s own diary makes no mention of his time at Glasgow and Professor Meek has floated the possibility that he may have been ashamed of attending ‘Deist’ teachings (the idea that religious belief can be attained from reason rather than from divine revelation) at the University of Glasgow which would not have been in accord with Buchanan’s own evangelical leanings. This is certainly possible but it is worth noting that the Rev. Iain MacLaurin, the writer of the sole source mentioning Buchanan’s presence as a student at Glasgow was himself, not only a noted and powerful evangelical preacher whose exhortations, according to one woman, ‘pierc’d her heart like a sword,’ but a candidate for the post of Professor of Divinity at Glasgow at the time the letter was written in 1740. In addition to this both Buchanan (seemingly) and the Rev. MacLaurin were mentioned in despatches in reports of the Cambuslang Evangelical Revival (1741-42). MacLaurin’s application for a Chair of Divinity at Glasgow was unsuccessful in 1740 but had he won, Buchanan may have found the intensely Whiggish climate at the University of Glasgow, with a Gaelic-speaking minister, Niall Campbell, as principal and a marked Clan Campbell presence, more comfortable than did either his older contemporary, Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair, or another Jacobite sympathiser Lord Lovat, who objected to leaving his son there in 1739.[39]


Alasdair MacFarlan

Alasdair MacFarlan (1702-1755) was a son of Iain MacFarlan, chief of that name. He was born and raised in Arrochar, then a thoroughly Gaelic speaking area. (Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair’s volume of poetry, Ais-eiridh, 1751, was dedicated to his elder brother, then chief.) Alasdair (Alexander) Macfarlan may have attended the University of Glasgow although no details are forthcoming. Whether he acquired his interest in scholarship at Glasgow is unclear but he certainly took a great interest in mathematics and astronomy in later life. The date of his departure for Jamaica is unknown but he had become established as postmaster-general in Kingston by 1735. Hunterian Alexander MacFarlanThis was a lucrative position, controlling much of the north American traffic in mails. This was reflected in the size of his house, one of the largest on the island at the time. Another Jamaican Scot, Cailean Campbell, whose father was from Inveraray, bestowed astronomical instruments on Alasdair. MacFarlan took a keen interest in the stars and built an observatory.

Alasdair MacFarlan (1702-1755). This picture by John Vanderbank and reproduced here by kind permission of the Hunterian Museum, the University of Glasgow (© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2014).

When Alasdair MacFarlan died in 1755 he bequeathed his astronomical instruments and monies on the University of Glasgow, which led to the foundation of Astronomy as a subject of study at the University. An observatory was built at the old campus of the University of Glasgow and was named after MacFarlan. It survived until the University sold the campus and moved west to Gilmorehill in 1870.[40]

Gaelic Scots are often portrayed, with good reason, as victims of the State formation process. Yet many Gaels, especially the leading members of Whig clans, prospered from their active involvement in the British Empire, including many of the Highland alumni of the University of Glasgow. MacFarlan conformed to this pattern. All of the successful white men living in Jamaica in MacFarlan’s day kept slaves of African origin. As one would expect given MacFarlan’s prosperity as a landowner and postmaster he too kept slaves. However, MacFarlan took a much more proactive approach than this to slavery: he seems to have regularly bought and sold slaves in markets such as that of Cartagena (now Colombia) in the 1730s and 1740s. He bought 121 slaves, for example on two separate occasions in the year 1747 alone.[41]


Professor William Richardson

William Richardson (1743-1815) was from Aberfoyle. His father was the parish minister and his mother was from England and neither parent spoke Gaelic. It is probable, however, due to the widespread nature of Gaelic speech in theHunterian Prof William Richardson (1743-1814) area that young Richardson picked up the language.

Professor William Richardson (1743-1814). Painting by Henry Raeburn, reproduced here by kind permission of the Hunterian Museum. (© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2014).

William Richardson graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1763 and was employed thereafter by the Cathcart family as a tutor. When Lord Cathcart was appointed ambassador to Russia Richardson accompanied the family, describing himself while over there as an ‘Englishman.’ Such was Richardson’s facility with languages and literature that he was appointed Professor of Humanities at the University of Glasgow in 1783. He was supportive of Scottish literature, including Gaelic. It is not clear if he could read Gaelic but he was one of the subscribers for Donnchadh Bàn Macintyre’s volume of poetry when the second edition was published in 1790. He had also been a member of the Glasgow Highland Society since 1787, showing, perhaps that he mixed with Highlanders.[42] Richardson also became engaged with the Ossianic controversy, contributing ‘An Essay on Celtic Superstition’ which was appended to a volume on Ossianica (1807). This essay can be seen on the internet archive by clicking here.



A student at the University of Glasgow, 1770

Ronald Black in his article ‘Some notes from my Glasgow Scrapbook’ describes two Gaelic booklets published in the latter half of the eighteenth century by writers with connections to the University of Glasgow. One of those was a book of hymns by Donnchadh MacPhaidein, from Strathlachlan, Cowall. It was seen through the press and corrected by a student at the University of Glasgow in 1770. Ronald Black thinks the student editor was Iain Smith from Glenorchy, later minister in Campbelltown. The same editor also oversaw the production of another Gaelic booklet at the request of a Lachlann Maclachlann, a student at the University of Glasgow, with the following title.

“Marbh-roinn an Leigh Mhic Lachluinn leis an Ughdair. Maille ri Sean Duana Ghaoidhealach do Chaillain treas Iarla Earraghaoidheal, air a chur ris an obair so air iartas Lach.Mhic Lachluin, Aoilainuighe An’n Aoil-Tigh Ghlasachadh….” (This can be translated as: An elegy for Dr MacLachluinn by the author. Together with an old Gaelic poem in praise of Cailean, third Earl of Argyll, added to this work at the request of Lach. MacLachlann, a student at the University of Glasgow) [43]


Rev. William Shaw

Rev. William Shaw (1749-1831) from Clachaig, Kilmory, in the Isle of Arran graduated MA, Glasgow in 1777. He became a minister at Ardclach in Nairnshire where the parishioners, dissatisfied with him for a number of reasons, complained of their difficulty in following his Arran dialect of Gaelic. He was a friend and collaborator of Samuel Johnson and Shaw, encouraged by Johnson, produced an An Analysis of the Gaelic Language, 1778. Around the same time, his parishioners succeeded in ejecting him from the parish of Ardclach. The reason for their dissatisfaction with Shaw may have been less on account of his Arran Gaelic and more to do with that he had been imposed on them against their will by the landowner. Shaw, according to the parishioners, had been ungodly and overly fond of liquor. Shaw then headed south to England where he secured a position as a clergyman and concentrated on producing other works related to Gaelic. He published  A Galic and English Dictionary in two volumes, 1780. Despite his great labour, this work was not well received and many of his subscribers refused to pay the monies they had promised, and Shaw had to take them to law. Shaw was also active in the Ossianic controversy, siding with his friend and patron, Samuel Johnson. [44]


Rev. Moses Neilson & Rev. William Neilson

Another notable Gaelic grammarian and lexicographer, and near Rev William Neilson (from Belfast Literary Society 1801-1901)contemporary of Shaw, Rev. William Neilson (1774-1821), also published on the Gaelic language. Neilson (alias Uilleam Mac Néill), was the son  of the Rev Moses Neilson (MA, Glasgow, 1763) minister of Rademon in County Down.
Rev. Moses Neilson was an accomplished scholar in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and preached in Irish regularly. His son, William was brought up as a speaker of Irish. William attended the University of Glasgow, 1789-93, and was awarded the degree of D.D. from the University of Glasgow in 1805.

Miniature portrait of William Neilson, taken from G. Smith, ed., Belfast Literary Society 1801-1902 (Belfast, 1902), 53.

He published an Introduction to the Irish Language (Dublin, 1808), a well-regarded work which was later used as a textbook by scholars such as Eoin MacNéill and Douglas Hyde. William Neilson succeded his father as a minister at Rademon and went on, in 1818, to be a Professor of Latin, Greek and Hebrew at the Belfast Academical Institution. His health broke soon after this and he succumbed to a fever. He learned on his deathbed, 26-27th April 1821 that he had been appointed a Professor of Greek at the University of Glasgow.[45]





[1] A. Macinnes, ‘The aftermath of the ’45’, in R.C. Woosnam-Savage, ed., 1745. Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites (Edinburgh, 1995), 103-113. M. Pittock, The Myth of the Jacobite Clans (2nd ed., Edinburgh,2009).

[2] R. Black, ed., An Lasair. Anthology of 18th Century Gaelic Verse (Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2001), 425-426. D. S. Thomson, ‘MacDonald, Alexander (c.1695–c.1770)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17422, accessed 3 April 2014]. D.S. Thomson, ed., Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair. Selected Poems (Edinburgh, 1996), 1-33. ‘[Carlisle]…on the 12th at One O’ Clock, several treasonable papers, signed by the Pretender and his son were burnt at the Royal Exchange by the Common Hangman amidst the acclamations of the people…’ This from the West India Monthly Packet of Intelligence, 1st November 1745. A report from Aberdeen, December 1750, stated that: ‘we hear from Aberdeen that not long since Capt. Stafford of Lieut. Gen. Pulteney’s Regiment of Foot, partly quartered there detected a man crying treasonable ballads. Having before him a justice he insisted on a punishement. The magistrate being remiss in this duty, Captain Stafford desired the ballads might be burnt by the common hangman, which also being refused, he caused it to be done in the market-place on a market-day, by his drummer…’ Old England, issue 354, 5th January, 1751. A. Hessayon, ‘Incendiary texts: book burning in England, c.1640-c.1660’ in Cromohs, 12 (2007), 1-25. G.F.E. Rudé, Hanoverian London, 1714-1808 (Berkeley, 1971), 212.

[3] D.S. Thomson, ed., Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair. Selected Poems (Edinburgh, 1996), 19. For further information about MS Gen 9, see also, A. Gunderloch, Làmh-sgrìobhainnean Gàidhlig Oilthigh Ghlaschu. The Gaelic Manuscripts of Glasgow University. A Catalogue (Department of Celtic, University of Glasgow, 2007), 16-17. This catalogue can be accessed on the internet at the following address: <http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_134039_en.pdf&gt>.

[4] This topic was debated seven times between 1832 and 1838. GUL, MS gen 1363/7-8, 43, 77, 90, 113, 120 129.

[5] GUL, MS Gen 1363/61-67.

[6] I. MacChoinnich, Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa, no Bliadhna Thearlaich (Duneideann, 1844). For a detailed analysis of MacChoinnich’s approach to this history see, R. MacGilleDhuibh, ‘Cunnart, eadar-theangair ag obair: Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa le Iain MacCoinnich’, in W. McLeod, J.E Fraser & A. Gunderloch, eds., Cànan & Cultur / Language & Culture, Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 3 (Edinburgh, 2006), 73-110.

[7] D. Nichols, ed., Intercepted Post. Letters written at the time of Prince Charles Edward’s descent upon the Lowlands of Scotland, his stay in Edinburgh, and his march to Carlisle. August-December 1745 (London, 1956), 18, 37, 53, 58, 80,90, 94-96-97, 110, 121-122. The Jacobites were mainly referred to in Provost Cochrane’s correspondence as the ‘Highlanders’ (pp. 2, 4-5, 9, 10, 14, 16-17, 31, 33, 35, 39, 43, 53, 62, 64, 65, 69) but the Highlanders who supported the Whigs were referred to as ‘our Highland militia’ (p. 5) and ‘Argyllshire men’ (p. 116, 160), J. Denniston, ed., The Cochrane Correspondence, regarding the affairs of Glasgow, MDCCXLV-VI (Maitland Club, Glasgow, 1835). Similar appellations can be seen in ‘Oran do bhlàr na h-Eaglaise Brice’ by Donnchadh Bàn Macintyre. A. Macleod, ed., Orain Dhonnchaidh Bhain. The Gaelic Songs of Duncan Ban Macintyre (Edinburgh, 1978), lines, 27, 65-69, 97-98. A. I. Macinnes, ‘The British military-fiscal state and the Gael: new perspectives on the ’45,’ in, C. Ó Baoill & N. R. McGuire (eds.), Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig, 2000 (Obar Dheathain, 2002), 257-269, at 262-264.

[8] M. Pittock, ‘Jacobite culture’ in R.C. Woosnam-Savage, ed., 1745. Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites (Edinburgh, 1995), 72-86. M. Pittock, The Myth of the Jacobite Clans. The Jacobite army in 1745 (2nd ed., Edinburgh, 2009), 10, 15, 39-42.

[9] Aonghas MacCoinnich, the nineteenth century historian, was no fan of the Stuart dynasty and used language which reflected this to describe their rule, 1660-1689, such as ‘geur-leanmhain’ (persecution), and ‘Tuiteam an Tighe Fuilteach’ (the fall of the bloody house). A. MacCoinnich, Eachdraidh na h-Alba (Glascho, 1867), 297-328. See also, M. Pittock, The Myth of the Jacobite Clans (2nd ed. Edinburgh, 2009), 74, 122-123. J. Fergusson, Argyll and the Forty-five (London, 1951), 44-45. P. Little, Lord Broghill and the Covenanting Union with Ireland and Scotland (Woodbridge, 2004), 119. P. Hopkins, Glencoe and the end of the Highland War (Edinburgh, 1986), 62-63, 241. Memorabilia of the city of Glasgow, selected from the minute books of the burgh (Glasgow, 1835), 432-453. J. Dennistoun, ed., The Cochrane correspondence regarding the affairs of Glasgow, MDCCXLV-VI (Maitland Club, Glasgow, 1836), 93. C. Innes, ed., Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis [MAUG] (Maitland Club, 4 vols., 1854), iii, 201. B. Lenman, The Jacobite Risings in Britain, 1689-1746 (London, 1984), 43, 69-70, 152, 257.

[10] MAUG, ii, 410, 416.

[11] MAUG, iii, 199-200.

[12] John Sibbald Gibson, ‘Cameron, Donald, of Lochiel (c.1700–1748)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/4438, accessed 17 Oct 2014]. Wiseman, ‘Dr Archibald Cameron: the last Jacobite to be executed’ posted on to the Calum Maclean Project blog by Dr Wiseman, 3 March 2014. <http://calumimaclean.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/dr-archibald-cameron-last-jacobite-to.html>. R. Turner, ‘Cameron, Archibald (1707-1753), physician and Jacobite conspirator’, ODNB, article no. 4453. An eyewitness account of Cameron’s execution is preserved in the Bighouse Papers. D. Wimberley, ‘The Bighouse Papers, (no. 3)’ TGSI, 23 (1898-99), 8-53, at 24-25.

[13] Murray G. H. Pittock, ‘Murray, Lord George (1694–1760)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/19605, accessed 17 Oct 2014].

[14] Letter, dated 3rd August 1715 from John Stirling, the Principal of the University of Glasgow, to ‘Your Grace’. This is amongst the State papers relating to Scotland held in Kew. The National Archives (Kew), SP 54/7/22-23. MAUG, ii, 416-417.

[15] Glasgow Highland Society, Rules and Regulations and list of members, 1727-1902 (James MacLehose & sons, Glasgow, 1902). Glasgow University Archive Services, GUA, 26648/56. GUA 26649/30.

[16] Letter, from Mr Niall Caimbeul, in Renfrew, 22/11/1727, to ‘Your Grace,’ possibly the Secretary of State, after Campbell had heard that he had been granted the Principalship of Glasgow by King George. The National Archives (Kew), SP 54/18/204-205.

[17] National Library of Scotland (NLS), ‘Erskine Murray Papers. Correspondence, 1740-1746.’ NLS, MS 5075, fol. 166. Letter from Principal of the College of Glasgow, Mr Niall Campbell, 2 April 1746, to Mr ‘Mr James Erskine, judicial (?) advocat, at Lord Tinwall’s house, Edinburgh.’ Letter, from Mr Niall Campbell, Principal to Professor Robert Simson, 3rd June 1752 (Glasgow University Archive Services, GUA 26233) as follows:

Dear Sir, I hope the acc[oun]ts of the bishoprick may be ready against the 10th as I design that day to meet you in the faculty in order to their being sent to Edin[burg]h, you know the baron’s wife on the 22d. I had on Monday a letter from the Duke of Argyll of May 26th signifying that Mr Ruot is made professor of Church History of wch at the Duke’s desire, I have ordered to him. I am. Yo[u]r most affectionate humble servant, Neil Campbell. [P.S.] I would insist on a visit from you this week were I not going to the baptism of Colin’s child at Eglisham. Inch, June 3d 1752.

The identity of the child being baptised is not clear. Further details regarding William Rouet and the context of the academic patronage wielded by the Duke of Argyll at the University is addressed at length in, R.L. Emerson, Academic patronage in the Scottish Enlightenment : Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities (Edinburgh University Press, 2008), 107-110, 115-141. Further information on Rouet can be seen at the Glasgow University Story website here.

[18] S. Fraser, The Last Highlander. Scotland’s most notorious clan chief, rebel & double-agent (London, 2013), 254-256.

[19] Edward M. Furgol, ‘Fraser, Simon, eleventh Lord Lovat (1667/8–1747)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2010 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10122, accessed 31 Oct 2014]. Stuart Reid, ‘Fraser, Simon, master of Lovat (1726–1782)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10124, accessed 31 Oct 2014].

[20] FES, iv, 50.  MAUG, iii, 148-149. R. Sharpe, ‘Lachlann Campbell’s letters to Edward Lhwyd, 1704-7,’ ann an Scottish Gaelic Studies, 29 (2013), 244-281.

[21] R.L. Emerson, An Enlightened Duke. The life of Archibald Campbell (1682-1761), Earl of Ilay, 3rd Duke of Argyll (Kilkerran, 2013), 20, 26, 173, 279, 421 & nota 102.

[22] M. Scott, ‘Poetry and Politics in mid-eighteenth century Argyll: Tuirseach andiugh críocha Gaoidhiol’ in C. Ó Baoill & N.R. McGuire (eds.), Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig, 2000 (Obar Dheathain, 2002), 149-162.

[23] Letter from Alasdair MacFarlan to his brother, Mr Donnchadh MacFarlan, minister of Drymen. Glasgow University Archive Services, GUA 2019. R. Black, ‘Gaelic religious publishing, 1567-1800′ in C. Ó Baoill & N.R. McGuire, eds., Caindel Alban. Fèill Sgrìobhainn do Dhòmhnall E. Meek. Scottish Gaelic Studies, 24 (2008), 73-85, at, 77-78, 82. Addison, Roll of Graduates, 368. MAUG, iii, 166.

[24] Yester Papers, NLS, MS 7073. Yester Papers. NLS, MS 7073, fol. 47. Letter, Principal Neil Campbell to the Marq[uis of Tweeddale]. Sent from Glasgow, 28th November 1745, arrived 17th December 1745.

My Lord,

I have the honour to acquaint your Lordship that as this University of Glasgow is most firmly devoted to his Majesties Royal Person, Family & Government & inclind on this occasion to give the most solid proofs of loyalty in our power, especially at such a juncture as this. We have unanimously engaged to raise & maintain a company of fifty men to be employed wherever His Majestyis service in this cuntry requires it. This in name & in the degrie of the University is most humbly signifyed to your Lordship by,

My Lord, Your Lordships most faithfull, most humble & most obedient servant,

Neil Campbell,

If yor Lordship will at any time receave (?) me with a return, perhaps to direct for the Principal of the College of Glasgow.

Coll: Glasgow, Nov. 28th 1745.

This was recorded in the Faculty minutes as follows:

“…Mr Neil Campbell princ[ipa]l…     …an University being duly summoned and convened in order to consider what it s proper for the university to do for his majesties service in the present conjuncture, when an unnatural and wicked rebellion threatens the ruin and destruction of all our religious and civil liberties and priviliges. The meeting unanimously agreed to subscribe to maintain a company of fifty able bodied men for thirty days if necessary or longer at the rate of eight pence a day…” Glasgow University Archive Services (GUAS), GUA 26639/199.

[25] GUAS, GUA 26639/201.

[26] GUAS, GUA 26639/205.

[27] “At the college of Glasgow…. [Mr Niall Campbell, the Principal, among those present] “ …a gold box with his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland’s arms and those of the University is appointed to be made for holding the seal to be appended to the diploma creating him Doctor of Laws ordered by the faculty of the 27th of June last…..’ GUAS, GUA 26639/216. GUA 58445.

[28] According to Bruce Lenman: “…there is no question but that Cumberland shared the crudest and crassest of contemporary anti-Scottish prejudices…”, and, “…the violence of anti-Scottish feeling amongst the contemporary English establishment…”, and, “…Cumberland retained a venomous dislike of Scots in general…” B. Lenman, The Jacobite Risings in Britain, 1689-1746 (London, 1984), 261-267, 289. A. I. Macinnes, ‘The Aftermath of the ’45,’ an R.C. Woosnam-Savage, ed., 1745. Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites (Edinburgh, 1995), 103-114.

[29] NRS [National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh], GD 170/822/2. Glasgow Highland Society, Rules and Regulations and list of members, 1727-1902 (James MacLehose & sons, Glasgow, 1902).

[30] NRS, GD 170/731/1-3.

[31] Glasgow Highland Society, Rules and Regulations and lists of members (Glasgow, 1902). NRS, GD170/743/1-3. Addison, Matriculation Rolls, no. 620.

[32] NRS, GD 170/1643.

[33] I.R. Macdonald, Glasgow’s Gaelic Churches. Highland Religion in an Urban Setting, 1690-1995 (Edinburgh, 1995), 7-8. GUL, MS Gen 1378/4-5. R. Emerson, Academic patronage in the Scottish englightenment. Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities (Edinburgh, 2014), 90-91, 99, 108-112, 117-228. 125. FES, iv, 31. Richard B. Sher, ‘MacLaurin, John (1693–1754)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17644, accessed 6 July 2014]. Erik Lars Sageng, ‘MacLaurin, Colin (1698–1746)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17643, accessed 6 July 2014]. Further information on the MacLaurin family can be seen on a website by clicking here. Rev. Iain (John) MacLaurin’s writings survived and many of them were published in a two volume work by W.H. Goold (1860). These can be accessed on the internet archive at the following websites by clicking here and here.

[34] GUL, Sp. Coll. MS Gen 1378/4-5. Erik Lars Sageng, ‘MacLaurin, Colin (1698–1746)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17643, accessed 6 July 2014].

[35] I.R. MacDonald, Glasgow’s Gaelic Churches. Highland religion in an urban setting, 8-10, 25-27.

[36] Petition of the managers of the new Gaelic Church of Glasgow to the University, December 1770, seeking financial support. GUAS, GUA 43368.

[37] FES, iv, 340-341, I.R. MacDonald, Glasgow’s Gaelic Churches. Highland religion in an urban setting, 8-10.

[38] C. Innes, ed., Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis (Maitland Club, 4 vols., 1854), iii, 223.   I. Grimble, The World of Rob Donn (Edinburgh, 1979), 174-179.

[39] Radio interview by Coinneach MacÌomhair (Prògram Choinnich, BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, 22/07/2015) with Professor Dòmhnall Meek and Dr Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart. Black, An Lasair, 481-485. D. E. Meek, ‘Ath-sgrùdadh: Dughall Bochanan’, Gairm, 147 & 148 (1989), 269-280 & 319-330. D. Maclean, The Spiritual Songs of Dugald Buchanan (Edinburgh, 1913), viii. R. D. Jackson, ‘Buchanan, Dugald [Dughall Bochanan] (1716-1768), Gaelic poet,’ DNB, entry no. 3835. Meek, deas., Laoidhean Spioradail Dhùghaill Bhochanain, 3-4, 21; and also D. Meek, ‘Evangelicism, Ossianism and the Englightenment. The many masks of Dugald Buchanan,’ in C. MacLachlan, ed., Crossing the Highland Line (Glasgow, 2007), 97-112, at, 100-102, 105-106. R.B. Sher, ‘MacLaurin, John (1693-1754)’ ODNB, entry no. 17644. A number of references in the ‘MacCulloch Examinations’ bear witness to the Rev. MacLaurin’s preaching at the Cambuslang revival and suggest that he was a highly effective evangelical preacher. One of these testimonies refers to a preacher named Buchanan, tentatively identified by the editor, Keith Beebe, as Dùghall Buchanan. K.E. Beebe, ed., The MacCulloch Examinations of the Cambuslang Revival (1742) (2 vols., Scottish History Society, Edinburgh, 2011), vol. i, 76, 100-101, 133, 171, 299, 306, 319, 332, 361, 363; vol. ii, 37, 110, 112, 114, 215, 236, 313.

[40] D.J. Byrden, ‘The Jamaican Observatories of Colin Campbell, F.R.S. and Alexander MacFarlane, F.R.S.’, in Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 24 (1970), 261-272, at 262-265. An Alexander MacFarlan attended the University in 1728 but this may have been another man, the translator of religous materials rather than the University benefactor from Arrochar who made his fortune in Jamaica. The Alexander MacFarlan whose money founded te observatory at Glasgow was born in 1702 and thus may have been conspicuously older, at 26, than the average University student (perhaps 11-20) in 1728. The  University Story entry on MacFarlan can be seen by clicking here.

[41] T. Burnard & K. Morgan, ‘The dynamics of the slave market and slave purchasing patterns in Jamaica, 1655-1788′, in the William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol., 58 (2001), 205-228, at, 210,  214.

[42] Michael S. Moss, ‘Richardson, William (1743–1814)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23590, accessed 3 Nov 2014]. Some information about Richardson can be seen at the ‘University of Glasgow Story’ here. R. Black, ‘Some notes from my Glasgow Scrapbook, 1500-1800,’ in S.M. Kidd, ed., Glasgow. Baile Mòr nan Gàidheal. City of the Gaels (Roinn na Ceiltis, Oilthigh Ghlaschu, 2007), 20-54, at 43. Glasgow Highland Society, Rules and Regulations and lists of members (Glasgow, 1902), 108.

[43] R. Black, ‘Some notes from my Glasgow Scrapbook, 1500-1800,’ 32-33. R. Black, ‘A provisional handlist of Gaelic printed books, 1567-1800,’ in, Scottish Gaelic Studies, 25 (2009),35-94, at, 58-59.

[44] Thanks to Rachael Egan, Glasgow University Archive Services, for bringing this reference to our attention. More on Shaw a the University Story website here.   K. D. Macdonald, ‘ The Rev. William Shaw, – Pioneer Gaelic lexicographer,’ in Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 50 (1976-78), 1-19. R. MacLeod, ‘Shaw, William (1749–1831)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2013 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/25271, accessed 18 Nov 2014] D.S. Thomson, ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (1983, Gairm, Glasgow, 1994), 266. Addison, Roll of Graduates of the University of Glasgow, 550.

[45] D. Murphy, ‘Neilson, William (Mac Néill, Uilliam), in The Dictionary of Irish Biography. Séamas Ó Saothraí, ‘Neilson, William (1774–1821)’, ODNB, entry 19873. C Ó Baoill, ‘Norman MacLeod. Cara na nGael’, Scottish Gaelic Studies, 13 (1981), 159-168, at 160. Blaney, Presbyterians and the Irish Language, 56-63. The University of Glasgow Story website mentions both the Rev. Moses Neilson and his son, the Rev. William Neilson.

[AMcC, 28/09/2016]

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