19. William Campbell

William Campbell Esq. of Dalhanna

Residence: Dalhanna

The Campbell family have a long association with the lands of Dalhanna in the lower reaches of Glen Afton in the parish of New Cumnock.

“Amongst the still existing [small property holders in Cumnock], the oldest, perhaps, is Campbell of Dalhanna, who according to family belief, have held their small possession since the days of Bruce.”

Dalhanna and road to Afton Water

From the days of Bruce in the early 14th century and the Wars of Independence through to struggle for spiritual independence in the Covenanting times of the late 17th century when according to tradition James Campbell, Laird of Dalhanna had to conceal himself in bushes near his farmstead as government dragoons passed this way in pursuit of two men (Corson and Hair) that were returning from a conventicle to their homes in the neighbouring parish of Kirkconnel.


Thomas Campbell of Dalhannay  (b. ca. 1555 d. 1622)

One of earliest records of Campbell of Dalhanna, is that of Thomas Campbell who was subject of a complaint to the Privy Council in February 1587 –

Andro Mckraith (i.e. Andrew McCrae) lodged a complaint with the Privy Council of James VI, claiming that Thomas Campbell of Dalhanna, Charles Campbell of Horscleugh, Charles Campbell of Skyntoun (Skerrington) , Thomas Leith, and George Mckgaychane of Barlanochane had stolen from him £8 4s. in money, plus “ane blankatt and ane pott, with sum pecies of muttoun, being the onlie thing he had to leve on, he having comittit na cryme nor offence aganis thame or na uthiris

[Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol iv, pp. 205-206]

Together Thomas and his wife Katherine Stillie had four children including eldest son Patrick, who succeed to the lands of  Over Dalhanna and second son John Campbell who perhaps inherited Nether Dalhanna.

Dalhanna (Over Dalhanna)

Patrick Campbell of Dalhannay  (b. ca. 1580 d. 1626)

Patrick Campbell married Christian Campbell the sister of Hugh Campbell in Polquhirter and Finlay Blackwood in Nether Blackwood and Over Blackwood, known as the Burnetoun. Together, while living at Laight they had two daughters Janet and Christian. After his wife Christian died  he married Margaret Dunbar, a daughter of Dunbar of Knockshinnoch and Boigcurroche. Patrick died at Dalhanna , four years after succeeding to his father.

Thomas Campbell of Dalhannay (b. ca. 1610 d. >1659)

This Thomas appears in the sasine register  on 22 December 1631 as  Thomas Campbell of Dalhannay, possibly the son of the above Patrick and a minor at the time of his father;s death.  In the register on 29th January 1647 he appears as Thomas Campbell of Over Dalhanny  when his sasine in the lands of Nether Dalhannay formerly belonging to John Campbell is recorded, who is possibly Patrick’s younger brother and therefore an uncle of this Thomas. In a further sasine registration, made on 26 September 1659, he is styled Thomas Campbell of Dalhannay – the first laird of Dalhanna since the formation, in 1650, of the parish of New Cumnock.

The trail of the records of the Campbells of Dalhanna run cold at this time. Perhaps James Campbell, Laird of Dalhanna of the Covenanting tradition appears at this time, although there is no record in terms of wills or sasine for him.

The property of Nether Dalhanna also found new owners. In 1706 it appears with a host of other properties making up the newly formed Barony of Afton in the parish of New Cumnock in the charter creating William Gordon of Earlstoun as 1st Baronet of Afton.  By the early 18th century Nether Dalhanna was one of the properties held by John Buchan, Wirter to the Signet and at the opening of the new parish church of New Cumnock in 1833 it was held by Mary McQueen Thomson Honyman.


Nether Dalhanna ruins

John Campbell (b. ~ 1740 d. < 1803)

The Campbells of Dalhanna resurface in the parish records of the late 1700s through the family of John Campbell and Jean Dunn. On the 23 December 1768 their eldest child William Campbell was baptised by the Reverend James Young. The parish minister would later baptise two other Campbell children Elizabeth (1773) and John (1781) and probably several more  since the spread in the years between the births is uncommon for the time.

William Campbell of Dalhanna (1768-1857)

  • Spouse: Margaret Crawford Young (1773-1858)
  • Children: James (1797), John (1798), William (1799), Elizabeth (1802), Quintin (1804), Jean (1806), Katherine (1808), Robert (1810), Thomas (1812), Marion (1814), Peter (1816), Margaret (1819).

William Campbell married Margaret Crawford Young the daughter of the Reverend James Young. (The Reverend Young is best remembered as Jamie Goose in Robert Burns’ poem “The Kirk’s Alarm” (1789), which poked fun at a number of ministers in Ayrshire, that he believed were still set in their old Calvinist ways.

Jamie Goose! Jamie Goose, ye made but  toom roose,
In hunting the wicked Lieutenant;
But the Doctor’s your mark, for the Lord’s holy ark,
He has cooper’d an’ ca’d a wrang pin in’t,
Jamie Goose! He has cooper’d an’ ca’d a wrang
pin in’t

With his strong Covenanting roots William Campbell would share many of the Reverend Young’s views however for Campbell these were bettered served outside the established Church of Scotland and from within the Secession Chuch which had split from the Church of Scotland in 1733. Divisions within this church emerged over the interpretation of the Burgh Oath of 1747 creating Anti-Burghers and Burgher synods . In 1798 each of these synods split further into groups of Auld Lichts and New Lichts over the issues of civil magistracy.

Although the New Licht groups came together in 1820 to form the United Secession Church there was still dissent within the Auld Lichts of the Anti-Burgher synod . In 1804 the Reverend Dr. Thomas McCrie (the celebrated historian of the church in Scotland) and two other ministers had been deposed from the Anti-Burgher synod for their protests over a proposed ‘new testimony’ which they considered a step too far from the original standards of the Secession church.  Those that agreed with this stance, including many from the Burgher Synod eventually joined in fellowship and in 1822 the Original Secession Church was formed. Although there were no Secession churches in New Cumnock there were congregations in Cumnock and Auchinleck and it was the Anti-Burgher church and the later Original Secession Church at Rigg, Auchinleck that William Campbell would travel back and from from Dalhanna.

Schisms in the Church of Scotland

Together William Campbell and Elizabeth Young had 12 children over a period of 22 years. Their first borm James Campbell was baptised in 1797, not by his grandfather however since the Reverend Young who had passed away 2 years beforehand but by the new minister the Reverend William Reid. The farming life was not to be for James and he as a road surveyor he played a major road in developing the Ayrshire road network with his brothers William and Thomas also working on the roads.  (Campbells of Dalhanna: Road Builders)

William Campbell would be 65 years old and his wife Margaret 60 years old when the new parish church of New Cumnock opened its doors in May 1833 and surely one of the leading couples in the parish.

William Campbell passed away 14 years later on 26th February 1857 in his 80th year. His obituary in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser (March 4, 1857)

DEATH OF MR CAMPBELL OF DALHANNA (From our New Cumnock Correspondent)

We have this week to record the demised of William Campbell, Esq. of Dalhanna, who died on the 26th ult., at the advanced age of four score and ten years. He was a leasinf man, or rather the leading man, of the locality for a period of 90 years, standing forth with prominence in the social circle, and in all walks of business, public and parochial, during the whole of that long period.

During the last four years the infirmities of age, combined with disease, restrained him from mixing in society, and incapacitated him for business. Among his last public acts was voting for Mr Cardwell at the election for the county in 1852. In politics he was a Liberal and Freetrader, though his income was exclusively from land.

Ecclesiastically he was a great Nonconformist, a member of the Original Secession Church , grasping with the firmness and enthusiasm her original standards, when these were loosely held of let go by so many of his brethren; for he was in the prime of his life and intellect when Dr McCrie was excommunicated by his Synod upward of half a century ago.

We learn from tradition that he was descended from a long line of Covenanters, and that his progenitors had occasionally to flee from the rage of the persecutor, and had hairbreadth escapes when hiding, like the partridge , among the brake and fern of their own native glen of Dalhanna – the possession of which by the family is traced back to the beginning of the 15th century, and is situated, as many of your readers know, among the picturesque scenery of the classic Afton

Family lairs of William Campbell & Elizabeth Young and family (right) and their son James Campbell & Elizabeth McKnight and family (left)

Eldest son James Campbell inherited the lands of Dalhanna but there was to be no return to farming for the road surveyor and instead his younger sister Margaret and her husband William Sharp worked  Dalhanna as tenants.


Stuart Clarkson, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

  • For the early history of the Campbells of Dalhanna and transcriptions of the willis and testaments

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