Thomas Campbell was baptised on the 4th April 1746, third born child of Hugh Campbell and Agnes Logan of Lanemark in the parish of New Cumnock. The family later lived at the Campbell property of Whitehill of Changue in the parish of Old Cumnock before returning to New Cumnock in 1755 after Hugh Campbell bought the family property of Pencloe in Glen Afton from his brother Andrew for 17,600 merks. Hugh Campbell died soon after and by 1763, his son Thomas Campbell had sasine of Pencloe.
Thomas Campbell was a near neighbour of his cousin John Logan of Knockshinnoch & Laight and a regular visitor to the Logan household where he became besotted with his young cousin Jean Logan. However she only had eyes for a travelling salesman called Sandy Pagan, and in 1773 much to her family’s and Thomas’s disappointment Jean ran away with him and the unlikely pair were later married. This rebuttal did not appear to have impacted on Thomas Campbell’s friendship with his cousin John Logan of Laight for it was perhaps through this friendship that Pen had met with his fellow bard Robert Burns. Sadly the two would never meet again, but Pen apparently made a big impression on Burns, as is evident in his letter of remorse to Campbell of Pencloe.
To Monsr. Thomas Campbell, Pencloe Care of Mr Good
My Dear Sir,
I have met with few men in my life whom I more wished to see again than you, and Chance seems industrious to disappoint me of that pleasure. – I came here yesterday fully resolved to see you and Mr Logan at New Cumnock, but a conjuncture of circumstances conspired against me. Having the opportunity of sending you a line, I joyfully embrace it, – It is perhaps the last mark of our friendship you can receive from me on this side of the Atlantic, – Farewell! May you be happy to the wishes of parting Friendship!
Mr J. Merry’s Saturday Morn [ 19? August 1786]
Thankfully, Robert Burns’ scheme of going to America went agley.
Thomas Campbell married a dairymaid and left New Cumnock and moved with his wife to Starr, near Loch Doon where they had a son and a daughter.
Thanks to Alexander (Sandy) Murray the current proprietor of Pencloe it has been possible to unearth connections between Thomas Campbell and other known acquaintances of Robert Burns. Many old documents – dispositions, minutes of sale and sasines – associated with Pencloe (often referred to as Penclove) have survived and one of particular interest, the ‘Minute of the Sale’ between Thomas Campbell of Pencloe and William Farquhar of the neighbouring property of Lochingerroch , dated 9th October 1778, is signed by witnesses Gavin Hamilton, John Richmond and William Logan.
- Gavin Hamilton was a lawyer (‘writer’) who lived in a fine house adjacent to the Mauchline Castle, where in October 1778 Thomas Campbell and William Farquhar met with Hamilton to agree the terms of the sale. Some six years later Hamilton, sub-leased Mossgiel Farm in Mauchline to Rabbie and his brother Gilbert and the two became great friends. Many of Burns’ poems were composed at Mossgiel and it was his new landlord that strongly encouraged him to publish his poems by subscription and fittingly the the ‘Kilmarnock Edition’ was dedicated to Gavin Hamilton.
- John Richmond, from Sorn, was clerk to Gavin Hamilton. He too became a firm friend of Burns and together with Jamie Smith and William Hunter were the founding members of the Mauchline’s bachelor’s club known as ‘The Court of Equity’. Rabbie was designed the ‘Perpetual President’ and Richmond the ‘Clerk of Court’.
- William Logan in Burnhead was known for his wit and also as an accomplished violinist. He was a retired army major living in Ayr with his widowed mother and sister Susanna when in 1786 Robert Burns first made his acquaintance. The Bard celebrated Logan’s fiddling skills in ‘The Epistle to Major Logan’
Thomas Campbell lived to be an old man and in 1831 died at Dalmellington. Meanwhile, his lost love Jean Logan had returned to New Cumnock and ran her own draper’s shop in the Castle. His last words were saved for Jean. He visualised his funeral procession going along the Castle towards the Kirkyard and Jean stepping out the shop door to exclaim ‘Hech, Sirs ! there gangs auld Pen’. But that shop door didn’t open, for Jean died a few days after Auld Pen had passed away and a few days before his funeral. If only Rabbie had still been alive what words would he have conjured up for such a melancholy episode.
Chris Rollie ” Robert Burns and New Cumnock” by Chris J. Rollie (1996)