Campbell is an extremely popular and widespread name in Ulster where it is the fifth most common name. It is the third most numerous name in County Down, fourth in County Armagh, seventh in each of Counties Antrim, Derry and Tyrone and thirteenth in County Donegal. The majority of Ulster Campbells are descendants of 17th century Scottish settlers but there are significant local differences.
Where Does the Last Name Campbell Come From?
Most Ulster Campbells descend from Scottish clan Campbell who rose rapidly to power in Argyll in the western Highlands of Scotland in the 17th century at the expense of the MacDonalds, ‘Lords of the Isles’. Inveraray Castle on the banks of Loch Fyne became the principal seat of the Campbells, the Dukes of Argyll, in the 15th century. In the 18th century the Campbells were loyal supporters of the English crown in their struggles with the Scottish Jacobites.
Clan Campbell's crest badge
Originally known as Clan O’Duibhne the first to assume the surname Campbell was Gillespic O’Duibhne who, in 1263, was recorded as Gillespic Cambel. The surname is derived from Scots Gaelic Caimbeul, meaning ‘crooked mouth’
In 1609 Robert Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury and also Lord High Treasurer, suggested to James I a deliberate plantation of Scottish and English colonists on the forfeited estates of the Gaelic chiefs in counties Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Londonderry (then known as Coleraine) and Tyrone. Settlers to Ulster came, by and large, in three waves: with the granting of the initial leases in the period 1605 to 1625; after 1652 and Cromwell’s crushing of the Irish rebellion; and finally in the fifteen years after 1690 and the Glorious Revolution. It is estimated by 1715, when migration to Ulster had virtually stopped, the Scottish population of Ulster stood at 200,000.
Robert Cecil; 1st Earl of Salisbury
In Donegal, in particular, many Campbells will have an even earlier connection with Scotland. In the 15th century a branch of Clan Campbell, known as Mac Ailin, derived from ail, meaning rock, were brought to Donegal by the O’Donnells to fight as galloglasses (other spelling forms include gallowglasses, gallowglas or galloglas), i.e. mercenary soldiers. As well as Campbell their name was also anglicised to McCallion.
Campbell Spelling Variations
The different spelling variations for this surname are: Campbell, Cambpbell, Canpbell, Canpble, Campbel, Camppbell, Cambell, Campbelle, Cambel, Camble, Campble, Campbll, Campblle, Campbeel, Cambbell, Camball, Campbeull, Caimbeal, Campell, Cample, Compbell, Camphil, Camphill, Camphell, Cammell, Champbell, MacCampbell, McCampbell, MacCamphill, McAmphill and Kempbell.
Campbells Who Have Marked their Surname in History
As well as numerous Scottish immigrants of the name many Campbells, especially in County Tyrone, will have Irish origins. The Campbell sept of County Tyrone trace their lineage to Eogan, son of the 5th century High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who ruled from the Hill of Tara, County Meath. Eogan and his brother Conall Gulban conquered northwest Ireland, ca.425 AD, capturing the great hill-fort of Grianan of Ailech in County Donegal which commanded the entrance to the Inishowen peninsula between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle.
Hill of Tara, County Meath
Campbell, in Gaelic Mac Cathmhaoil, is derived from cathmhaol, meaning ‘battle chief’. This name was initially anglicised as McCawell, and also as McCampbell and McCamphill. The Campbells of Tyrone were the leading sept of Clan Ferady (tracing their descent from Faredach, son of Muireadach (Murdock), son of Eogan). At the height of their power in the 12th century, from their base at Clogher, they controlled a large portion of County Tyrone and had penetrated deep into County Fermanagh. They were one of the seven powerful septs supporting O’Neill.
Aileen Campbell; Scottish politician
Alastair Campbell; British journalist and spokesman
Colonel Alexander Campbell of Possil; Scottish soldier
Alexander Campbell; American religious figure and a leader of the Restoration Movement
Archibald Campbell; 1st Marquess of Argyll
Archibald Campbell's memorial
Archibald Campbell; 9th Earl of Argyll
Sir Archibald Campbell; British army officer
Beck Campbell; American musician
Brian Campbell; Canadian former ice hockey player
Bruce Campbell; American actor of Scottish descent
Chad Campbell; American golfer
Colin Campbell; 1st Baron Clyde and British soldier
Danielle Marie Campbell; American actress
Darren Campbell; British athlete and sprinter
Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy; Scottish landowner
DJ Campbell; English footballer
Eddie Campbell; British comic artist
Eddie C. Campbell; American musician and blues guitarist and singer
Isobel Campbell; Scottish musician
John Campbell; 1st Duke of Breadalbane and Holland
Joseph Campbell; American professor
Kim Campbell; first femlae Prime Minister of Canada
Lewis Campbell; British classical scholar and professor of Greek
Sir Malcolm Campbell; British holder of world land and water speed records
Naomi Campbell; English supermodel and actress
Neve Campbell; Canadian actress
Niall Diarmid Campbell; 10th Duke of Argyll
Nicky Campbell; critical Scottish TV journalist and presenter
Robert Campbell; 5th Laird of Glenlyon
Ron Campbell; Australian director and animator
Roy Campbell Jr.; American jazz musician and trumpeter
Sharon Campbell; British Diplomat
Sister Simone Campbell; femenist nun
Tevin Campbell; American singer and songwriter
Thomas Campbell; Scottish poet
William Oliver "Billy" Campbell; American actor
This surname history has been researched and written by Brian Mitchell. Brian has been involved in local, family and emigration research in Derry and North West Ireland since 1982. The database whose construction he supervised, containing one million records (dating from 1628 to 1930) extracted from the major civil and church registers of County Derry, can now be accessed at www.derry.rootsireland.ie. Brian can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.