The first Campbell in Jamaica
THE REVEREND Patrick Campbell, a Presbyterian minister, served his congregation at Kilmichael Glassaray in Argyllshire, western Scotland, and it was here, on March 13, 1673, that he baptised his son, John. The couple had four daughters and three more sons. They are to be significant to the story of John Campbell as several of their offspring eventually emigrated to Jamaica.
As a young man, John Campbell must have realised that his opportunities were limited in the sparse Highland countryside. He enlisted in the Earl of Argyll’s regiment and was in command of a company that took part in the Glencoe Massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692. Later, his regiment fought against the French in the Netherlands until the war ended in 1697.
Two years later, he answered a call for volunteers to start a colony planned for Darien in the remote southern extremity of Spain’s possession of Panama. The conceptualiser of the venture, William Paterson, visualised Caledonia, as it was to be known, as a great trading centre. Vessels sailing to the Caribbean not only had goods to be traded, but also tools for the artisans and implements for preparing the land for settlement, as well as weapons and ammunition for the purpose of defence. By devising a route across the Isthmus of Panama, Paterson foresaw the opening of trade with the Orient.
Five vessels with 1,200 men, women, and children left Scotland in mid-July 1698 on a tortuous voyage, which took nearly four months. It was November by the time the fleet of five vessels entered the bay that was surrounding the jungle enclave they were to call Caledonia.
Despite the violent rainstorms that accompanied the extended rainy season at their destination and the constant presence of disease – dysentery, yellow fever, and malaria – which was to shorten lives rapidly, the soldier volunteers set to constructing Fort St Andrew on a promontory overlooking the entrance to the bay.
The Spanish in the Caribbean had known that the Scots had arrived in Darien. Plans to expel them were hatched in Cartagena, but the fleet intended to protect Spain’s interest was in a weakened condition, badly needing Captain John Campbell, I parted in a boat for the mainland (from Isla) ... and arrived in Edinburgh, Tuesday, December the fifth.”