The first Camp­bell in Ja­maica

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS -

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.”

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