Introduction of sheep to Loch Lomond

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glen_luss_bridge-52MOST histories of the area state that sheep were introduced to Glen Mallochan, a small glen leading off Glen Luss, by John Campbell of Lagwine in the parish of Cumnock.

Some date the event to 1747 specifically, others say that it occurred around 1750. However the much later date of 1769 has also been suggested as an alternative. I decided to try to determine the correct date.

I thought that the most likely conclusive proof would come from consulting the Luss Estates papers which are held in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

They have copies of a considerable number of 18th century tacks for Luss Estates, and these were consulted. Other Luss Estates papers were also consulted, but with no success.

Three tacks were found referring to John Campbell. The two earliest refer to John Campbell of Lanemark, but the third refers to John Campbell of Lagwine — in all three instances he is referred to as coming from the parish of Cumnock.

A check on the current Ordnance Survey maps clearly shows the location of Lanemark about one mile to the south-west of Cumnock, while Lagwine is on the outskirts of Carsphairn, also in the parish of Cumnock but about 20 miles by road to the sout.

Are John Campbell of Lanemark and John Campbell of Lagwine one and the same man? I am inclined to believe that they are, as I think it highly unlikely that there would be two people called John Campbell from the parish of Cumnock in Luss around 1760. Perhaps he had moved from being in Lanemark in 1757 to Lagwine eight years later.

The two early tacks are dated 16th and 21st December, 1757. Both are for "the toun and lands of Glen Mallochan". In neither of them is Campbell referred to as "the tacksman of Glen Mallochan" (or of anywhere else in Colquhoun lands), so presumably these constitute John Campbells first involvement with Glen Mallochan and indeed with any Colquhoun lands.

These two tacks refer not only to Glen Mallochan, but also to a large number of other farms — why so many? There is a strong possibility that they were all being consolidated into a small number of sheep farms, all under the control of John Campbell as sheep farming requires much more land and fewer people than traditional crofting.

The most recent tack is dated 26th December, 1765, and it is between Sir James Colquhoun and "Charles Young merchant and drover in Glasgow and John Campbell of Laguine tacksman of Glen Mallochan" for the tack of another Colquhoun property, probably Gleann ma Caoruinn (at the head of Glen Luss, although not easily decipherable).

It is particularly relevant to note that in this tack Campbell is already being referred to as "tacksman of Glen Mallochan". All available tacks were searched, but there was no further reference to John Campbell or to any other tacksman of Glen Mallochan.

My tentative conclusion from the wording of these three tacks one is that John Campbell only arrived in Glen Mallochan after December 1757, and not before.

And of course, one must also wonder whether the general presumption that it was he who actually introduced the sheep is borne out by any factual sources.

  • The picture above by Donald Fullarton shows the Rams Head Bridge in Glen Luss, built in 1777 by William Johns, seen in winter with little vegetation. It was also known as the Tupp Bridge. Glen Luss was one of the first of the Highland glens to be cleared after the defeat of the Jacobites in 1745, with the people forced off the land and replaced by the Linton breed of black-faced sheep.