Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 141

Black Colin of Loch Awe, a warrior of the great Campbell clan in the fourteenth century. The tale is common in one form or another to all European lands where the call of the Crusades was heard, and the romantic Crusading element has to a certain extent softened the occasionally ferocious nature of Highland stories in general, so that there is no bloodthirsty vengeance, no long blood-feud, to be recorded of Black Colin Campbell.

The Knight of Loch Awe

During the wars between England and Scotland in the reigns of Edward I. and Edward II. one of the chief leaders in the cause of Scottish independence was Sir Nigel Campbell. The Knight of Loch Awe, as he was generally called, was a schoolfellow and comrade of Sir William Wallace, and a loyal and devoted adherent of Robert Bruce. In return for his services in the war of independence Bruce rewarded him with lands belonging to the rebellious MacGregors, including Glenurchy, the great glen at the head of Loch Awe through which flows the river Orchy. It was a wild and lonely district, and Sir Nigel Campbell had much conflict before he finally expelled the MacGregors and settled down peaceably in Glenurchy. There his son was born, and named Colin, and as years passed he won the nickname of Black Colin, from his swarthy complexion, or possibly from his character, which showed tokens of unusual fierceness and determination.

[Pg 250]

Black Colin’s Youth

Sir Nigel Campbell, as all Highland chiefs did, sent his son to a farmer’s family for fosterage. The boy became a child of his foster-family in every way; he lived on the plain food of the clansmen, oatmeal porridge and oatcake, milk from the cows, and beef from the herds; he ran and wrestled and hunted with his foster-brothers, and learnt woodcraft and warlike skill, broadsword play and the use of dirk and buckler, from his foster-father. More than all, he won a devoted following in the clan, for a man’s foster-parents were almost dearer to him than his own father and mother, and his foster-brethren were bound to fight and die for him, and to regard him more than their own blood-relations. The foster-parents of Black Colin were a farmer and his wife, Patterson by name, living at Socach, in Glenurchy, and well and truly they fulfilled their trust.

He Goes on Crusade

In course of time Sir Nigel Campbell died, and Black Colin, his son, became Knight of Loch Awe, and lord of all Glenurchy and the country round. He was already noted for his strength and his dark complexion, which added to his beauty in the eyes of the maidens, and he soon found a lovely and loving bride. They dwelt on the Islet in Loch Awe, and were very happy for a short time, but Colin was always restless, because he would fain do great deeds of arms, and there was peace just then in the land.

At last one day a messenger arrived at the castle on the Islet bearing tidings that another crusade was on foot. This messenger was a palmer who had been in the Holy Land, and had seen all the holy places in Jerusalem. [Pg 251] He told Black Colin how the Saracens ruled the country, and hindered men from worshipping at the sacred shrines; and he told how he had come home by Rome, where the Pope had just proclaimed another Holy War. The Pope had declared that his blessing would rest on the man who should leave wife and home and kinsfolk, and go forth to fight for the Lord against the infidel. As the palmer spoke Black Colin became greatly moved by his words, and when the old man had made an end he raised the hilt of his dirk and swore by the cross thereon that he would obey the summons and go on crusade.

The Lady of Loch Awe

Now Black Colin’s wife was greatly grieved, and wept sorely, for she was but young, and had been wedded no more than a year, and it seemed to her hard that she must be left alone. She asked her husband: “How far will you go on this errand?” “I will go as far as Jerusalem, if the Pope bids me, when I have come to Rome,” said he. “Alas! and how long will you be away from me?” “That I know not, but it may be for years if the heathen Saracens will not surrender the Holy Land to the warriors of the Cross.” “What shall I do during those long, weary years?” asked she. “Dear love, you shall dwell here on the Islet and be Lady of Glenurchy till I return again. The vassals and clansmen shall obey you in my stead, and the tenants shall pay you their rents and their dues, and in all things you shall hold my land for me.”