Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library

Jamaica Campbell letters, 1747-1757


The following letters are from the MacTavish of Dunardry Papers, which are held in the Argyll and Bute archives in Scotland. They give some detail about the Campbells of Western Jamaica, their activities and their family and commercial connections on both sides of the Atlantic – mostly from or in Argyll. This earlier series of Campbell letters complements those by London merchant Duncan Campbell and others, which are already available on this site. The early career of ‘Skipper Duncan’ as merchant mariner, is touched upon several times during this period.


The Campbells who settled in this part of Jamaica were, essentially, one family who were all closely related to Colonel John Campbell of Black River. As a measure of their influence after 50 years, five cousins represented only one percent of landowners in Hanover, Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth yet owned ten percent of all the cultivated land in the three parishes. Colin Campbell of Black River was appointed to the Council of Jamaica shortly after his father’s death in 1740. In later years, John Campbell of Salt Spring and John Campbell of Orange Bay several times represented Hanover in the Assembly and each in turn was also appointed Custos of the parish. Their cousin, John Campbell of New Hope, Westmoreland, became a Supreme Court judge and was also appointed to the Council.







John Thomson to Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry, his father,      Kingston, 16 July 1756


John Thomson (MacTavish) was the eldest son of Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry who was cousin to John Campbell of Salt Spring. Whilst in Jamaica John MacTavish  changed his name to Thomson. A close friend and, perhaps, a business partner was Duncan Thomson of Kingston, a planting attorney. John Thomson died in Jamaica three years after this letter was written. There is not enough additional information to verify or detail the identities of several people mentioned here.


My Dear father

I received yours of 13th January by Capt. Wyllie it gave me great Pleasure to hear of your welfare and the rest of my Dear Friends at Dunance.[1] Since my last to you by Capt. Thomson I’ve had a touch of fever which has given me a thorough seasoning. I’m but just recovered.  I’m sorry to acquaint you that Cussine Duncan[2] is but in a very bad State of Health. He’s obliged to leave all Kind of Business, he has lost the power of his hands which has rendered him incapable of writing to you, he’s going to North America for 3 or 4 months to see if he can recover his health. It will be a very great loss to him. I spoke to him about the Situation of your Affairs, all the answer he gave me was that it was not in his power to do anything as yet. I spoke to him likewise about sending you a little rum & sugar. He told me he intended sending you some, as to Lime Juice it was impossible for me to send you any by this Voyage but you may be sure of some by the time Capt. Wyllie comes out, Likewise some rum & sugar for by that time I’ll have the charge of an Estate so that it will be in my power to send you as good rum as is in Jamaica, I’ve sent you two Jars Tamerinds mark’d D & M & T no. 1 & 2. I forgot in my last to let you know of poor Cardell’s Death likewise Cameroon’s, they both died in January last. Dugald Malcolm[3] is Cameroon’s Executor how Cardell made his will I never heard. I have not seen any of my Argyle Shire friends save Duncan Mr Petter’s son who I saw in Town a few days ago, he’s very well & tells me that Duncan Mr James’s son is very well for they are Neighbours, he Complains very much that his father hase never write him since he came to the Island, not even once, he says he wrote often to his Father, he swears he never shall write him any more till he hears from him, I saw Dugald McDuffee[4] who was very kind & civil to me & desired his kind compliaments to you, I lodge with Captain James in Town who’s excessively kinde to me, two days before the date of my letter he received a letter from Knockbuy[5] acquainting him that you had got a lease on Sr. James’s estate for six years at £600 a year with a Deduction of £100 the first year, he seem’d to be a little thoughtfull about it, I never said anything to him about it nor he to me, tho’ at the same time I was very glad to hear of it. Knockbuy in his first letter to Capt. James (which was by Capt. Wyllie) writes him that you and Sherieff Campbell intended to ruin him to all intents and purposes, this I had from Duncan who was with the Capt. when he rec’d Knockbuy’s letter. I asked the Capt if he’d write you  he said he did not know but he wou’d so that I belive he’s a little chagrin’d at you, I have not heard anything of Dugie Knap[6] since my last all that I have to say about him is that he’ll be such another Man as John Ormsary[7] who’s neither a credit to himself or Friends. I have hear’d nothing of John McLachlan’s son, only that he’s a Leeward.

  I pray send me a Broad Sword, & a Highland Pistoll will be very acceptable also, there’s one thing I have to beg of you which is to write Mr. Lambie[8] & to return him thanks for his civility and kindness to me for I assure you he uses me with the greatest civility imaginable & will do for me as much as any Man in Jamaica, write him as soon as possible.

  I am so weake after my sickness that I can hardly hold the pen in my hand which makes me write so bad. –Remember my Love & Duty to my Dear Mother & tell her to excuse my not writing her at present as I very much want to leave the Town for it is very sickly at present, however I’ll endeavour to write aer after I get home, there’s a Fleet of vessels to sail by the 22nd of this month of which Capt. Wyllie is one. I saw Neill Campbell [9]who told me he saw you on you way home, at Greenock, he’s to sail likewise with the Fleet. Remember my Love & Duty to my Grandmother  aunt & all the rest of my Dear Friends, remember me kindly to all that ask about me. Adieu my Dear Father & may God grant all happiness & prosperity attend you & yours which is the Earnest wish & Desire of, my Dear Father, your loving and affectionate Son

              John Thomson

P.S. You’ll direct to Mr William Lambie at St. Thomas in the East. Direct to me at Nutts River Plantation, St. Thomas in the East


[1] Dunans, Argyll, Scotland

[2] Unknown

[3] Dugald Malcolm had arrived at Pell River, Hanover, in 1751, to take over from his cousin John Clerk, eldest son of Dugald Clerk of Braleckan. John Clerk  had inherited the estate from his uncle Robert Clerk, who had died in Jamaica

[4] Dugald McDuffie, merchant in Kingston. His wife, Janet, was a daughter of James Campbell of Rhudil, Argyll.

[5] Archibald Campbell of Knockbuy, whose son Archibald later came to Jamaica and settled in St. Ann’s parish

[6] Presumably from the family of the Campbells of Knap. The implication here is that he was in Jamaica

[7] John Campbell of Ormsary

[8] William Lambie, planter in St. Thomas in the East who died before1769 [David Dobson, ‘The Scottish surnames of Colonial America’, 2003]

[9] Presumably another ship master. As war with France (Seven Years War) had broken out merchant ships assembled as a fleet in order to be escorted in convoy by the Royal Navy

For more of the Early Campbell Letters, please go to:
     Early Campbell Letters # 1
     Early Campbell Letters # 2
     Early Campbell Letters # 3
     Early Campbell Letters # 5
     Early Campbell Letters # 6

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