George Douglas Campbell
Duke of Argyll 1847-1900

George Douglas Campbell, the 8th Duke of Argyll, succeeded to the title in 1847 at the age of 23. He was young but not entirely new to the role, having taken over many of the ducal responsibilities from his elderly, ailing father, the 7th Duke, in the last few years of his father's life. It was during this caretake period that John Campbell of Islay, who became known and feared as Factor Mor, was appointed as the Duke's Chamberlain to manage Argyll Estate affairs and implement the Duke's policies in Tiree and the Aygyll lands in Mull.
The young 8th Duke was well aware of the poverty and seasonal near starvation of cotters and tenants of small crofts in Tiree and, perhaps more importantly, the continuing drain on his finances of providing poor relief for them. His recovery plan to return Tiree to profitability was to reduce Tiree’s population by 'exporting' cotter and small crofter families to the mainland or British colonies overseas and amalgamating the small crofts into larger self-supporting crofts or farms whose tenants were less likely to default on rent payments and be a burden on the Argyll Estate. He stated the basis of his plan in an article in The Inverness Courier of 27th April 1847: … there are 1400 people and upwards who do not pay one farthing of rent either to the proprietor or any tenant… Now in such a case as this is it right to allow things to go on as they are? I think not. And although the people themselves should be unwilling to move, I hold that the power of the proprietor is not only legitimately but necessarily used when employed to insist on the emigration of those people.
In his first 20 years, the 8th Duke, exerting his power through his factor, John Campbell, 'exported' most of Tiree's cotter and small crofter families, and in so doing reduced the island's population by about 40%. Many of these displaced families were given passage to Canada on ships hired by the Duke. Others were given assisted passage on immigrant ships to Australia. Many of these 'exported' islanders were embittered by the harsh methods used by the Duke's factor, John Campbell, to achieve what the Duke wanted. Generally their anger was directed at the factor, not at the Duke whose master plan it was. Despite this lasting bitterness among those who were 'exported' from Tiree, it has to be said that the Duke arranged for their re-homing overseas better than did most other highland landlords. The young developing nations of Canada and Australia were the beneficiaries of the Duke's policy of depopulating Tiree.
The 8th Duke explained and defended his management of Tiree in Articles 4 & 5 in the table below. To download an article click on its number.

No. Article Pages
1 In the Inverness Courier of 27 April 1847 the Marquis of Lorne, the future 8th Duke of Argyll, announces his plan for Tiree: His lordship gives a miserable picture of the island of Tyree as regards over-population: ...there are 1400 people and upwards who do not pay one farthing of rent either to the proprietor or any tenant. ... Now in such a case as this is it right to allow things to go on as they are? I think not. And though the people themselves should be unwilling to move, I hold that the power of the proprietor is not only legitimately but necessarily used when employed to insist on the emigration of those people. 1
2. An article in the Glasgow Herald of 20 October 1860 about the visit to Tiree by the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. 1
3. An article in the Montrose, Arbroath & Brechin Review of 15 March 1861 about objections by parishioners of Tyree to the Duke of Argyll's intended appointment of John Gregorson Campbell as minister. 1
4. Crofts and Farms in the Hebrides: Being an Account of the Management of an Island Estate for 130 Years, by the Duke of Argyll (1883), published by David Douglas, Edinburgh. 82
5. Depopulation of Rural Scotland in the 1800s and its Impact on Tiree: transcripts of an acrimonious debate between the Duke of Argyll and the Hon. D.H. Macfarlane M.P., 'the crofters' champion', in the Letters to the Editor pages of The Times (London) newspaper, 1882-1886. 26
6. An article in the Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette of 14 August 1886 about the Duke of Argyll's advertisement for a London Presbyterian minister to visit Tiree, ascertain the condition of crofters and fishermen, and deliver lectures on his findings in London. 1


                Keith Dash, 2019