Mr. Archibald Campbell Ardmore's Reel

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X:1 T:Mr. Archibald Campbell Ardmore's Reel C:Alexander Mackay M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel B:Alexander Mackay – A Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Slow Tunes… B:Chiefly composed by Alexander Mackay, Musician Islay (c. 1822, p. 21) B: https://digital.nls.uk/special-collections-of-printed-music/archive/104487947 N:Dedicated to the Right Hon. Lady Elinor Campbell of Islay and Shawfield. N:Mackay was born c. 1775 and was a fiddler-composer from Islay. Many of his N:tune titles are reflect Islay settings. N:Printed in Glasgow by J. MacFadyen, 30 Wilson St. Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Bb d|B2 FB DB,FD|GECB Accd|B2 FB DB,FD|GBAc dBB:| d|B2 dB fBbB|edcB Accd|B2 dB fBbB|edcB FB (Bg/a/)| bfdf Bfdf|edcB Acce|dBcA BGFE|DB Ce dBB||



MR. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL ARDMORE'S REEL. Scottish, Reel (cut time). B Flat Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. "Mr. Archibald Campbell Armore's Reel" was composed by Islay fiddler-composer Alexander Mackay (born 1775). Archibald (1765-1828), of Ardmore, Islay, was a tacksman[1] of Ardmore, a Lieutenant and Excise Officer from 1799-1806 and the founder of the Ardmore distillery in 1817 which shared the sheltered bay at Lagavulin with the Lagavulin Distillery which had been established the year before. The venture was short-lived, and in 1825 it was inherited by John Johnston, owner of Lagavulin distillery, and the two distilleries were called Lagavulin 1 and Lagavulin 2. Ardmore House, Parish of Kidalton and Oa, Islay, is a country manor and farmstead, beautifully situated near a sheltered bay, and stands today.

Archibald married Helen Campbell sometime around the year 1800. Together they had eleven children, of whom the third child but eldest son was John Campbell, born in 1801. Archibald died around 1828. In 1845, son John was appointed Chamberlain to the Duke of Argyll and became known and feared as Factor Mór, the Big Factor, who implemented the 8th Duke of Argyll’s policies in the Ross of Mull and Tiree for the next 25 years. Mackay composed tunes for several members of the Archibald's family: "Mrs. Campbell Ardmore's Reel" for his wife Helen; "Miss Jean Campbell Ardmore's Reel", "Miss Jean Campbell Ardmore's Jig," "Miss Cathrine Campbell Ardmore's Strathspey," "Miss Mary Campbell Ardmore's Jig," "Mr. F. Campbell Ardmore's Reel," "Miss Marrion Campbell of Ardmore's Reel," "Miss Marrion Campbell Ardmore's Favorite," "Mr. Dugald Campbell Ardmore's Favorite," "Mr. William Campbell Ardmore's Reel" and "Mr. John Campbell Ardmore's Strathspey" were all composed for the children.

One "Mary Mckay" (1802-1877) is listed on the family tree of Lt. Archibald Campbell family tree on Ancestry.com[2] as one of the children of Archibald and Helen, however, there is also an eldest child named "Mary Campbell" who was born in 1801 who has a corresponding Mackay compsition for her. There is no listing on Ancestry.com for a child named Marrion, but Mackay composed two tunes for Marrion Campbell of Ardmore. It is possible that this may refer to the child on Ancestry.com who is listed as "Mary Mckay"[3]. Further, it is possible that "Mary McKay" may have been related to composer Alexander Mackay, perhaps as a daughter-in-law (there is an age difference of nearly 30 years between Mary and Alexander). There must have been some personal connection between Mackay and the Campbell of Ardmore family. The sheer volume of tunes for the family in the Mackay collection, even for each child in the large family, seems to speak of a personal motivation. An alternative explanation would be that Mackay was employed as a teacher of music to the landowning classes of Islay, who substituted for aristocratic patrons in other areas of Scotland.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Alexander Mackay (A Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Slow Tunes), c. 1822; p. 21.






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  1. A tacksman was a landholder of intermediate legal and social status in Scottish Highland society. The term comes from Scottish Gaelic: Fear-Taic, meaning "supporting man". Archibald's father was also a tacksman)
  2. https://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/lt-archibald-campbell-24-1rc4tq0
  3. The Port Ellen Distillery was established in 1825 by the McKay family, and its possible there is some connection with Mary, given her father's experience with distilleries.