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The popular Mollie Campbell: The boy Duncan Campbell: Influence of graduates of the College of Glasgow: The wedding of Mollie Campbell:

The Blackheath Connection

Chapter 5


The popular Mollie Campbell:


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     While principal at the College, Neil Campbell apparently maintained a happy house. But this happiness and prestige has, oddly enough, only been reported  in Mackaness' biography of William Bligh, vice-admiral of the blue. In the 1920s and 1930s, Mackaness, a Sydney historian, researched Bligh's life. In so doing, he gave considerable weight to the family of Bligh's wife, Elizabeth Betham, daughter of Mary the daughter of principal Neil. Mackaness' biography of Bligh remained definitive until 1978 when Gavin Kennedy published his biography of Bligh - and still got "uncle" Duncan Campbell wrong. ([1])


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     Mackaness had managed to obtain the Campbell Letterbooks from WDC, and he consistently downplayed, or censored, Campbell's career as overseer of the Thames River prison hulks. It remains odd that Mackaness should have connected the prestige of principal Neil Campbell's home in Glasgow with the career of vice-admiral William Bligh, so assiduously, and yet virtually ignored the career of Bligh's uncle-in-law and employer, Duncan, as hulks overseer, while so many genealogical mysteries lurked. This, in days when Australians were still rankling with resentments over eras of "convict horrors".


     Mackaness conveys, the Campbells had a hot joint dinner every Sunday, and the daughter of the house, Mary, Molly, otherwise known as Mally or Matty, became immensely popular about the university, "an inspiration to professors and students alike". A graceful and beautiful young woman, so it is said, she delighted even Prof. Robert Simson, "who avoided the ladies as a lifestyle". Simson took tea once a year with the Campbells and Molly was always his first toast.


     Molly Campbell generated apocrypha, such as a memory retained by Alexander ("Jupiter") Carlyle. Late in 1742, Carlyle desired to enter the University of Glasgow. He carefully gathered some introductions before he arrived. A friend just leaving the university gave him an introduction to the principal's daughter. Carlyle later wrote, "and when I seemed surprised at his choice he added that I would find her not only more beautiful than any woman there, but more sensible and friendly than all the Professors put together, and much more useful". Carlyle added, he found all this "literally true"; Molly Campbell was extraordinary.


    While Carlyle was studying, the tragedy Cato was to be staged. Molly was to play Marcia. Though the play was never finally staged, during rehearsals she got the recluse, Lord Selkirk, Dunbar Hamilton, "away from his books" to help her with the role. He enjoyed the task immensely. This is probably the inspiration for the rumour that Hamilton was in love with her, but Molly did not marry him, she married Richard Betham. What is peculiar, today, is that in Burke's Landed Gentry, there is so little mention of Richard Betham's grandchildren who came to Australia before 1820, when a great many other families with descendants resident in Australia are listed appropriately in various sources.


     Given the linkages between the families of Duncan Campbell and William Bligh, it is even more difficult to explain what happened with the writing of the history of the mutiny on the Bounty. Legends are generally based on facts torn loose from their original moorings in history proper. In this book, the Bounty legend will be returned to its moorings.


The boy Duncan Campbell:


      By 1700, the population of Glasgow was 12,000 people, Edinburgh, 30,000. Inverness was 500 thatched houses. Glasgow, already a partner in the North American tobacco trade, as a port was "remade" after the Union of 1707 by now being able to trade "on equal terms with England and the colonies", says Williams. In 1692, Glasgow had only 15 ships, but after the Union, as the port nearest the American colonies, she began to carry goods to Virginia and Maryland and bring back tobacco. By 1723, the ports of Bristol, Liverpool and Whitehaven had complained of Glasgow's "fraudulent methods". Ship numbers rose and with them, tobacco imports, sugar and rum. With its new wealth, the population of Glasgow had grown four-fold by 1775.


     The son Duncan born to Principal Neil and his wife Henrietta on 5 January 1726, was possibly named for his mother's brother. (Duncan means "brown warrior" and Campbell means "wry mouth"). He was baptized on 9 January at Renfrew, where his brother Colin was later to be minister. Patrick, Henrietta's eldest son, was born on 6 December, 1713. Patrick matriculated at 14, then obtained his BA, but he died on Jamaica in 1737 aged 24, a medical student. By then, Duncan was only eleven, due to matriculate in two years. (All Duncan's brothers matriculated at the College of Glasgow). Archibald became a marine and served in the North British Fuseliers; he may have seen military service during the suppression of the rising of 1745? Colin became a reverend. Neil became an ordnance survey clerk at the Arsenal at Woolwich, London, where he would have seen behind-the-scenes as Britain fought the American colonies from 1776.


     Duncan is the only male child remembered, but his early years must remain more unpopulated here than they were in fact, due to the unreliability of the history of what in fact was a large, vigorous and emotional extended family. Glasgow about then had a population of about 13,000, with an increasingly active port. He knew the High Street, since "on the High Street frontage", to the south, was the roomy house provided for the principal of the College of Glasgow. To the north were houses for the professors of Divinity. Duncan's early life must have been greatly pervaded with Scottish Presbyterianism. He grew on quiet green swards and doubtless would have thrown stones down the well in the Professors' Court at the College. Presumably he would also have been drawn to the docks to watch the coming and going of ships. He was the only one of his family to take to the sea, and he must have been aware of the gathering interest Glasgow merchants were taking in the North American colonies, especially Virginia.


Duncan's own matriculation entry reads: Duncan Campbell Nigelli F. V(erbi) D(iem) M(inistri) Academae Praefecti, 1739.


Duncan's education first headed him into the navy, on HM Dove. The question arises of his religious persuasion. Years later he was a Freemason in London, which suggests he was of a tolerant opinion regarding religious dogma. During his adolescence he may well have observed at first hand the problems arising from the case of Simson's heresy, with the "Presbyterian Inquisition". In the Eighteenth Century, English Freemasonry adopted a Newtonian view of the Universe as almost an article of faith. Much was made of Locke's religious tolerance by the British Empire, a use not made so quickly or easily, or successfully, by European nations adhering to the Catholic faith. This - as a fruit of religious tolerance - was the gift unknowingly made to the British Empire by the Reformation, partly by the agencies of Calvin, Knox and Wesley. When religious faith slackens, and where Science seems a strong answer to the questions raised, human curiosity will be applied to the development of technology, as an assertion of human powers and the product of rationalism. This is all why after about 1700, Science, Technology and the Protestant work ethic became a Trinity new to religious authority. Science began to supersede all known varieties of magic. Once underway, the process was inexorable: Science eroded Faith. The spiritual products of Hope were replaced by statistical evidence of the empirical results available from properly applied Science.


Otherwise, the inscrutabilities of God became the inscrutabilities of Providence, which was seldom defined but often referred to. As an adult, Duncan often referred to "Providence".   Meanwhile, his extended family network was wide and its members supported each other with a reasonable affection. As a family they tended to be candid about any disappointments they suffered.


Influence of graduates of the College of Glasgow on the American colonies and elsewhere:


Some men of noble stock were made: some glory in the murder-blade:

Some praise a Science or an Art, but I like honourable Trade!


                 J. E. Flecker. (As cited in Davis, The Rise of the English Shipping Industry.)


     Many distinguished men matriculated at the College of Glasgow, some of them due to be mentioned fleetingly or more seriously in matters relating to early Australian history, or American colonial history preceding. ([2]) Thomas Devine writes, "Between 1728 and 1800... at least sixty-eight tobacco and West India merchants had been students at Glasgow University... there was relatively little commercial or vocational training available in Glasgow... at the Grammar School, a popular school for merchants' sons, the curriculum was strictly academic with Latin and Greek, Classical Antiquities, and Geography". A good number of youths bent on merchant careers spent some time at the University of Glasgow where teachers included Adam Smith on Moral Philosophy from 1751 to 1763, Robert Simson, William Cullen and Joseph Black. ([3]) American and Australian colonial histories owe a great deal to the University of Glasgow. ([4])


     Some sons might go on a tour of Continent, maybe even mixing business with courses of study. A proper Continental education also entail languages, commercial skills, dancing, riding and fencing - which implies such studies were unavailable in Glasgow for the sons of the affluent. ([5])


1707 - At the College of Glasgow matriculated Robert Dinwiddie, colonial administrator, Lt.-Governor of Virginia in 1751-1758.


Archibald Campbell of Blytheswood, once rector of the University of Glasgow, in 1815 received his LLD there.


John Campbell, author of Lives of the English Admirals, in 1765 was HM Agent for the Province of Georgia. He graduated LLD in 1754, died London 28 December, 1775.


Patrick Colquhuon of Kelvingrove, the promoter of the first Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, tobacco merchant, convict contractor to the American colonies; from the late 1790s in London the promoter of the Thames River water police; graduated LLD in 1797.


The fourth Earl of Selkirk, rector of the university 1766-1768, who was active in suppressing the rising of 1745, who died in Edinburgh on 24 May, 1799, aged 77, was created DCL in 1745. (Was he the man who supposedly fell in love with Molly Campbell?).


Richard Betham, later principal Neil Campbell's son-in-law, LLD, matriculated in 1746. Receiver-General on the Isle of Man after 1765. Married Molly Campbell, became father-in-law of William Bligh. Betham's only son, Campbell, matriculated at Glasgow in 1781 and graduated MD, Edinburgh, in 1787 before settling with the aid of his uncle, Duncan Campbell, into medical practise in Whitehaven. Dr Campbell Betham never married.


David Campbell, later chaplain to the Royal Hospital of Greenwich, LLD in 1747.


James Pitcairn matriculated in 1733. MA, 1738. He was probably from the family providing a name for Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, named on the voyage by Carteret. Over sixty years later, Duncan in London knew a Dr. Pitcairn and a barrister, Alexander Pitcairn. It is probable, as family history matters, that Fletcher Christian, Bounty mutineer, knew of these connections to Bligh's family before he fled to Pitcairn Island. ([6])


       Intellectually, an illustrious name is Adam Smith, interpreter of matters economic,  who matriculated at Glasgow in 1737. From Glasgow, Smith went to Balliol College, Oxford. He lectured in literature and jurisprudence at Kirkcaldy, and at Glasgow became professor of logic, then moral philosophy. A position as tutor to the Duke of Buccleuch allowed him to travel abroad. His Wealth of Nations was published in 1776.


The wedding of Molly Campbell (revisited):


     Principal Campbell continued to teach divinity till Simson died in 1740. ([7]) The lesson later taken from his principalship was that if the principal did not exert an autocratic control, the professors descended from their Rule of the Faculty into faction fights based on personal and family interest. Principal Campbell suffered by such professorial lapses. He was succeeded in 1761 by "an ambitious man", vice-rector William Leechman.


Neil Campbell during 1748 claimed more remuneration for his extra teaching work. Earlier he had refrained as the college was in debt. Possibly he was wanting to give his popular daughter, Molly, a wedding to remember. During 1748, Richard Betham courted Molly. ( [8])


    The two were married on 13 September, 1748, as recorded in The Scots Magazine.  According to Mackaness' Life of Bligh, which so much ignores Molly's brother, Duncan,  Betham had many friends - and all of them were more illustrious and memorable than himself. (Principal Robertson, Edinburgh philosopher David Hume, the chemist Joseph Black, Adam Smith.) Betham was a member of Glasgow's literary society in 1752. He came from Thrimby Grove, Westmoreland, on the Scottish border, and is reputed to have been a man of great learning. He also enjoyed "a lasting friendship" with Lord Selkirk of St. Mary's Isle. (The fourth Earl Selkirk). ( [9])


In submitting a financial claim in 1748, Principal Campbell reminded the university he had rescued it from discredit by teaching Simson's students, and he hoped for at least £25 per year. In vain. A university meeting decided the principal had always been obliged to teach divinity. So Campbell, whose house was beginning to fall down around him, continued until he was struck down by ill health. There was a small relenting. The university after a manipulation of leases by 1751 had been able to offer him £100 or more. 24 July, 1752 was the last day Neil Campbell attended the College Board of Meeting and signed the minutes. About 1753 he was struck down by palsy.


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When he became incapacitated, the idea grew that Neil Campbell should remove himself. The principal's house had become dilapidated. At a university meeting the Faculty granted him £20 for providing himself with another house, if the principal's house was not repaired or rebuilt, plus £10 for removal expenses. At first the old man intended to remove to the Drygait, but later he decided to stay put, until he died in the house that had formerly been so stately, convenient and roomy. About 1755-1756 the university decided to extend what remained of the principal's house.


*    *    *


     By his early teens, Duncan's influences had included family involvement in failed rebellion against the English, followed by sycophantic promotion of English interests - which must surely have had a deep effect. All principal Neil's children left Glasgow and searched elsewhere for their livelihood. As an adult, Duncan in his surviving papers made surprisingly few explicit references of a symbolic or emotional kind to his Scots heritage.


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     Duncan had enjoyed a good education, and he probably paid most attention to mathematics and other sciences supporting an aspiring navigator. His later letterbooks contain no content drawn from a classical education. There are no puns, no verbal wit drawn from a knowledge of Greek and Latin classics, no literary allusions in passing, no discussion of the life of the mind. He was of a strictly prosaic, pragmatic turn of mind, and as an adult, most of his attempts in writing at wit or satire were laboured, quite unfunny. Whether he liked scientific experiment, sport, fencing, horseriding, entertainment at the theatre, card games, is not known. As an adult he played golf. ( [10])  Probably, he was a boy who more than anything else would have liked a telescope. He wanted to go to sea.


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     In spiritual life, the long concern in his environment over heresy eating away at the roots of Presbyterianism may have been an influence. Since he spent his life dealing with convicts, some comment seems useful on spiritual life. Campbell dwelt consistently and seriously on Providence. The reader of his letters is constantly reminded of the Lord addressed by Job - "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord". For Campbell, Providence figured heavily - but there are no references to Christianity, nor to love of the Son of God who gained Redemption for humanity with His sacrifice, our Saviour. It seems Duncan became a Deist. When he lived at Blackheath, London, in the 1780s, various of his neighbours were as fond of golf as Duncan was - and at least one of them, alderman George Mackenzie Macaulay, was a Deist. ( [11])


     In 1738, David Hume began to write philosophy, and as he wrote, controversy raged about an alarming list of heresies. The errors and blasphemies of the day included Arianism, Erastianism, Lutheranism, Brownism, Quakerism, Deism, Socinianism, Baxterism, Arminianism, Anabaptism, Millennarianism, Pelagianism, Campbellianism, and Independency. ( [12]) Free thinking and choice in religious life disturbed the kind of people who compiled such lists.


      It is possible then that hearing adults around him argue profoundly about a Christian heresy, and questioning whether Jesus was a Divine Person, or not, eroded Duncan's Christian faith to some extent. For Duncan the adult, the spiritual entity before whom one felt awe was Providence. This should be mentioned, because Campbell's long experience with handling convicts does not seem to have been personally motivated by any harshly puritanical or Calvinistic views he held about sin, punishment, redemption, afterlife, or fire and brimstone. In dealing with convicted criminals, he seems to have had no urge to express any spiritual or physical sadism, and he expressed no views about any convicts seemingly lacking remorse for evils done. As a public servant with power over convicts put to hard labour, Campbell seems to have had no sense that he was, in his spiritual life, any self-appointed agent. He was too prosaic to behave like any stern moralist sent to exercise the wrath of the Almighty on the malefactor after being given a starring role by government in a national morality play. If Campbell had been such a stern agent, dispensing wrath-of-the-law, he would have become much more a fit subject for literature about febrile themes of Crime and Punishment than he ever became. Certainly, he fails to suit the prejudices most Australian might have about "a hulks keeper".


     It seems, that if Campbell the convict contractor had felt himself to be some self-appointed agent of the Justice of the Lord, he might well have become known for it in London after 1776, and inspired a character in literature created by some keen observer of London life. In fact, the pitiless, cold-eyed prison turnkey did become a stock, cliché, figure in the literature of the Eighteenth Century, as in William Godwin's novel, Caleb Williams. And in such literature, transportation was often referred to because it happened so often. But Campbell himself, well-known in his day, inspired no literature except jibes and contempt from journalists.


     History apart, this speaks of two matters - Campbell's own spiritual life, and the fact that the way he conducted his life did not make him conspicuous enough as a figure, or extreme enough, to inspire a lasting character in any literature created in London. This means he was ordinary. In the final analysis, many Londoners would have disagreed little  with his actions or his reasons for them. Which implies that in his attitudes, or, his ideology, he typified the mores and codes of his day. He melded with social reality, and as part of the social fabric he did not stand out in the design. Which means that, generally, his company would have been found agreeable enough. So if he became the Thames hulksmaster, it was because someone had to do it.


*     *     *


     People whose company is generally found agreeable enough often take much around them for granted. For such people, there is little in life that requires deep analysis. No delving into history, or theology. No deeply prayerful life. No profound or superstitious wish to read the future, or signs, or portents. No wide concern for the welfare of humanity. No necessity to conduct concerted political protest. Possibly, no real poetry or any acutely-felt sense of the dance or the suffering of life. There is no need to become intense; and a quiet life may be a reward for virtue in itself. So some indication of what Duncan Campbell could have taken for granted will be useful.


*    *    *


[Finis Chapter 5]

Chapter 5 words 3386 words and footnotes 3706  pages 8 footnotes 13.

[1] George Mackaness, The Life of Vice-Admiral William Bligh, RN, FRS. Two Vols. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1931. Gavin Kennedy, Bligh. Duckworth, London, 1978.


[2] W. J. Addison, (Ed.), Roll of the Graduates of the University of Glasgow. Dec. 1727 to Dec. 1897. Glasgow, Maclehose and Sons, 1898.

[3] Thomas M. Devine, The Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their trading activities, 1740-1790. Edinburgh, Donald, 1975., pp. 8ff. Devine explains the apprenticeship of the aspiring young merchant who was often being trained to manage a store in Virginia or Maryland. David Gavine, 'Navigation and Astronomy Teachers in Scotland outside the Universities'. The Mariner's Mirror, Vol. 76, 1990., pp. 3-12.

[4] W. J. Addison, (Ed.), Roll of the Graduates of the University of Glasgow.

[5] W. J. Addison, (Ed), Roll of the Graduates of the University of Glasgow.

[6] P. G. M. Dickson, The Sun Insurance Office, 1710-1960: The History of Two and a Half Centuries of British Insurance. London, Oxford University Press, 1960., p. 279.

[7] See Addison, Glasgow Roll of Graduates, p. 689, Prof. John Simson (heretic) Prof. Divinity 1708-1740 born circa 1668, Ma Edinburgh, 1692, librarian of Glasgow University in 1696, died 2 February, 1740.

[8] In Henry Gray Graham, Scottish Men of Letters in the Eighteenth Century. London, Adam and Charles Black, 1901., there is no mention of principal Neil Campbell or Betham.

[9] This was presumably Dunbar Douglas-Hamilton (1722-1799), fourth Earl Selkirk. GEC, Peerage, Selkirk, p. 618.

[10] Dan Byrnes, 'The Blackheath Connection: London Local History and the Settlement at New South Wales, 1786-1806', The Push: A Journal of Early Australian Social History, No. 28, 1990., pp. 50-98. There is not, however, a single mention of golfing in London in Campbell's surviving papers.

[11] This impression is gained from various entries in Macaulay's journal, which will be discussed in detail in later chapters.

[12] John Watson, The Scot of the Eighteenth Century: His Religion and his Life. Falcroft Library Editions, 1976., p. 32.

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