Iconic site on Islay with Slavery connections

by Rev Y Gooljary

Portnahaven Church Islay and the round Church Bowmore including the village at Bowmore were built on land owned by Daniel Campbell who traded in goods produced from the slavery economy.

the round church in whitewashed walls with graveyard around it
The Round Church (Kilarrow Parish Church), Bowmore, Islay © Copyright G Laird and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Source: Plantation slavery and landownership in the west Highlands and Islands: legacies and lessons, Dr Iain MacKinnon & Dr Andrew Mackillop, November 2020.

I am calling on the the Islay Round Church and village and connected HES or NTS websites to :CARE

Institutions are called upon to engage with C.A.R.E.
C commemorate the link and history remembering the suffering.

A acknowledge the historical fact by physical installation in the building or land concerned .

R research and list and identify the land or buildings involved

E educate and training how we are to relate to these issues and instigate training in unconscious bias at all levels in the organisation or institution and identify examples of institutional racism to tackle’’

On the Round Church historic website the only reference to Campbell is:

‘The identity of the architect used by Campbell is not known for certain’

The family held Islay until 1848.
Following Campbell’s lead, more than 40 significant beneficiaries of the profits of slavery bought estates in the west Highlands and Islands.’’ Source Dr McKinnon’s research. I am in regular contact with him on these issues.

The grandson who inherited Daniel Campbell’s estate was 16 at the time. So all of his money came from Daniel Campbell’s slavery connection . Whatever was built between 1726-153 was by Daniel Campbell eg Kilarrow House .

As part of his plans for improvements at Islay House, Daniel Campbell the Younger initiated the construction of the new village in 1770, just after the completion of the new Kilarrow Parish Church, which was built in a unique circular shape. The old village of Kilarrow and its church dedicated to St Maelrhuba, were then demolished, and its residents were relocated to the new village of Bowmore. Kilarrow Old Churchyard still exists close to the site of the former village.

Daniel Campbell began to expand Kilarrow House in 1737, realising its significance at the centre of life on Islay. He built 3 storeys. 2 wings in 1737. In 1737 he extended Kilarrow House, principally to house his extended family. Interested in the economic development of the island and realising the need to diversify its economic base, he encouraged the growth of the flax industry, investing considerable sums in its promotion, and attempted to diversify land management practice by offering tenants longer leases.
The origins of the ornamental designed landscape appear to date from the activities of his two grandsons. As all of Campbell’s three sons predeceased him, his grandson Daniel Campbell inherited the estates in 1753 at the age of sixteen.

See : Plantation slavery and landownership in the west Highlands and Islands: legacies and lessons: Dr Iain MacKinnon & Dr Andrew Mackillop
November 2020
Report ANNEX containing report datasets and references
This annex contains seven sections: including a note on Daniel Campbell and his purchases of Islay.

ED’s Note:

See also: Round Church in Bowmore – A Brief history


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1 reply »

  1. Rev. Gooljary’s article on Islay’s slavery connections is very interesting to those of us in the USA who are learning more of the history of enslaved people and their unwilling contribution to wealth on both sides of the Atlantic. Thank you for publishing this.

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