How did Robert Campbell lose his boot?
The boot we have on display in our 'Highlanders' case is one of my favourite objects, partly because it is a physical link to one of the darkest events in Scottish history, and partly because of the interesting story behind how the museum acquired it...
The boot was one of many artefacts belonging to Captain Robert Campbell which were discovered in a room in Glenlyon House. There was a mystery surrounding a window which could be seen from outside yet didn’t correspond to any rooms on the inside. Intrigued, the occupants eventually discovered that a room had been blocked off some years previously. When the false wall was removed and the doorway opened, the contents were revealed: the belongings of the notorious Campbell deemed responsible for the Massacre of the MacDonalds of Glencoe. It is believed that Robert Campbell had been staying at Glenlyon House and had left some of his things behind there when he died, penniless and alone, in Bruges in 1696. The then owners of Glenlyon House no longer wished to have anything to do with this now infamous Campbell, so they had the room boarded up with everything inside and never mentioned his name again.
Upon discovering the ‘hidden room’ some years later, the occupants of Glenlyon House allowed the staff of the house to divide all of Campbell’s belongings between themselves. A charwoman (cleaner) from the McGregors of Balnald and her companion chose to take a boot each. Robert Campbell’s boot has been kept by the McGregors ever since, displayed in a cabinet along with the glass jars of leather care substance, before being donated to the museum in 2015.
And before that…well, as a riding boot it may well have borne witness to of the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692.