Is there a connection between Burness and Campbell of Argyll?

Clan Campbell Crest

Clan Campbell Crest

We have been having an email conversation with someone looking into whether Burness is indeed associated with Campbell of Argyll. In Books such as ‘Tartan for Me’ it does link Burness with Campbell, but we have seen no written evidence to prove this. So where does it come from?


John Burness from The One Name Study ‘Burness Geneaology and Familly History’ has commented:

“There is no truth to the supposed connection between the Burness family and Campbell. The story originated with an application by Sir James Burnes for a coat of arms, in which he included the Campbell arms based on an account he received from a cousin who had heard the story from an elderly Burness many years previous to that. Upon further investigation of his family Sir James found that the “facts” in this story couldn’t be true and applied for a new coat of arms omitting the Campbell arms.”

It would be interesting to hear if anyone else has done any research in this area.

About Amanda Moffet

I run with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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6 thoughts on “Is there a connection between Burness and Campbell of Argyll?

  1. Ian R. Gerrard

    I am interested in finding out more about my family tree. I too believed there was a link between Burness and Campbell.

    A few notes here from the female side of my paternal family tree:-

    Walter Campbell of Argyle, born 1590, alias Walter Burness – James Burness of Bralinmuir son, born 1656 married M. Margaret Fulmer – James Burness of Glenbervie, born 1690 – Thomas Burnes* born 1728 married Sarah ? – Thomas Burnes born 1759 married in 1785 Mary ? – Thomas Burnes born 1792 married Hulse ? – Mary Burnes married H Willley – Emily Willey married E Butcher – Emily May Butcher born 1881 (My Grandmother) married on 11-03-1902 Joseph Gerrard born Toxteth Liverpool.

    * Spelling change from Burness to Burnes.
    Simple & brief but there it is. I may be able to find the missing names some time.

    If anyone can help me extend my family tree I would love to hear from them.

    • Brian Burness

      There is a legend that Walter Campbell of Loch Awe was cutting wood by his small abode, when two travelling bards came by. The custom was that if the bards requested food and shelter for the night, the host should oblige. However Walter Campbell was not endeared to these travellers, so when his axe got trapped in a log while cutting firewood, he asked the two visitors to help release the axe by pulling the log apart. Campbell was to force a wedge into the log, but instead he tricked them and trapped their hands instead. He then made them promise to move on somewhere else in return for releasing their hands. The bards did so willingly, burt on their journey they bad-mouthed Walter Campbell so much, that the rest of the local clan ostrocised him for bringing bad luck on the neighbourhood. Walter was then said to eventually move away to the east coast near Stonehaven and changed his name to Burness. Some say he was originally known as ‘Campbell of Burn House’, which may explain the name Burness.
      There is also a mention of a De Burness family, Norman conquerors in the Domseday Book. Some settled at a garrison in North Yorkshire (Burneston)., some ended up near Carlisle and others may have crossed the borders into Scotland. Who knows for sure?

    • Melissa Todd- clan gordon /campbell/ stweart/burns

      Yes, I found the connection with Sir Walter 1st Campbell of Burnhouse Burness. born 1586 in Scotland.

  2. Norman Burns

    I am a descendant (12 generations) of Walter Burness, born about 1615 in Kincardine, Scotland, died November 1670, Bogjorgen, Glenbervie, Kincardine, Scotland. He married Isobel Grieg. I am loking for genealogy of Walter Burness and prior (who he descended from). Through secondary sources I have always read that the Burns family was part of the Campbell Clan, is this a correct?

  3. Steven Burness

    Indeed we are of clan Campbell. When Scotland turned from Catholic to Protestant and at war with those of the catholic faith all the protestant families were governed by the Campbell family. There were several other clans we were affiliated to one being the Isaacs and those being of the catholic faith were governed by the MacDonalds. (Research the battle of Glencoe) I do have a lot more information in regard to our heritage so please feel free to email me.

  4. James Burns

    Would love to know any factual claims to the Burns name being affiliated to the Campbell clan. Are the Burns Family allowed to wear the Campbell Tartan?.My Father was James Burns,as was My Grandfather , who I remember as a child having a Scottish accent.


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