Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Campbell, John Francis

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CAMPBELL, JOHN FRANCIS (1822–1885), of Islay, writer on highland folklore, geology, and meteorology, eldest son of Walter Frederick Campbell of Islay, by his first wife, Lady Eleanor Charteris, eldest daughter of Francis, seventh earl of Wemyss, was born on 29 Dec. 1822. He was educated at Eton and .the university of Edinburgh. For some time he was a groom-in-waiting, and he occupied various posts connected with the government among others, those of secretary to the lighthouse commission and secretary to the coal commission. He died at Cannes on 17 Feb. 1885.

Campbell devoted a great portion of his leisure to the collection of folklore tales in the western highlands. For this purpose he was in the habit of mixing with the natives in free and easy intercourse, so as to gain their complete confidence, and thus induce them to relate to him stories which the uneducated are so diffident in telling to strangers. In this manner he collected a large number of the traditional mährchen of the district, which he published under the title, ' Popular Tales of the West Highlands orally collected, with a Translation,' 4 vols. 1860-2. Campbell was also a keen observer of nature, and devoted much attention to geology and meteorology, his studies in which gained much benefit by his foreign travel. In 1865 he published 'Frost and Fire, Natural Engines, Toolmarks and Chips, with Sketches taken at home and abroad by a Traveller.' He was the inventor of the sunshine recorder for indicating the varying intensity of the sun's rays, and in 1883 he published a book on 'Thermography.' In 1863 he published anonymously a work by his father, entitled 'Life in Normandy: Sketches of French Fishing, Farming, Cooking, Natural History, and Politics, drawn from Nature,' and in 1865 'A Short American Tramp in the Fall of 1864, by the Editor of "Life in Normandy."' In 1872 he began to issue a series of Gaelic texts under the title, 'Leabhair na Fenine.' He left behind him a large number of volumes dealing with Celtic folklore.

[Burke's Landed Gentry, i. 257; W. S. Ralston, in Athenæum, 1885, i.250; Academy, 1885, xxvii. 151.]

T. F. H.