Dr John Campbell (1791-1873), physician and surgeon who served the people of Largs for 61 years.

On the 14th of May, 1873, Dr John Campbell, physician and surgeon to the people of Largs for 61 years, died at his home in Gallowgate Street, Largs. In his memory the people of Largs erected the Campbell Memorial fountain.

The Fountain at Broomfield

John Campbell was born 13 November 1791 in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, the first of three known children born to parents William Campbell and Janet Hunter. His siblings were Margaret, born 05 April 1795 and William, born 15 May 1796. His parents were married on 21 November 1790 in Lochwinnoch.

John became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh in 1811 and soon after moved to Largs where he set up his practice. He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London in 1813, and a Fellow of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1816 before graduating from Glasgow University with an MD (Doctor of Medicine) in 1830. During his career Dr Campbell corresponded with Scottish Victorian notables such as Sir Charles Bell, who discovered the difference between sensory nerves and motor nerves and Dr John Abercrombie, who wrote the first textbook on neuropathology.

In 1815 Dr Campbell had a house built for him next to the Parish Church of St. Columba in Gallowgate Street, Largs. A year later on 27 April 1816, he married Margaret Fyfe in Lochwinnoch. They settled in Largs and had three children: John Fyfe, born 09 February 1817; William, born 25 January 1818 and Margaret Jamieson, born 25 April 1819. Tragedy was to strike this young family. Margaret Campbell, née Fyfe died 16 September 1819, aged 27, and is buried in Skelmorlie Aisle Churchyard, Largs, with her infant children John and Margaret.

On 18 November 1823 Dr John Campbell married Marjory Richardson in Barony, Glasgow. They had one daughter, Janet (Jessie) Hunter, born 08 May 1825 in Largs. The 1841 census reveals that Dr John and Marjorie Campbell are living at Gallowgate Street, Largs with their children William, aged 20 and Janet Hunter aged 15. William was following in his father’s footsteps and had become a surgeon.

Marjorie Campbell, née Richardson died on 22 December 1853 in Largs, and was buried in Skelmorlie Aisle churchyard, Largs. Dr John Campbell died on 14 May 1873, 11.20pm at Gallowgate Street, Largs, aged 81. He was buried in Haylie Brae cemetery, Largs.

His son William had a large pillar-style headstone erected over his grave. This headstone also provides information on what happened to both of Dr. John’s surviving children. His son William, a surgeon, became the Deputy Inspector General H.M. India Army (Bombay). He died on 19 September 1892 at Folkestone, Kent. William married Emilia Beach on 12 June 1844 in Bombay, India, and they had eight children: Evan Fraser, born 1845 Bombay; Mary Hunter, born 1846 Persia; Margaret Fyfe, born 1847 Persia; John Hunter, born 1848 Bombay; James, born 1850 Maharashtra, India; Emilia Jane Fraser, born 1853 Bombay; Sophia Hastings, born 1855 Bombay and William, born 11 October 1858, Largs, Scotland. Their youngest son William died on 11 October 1880 at Pecu, Lower Burma.

On 01 June 1858 Dr John’s daughter Jessie Hunter married Dr Robert Kirkwood in Largs. They had four children: Jessie Richardson, born 08 November 1859; John Campbell, born 1861; Helen Boyle, born 26 November 1862 and Mabel Marjorie, born 28 February 1865. Dr Robert Kirkwood also had a practice in Largs for several years. The Kirkwood’s lost their youngest daughter Mabel in 1870, aged five. Their son John Campbell Kirkwood died at Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia on 08 August 1888, aged 27. Jessie Hunter Kirkwood, nee Campbell died 11 July 1885 at the Royal Asylum, Morningside, Edinburgh from cardiac disease. At the time of her death her husband still lived in Largs.

Following Dr John Campbell’s death, the people of Largs raised money by subscription to build a water fountain in his memory. By September 1874 they had raised £508 19s & 6d. The memorial fountain was erected in January 1878 on the esplanade opposite the original Parish Church of St. Columba, Gallowgate Street, Largs, at a cost of £550.

The architect was John Honeyman of Glasgow and the sculptor was James Wright of Aberdeen. Built from Aberdeen and Peterhead granite, the fountain stands 15 feet high with a 14 feet square base. The large basin, measuring approximately 15 feet in diameter, stands upon a massive column of red granite, supported by four smaller columns, at each corner. A column rises approximately three feet from the centre of the large basin, to support a smaller basin which measures 3 feet in diameter. The finial sculpted from gun metal rises from the centre of this small basin another 2 ½ feet. The fountain bears the inscription “The people of Largs to John Campbell, for 61 years their beloved physician. Born 1791; Died 1873.”

In March 1881 the fountain was moved to its present site in Mackerston Place, Largs. The cost of moving the memorial fountain was paid for by an anonymous wealthy donor.

Dr John Campbell’s papers are held by the ‘Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow’ Archive, 232-242 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RJ.