One man’s collection

​John Lorne Campbell’s Lepidoptera specimens are a collection within a collection. It is the result of a lifetime’s passion and is an invaluable record of Hebridean butterflies and moths.

From the age of 10, John diligently recorded the moths and butterflies he saw in the surrounding meadows and marshes of his family’s estate in Argyll. His childhood notebook, still in Canna House, lists purple hairstreaks, red and black Cinnabar moths, and orange and brown marsh fritillaries.

John Lorne Campbell caught around 120,000 specimens during his lifetime, and over 300 different species are preserved in more than 30 cabinets and drawers at Canna House. His systematic research on Hebridean moths and butterflies is unique, beginning on Barra in 1936 and continuing on Canna from 1938.


Dr John Lorne Campbell admires a crayfish on Canna
Dr John Lorne Campbell admires a crayfish on Canna

A unique record

Campbell’s Lepidoptera collection mainly consists of specimens from the islands of Barra and Canna, together with a handful of exotic examples from overseas. His research is invaluable as few people have attempted to record Lepidoptera over such an extended period using standardised methods, such as the mercury vapour moth trap.

The collection and its associated data represent a unique environmental record, and is of great interest to scientists. Comparing Dr Campbell’s published records and notebooks to modern-day finds may help to assess the impact of environmental change both on the islands and more widely across Scotland.

We are keen to improve public access to the Canna House Lepidoptera collection. Unfortunately, due to its fragile nature, it will not be possible to allow physical access to the collection in the future. Our specialists have been looking at alternatives, with digital access being the most exciting and likely option. 

More than a job

Magda Sagarzazu first came to Canna as a child in 1961 with her father Saturnino, a lifelong friend of John Lorne Campbell. 

Canna House became a home from home for Magda, after she spent many holidays on the island. She would later return to help Dr Campbell in cataloguing his collection. Magda stayed on as archivist for Canna House after John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw passed away.

The Archivist’s Tale