April 20, 2002 - Glencoe - The Pain Continues

Glencoe, Scotland
The century old feud between the MacDonalds and Campbells lives again through a war of words in Glencoe, Scotland. It all started when a band of Campbell's killed 39 MacDonald's in Glencoe in 1692.

Cheri and I have visited Glencoe twice. Glencoe is one of the most emotional and painful memories we have of Scotland. Cheri's ancestry includes the MacDonalds, for her this issue takes on something even deeper and more personal. For me this is another insensitive affront to Scottish Culture and heritage.

As you stand at the sites where this atrocity took place you can still feel the sourrounding mountains, glens and fields in mourning. It almost like the land is still weeping, mourning those whose blood was spilt that fateful day.

We first went to Glencoe as part of a Traflagar Tour Bus group. One sunny morning we wound up the hills, 45 American's, Aussies, and a few Scots mingled in. NONE of us had any idea what was about to happen.

On the way up the narrow winding pass, what happened at Glencoe was related to us by the tour conductor. It got very, VERY quiet on the bus. By the time we stopped about 3/4's of the way up the pass frm the glen to get outside, the looks on everyone's faces were the same. This site is as somber as a cemetery, it's as sacred as any site of any massacre anywhere in the world. The picture taking was quiet, minimal. Many shed tears. For Cheri it was much, much more than that. Remembering the experience now six years later still brings to the surface these feelings.

Many in Scotland are asking WHY this type of thing continues to be rammed down the throats of Scottish Families. It's still a very big ISSUE to those that have to live on the land, and feel the emotions and feelings of all this.

For many Americans this can be a little dificult to understand - that is why it's so important that you go to Scotland, stand on the land, and FEEL the emotions and perspectives.

The land has has not forgotten what happened that fateful day - it's very surprising that some have. For those not familiar with the Scottish Ballad "Massacre of Glencoe" words and musiccopyright by Jim McLean - Published 1963 Duart Music - (lyrics used by permission of the author), the song describes a Massacre that occurred in 1692

"They came from Fort William with murder in mind,
the Campbell had orders, King William had signed,
put all to the sword, these words underlined,
leave no one alive called MacDonald."

The songs refrain says ...

"Cruel is the snow that sweeps Glencoe,
And covers the grave of Donald,
And cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald."

To those that mean to manage this heritage site, and are responsible for this act - SHAME ON YOU!

The following is a Daily Telegraph Article Posted in Scotland -

Campbell provokes a war of words in Glencoe - By Tom Peterkin

Thecenturies-old feud between the MacDonalds and the Campbells was reignited yesterday when a Campbell was made head of a visitor centre commemorating the Glencoe massacre.

Roddy Campbell is to be manager of the new 3 million centre at the scene of one of the bloodiest episodes in Scottish history, where his clan put 38 MacDonalds to the sword in 1692.

Although more than 300 years have elapsed since government soldiers led by the Campbells carried out the atrocity, the massacre still provokes strong emotions in the Highlands.

The appointment of Mr Campbell to head the National Trust for Scotland's centre, which opens in May, has provoked a war of words.

Hector MacDonald, an expert in Highland history, said: "I honestly do not believe it. Only a quango could think up something like this. It is amazing. Perhaps this Government-led quango thinks it can build bridges with the Glencoe community."

She added: "Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against the Campbells, but I would not stay a night in the company of one."

The mass murder was committed after the Campbells had accepted shelter and hospitality from the MacDonalds. Many of the victims were killed as they slept.

Glencoe, ScotlandThe pretext was that the MacDonalds had failed to swear allegiance to the Crown after the overthrow of James VII and II.

Drew McFarlane Slack, a Glencoe councillor, said: "I am glad that a manager has been appointed. But perhaps before he arrives Mr Campbell could consider changing his name by deed poll to something more sympathetic to the area."

He added: "I do know the history and there are still some very strong feelings about the massacre here."

Simon Walton, a spokesman for the National Trust for Scotland, said: "Roddy was selected because he is the best man for the job. His name did not come into it."

More on The Glencoe Massacre

In the early hours of a bitterly cold February morning in 1692, the snow covered valley of Glencoe was stained with the blood of members of the unsuspecting MacDonalds Clan. One of the worst atrocities in the history of the Highlands, the Massacre of Glencoe, had been carried out by order of King William III.

At the end of August 1691, the king published a proclamation offering amnesty to the highlanders who had fought for James VII (&II), conditional upon their swearing an oath of allegiance before the first of January, and on penalty of military execution after that date.

The taking of such an oath must have seemed to someone lacking a sense of honour, a relatively simple task to which there could be no impediment other than obstinacy. But, to the Highlanders, there was more than just the distasteful matter of their submission to the English Crown. The Jacobite clans had already sworn an oath of allegiance to King James, now in exile in France. A second oath to King William could clearly have no meaning unless James could be persuaded to release them from the first.

Ambassadors were sent to await the exiled King's decision, a decision which was not forthcoming until December 12, only 19 days before the amnesty was due to expire. It would take nine days for the ambassador to journey back to Edinburgh and then several more before messengers could reach the first of the chieftains.

It was no earlier than December 29 before Alexander MacDonald, clan chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, received word that King James had considered the safety of the clans and that they were all discharged of their allegiance to him. In common with other chiefs who had supported the Jacobite cause, MacDonald, with immeasurable reluctance, resolved to accept the amnesty and swear his allegiance to King William.

Aonach Eagach, Glencoe, ScotlandDue to bad weather and confusing circumstances on his way, the chief of the MacDonalds was six days late in signing the oath. The Minister of Scotland, the Master of Stair, used this as an excuse to set an example, helped along by the arch-enemies of the MacDonalds, the Campbells.

The land of Glencoe is considered the least fertile in the Highlands and this may have been one of the reasons the MacDonalds of Glencoe were considered rebels and cattle thieves. Many clans, not least the neighbouring Campbells, had long standing scores to settle with them. The opportunity was seized when by the "special command" of King William, a Campbell regiment was ordered to "fall upon the rebels, the MacDonalds of Glencoe and put all to the sword under seventy."

Prior to executing the warrant, a party of Argyle's regiment of 120 men, under the command of Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, was ordered to proceed to Glencoe, and take up quarters there until the end of January or the beginning of February.

In order to persuade the MacDonalds that this military force presented no threat to them, an explanation was contrived to the effect that their sole purpose in being in Glencoe was to collect arrears of taxes in the surrounding area and that they sought convenient quarters to enable them to perform that duty.

Having given their word that they came as friends and that no harm would be done to the person or properties of the chief and his tenants, they and their men were made welcome by the MacDonalds and given free lodgings in the villages throughout the glen. For 12 days, they were entertained by Glencoe, his family and his people.

Then, on February 13, 1692, after accepting hospitality and friendship, the massacre was carried out. Thirty-eight people - including two women, two children and the old chief - were murdered while over 300 fled to the surrounding hills.

Throughout the glen, men were dragged from their beds and murdered. The soldiers torched the houses as they went, and a scene of the most heart-rending description ensued. Ejected from their burning homes, women of all ages, some almost in a state of nudity, the old and the frail, mothers carrying infants and some with helpless children clinging to them, were seen wending their way into the mountains in a piercing snow storm. One by one, they were overcome by fatigue and exposure and, before any shelter could be reached, many of them perished miserably in the snow.

Many contend that the notoriety of the massacre still lingers because one of the most sacred covenants of Highland hospitality was abused. It is to the eternal shame of Glenlyon that, after almost a fortnight of living under the roof of MacDonalds, after sharing their table, while the drink, the wit and the conversation flowed, that he carried out his barbaric slaughter.

Glencoe, ScotlandIn every quarter, even at court, the account of the massacre was received with horror and indignation. The ministry and even King William grew alarmed and, to pacify the people, he appointed a commission of enquiry to investigate the affair. In his defense, King William explained that he had signed the execution order among a mass of other papers, without knowing its contents.

The commissioners, however, seem to have taken the view that, since the orders were both signed and countersigned by His Majesty, the public would not readily accept that as credible. The explanation which they put forward was even less credible, but deliberately so. In barefaced defiance of reason, they claimed that there was nothing in the King's instructions to warrant the slaughter. Public outrage was replaced by utter bewilderment.

At some point, the fiction was then ventured that the massacre was merely the result of a long standing feud over stolen cows between the Campbell and the MacDonald clans. This finally deflected the attention away from the dishonour and the barbarity of the military exercise as a subject of public concern and all was well, once again.

Although the commission blamed the Secretary of State Sir John Dalrymple for the atrocity, neither he nor any of the other participants were ever brought to trial, for the obvious reason that they would have cited, in their defense, the King's orders. The myth of the "Campbells and MacDonalds" falls far short of the truth but, like all mythology, it is not without foundation.

Michael L. Jex