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The 1692 Massacre of Glencoe, Scotland — History is Now Magazine, Podcasts, Blog and Books

O Cruel is the Snow

That sweeps Glencoe

And covers the Grave O Donald

And merciless was the foe

That raped Glencoe

And murdered the House of MacDonald

The Corries, The Massacre of Glencoe.

Scottish historical past is particularly marked by tragedy, slaughter, and violence. From the arrival of the Roman Legions to Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s sick fated try to recuperate the throne of his father within the 1745 Uprising. With no scarcity of excessive violence it is a marvel that this specific occasion receives a larger diploma of notoriety. The actuality is all too disturbing in that this authorities sanctioned bloodbath was actually homicide below belief. For virtually two weeks troopers ate, drank, exchanged tales, and performed video games with the boys, ladies and youngsters who agreed to quarter them in accordance with the sacred legal guidelines of hospitality so prevalent in Scottish Highland tradition. To betray this was a mortal sin. In a horrific show of treachery, troopers of the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot who then had been billeted in settlements working up and down the glen started to ruthlessly butcher their hosts as per the orders of their commanding officers. The individuals of Glencoe had been victims of a maniacal political plot designed to effectively instill concern and command obedience of the customarily problematic clans. The Massacre of Glencoe contributed considerably to a brand new wave of Jacobitism enormously affecting British politics for the subsequent half of the century. To this present day the bloodbath is commemorated in Glencoe, the place small crowds collect round an evocative monument honoring the victims who had been killed in chilly blood of their houses and beds while a February blizzard howled.


In 1692 Glencoe was inhabited by a department of Clan Donald. Control of the glen was granted to the MacDonalds following Robert the Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn in 1314. For centuries Clan Donald dominated a maritime empire encompassing the Hebrides and different Western Isles along with a good portion of the mainland. Over the years Clan Donald’s preeminence as probably the most highly effective clan throughout the Western Highlands and Isles had been waning. The Macdonalds of Glencoe had been a quite impoverished sept, usually resorting to raiding towards their wealthier neighbors as a way of survival. They had been regarded by many as a persistent nuisance particularly by the Campbells in close by Argyll.

The present Chief of the Glencoe Macdonals was Alisdair Ruadh MacIan MacDonald, identified to his contemporaries as MacIan, the hereditary title of the chiefs. By now MacIan was an previous man believed to have been in his sixties. His individuals lived in settlements alongside the River Coe and most likely numbered about 5 hundred.

The seventeenth century was a tumultuous time in Scotland. The nation was almost torn aside by a collection of rebellions, civil wars, and regime adjustments because the nation turned drawn more and more throughout the orbit of her bigger neighbor to the south, England. Following the Glorious Revolution, William of Orange and his spouse Mary ousted the final Stuart King James the Second after the decisive Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. With William now King and James in exile, the advanced geopolitical panorama of the day shifted drastically as William’s major concern was the security and properly being of his native Netherlands who was constantly drawn into battle with a bellicose France below Louis the 14th. Many Highland chiefs together with MacIan had been supporters of the Stuart trigger and at the moment discovered themselves in a clumsy state of royal allegiance. King William shrewdly deferred to his ministers in each London and Edinburgh, granting them sway in greatest cope with the nettlesome clans, most of whom had been desperate to assuage prior hostilities. In August of 1691 the federal government supplied the clans exoneration as long as they swear an allegiance to the brand new King William earlier than the tip of the yr. Some of the clan chiefs opted to delay their submissions for numerous causes, some of whom like MacIan demanded some type of clarification from James the Second, now in exile.

Although James did ultimately consent to the chiefs submitting their oaths, phrase wouldn’t attain MacIan till near the tip of the deadline. On December thirty first in a treacherous snowstorm MacIan crossed the mountains to Inverlochy, immediately Fort William, to declare his allegiance. Informed by the commanding officer John Hill that he was unable to obtain MacIan’s compliance, MacIan  thus turned compelled to journey to Inverary in Argyll many days’ experience to the south and after the deadline. MacIan was determined. Likely weeping on behalf of his individuals his oath was ultimately accepted on the sixth of January by Sir Colin Campbell. MacIan then returned to Glencoe, seemingly assured of security and authorities safety. Little did he know that his tardiness would have deadly penalties for himself and his individuals.


For John Dalrypmple, First Earl of Stair, MacIan’s delayed oath was the catalyst he wanted to enact a harsh and vindictive coverage of capitulation. Unbeknownst to the clans, the Crown now had the required impetus for retribution. Despite the truth that sure clans such because the MacDonalds of Glengarry(Cousins of Glencoe) had but to swear their oaths, the federal government now had their very best prey, The MacDonalds of Glencoe.

Glencoe’s terrain makes it a pure fortress however likewise a jail. It may be simply sealed off from a couple of approaches and with only a few males. The MacDonalds weren’t quite a few in eligible combating males and maintained no fortified hold or citadel. They likewise had been within the epicenter of Lochaber, a area lengthy related to notably troublesome clans.

The man chosen to hold out this macabre job is a curious one. Robert Campbell of Glenlyon was sixty years of age. Poverty-stricken along with being an inveterate drunk and gambler, Glenlyon had entered navy service as an previous man most likely as a way to repay his large money owed. Being properly linked to the highly effective Clan Campbell, he was in a position to get hold of a fee as Captain of the Duke of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot. In 1692 the cream of the military was overseas in Flanders and treasured few males had been accessible to pacify troublesome districts such because the Highlands. Glenlyon’s command served a twin function except for the orders he would quickly obtain. Knowing full properly that the duty of slaying the MacDonalds would invite mass condemnation, the federal government now had the right scapegoat in Glenlyon, a person with seemingly little or no to lose. In addition, Clan Campbell and Clan Donald maintained a bitter and well-known rivalry that permeated over the centuries. This may merely be spun as yet one more brutal incident between rival clans.

At the tip of January 1692, two firms of roughly 100 and twenty males below Glenlyon entered Glencoe. Surely their sudden strategy would have triggered confusion in addition to suspicion prompting the MacDonalds to stow away any weapons of their possession. Glenlyon issued quartering papers to John MacDonald, eldest son of MacIan stating that there was no area within the fort at Inverlochy to accommodate his males who had been quickly to march on MacDonald of Glengarry. Hospitality was a sacred obligation inside Highland tradition. So a lot in order that it was acknowledged and practiced even amongst feuding clans. Furthermore, offering billeting for the King’s troopers was usually a accountability of topics in lieu of taxation. Whether the Fort was at capability or not stays unsure however MacIan absolutely was desperate to show his loyalty to King William. And what higher approach than to host the King’s troopers.

The individuals of Glencoe lived in small settlements or townships all through the Glen from the mouth of Loch Leven to Achtriachtan. Soldiers would seemingly have been billeted in small teams of three to 5 within the numerous crofts and farmhouses. Glenlyon’s selection of quartering is peculiar, inviting hypothesis that he could or could not have had prior data of the order wherein he could be obliged to hold out. Instead of lodging at MacIan’s spacious and properly furnished residence at Carnoch, near Loch Leven, Glenlyon selected as a substitute to reside at Inverrigan, roughly the middlemost of the townships. This would function the perfect command submit if and when a navy operation was to be undertaken. In any case, Glenlyon discovered himself a frequent visitor of MacIan evening after evening ingesting himself virtually unconscious. The troopers equally loved what little choices the individuals of Glencoe supplied within the midst of winter. For virtually two weeks the troopers drilled and would spend their leisure hours sharing meals and drink with their hosts, who in any other case could have been seen as enemies.

Orders arrive

On the twelfth of February orders had arrived from Major Duncanson to Glenlyon as he sat enjoying playing cards with two of MacIan’s sons(MacIan’s youngest son Alasdair Og was married to Glenlyon’s neice) when the grim order arrived.

You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebells, the McDonalds of Glenco, and put all to the sword below seventy. you might be to have a speciall care that the previous Fox and his sones doe upon no account escape your palms, you might be to safe all of the avenues that no man escape. This you might be to putt in execution attfyve of the clock exactly; and by that point, or very shortly after it, I’ll try to be att you with a stronger social gathering: if I doe not come to you att fyve, you aren’t to tarry for me, however to fall on. This is by the Kings speciall command, for the nice & security of the Country, that these miscreants be cutt off root and department. See that this be putt in execution with out feud or favour, else you might anticipate to be handled as one not true to King nor Government, nor a person fitt to hold Commissione within the Kings service. Expecting you’ll not faill within the full-filling hereof, as you like your selfe, I subscribe these with my hand att Balicholis Feb: 12, 1692.

Glenlyon proceeded to dismiss himself from his visitors with out giving freely the slightest suspicion. He declared that he and his command had been directly to march towards Glengarry and that there was a lot to be executed.

As the inform story indicators of a blizzard swelled within the skies above Glencoe orders started to be discreetly handed all the way down to the troopers informing them of their orders. It is broadly assumed that the Highland troopers throughout the ranks had been horrified upon receiving their orders wherein they had been obliged to execute. Some said that they bore no transgressions upon assembly the MacDonalds in a good combat however objected to the easy and horrifying reality admitting that their job was nothing greater than homicide.


As the early winter darkness started to set in and the inhabitants of Glencoe retired to their crofts, a ferocious blizzard swept via the valley. This was no evening to be within the components, however for the primary time in two weeks an immense quantity of exercise stirred the glen. The troopers had been out and about cleansing their weapons whereas others fastened bayonets. More than one sentry stood guard on the numerous outposts speaking amongst themselves. For Alasdair Og this was an excessive amount of. Already skeptical, he quickly ventured from his heat quarters to MacIan’s house describing with ardent concern his suspicions to his father. MacIan, uncertain of his son’s considerations, dismissed him however gave him permission to additional examine. This he did, arriving at Glenlyon’s headquarters at Inverrigan there discovering the Captain awake and loading his pistols. Expressing his considerations, Alasdair demanded to know why so many troopers had been out and about at a most irregular hour and in such ghastly circumstances. Glenlyon proceeded to ease Alasdair’s reservations by as soon as once more explaining his false orders to march on Glengarry and stating would he actually intend hurt on the household of his niece? While not wholly happy, Glenlyon’s rationalization was sufficient for Alasdair as he returned house. But unbeknownst to him within the very home wherein he had exited, 9 inhabitants sat certain and gagged because the hour of 5 which might greenlight the bloodbath had not but arrived.

The first killings most likely appeared close to Invercoe, the place the River Coe meets Loch Leven. Nearby at MacIan’s house in Carnoch a small group of troopers below Lieutenant Lindsay knocked on the door asking to see MacIan stating that they supposed to be off quickly and wished to thank him for his hospitality. A servant quickly roused MacIan explaining the state of affairs. Not forgetting his manners, MacIan instructed the servant to carry a dram to the troopers as he started to rise from his mattress and gown. Suddenly the troopers compelled into the home and  via the door firing two photographs into MacIan with the killing blow passing via his head.(This was most likely fired by Lindsay) Shortly thereafter his house was looted of valuables because the savage band left. All all through the glen small hearth groups went from home to deal with capturing and butchering their former hosts, scattering livestock, and torching buildings in a coordinated but barbaric effort. It is mentioned that the Lowland troopers took specific delight of their grizzly job having not a look after Highland tradition as they proceeded to violate the sanctified follow of hospitality. Many in Glencoe would have been prematurely woke up by the musket hearth and thought it smart to flee into the close by hills even with out correct clothes or provisions being fully on the mercy of the weather. Both of MacIan’s sons John and Alasdair actually escaped the slaughter, seemingly main many of the refugees away from hurt.

When it was over, it is mentioned that thirty eight individuals of Glencoe lay useless. Although many extra most likely succumbed to the weather, this quantity stays quite small in proportion to the amount of individuals inside Glencoe. Also, the reinforcements from Duncanson and Hamilton arrived late, failing to seal off the exits to the glen thus enabling many extra to flee. Were Duncanson and Hamilton related victims of the climate? Or, did they purposefully delay so as to escape culpability of their dreaded order? Whatever the questions it issues not as MacIan was  useless whereas his home and villages to which he lorded appeared burned and derelict on the first gentle of daybreak, and his individuals now useless or displaced from their houses had fled to the braes.


It was not lengthy earlier than phrase started to unfold of the horrid butchering. Many had been fast in charge the Campbells for this breach in Highland belief with some believing this to be true even within the current day, however this was no distinctive crime of Clan Campbell. The MacDonalds of Glencoe had been made examples of in a most grotesque method, absolutely sanctioned by King William’s Government. In the tip the brief time period aim of the bloodbath had been achieved in that many of the Western Highland clans behaved in a much less belligerent method, although they had been none the extra placated. News of the bloodbath invoked anger amongst many in Scotland, not solely Highlanders. Official commissions of inquiry had been launched however finally no people had been indicted. Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, the supposed offender, had handed away in 1696 in Bruge because the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment had quickly afterwards been posted to Flanders. Many of the escapees would go on to rebuild their houses and crofts trying to reclaim some semblance of their previous lives. MacIan’s physique was discovered and dropped at Eilean Munde, a small island in Loch Leven and the normal burial website of the Glencoe Chiefs. There he rests to this present day, someplace beneath the comfortable floor surrounded by the placid waters and hovering peaks of Glencoe.

What do you suppose of the horrible occasions in Glencoe in 1692? Let us know beneath.


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