Culture

Massacre of Glencoe #OnThisDay

On 13th of February 1692 Campbell of Glenlyon and his men murdered the MacDonalds of Glencoe.

Campbell of Glenlyon led a group of some 128 soldiers who stayed with the MacDonalds for some 12 days and then turned on their hosts in the early morning of 13th February, killing 38 of them whilst some tried to escape into the snowy hills.  The infamy of the massacre is “murder under trust”, murder of those who had offered them hospitality.

Glencoe Massacre

The monarchs of England, Scotland and Ireland were William III and Mary II. They had come to be on the throne of the countries because Mary was the eldest daughter of James, Duke of York, (James VII of Scotland, James II of England). When Charles II died there was a mad and violent scramble for the throne of these two Kingdoms because Charles had no legitimate children and so the Kingdoms passed to his brother James.

In 1688 James was removed from the throne by the English ‘Glorious Revolution’. William and Mary were installed as the monarchs of England by the English Parliament. This was not yet agreed to in Scotland. At this time there was no ‘United Kingdom’ but two separate nations who shared monarchs.

Scotland set up a Scottish Convention in 1689. It was eventually to lead to the Convention removing support for James Stuart  made famed in song ‘Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee’, celebrating the leader of the resistance in Scotland, John Grahame of Claverhouse, Bonnie Dundee.

Clan chiefs in Scotland who had not accepted William and Mary as the joint monarchs of Scotland were offered a bribe of £12,000 for swearing allegiance to William and Mary in 1690.

As the MacDonalds of Glencoe had not been bought off to swear their allegiance to William, the Campbell troops had been sent there in the depth of winter and had been offered hospitality by their hosts. The Earl of Argyll’s men comprised of 120 men. Glenlyon received written orders:

You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebells, the McDonalds of Glenco, and put all to the sword under seventy. you are to have a speciall care that the old Fox and his sones doe upon no account escape your hands, you are to secure all the avenues that no man escape. This you are to putt in execution att fyve of the clock precisely; and by that time, or very shortly after it, I’ll strive to be att you with a stronger party: if I doe not come to you att fyve, you are not to tarry for me, but to fall on. This is by the Kings speciall command, for the good & safety of the Country, that these miscreants be cutt off root and branch. See that this be putt in execution without feud or favour, else you may expect to be dealt with as one not true to King nor Government, nor a man fitt to carry Commissione in the Kings service. Expecting you will not faill in the full-filling hereof, as you love your selfe, I subscribe these with my hand att Balicholis Feb: 12, 1692.
For their Majesties service
(signed) R. Duncanson
 To Capt.
Robert Campbell

Estimates on those killed or injured vary. Recent estimates put total deaths resulting from the Massacre as around 38, while some of those fleeing would have died of exposure. It is still remembered to this day, not because of the numbers involved, but because of the treachery of staying with the hosts for days, accepting their food and warmth, before killing them.

@Doug Lee

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