Out of all the places I’ve visited in Glasgow, Scotland, Glen Coe has a special place in my heart. I first laid eyes on Glen Coe on my very first excursion with ISA. Our program director called it, “Haunting Glen Coe.” He explained to us that it was here that the Glen Coe Massacre took place, in which the Campbell clan slew the MacDonalds. He didn’t go into further detail, but as I drank in the beautiful peaks, glittering in the sunlight on that rare, sunny day, I knew that I fell in love with Scotland.
It wasn’t until nearly two months later that I finally got to visit Glen Coe once more. It was a dreich day (dreich meaning grey and gloomy) and Glen Coe truly looked haunting. The mist clung to the peaks and the waterfall, named MacDonald’s Tears, rushed down the hillside with a strong current.
Our tour guide began telling us about the Glen Coe Massacre:
The year was 1691. King William of Orange passed an order in which the chiefs of the Highland clans must sign an oath of allegiance by January 1, 1692, offering the clans a brief time of peace after years of war. All of the chiefs signed the oath. But the last to comply was Meian, the chief of the MacDonalds.
Bounded to James Stuart, the deposed King of France, MacDonald had to wait for James’ permission before swearing allegiance to William. Months passed and it wasn’t until December 31, 1691, that MacDonald finally arrived at Fort William to sign the oath. The Colonel explained that the oath had to be taken before a sheriff. So, off MacDonald went to Inveraray, region dominated by the MacDonald’s enemy clan, the Campbells, carrying the Colonel’s letter of protection. Three days after the expiration date, MacDonald finally signed the oath and returned to Glen Coe believing his clan was safe.
Little did he know that he remained in danger. The sheriff sent MacDonald’s allegiance to King William but did not include the letter of protection. Angered by MacDonald’s “audacity” in signing the allegiance late, King William passed an order that will haunt Glen Coe forever.
February 1692, a company of 120 men under the command of Captain Campbell of Glenlyon arrived in Glen Coe. Because of the Highland code of honor among clans, the MacDonalds welcomed the company of Campbells into their homes to hide away from a harsh blizzard. Twelve days later, Captain Campbell gathered his men in the wee hours of morning and issued King William’s order of fire and sword. Breaking the Highland code of honor, the company of soldiers killed the chief and 38 MacDonalds. Those who fled into the mountains died due to the extreme cold. Few managed to escape alive.
To this day, there’s still animosity between the Campbells and the MacDonalds. Glen Coe is forever haunted by the fallen. Such a beautiful place was tainted by the pride of a king and the hatred between two clans.
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