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Concerning the piece in last week’s Oban Times headlined ‘Glencoe massacre remembered 325 years on’, I should like to offer an alternative to the simplistic and inaccurate opening paragraph mentioning the ‘massacre of MacDonalds by Campbells in Glencoe‘.
The massacre was clearly a dreadful breach of Highland hospitality, brutal and cruel, but, for the sake of accuracy, the first paragraph could have read ‘massacre of MacDonalds by a detachment of regular British soldiers acting under orders given by a Scottish Secretary [John Dalrymple] and sanctioned by a Dutch King [William]’.
It is true to say there was Campbell involvement in the lead up to and during the massacre. John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane, negotiated with clan chiefs loyal to the exiled Stuart King James to try to convince them not to hesitate in offering their required oath of allegiance to King William, rather than waiting for formal permission to be sent from James in France.
The company of regular British soldiers were commanded by Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. Glenlyon was ordered to billet his men with the MacDonalds at Glencoe and await orders.
He had no idea of the real reason for his soldiers stay at Glencoe until his orders came through from Fort William late on February 12, 1692. The order threatened to treat Glenlyon as ‘not true to King or government’ if he did not act as ordered.
Two officers refused to lead the killings and were arrested and it is thought that when the soldiers became aware of their orders, some of them helped the MacDonalds to escape by deliberately firing wide.
Such an important and tragic event in Scottish history should not be simplified to a Disneyesque view of ‘evil Campbells killed lots of MacDonalds’.