Trust taken to task over Glencoe ‘lost’ villages project

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A well-known expert on Glencoe and its infamous massacre has rubbished plans by the National Trust for Scotland to excavate what the organisation has claimed are three ‘lost villages’.

Unveiled in a fanfare of publicity last week, the trust said its ‘new and completely unique visitor experience’ will bring to life the stories of Glencoe and uncover its secret history.

The trust plans to investigate three so-called ‘lost villages’ and build a replica of a traditional turf house.

The trust, which has launched a campaign to raise the £300,000 needed, says the project will focus on the three ‘forgotten’  townships of Inverigan, Achnacon and Achtriochtan.

However, according to expert and local resident Ros MacDonald, who can trace her ancestry back to one of the first to be shot by soldiers in the infamous massacre during the bitterly cold February of 1692, the trust has got it all wrong.

Mrs MacDonald, who studied history with Aberdeen University, told the Lochaber Times: ‘There were no villages by these names back then as the trust claims.

‘There were only a few hamlets of houses scattered through the glen. There were certainly nothing you could describe as villages.

‘And there were no clearances here like there were elsewhere in the Highlands.

‘The trust says it wants to bring to life the history of these areas by uncovering these homes, their sights and smells, but it is just nonsense.’

Television historian Neil Oliver, as president of the National Trust for Scotland, was widely quoted in last week’s extensive press coverage of the launch of the project.

But Mrs MacDonald was unimpressed: ‘I have great respect for Neil Oliver, but neither he or trust chief executive Simon Skinner seem to know any of the real history of Glencoe.

‘They say this will be an exciting year. I’m sure it will certainly be an exciting year for making money.’

And as for the trust’s new recently opened £1 million visitor centre in Glencoe, Mrs MacDonald labelled it as an ‘eyesore’.

Asked to respond, a spokesperson for the trust said the plans have been developed by the trust’s archaeology team which knows the area very well.

The team has used the earliest known map of Glencoe – a military survey undertaken by General William Roy between 1747 and 1755 – to identify areas of interest.

Compiled more than half a century after the massacre, the map shows a number of groupings of buildings, the largest being at Invercoe and which seems to show 11 structures.

The spokesperson added: ‘The team has also carried out extensive archaeological investigations at Achtriachtan and found evidence of at least five buildings there.

‘The project will, we hope, give us a better understanding of how and why settlement patterns changed over the centuries and this all part of our work to share the facts, folklore and atmosphere of Glencoe with visitors from near and far.’

As well as the MacDonalds, a number of Hendersons and Rankins died in the Glencoe Massacre.

One of them, Duncan Rankin, was one of the first to be murdered when he was cut down by gunfire as he crossed the river to warn others of what was happening.

But as a direct descendant of Rankin, Mrs MacDonald understandably feels entitled to voice her concerns over further development on what is viewed as a sacred landscape by many.

‘All that is left now is just bracken and ragwort and this site is meant to be under their guardianship,’ she said.

‘These are my ancestors they are talking about and it’s not right.’

 

CAPTION:

A detail from General Roy’s map dating from the mid-18th century. Photograp: NTS

NO F26 Achtriachtan detail