Sim­plis­tic view of Glen­coe mas­sacre

The Oban Times - - Letters -

Sir, 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’. Rod Camp­bell, Los­sit, Ben­der­loch.

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