…………..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.’
Early in the morning of 13 February 1692 thirty-eight MacDonalds from the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by their guests. Another forty women and children died of exposure after their homes were burned.
The whole male population under 70 years of age, amounting to 200, would probably have fallen to the fire and sword letters. But a party of 400 soldiers dispatched to carry out the orders, were prevented by the severity of the weather–always dicey and wildly changeable there, especially on higher ground–
as you can see by this photo of the way they would have come….from reaching Glencoe until eleven o’clock that night. This was six hours after the first shots were fired. By then the Macdonald men, warned of both the danger they were in and learning of the fate of their chief–the old Fox–had fled to the snow encrusted hills.
The Lost Valley is cited as a possible hiding place. I am telling you I would not fancy parts of the one- slip- and- you’re- finished, path in the dark and the snow, not even with the thought of a government broadsword threatening certain places….
(The Lost Valley)
Of course those bits of path probably weren’t so eroded then as now. The fact there is now a bridge over the steeply walled gorge at the start, and steel ropes and fence posts too, gives some idea of the difficulty though.
Letters of “fire and sword” against the Highlanders were as common as Campbells.
What made this one a deed written in infamy was the fact the soldiers had accepted hospitality, had stayed with their hosts for approximately a fortnight.
(The Glencoe Monument)
It was a very convenient way of getting into the fairly impregnable glen itself and while there, of putting the inhabitants at ease. Of course there were soldiers who warned their hosts, just as there were soldiers who broke their swords rather than use them.
SO you won’t be surprised to know my very first stab at writing a novel aged all of thirteen, was an epic with the massacre as a backdrop. Or that my second published book, His Judas Bride—bet Kara and the Wolf are glad I am not sharing secrets of their love life today, like I did the other day with my latest hero and heroine–is set in Glencoe.
which okay, wasn’t around in 1692. I set this little scene there too…..
“What are you so desperate to know for? In a hurry to meet that charming sweetheart of yours, are you?” His face was such a grim triangle between the curtain of hair, she wondered if it was in fact politic to open her mouth. She didn’t see why she shouldn’t though. Anything to ease what had somehow taken up residence inside her. Even if it meant drawing this man like a gloveless falconer, with a honeyed hand.
She cleared her throat. After all, his contempt made it easier to also clear herself of these stupid feelings that had risen in her in that yard. To acknowledge she didn’t belong and it didn’t matter. Belonging wasn’t what she was here for.
“Actually, I am, sir. Yes. Indeed I confess to being agog with curiosity. Deprived by not meeting him yesterday and being happily wed to him by now. I know we’ve only been riding for about two hours now, but will I see him by nightfall, do you think?”
“Like having nightmares, do you?”
“Not really.” Holding out her honeyed hand was certainly taking a bit of doing, especially when it was savaged like this. “That’s why I’d like to know if I’ll have to spend another night in your company or not.”
He snapped his brows lower. “My company?”
She nodded. Why not? Lochalpin was beautiful. The snow-capped peaks, inky blue mist, the trees towering like silent sentinels around her. What she saw, reflected in the plate-glass surface of the loch, was so stunning, she could understand her father coveting this place. Even if his real desire was to walk among the other clan chiefs as an equal. By far the most stunning thing here was this damnable specimen. Of course, if she’d now to lay odds on his arm muscle tightening as he tugged on his own reins, on that smile, denting his faintly stubbled cheeks, she’d be rich.
“That’s the first I knew you spent a night in my company. Did I fall asleep and miss something here, Princess?”