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Glencoe Recalls Massacre, but Hatreds Have Waned

February 10, 1992

GLENCOE, Scotland (AP) _ At the foot of a towering mountain in the wild, rugged Scottish Highlands, a little procession led by a piper will set out from St. Mary’s Church on Thursday.

It will pause at noon at the Celtic cross on a mound by the hurrying Coe River to remember the Massacre of Glencoe, a terrible event in centuries of conflict between English and Scots and between Scots and Scots.

″We will be praying for the MacDonalds who were slaughtered in 1692; that’s what the tercentenary service is for,″ said Rev. Kenneth Wigston, the Scottish Episcopal rector of Ballachulish, who lives in Glencoe.

″The Campbells, who were in charge of the killing, don’t come into it. There may be one or two MacDonalds who still feel animosity toward Campbells, but these stories of MacDonalds refusing to shake hands with a Campbell or share the same room, well, judge for yourself: Within 23 years of the massacre, MacDonalds and Campbells fought together on the Jacobite side at the battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715.″

Altogether, 38 men, women and children were shot, bayoneted or burned to death at Glencoe. Soldiers looted and burned the hamlets and drove off the livestock. About 160 MacDonalds escaped in the snows. Unknown numbers perished of hunger and exposure.

Glencoe’s mountain scenery is overwhelming. It is possible to imagine any dark deed there.

The glen is an 8-mile-long pass in a valley in the Lorn district of Argyllshire. Visitors feel hemmed in by awesome, desolate mountains without a sight of people, animals, birds or trees.

The massacre, ordered by England in its determination to bring about union with Scotland by any means, was one of a train of events that destroyed the Highland people and their way of life.

It was followed in 1746 by the battle of Culloden, where an English army and Hanoverian mercenaries crushed the fighting clans, and by the Highland Clearances of 1780 to 1860, when tenant farmers were evicted to make way for sheep.

Thousands of Scots disappeared into urban slums or emigrated, mostly to North America and Australia.

Highlanders generally supported their own royal line, the Stuarts, who were Roman Catholics or sympathetic to the Catholic side.

England’s Protestant Parliament deposed the Stuart monarch, James II, and made his son-in-law William of Orange, a Dutch Protestant prince, King William III.

William demanded the Highlanders swear loyalty to him. The Glencoe MacDonalds, smallest of the Clan Donald communities and notorious cattle stealers who preyed on Campbell families, were tardy in doing so.

By the time the oath was signed by Alastair MacDonald, chief of the Glencoe MacDonalds and known as MacIain, it was too late. Sir John Dalrymple, the king’s secretary of state for Scotland, had decided on the massacre to crush resistance to the union.

On Feb. 1, 1692, Capt. Robert Campbell of Glenlyon led his regiment to Glencoe, in the guise of collecting taxes, and asked for hospitality.

Highland custom prevailed and the redcoats were invited into the hamlets. They ate, drank and slept among their hosts for nearly two weeks before receiving orders: ″Put all to the sword under seventy.″

The killing was set for 5 a.m. Feb. 13. Legend says the order was passed around on a nine of diamonds, the card still known as ″the curse of Scotland.″

″The violation of Highland hospitality was the great crime,″ said Rob McDonald Parker, international director of the Clan Donald Center on the Isle of Skye.

″If you wine and dine someone, you don’t expect them to get up in the middle of the night and shoot you,″ he said on a visit to the Glencoe memorial. Parker, a Scot by birth, worked in New York City for 20 years and became a U.S. citizen.

Clan Donald Lands Trust, a charity supported largely by U.S. businessmen descended from exiled MacDonalds, is renovating the site of the massacre.

Campbells have been forgiven by Glencoe, a village of 350 souls.

″There was a Campbell married to a MacDonald in the village and nobody minded,″ recalled Duncan MacDonald MacKillop, 77, who lives beside the memorial.

Last year, someone placed a stone at the memorial inscribed: ″Rock from the Glencoe Clan, Henderson’s, Savannah, Georgia, U.S.A. 1991.″

There are towns named Glencoe in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, as well as in Australia, Canada and South Africa.

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