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    Echoes of a tragic page of history in the mountains of Glen Coe…

    Such is the atmosphere of the melancholy valley of Glencoe that it still seems to be haunted by what happened there so long ago on that fatal day of 13 February 1692 when 38 members of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces billeted with them. The friendly and unsuspecting villagers were slaughtered at five o’ clock in the morning, on the grounds that their chief Alasdair MacDonald, known as MacIain, had been too late to  pledge allegiance to the new monarchs, William III of England and II of Scotland and Mary II.

     

    Glen Coe West Highland Way Wikipedia

    Glen Coe West Highland Way Wikipedia

    Many more innocent people, young and old, were alleged to have died of exposure while trying to escape in the dark and cold mountains of Glen Coe during a particularly harsh winter…

    Glencoe mountains © 2007 Scotiana

    Mountains of Glen Coe Two Sisters © 2007 Scotiana

    Glen Coe is the first place which struck our imagination in Scotland and it will stay in our memory forever. Impossible for us to travel in this fascinating country without paying a visit to the beautiful and melancholy valley which is one of the most popular sites in the Highlands of Scotland and one of our favourite places in the country.

    We discovered the place on the second day of our first journey in Scotland, in June 2000. We had started from our B&B near Paisley after a good Scottish breakfast and a cheerful chat with the friendly gentleman farmer who owned the B&B and had worked for the famous local cotton mills. We headed north in the direction of Fort William where we had booked a room for the night. We took the A 898, crossed the river Clyde at Erskine Bridge and followed the A 82 up to Fort William. The weather was fine and the spring atmosphere luminous and fresh with foxgloves and wild flowers flourishing everywhere on each side of the road. We passed Dumbarton with its emblematic rock, drove along Loch Lomond, only scintillating reflections between the trees, could get but a frustrating glimpse of Ben Lomond before entering the more austere and mountainous landscape of the Highlands : the bridge of Orchy,  Rannoch Moor… no need to say that each name conjures up myriads of memories collected during our eight journeys in Scotland… and suddenly it was Glen Coe…

     

    Glen Coe mountains and bridge © 2007 Scotiana

    Glen Coe mountains and bridge © 2007 Scotiana

    Each time we arrive there we feel irresistibly attracted by the mountains of Glen Coe and hardly have we got out of the car that we run the steep slope down to the lovely bridge which crosses the river Coe running turbulent waters under the shade of beautiful  rowans.

    Then, and whatever the weather, we climb up the very narrow and stony path winding its way amidst majestic mountains up to the summit.

    Glencoe cobbled path © 2006 Scotiana

    Glencoe cobbled path © 2006 Scotiana

    It’s worth the effort even if, like me, you are terribly afraid of heights for the fabulous panoramic views unfolding before your eyes will make you voiceless.

     

    Glen Coe mountain path © 2007 Scotiana

    Glen Coe mountain path © 2007 Scotiana

    The very changing weather can give the whole place a dramatic atmosphere…

    The dark mountains of Glen Coe and luminous reflections of the river Coe © 2007 Scotiana

    The dark mountains of Glen Coe and luminous reflections of the river Coe © 2007 Scotiana

    The atmosphere of the place perfectly suits the sad history of Glencoe but of this history we knew nothing at the beginning. When I learned about it, some time later, I could not but be stunned by the strange feeling of awe and mystery I’ve always felt there, a haunting and melancholy feeling…

    Below are just a few notes to try and replace the story in its historical context but I have already written about it in previous posts :

    “Le feu couve” : a war of succession to the British throne, a growing opposition to the Stuart dynasty, a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics… are at the origin of a conflict which had begun long before 1692 and would last long after the fatal day of 13 February of the same year. Below are just a few dates to try and replace the “Massacre of Glencoe” in its historical context.

    6 February 1685 : death of the Stuart catholic king Charles II who is succeeded on the British throne by James VII of Scotland and II of England.

    10 June 1688 : birth of James Francis Edward, son of James VII of Scotland and II of England. The birth of a catholic heir caused widespread civil disorder in Scotland, a growing opposition to the Stuart dynasty and fear of catholic supremacy. Indeed, James Francis Edward, nicknamed the “Old Pretender” will attempt, without success however, to gain the throne of Great Britain during the Jacobite rising of 1715.

    23 December 1688 : deposition of James VII of Scotland and II of England during the so-called “Glorious Revolution” and exile in France

    February 1689, after they had been offered the throne by the Convention Parliament, irregularly summoned by William of Orange, Mary (daughter of James VII of Scotland and II or England and Ireland)  and her Dutch husband become co-regents over the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.

    Jacobite uprising : 1689-1692

    13 February 1692: Massacre of Glencoe

    This video will tell you more :

     

    After the Massacre of Glencoe - oil on canvas by Scottish painter Peter Graham (1836-1921 )

    After the Massacre of Glencoe – oil on canvas by Scottish painter Peter Graham (1836-1921 )

    Let us remember…

    Á bientôt. Mairiuna

    Glencoe MacDonalds clan memorial © 2004 Scotiana

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    4 comments to Echoes of a tragic page of history in the mountains of Glen Coe…

    • Connie McIntyre

      I have McDonald blood and dont know if they were my ancestors but what happened there was a nightmare beyond my comprehension. I live in the US and I hope to some day visit the area of Glencoe and pay my respects to all the McDonalds who died there.

    • David Etchells

      Thank you for this What a excellently written article, I have spent a lot of time climbing and running through this area .
      it is majestic indeed both beautiful and moody and to be taken rather seriously as the weather can turn on the spin of a coin, it always feel so peaceful and full of love. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t stand in awe at this dramatic landscape.
      But after reading this I will never be able to see it the same again, I will look on it with a new respect and sadness , yes sadness . Thank you. David J Etchells

      • “I have spent a lot of time climbing and running through this area .
        it is majestic indeed both beautiful and moody and to be taken rather seriously as the weather can turn on the spin of a coin, it always feel so peaceful and full of love. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t stand in awe at this dramatic landscape.”

        Bonjour David ! Many thanks for such a kind and beautiful comment. I love it! You make me want to go back to Glencoe soon.  Our dear friends Iain and Margaret have often told us about your sporting achievements in the French and Scottish mountains and also about your love of poetry. Indeed, who could feel the spirit of Glencoe better than a passionate mountaineer and poet! Personally, I remember pretty well how I “stood in awe” when I discovered Glencoe for the first time… the feeling was so sudden, so strange and so strong… I was not prepared… I just could not go away… and I didn’t know anything about the tragic history of the place. I learned it later for I wanted to know more. It’s a pity, however, that I’m so scared of heights! I’d like so much to be able to climb up there and walk, walk… amidst such fascinating landscapes in spite of the fact that – YES – the weather is of such a changing nature in Scotland, especially in Glen Coe … we’ve learned that too there but you all seem to be “water-resistant” in your country! 😉

        Merci beaucoup David pour ces précieuses lignes et bonne chance pour vos futures courses dans la montagne ! Mairiuna

    • David Etchells

      Thank you Maja,
      For your very kind words!
      I have received confirmation that I am indeed once again to run through the great Glen Coe!
      As I am entered to run the length of the west highland Way milgavie to fort William without stoping 95 miles in 2020.
      So these true stories will be close to my mind as I approach Glen Coe and climb the devils staircase !
      Merci beaucoup Mairiuna

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