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The Glencoe Massacre page 3

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Glenlyon was not quite so callous and rotten to the core as young Glencoe had been led to believe. At some stage in that butchery in a snowstorm Glenlyon must have relented. Had he chosen, he could have shot John MacIan, but he let him escape. A youth of twenty came to him and begged for his life and, contrary to orders, Glenlyon let him go. When Captain Drummond arrived he reminded Glenlyon of his orders and himself shot the youth dead. Seeing the bloody work proceeding all round him, a child of thirteen ran to Glenlyon, clung to his knees and begged for his life. Glenlyon would have saved him, too, but again the ruthless Drummond intervened, and the child was slain. Subsequently the hand of another child was found lying loose on a refuse heap, and it was thought that probably the eagles had been responsible for the severance, as the child lay unprotected in the snow.

Captain Drummond was Breadalbane's henchman; he it was who had been responsible for delaying for twenty-four hours the aged chieftain as he was hastening to make his belated submission. Certainly he was the most bloodthirsty of the whole battalion of butchers. Probably he had heard from Breadalbane that now was the time to take full revenge for every head of cattle that had been lost.

Yet the massacre was bungled. Not more than a third of the male population of the glen fell to the bayonets and shots of the soldiers. At most some thirty were killed, and these included nine men at Inverrigan, where Glenlyon was quartered. Under his orders these lusty innocents, bound hand and foot, were taken out of their houses and shot. It was the sight of their dead bodies which spoiled Glenlyon's stomach for further killing.

The firing heard by the two brothers when they were escaping from their homes had come from the direction of Archnacon. When the soldiers, under Sergeant Barber, made an appearance there, ten men were sitting fully dressed in one of the houses. Without waiting to give any explanation, Barber ordered his men to fire. Five of them fell dead. Leaping inside, Barber bent over the leader, asking if he were still alive. He said, "Yes," but he would prefer to die out of doors. Barber replied that seeing he had eaten his bread he would grant the request; the wounded man was taken outside and made to stand upright before the muzzles of the soldiers' rifles. But he was still less feeble and more subtle than his captors. Throwing his plaid over their faces, he broke through the cordon and sped away through the blizzard upwards towards the crest of the snowy heights. He was a brave soldier who dared follow him. While this diversion was being created outside, the other four clansmen, who had escaped death in the first volley, bolted through the rear of the house, and they too escaped.

Barber turned his attention to the remaining males in the village, and soon they too were no more. The dead bodies were searched, stripped and flung on to a refuse heap.

One of the exits from the glen - the only one, in fact, that had been left unguarded - was known as the Devil's Staircase, and it was by this route that the majority of the clan contrived to make their escape. Had the massacre gone off according to plan, that exit would have been protected by Colonel Hamilton and his men, who were marching over from Inverlochy to "stop the bolthole." Most fortunately Hamilton blundered. He did not anticipate that his soldiers would be held up by a blizzard, and so he timed his departure from barracks much too late. Instead of arriving at the head of the Devil's Staircase before dawn, he reached there about ii a.m., by which time the refugees had fought their way up through the blizzard and out of the glen by that exit. When he did arrive he was met by Major Duncan-son, informed that MacIan was dead, and that the rest of the clan had disappeared into the hills, where they were certain to perish. Dalrymple had already made the point that the only time the Highlanders could not escape the soldiers was during the winter months, when the human constitution could not long endure being out of doors. The soldiers comfortably reflected that though there had not been quite so many killings as authority had demanded, the climate could be safely trusted to make a complete ending of what they had so bloodily begun.

When Hamilton arrived to take over full command he found that the houses had been burned to the ground and that some of the corpses were still lying across the doorways. There was not much in the way of massacre left for him and his 400 men to do. But as he marched down the glen, now in full daylight, he came across an old man of eighty. Though he was beyond the age limit for execution, the gallant soldier put him to death. Thus did Hamilton complete a work which he had fondly hoped would have raised him to distinction in the British Army.

The sons of MacIan, while still hiding in the glen, had listened to the lowing of the cattle deprived of their early meal, but had been powerless to provide it.

After the soldiers had finished their shooting, their burning of homes and their work of pillage, they turned their attention to the live stock in Glencoe. And were not surprised to find that the little clan were not so badly off. More than one joke must have been cracked at the expense of the dead chieftain as to the original ownership of the 1,000 head of cattle and horses and the huge flock of sheep and goats which were now secured and driven away to Inverlochy.

Before the soldiers marched away they filled their pockets and pouches with numerous trinkets from the burning homes of the men of Glencoe. Cups, platters, spoons, knives - the parting guest did not go away empty-handed. For many a day both officer and soldier could exhibit his spoils of the massacred Highlanders.

By the afternoon all was quiet and still in the desolate glen. Though the "old fox" had been slain, most of his cubs had got clear away; for the youth of Glencoe was exceedingly agile. Their salvation was largely due to the blizzard, which effectively hid them from sight at five yards. Not many of the brave assassins had the courage to follow the young men of the villages into that blinding blizzard. Yet the villagers had to fight their way through it. Men, women, children; old folk, young folk; grandmothers and grandchildren; women with child and mothers with infants at the breast; half-clad, invalid, cold, hungry, frightened, homeless, penniless refugees they were, fleeing they knew not whither, struggling to get away from the red butchers whom they had so generously entertained.

In that little conference held in the open shelter of the blizzard, the survivors decided that the one place of safety was among the men of Appin. They would be friendly. Moreover, they were powerful. If they chose, they could protect them from all comers. Lucky it was that the way to Appin led up the Devil's Staircase, and that the refugees had no knowledge of the approach of Colonel Hamilton; otherwise they would never have dared take that temporarily unguarded route.

There were many casualties on the way, as many as from the soldiers in the glen. Among those who died on that cruel journey was the ageing Lady Glencoe. The shock of the death of her husband, the savage attack on her fingers, and the hardships of the march were beyond her powers of endurance. Over a hundred reached Appin in safety, and there they were generously welcomed. The news of the brutality and treachery of the soldiers, instead of frightening the Highlanders, and making them more subservient to the new reign, roused them to fury against William and all for which he stood. And the Jacobites were not slow to take advantage of the new incentive to rebellion that the massacre had provided.

When the news reached Dalrymple he was only moderately satisfied. He saw that the majority had escaped because the soldiers had not acted silently as well as suddenly; they had fired their guns instead of using only the bayonet. Those guns had been too good a warning to "the miscreants." He wrote to Hill: "There is much talk here that they were murdered in their beds after they had taken the oath of allegiance. For the last, I know nothing of it. I am sure that neither you nor anybody empowered to treat or give indemnity did give him the oath, and to take it from anybody after the date had elapsed did nothing import. All I regret is that any of the sect got away, and there is necessity to prosecute them to the utmost."

The survivors were not prosecuted to the utmost. The outcry that was made both in Scotland and England precluded this from taking place. In May Hill was empowered to give provisional protection to the MacIans. Before that time some of the clansmen had begun to creep back to the scene of the tragedy. There was a deathly silence in the glen. Soon there came a stirring among the dry bones. Some of the blackened ruins of the houses were built up again and shelter secured. Kindly neighbours sent along cattle, and in the autumn the clan was formally received into the King's Peace. The task was entrusted to Hill, who reported very favourably of the survivors, saying that "the Glencoe men are abundantly civil. I have put them under my Lord Argyll...." He explained that it was necessary they should be controlled by some powerful person who was loyal to the Government.

But the politicians were determined not to let matters rest there. A barbarous massacre had been perpetrated against innocent men in the Highlands of Scotland, and the man who was responsible must be brought to book. The real blame ultimately rested with the king and, great man though he was, he was unlikely to acknowledge it. It was Dalrymple whom the politicians were anxious to bring to book. When he resigned office as Lord Advocate, his nominated successor refused the post unless he were permitted to prosecute his predecessor. Three years after the massacre, William, at the instance of his tender-hearted queen, decided to appoint a Commission of Inquiry; and the report of that body was presented to the house within three weeks! It was almost as sudden as the massacre. It reported that a great wrong had been done in not presenting MacIan's certificate of submission to the Scottish Privy Council. Dalrymple was blamed for having given a wrong meaning to the king's order of "extirpation." The Royal instructions had been exceeded and carried out in a barbarous manner. Dalrymple was removed from the Scottish Secretaryship, but William refused to surrender him to the politicians for trial. In fact, no one was punished for the massacre. William had willed that none should suffer for obeying or exceeding his orders.

Hill was knighted, Glenlyon became a colonel, and Dalrymple, after being occluded for a time from serving the State was, in the reign of Queen Anne, raised to the Earldom of Stair. At the age of fifty-nine he died of apoplexy.

Though the Parliament of Scotland recommended that the survivors of Glencoe should be granted reparations for their losses, none was ever given; the only concession made was a waving of their tax. John MacIan became the chief of the clan. He built himself a new house on the site of the old one at Carnoch, where his father had been killed. The one who succeeded John in the chieftainship was a child of two at the time of the massacre. His nurse had snatched him away to safety as the hour of doom struck.

The men of Glencoe had given their submission, but they were none the less disloyal to the House of Orange. Their experiences did not encourage them to be otherwise. And when Bonnie Prince Charlie came forward as the Pretender, the men of Glencoe were prominent; they supported him in all his battles.

As for their kinsman and treacherous enemy, Colonel Glenlyon, he went south to the wars, boasting on the way that he had been the-assassin of the sleeping glen. Moreover, were he again ordered to kill unarmed people, he would be quite willing to do so for the sake of his monarch.

But those who heard him were of the opinion that he still boasted to drown an accusing conscience. They even said that he was haunted. Sometimes when they watched his face it would undergo a change; instead of seeing before them the dissolute features of Colonel Glenlyon, they saw only the dignified head of his hospitable kinsman, the murdered Chief MacIan.

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