GLENCOE, a district, in the parish of Lismore and Appin, district of Lorn, county of Argyll, 17 miles (N. E. by E.) from Appin. This singularly wild and celebrated Highland vale is situated nearly at the head of an arm of the sea called Loch Etive, and extends in a north-western direction to Ballichulish, on Loch Leven, a distance of about ten miles. From the latter point, the western line of the Highland military road passes through the extensive and valuable slate-quarries in that quarter, and then turns up the dark vale of Glencoe. The scenery of this vale is in many respects different from that of other Highland glens. It forms a narrow strip of rugged territory, along which flows the wild and rapid stream of the Coe; and on each side of the banks of this stream, stupendous hills shoot almost perpendicularly upwards to the height of perhaps 2000 feet, terminating either in cragged summits or in spires and cones; while numerous torrents descend from the heights at intervals, increasing the awful grandeur of the scene. The mountainous elevations seem as if composed of huge disjointed rocks heaped one upon another, and appear to be in danger of falling every moment, and of filling the dismal chasm below with their crumbling materials. In some places, the opposite ranges approach so near as almost to exclude the sun from the vale, even when at its greatest height in June. Where accessible, the hills afford tolerable pasture for sheep; but in various parts, particularly on the south side of the glen, no foot has ever trod, and the eagle and his feathered subjects are the only visitants. At its south-eastern extremity, the vale is bounded by the mountain called Buchael-Etive.
   Glencoe is famous as the birthplace of the poet Ossian, by whom many of the mountains, and the wild scenery of the district, are accurately described; and it were to be wished that the celebrity of the vale were confined to the martial deeds of Fingal and his heroes. But the place is also memorable for one of the most barbarous and bloody crimes that have been committed in a modern age, or have ever been sanctioned by any regular and civilized government; that known as the "massacre of Glencoe." It appears that William III., of England, had published a proclamation inviting the Highlanders who had been in arms for James VII., to accept of a general amnesty before the 1st of January, 1691, on pain of military execution after that time. Mackian Macdonald, laird of Glencoe, in accordance with this invitation, repaired to Fort-William on the very last day of December, and offered to surrender to the governor of that fortress, by whom, however, he was informed that he should apply to the civil magistrates. Upon this intimation, he set out with all possible haste to Inverary, the county town, and there surrendered himself to the sheriff, the time prescribed for submission having been exceeded by only a single day. The sheriff, in consequence of his previous offer to the governor of Fort-William, and moved by Macdonald's entreaties and suppliant manner, agreed to accept his oath of allegiance, and to certify to the unavoidable cause of the delay from the snows and other interruptions on the road; and the confiding laird returned to Glencoe, assured of security and protection. But an extensive combination was, it would appear, formed for his destruction; the fact of his having sworn allegiance was altogether suppressed, at the instance, chiefly, of the president Stair and the Earl of Breadalbane; and the certificate of the magistrate was erased from the minutes presented to the privy council. Early in the month of February, therefore, a party of military under the command of Captain Campbell, of Glenlyon, entered the vale on pretence of levying taxes and hearth-money; the clan became alarmed at their appearance, but on Macdonald inquiring of this officer, if his intentions were friendly, he assured him upon his honour that they were. All apprehension was allayed in consequence; and for nearly two weeks, the unsuspecting inhabitants treated their visiters with every mark of attention and hospitality. The soldiers were comfortably quartered among them; civilities were interchanged on both sides, and even on the night of the dreadful massacre, the 13th of February, Macdonald and Campbell had played at cards, the latter renewing, when retiring, his frequently-expressed protestations of the warmest friendship for his host.
   The fatal order from the executive in England arrived in the night. It directed an immediate and sudden attack upon the defenceless villagers while asleep, commanded the passes to be securely guarded, to prevent escape; and exhorted the military not to suffer a man under the age of seventy to be spared by their swords. From some suspicious circumstances, the sons of Macdonald were impressed with a presentiment of danger; but this was not the case before they discovered the approach of the soldiery; and ere they could alarm their father, the massacre was spreading through the vale. A party entering the house as friends, shot the laird as he rose from his bed. His wife was stripped naked by the assassins, who tore the rings with their teeth from her fingers; and she expired in the morning from the effects of grief and horror. A guest of the family, Macdonald of Achtrichatain, who had submitted three months before, and who had the royal protection in his pocket, was among the victims. Nine men were bound, and deliberately shot, at Campbell's quarters; his landlord was shot by his orders; and a youth, who had clung to his knees for protection, was stabbed to death. At another part of the vale, the inhabitants were shot while sitting round their fires; several women perished with their children in their arms; a man eighty years of age was put to the sword; and another, who had escaped to a house for concealment, was burnt alive. Thirty-eight persons were thus inhumanly butchered by their own inmates and guests. The rest, alarmed by the report of musketry, mostly escaped to the hills, and were preserved from destruction by a tempest that added to the horrors of the night, and which was so terrific as to prevent a detachment from Fort-William, of 400 men, under Colonel Hamilton, from advancing in sufficient time to complete the massacre. The women and children were spared from the stroke of death; but it seemed as if only to render their fate more cruel. Such of them as had not died from fright, or escaped, were turned out naked at the dead of night, in a keen frost, into a waste covered with snow, six miles distant from any inhabited place; and many of them were found dead or dying under rocks and hedges. The carnage was succeeded by rapine and desolation; the houses in the vale were demolished, and the cattle became a prey to the murderers.
   According to Smollett, the Earl of Breadalbane had borne a personal enmity to Macdonald, and had, from this motive, concealed from the ministry the fact of his submission: the order for the extermination of the whole clan, countersigned, it is said, by the king himself, was thus transmitted to the secretary of state in Scotland, and but too fatally executed. The outcry against the massacre was not confined to these kingdoms; but resounded, with every aggravation, throughout Europe. Yet the secret circumstances relating to it were never sufficiently examined; no inquiry was instituted at the time, nor was any punishment inflicted subsequently upon its authors. On the contrary, it is asserted that the officers who were most active in the sanguinary deed were promoted. The place where the massacre was chiefly committed is at the north-west end of the vale; and the old house of Glencoe, still an object of horror, is now a ruin. Near the slate-quarry in Glencoe is an Episcopalian chapel, served by the minister that officiates at Portnacroish, in the Strath of Appin.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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