Ubar Found, Glencoe Lost
1992 was a Red Letter year for many reasons.
It is the year the Lost City of Ubar was found in the deserts of Oman where it had been buried beneath the sand for around four millennia. More extraordinarily still, it was discovered by studying satellite images from space.
For the whole amazing story click on this link:
It is also 500 years since Christopher Columbus set off from Spain to find a quicker route to India and China and accidentally bumped into America – not that he knew it, and died believing he’d actually found India.
Spain held a magnificent World Fair – Expo 92 – to celebrate this Age of Discovery, though forgot to mention there is very good evidence that Lief Eriksson (son of the notorious Viking Erik the Red) sailed to Canada and Newfoundland in AD 1000, about 500 years before Columbus was born; nor did it come up that 1492 was also the year Spain expelled its Jews wholesale from their lands unless they converted.
And there is another great anniversary too, for it is three hundred years since the Massacre of Glencoe on 13th February 1692, giving it the still used soubriquet The Glen of Weeping.
Clio Gray, author of crime novels including the Stroop series, based in Scotland
What is strange is how well this massacre is remembered, despite it being neither the worst nor the most violent to go down 17th-c Highland history.
That claim to fame should perhaps go to the attack on Clan Ranald on Eigg a couple of years earlier: the island’s fighting men were all away when a naval force, under the command of Ulsterman Edward Pottinger, landed and proceeded to rape and butcher the women before murdering them and their children, leaving their bodies unburied for their kinsmen to find on their return.
By comparison Glencoe is notable for being the result of an almost farcical series of mishaps, everything turning on the fact that all the clan chiefs were required to swear a personal oath of allegiance to Charles I before the 1st of January 1692.
Not many declined, and neither did Alasdair MacIain (aka Macdonald), who in fact he went out of his way to get the oath made in good time. Unfortunately he abided by the rules, and waited for permission from the King to actually take the oath, which permission only came on 28th December.
He legged it straightaway to the government fortress of Fort William but was told he needed to be at Inverary. Off he went again, but was stopped by a party of grenadiers who didn’t like the letter he’d been given from Fort William and held him for 24 hours.
In consequence he didn’t make it to Inverary until January 3rd, and wasn’t able to swear the oath until the 6th because the Sheriff was away, and so his name was left off the list of clan chiefs to have sworn the oath.
Dire trouble now for Clan Macdonald who were not well liked at the best of times, well known instead as cattle rustlers living in rude buildings at one end of their valley. An easy target then, for Glencoe means the narrow valley and was therefore easy to block off.
Robert Campbell, of neighbouring Glenlyon, was dispatched with his men and, once arrived in Glencoe, they invited themselves into the homes of the Macdonalds and spent the next two weeks drinking, dancing, playing cards, and generally having a good time at the expense of their hosts, all the while awaiting orders.
And when those orders came they could not have been clearer:
You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have a special care of the old fox [Alasdair]] and his sons…You are to secure all avenues that no man escape. This you are to put in execution at five of the clock precisely.
Shocking words, but ones that Campbell and his men obeyed without question, and at five the next morning his men burst into Clan chief Alasdair’s house and shot him dead.
The rest of the attack was a shambles. It was snowing hard, and in the confusion Alasdair’s sons escaped while Campbell’s men hacked down anyone they could find, men, women and children indiscriminately. Despite Campbell's orders many people escaped, running off into the snowstorm only to die miserably in the hills of the Weeping Valley.
The Campbell name has been tarnished with the blood of the MacDonalds ever since.