View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 13 February 2012


It is 320 years ago today that the Massacre of Glen Coe occurred. Nearly 80 people were killed, either put to the sword or perishing of exposure in the open.

As a Dutchman, blogging in Scotland, I'm never too proud of the fact that King William was in fact William of Orange, who had come across from Holland to wed Queen Mary in 1688. His track record in England, Scotland and Ireland is poor; the Battle of the Boyne (in Ireland) continues to have ramifications in Northern Ireland. He was on a divine imperative to fight the Catholics, whom he duly defeated at the Boyne.

The demand for an oath of allegiance from the Scottish clans lay at the root of the massacre of Glencoe. The Macdonalds didn't manage to get the oath in on time, and the Campbells were brought in to stay with their arch rivals. The Macdonalds offered them hospitality - and were rewarded with death. Murder is bad enough, but murder under trust is (if possible) even worse. The following inquiry was a white-wash.

In spite of the 1692 atrocity, I do not believe there is any real ill feeling between the Campbells and the Macdonalds. Not on the scale of Northern Ireland, the other legacy of King Billy, at any rate.

Today, a dignified act of remembrance was conducted at the memorial at Glencoe.

From Wikipedia

You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, the McDonalds of Glenco, and put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have a special care that the old Fox and his sons doe upon no account escape your hands, you are to secure all the avenues that no man escape. This you are to putt in execution at fyve of the clock precisely; and by that time, or very shortly after it, I'll strive to be att you with a stronger party: if I doe not come to you att fyve, you are not to tarry for me, but to fall on. This is by the Kings speciall command, for the good & safety of the Country, that these miscreants be cutt off root and branch. See that this be putt in execution without feud or favour, else you may expect to be dealt with as one not true to King nor Government, nor a man fitt to carry Commissione in the Kings service. Expecting you will not faill in the fulfilling hereof, as you love your selfe, I subscribe these with my hand att Balicholis Feb: 12, 1692
(signed) R. Duncanson
For their Majesties service
To Capt. Robert Campbell
of Glenlyon

Monday 13 February

Quite a nice day, which got increasingly bright. It did not feel cold, with the mercury at 8C / 46F. And we're rapidly gaining daylight hours; I'm typing this at 5.20pm and it's still light.

The local news is dominated by the problems on the ferry services across the Hebrides. Our ferry, the Isle of Lewis was coming out of drydock at Birkenhead when she hit the dockside and sustained damage. This meant that she had to go straight back in for repairs. Meanwhile, the Clansman, which had been covering for the IoL on the route to Ullapool, had to proceed to Aberdeen for her own annual refit. This meant that another vessel had to be dug out, the Hebridean Isles, which normally plies the route between mainland Scotland and Islay. They still have the Finlaggan, but the service there is a bit curtailed. Up here, we find that the Hebridean Isles is rather slower than the Isle of Lewis, giving rise to longer crossings. We're not expecting her back in port much before midnight.

One of the two major footclubs in Scotland, Rangers FC, has signalled its intention to appoint administrators as it is facing a tax bill running into 7 or 8 figures which it cannot pay. A formal decision to go into administration is to be taken within the next 10 days. It would lead to an automatic deduction of 10 points in the league, leaving Rangers 14 points behind their arch rivals Celtic. The supporters of the latter are laughing, with Twitter hashtags like #simplythebust. From a sporting point of view, being a very lukewarm football follower, I would be sorry to see one of Scotland's top clubs disappear.
However, the Rangers and Celtic rivalry stands for an ugly aspect of Scottish society: bigotry. Rangers are said to represent the protestants and Celtic the catholics. It is a reflection of Northern Ireland, and its troubles. Even this afternoon, this aspect reared its head in some of the internet postings on the issue.