Origins of the clan
The founder of the MacDonalds of Glencoe was
Iain Fraoch MacDonald (d. 1368) who was a younger son of
Aonghus Óg of Islay (died 1314×1318/c.1330),
Clan Donald, who fought with King
Robert the Bruce at the
Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Tradition records that Iain's marriage to the daughter of MacEanruig or MacHenry the 'head man' in Glencoe brought the MacDonalds these Glencoe lands. Glencoe was however an ever hostile environment where people were obliged by the sparseness of the soil to raid and steal cattle from their neighbours.
The MacDonalds alliance to the
Stuart cause made them more unpopular with the government. This led to the
Massacre of Glencoe (Gaelic: Mort Ghlinne Comhann) in the early hours of the 13th of February 1692, where 38 unarmed MacDonalds were massacred by troops under
Robert Campbell of Glenlyon from
Clan Campbell. The massacre took place near the village of Glencoe (Gaelic: Gleann Comhann) and in various parts of Glencoe at Inverrigan, Invercoe, Carnoch, Auchnaion and Achtriochtan. Most of the clan, perhaps 300, did escape the initial slaughter only for some to die in the surrounding hills and mountains due to lack of food and shelter as their houses had been burned down.
The massacre was ordered upon them because of the Chief's failure to sign an oath of allegiance to King
William III of England, Scotland and Ireland before 1 January 1692. However MacIain had intended to sign the oath but savage snow storms prevented him. Even though his attempt was known to the government they decided an example needed to be made and the massacre went ahead anyway.
18th century and Jacobite risings
The chief's sons had escaped the massacre at Glencoe and escaped into the snow, and although the clan was temporarily demoralised they fought in the 18th century for the
House of Stuart during the
Jacobite rising of 1715 at the
Battle of Sherrifmuir and during the
Jacobite rising of 1745 at the
Battle of Prestonpans.