MacDonald of Glencoe

A romanticised Victorian-era illustration of a MacDonald of Glencoe clansman by R. R. McIan from The Clans of the Scottish Highlands published in 1845.

The MacDonalds of Glencoe also known as Clann Iain Abrach, was a Highland Scottish clan and a branch of the larger Clan Donald.


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), chief of Clan Donald, who fought with King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.[1]

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 Massacre of Glencoe

Memorial at Glencoe

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.

Other Languages