WILLIAM III. AND MARY II.—THE STORY OF THE
GLEN OF WEEPING
Although the fighting ceased, many of the Highland
chieftains were slow to accept William and Mary as their
King and Queen. At last William made a proclamation,
offering pardon to all the chiefs who, before the 1st of
January 1692 a.d., would take the oath of obedience to
him, and saying that all those should be punished who
did not take the oath.
One by one the proud chieftains gave way and took
the oath. Only one old man, Macdonald of Glencoe, as
he was called from the name of the lonely glen in which
he and his clan lived, would not give in. But suddenly,
finding that he alone of all the clans was holding out, he
too made up his mind to take the oath, and hurried to
Fort William, the nearest big town.
He arrived there on the 31st of December. But to
his dismay he found that he had come to the wrong town,
and that there was no one there to whom he could swear
obedience to the King. Too late, Macdonald began to
realise what he had done. He burst into tears, and prayed
the Governor to receive his oath. But the Governor was
powerless ; he was sorry for the old man, however, and sent
him away to Inveraray, the right town, with a kindly letter
to the sheriff, saying that he hoped this lost sheep would
STORY OF THE GLEN OF WEEPING 371
Once more Macdonald started off, but at this time the
Highland roads were always very bad. Now in mid
winter they were almost impassable. Through the cold
and snow, Macdonald trudged bravely on. The shortest
way to Inveraray led him within a mile of his own house.
He would not even turn aside one mile, but passed it by.
But hurry how he would, it was the 6th of January before
he reached Inveraray ; just six days too late.
When the sheriff knew for what Macdonald had come,
he looked grave, ‘lt is too late,’ he said. But Mac
donald was so earnest and begged so hard, that at last the
sheriff let him take the oath, and the old chieftain started
home again feeling safe and happy.
But the Master of Stair and the Marquis of Breadalbane,
who were helping to rule Scotland, hated the Highlanders
and particularly the Macdonalds of Glencoe. They had
hoped that some of the clans would hold out, so that they
might have a chance of punishing them. They were
really angry when they discovered that all had taken the
oath. They resolved that as Macdonald had taken it too
late he should not escape.
So the King was never told that Macdonald had taken
the oath. He was made to believe that he and all his
clan were a set of robbers, and that there would never be
peace in the Highlands until they were utterly destroyed.
And the King signed a letter giving orders for their
It is said that William did not read, or did not under
stand, the paper, and that he did not know what he was
doing when he signed it But he ought to have known.
Having the King‘s permission, the Master of Stair
set to work. But he did not go about it openly. He
meant to root out the Clan Macdonald thoroughly, and
the letters he wrote are filled with a horrid joy. ‘To
372 SCOTLAND‘S STORY
plunder their lands and drive off their cattle,’ he wrote,
‘ would only render them desperate. They must all be
killed, and the manner of execution must be sure and
Sure and secret he meant it to be. So on the 1st
of February, one hundred and twenty soldiers appeared
marching down the glen. As soon as their red coats
came in sight, Macdonald‘s sons went out to meet them,
and ask them if they came in peace or war. In peace,
they said. The new barracks at Fort William were so
full that there was no room for them, so they had been
sent to quarter in Glencoe.
The Macdonalds believed the men, and welcomed them
as visitors. For a fortnight they lived together. All the
hospitality that the little glen could provide, was pressed
upon the guests. Every day the officers passed some of
their time at the chieftain’s house. Every evening they
gathered round his cheerful fireside, playing cards and
games. Glencoe means ‘glen of weeping,’ but during
these short winter days it was a glen of smiles. No
thought of treachery disturbed Macdonald ; he was sure
of the King‘s protection.
At four o‘clock one dark morning, the glen lay silent,
except for the shriek and howl of the wind, not a sound
was heard. But over the snow, dark forms were stealing.
Suddenly a shot rang out. A few minutes more and the
silent glen was echoing from end to end with the sound of
gunshots, and the cries of fear and pain.
The soldiers were at their deadly work. Nor did it
take them long, for they had only defenceless men,
women, and children to deal with. In the darkness,
almost in their sleep, they murdered the men who had
treated them as friends and brothers. None were spared,
old men and children alike met the same fate. Half clad,
STORY OF THE GLEN OF WEEPING 373
many fled through the darkness and the snow. Some
reached safety, others died miserably in the lonely glens
and mountain paths. As the soldiers butchered and
robbed, they set fire to the cottages, and soon the dark
sky was lit up with the glare, and the crackle and roar of
the flames mingled with the cries of the dying.
Then when their work was done, the murderers marched
away, driving before them the sheep and cattle of their
dead hosts, leaving Macdonald and thirty or more of his
clan to He stiff and cold in the silent, lonely glen—the
Glen of Weeping—the Valley of Tears, as it was rightly
The news of this deed was everywhere received with
horror. It did great harm to William. The Highlanders,
who had been inclined to live peaceably under his rule,
were once more stirred to hatred against him. The
Massacre of Glencoe, as it was called, perhaps brought
more friends to the banished King than anything else
which happened during the reign of King William.
But first, if you want to come back to Scotland's History and Legends again, just add www.historyandlegends.com to your bookmarks or favorites now! Then you'll find it easy!
Also, please consider sharing our Scottish History and Legends website with your online friends.
Copyright © 2000-present Donald Urquhart. All Rights Reserved. Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners. Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of our legal disclaimer.