Massacre of Glencoe


       The crystal clear water rises in the farther wilds

       of bare mountains

       and pursues a serpentine course

       through the green, wooded dale

       on its way to the sea.

       From past to eternity.


The marvellous Highlands you dream about

heard many a cry, heard many a shout,

echoed in a bare and rugged hill,

deadened by a moor and became still.

The marvellous Highlands wore a burial gown,

saw many a castle burning down.

Smoke rose to a dark clouded sky.

Many raids were made and went awry.

The marvellous Highlands were suffering from conflicts,

saw persecuted, massacred subjects.

Skirmishes, uprisings, clan versus clan.

Impossible to know who had begun.


In August the throne topping winning king

had offered all Highland clans a thrilling

pardon for their part in the revolt.

But the news came like a thunderbolt

‘cause it was conditional on their taking

an oath of allegiance to the new king

by the first of January next year.

So the Highland chiefs were filled with fear.

If they did not sign they were threatened with reprisals.

Would they have become colonials?

Clan chiefs sent word to the fallen king

to ask for his permission to take this oath.


The former king dithered over his decision,

he hoped to reclaim his throne, but in vain.

He permitted to make the oath.

Only Alastair Maclain was loath

to swear as promptly as the other chiefs did,

just in mid-December. That was acrid.

Alastair Maclain was the Chief

of Glencoe and came to grief.

He waited until the last day before setting out

to take the oath. Was he in doubt?

On December thirty-one Maclain

arrived at Inverlochy, but in vain.


He found that he should have gone instead to the south,

to Inveraray to take the oath.

He eventually got there five days late.

On arrival there he had to wait

for three days for the arrival of Sir Colin.

Returned, he reluctantly accepted the oath.

While Maclain was satisfied and thought

everything was right, some enemies fought

to say in the government that Maclain had missed

the deadline. He was not on the list

of the clans who had taken the oath

by the deadline and he was to be loathe.


       The River Coe rises in the eastern wilds

       of wet Rannoch Moor,

       runs through scattered villages

       and through the narrow steep-sided glen

       on its way into Loch Leven:

       This exit could easily be blocked.


About a month later two companies,

one hundred and thirty men to appease,

moved to Glencoe to collect a tax.

No one was afraid of mean attacks.

The soldiers were billeted in Glencoe

and nobody spoke about any foe.

The MacDonalds’ hospitality

was natural activity.

The troops were commanded by Captain Robert Campbell,

a sixty year-old man who liked to gamble,

an alcoholic and bankrupt man,

related by marriage to old Maclain.


On February twelve orders came to him.

He spent the evening with Maclain. What a whim!

They played cards. Upon retiring

Campbell wished goodnight, accepting

an invitation to dine with the Chief

the following day. There was no grief.

On the thirteenth of February at five

was the ordered time to connive.

The guests killed Maclain and further thirty-seven

unarmed MacDonalds. Forty kids and women

died of exposure, their homes were all burned.

I do not want to find any rhyme on massacre.


       The crystal clear water rises in the farther wilds

       of bare mountains

       and pursues a serpentine course

       through the green, wooded dale

       on its way to the sea,

       evaporates and rains on Rannoch Moor.

       From past to eternity.