Oh, cruel is the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o' Donald;
Oh, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald.
In 1691 the Prince of Orange offered a pardon to those Scottish clans whose chiefs would swear the oath of allegiance to him before January 1, 1692. MacIain, chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, proceeded to Fort William where he arrived on December 31. The military governor (Colonel Hill), however, refused to administer the oath on the grounds that it had to be taken before the civil magistrate. MacIain, therefore, was required to proceed to Inverary. There he had to wait three days for the return of the sheriff of Argyleshire, Sir Colin Campbell of Ardinglass. At first Campbell refused to administer the oath (since the deadline had now passed), but eventually he yielded and MacIain swore allegiance to the Prince of Orange.
Four weeks later at the beginning of February a company of 120 troops in the service of the Prince of Orange arrived at MacIain's home in Glencoe. They were under the command of Captain Campbell of Glenlyon; the Campbells were historically enemies of the MacDonalds, but Glenlyon was related by marriage to MacIain. Accordingly Glenlyon and his troops were offered hospitality by the MacDonalds of Glencoe, which they accepted for over a week.
In fact, Glenlyon had orders to put the community to "fire and sword" on the grounds that MacIain had not taken the required oath before the deadline of January 1. On February 13, without warning, Glenlyon and his troops fell upon the community, burning all the houses and massacring the people. Some 38 (of about 200 inhabitants), including MacIain himself, were killed that day by the troops of the Prince of Orange. Others who had fled into the mountains died in the next week from cold and starvation.
Whenever you delve deep into Scottish, Irish and English history you will be confronted with great brutality, massacres and deceit (“Oh, what a tangled web we weave...when first we practice to deceive”- Sir Walter Scott).
What this all has to do with Peter Bichler’s talk about “Scotland’s Forged Tartans” last night at the “House of Scotland” will become clear shortly.
Web-Kilt-Tartan, is the proverbial red thread running through the whole story. The “tangled web” woven by a hapless Westminster Government, hopelessly ensnared in the current Brexit-Crisis of their own making was portrayed in passionate words by our President, Dr Kurt Tiroch. Then Peter Bichler transported us into the World of the Kilt of the Celts and the unbelievable history of the Tartan spanning over 3000 years, when pre-historic textiles were first found in the Hallstatt salt mine, dating 1000 BC. Unbelievable is its history not only due to its position in time but also in space- in the Taklamakan Desert in China, with a similar find. Hallstatt-Taklamakan! Quite a distance. From hence it made its way over to Scotland, where, in a Roman excavation, a piece of Tartan was found in Falkirk from the year 300 AD.
It was an incredible evening: Fabulous and generous hospitality by the “House of Scotland”, ample opportunity to browse through the shop, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of Tartans and other Scottish Woollens. And not to forget: the mysterious room in the back: Auchentoshan and Tallisker Skye Whisky for the Scotch connoisseurs. To those, who did not make it last night my usual message: You missed a great party!
Allow me to close with a piece in Scots tongue from "The Heart of Midlothian" by Sir Walter Scott, in 1818.
"I dinna ken muckle about the law," answered Mrs Howden; "but I ken, when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o' our ain, we could aye peeble them wi' stanes when they werena gude bairns - Bit naebody's nails can reach the length o' Lunnon."
It translates like this: “I don’t know much about the law but I know this, when we had a king, and a chancellor, and our own parliament, we could throw stones at them if they misbehaved - But nobody’s nails are long enough to reach London.”
There you have it. What’s new, you may ask? Nothing. It’s all been here before.
*) Kilt=Killed (Das Kleidungsstück/Umgebracht) Ein Wortspiel im Glasgow Dialekt (“I kilt him”=I killed him).