The Clan Iain Abrach
A History of the MacDonalds of Glencoe
The MacDonalds of Glencoe are the
smallest of the branches of Clan Donald. They are mostly remembered for
the infamous massacre of 1692, but this was only a small part of their
long and turbulent history.
Glencoe in northern Argyll runs from Loch Leven in the west to Rannoch
Moor in the east, about 8 miles in length. Historical documents refer
to the glen variously as Glencoan, Glencon, Glenco or Glencoe.
The glen was long in the possession of the MacDougall, Lords of Lorn.
They however chose the wrong side during the Wars of Independence and
were forfeited by King Robert I, who granted Glencoe and other
MacDougall property to Angus Og MacDonald, Lord of Islay. Angus Og had
been one of the King’s main supporters and played a leading role in the
victory at Bannockburn in 1314. Angus Og died in 1330, having granted
Glencoe to his natural son John Abrach.
John Abrach’s descendants as chiefs of the MacDonalds of Glencoe lived
at Polvig and are often described in State Documents as MacDonald or
MacIain of Polvig. By the start of the seventeenth century there were a
number of small townships in Glencoe at Achnacon, Achtriachtan,
Carnoch, Coalasnacon, Inverigan, Laroch, Leacantuim and Strone.
The population of Glencoe never reached above 500 people and usually
only appeared in official documents recounting their misdeeds. As a
result they now have a reputation, perhaps sometimes justified, as
murderers and thieves. It is true that their livelihood was mainly from
cattle, and raids on their neighbours to the east and beyond
supplemented their income.
The family in the male line ended with the death of Alexander
MacDonald, 19th of Glencoe in 1889, although recently a retired farmer
from Christchurch, New Zealand, has formally asked the Lord Lyon to
investigate his claim to the chiefship.