This edited article about Strathclyde originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 721 published on 8 November 1975.
A land of romance and bloody clan warfare, of whisky and deep glens, of mist-covered mountains – and of the American Polaris submarine.
This is the former Scottish county of Argyllshire, most of which has now been incorporated in the new administrative region of Strathclyde. Argyllshire was a country of Highlands and islands; a quarter of the county was made up of a patchwork of islands each with its own history, like Iona, famous for St. Columba who brought religion to Scotland, and Mull for the romance of a treasure ship of the Spanish Armada still believed to be lying at the bottom of Tobermory Bay with a fortune inside it.
Every summer, thousands of tourists go to this beautiful area on the west coast of Scotland to look at the sites of former battles, to fish in the cool lochs, to walk and to climb.
And not many miss Glencoe, on the borders of the new region. It was the site of the most gory massacre in Scottish history for which, to this day, the Campbells have never been forgiven.
Glencoe in Gaelic means Glen of Weeping. It is one of the most melancholy and gloomy of all the Scottish passes.
In the year 1692 the clan Macdonald were living peaceably – at that particular time anyway – in Glencoe.
The Macdonalds and the Campbells were two of the principal clans in the county.
One hundred and twenty soldiers under a Captain Campbell appeared in Glencoe and assured the Macdonalds that they were there for a peaceful purpose. They were made honoured guests. They were wined and dined and stayed in the home of the clansmen. For twelve days, the hospitable Macdonalds gave the Campbells their best.
But on the night of February 13 came treachery. The Macdonalds went to bed. The Campbells did too. But at dead of night they awoke. Some made their way to the ravines and outlets to the hills to cut off all means of escape.
The rest, led by Captain Campbell, murdered their hosts in their beds. Some, wakened by the shots, rushed from their homes half-naked. They, too, were slaughtered; old men, young men, children and women. The Campbells did not discriminate.
But the Campbells did not manage to prevent all escapes. Many made their way out of the Glen to safety, including the sons of Ian Macdonald, the chief. But the old chief did not survive. The Campbells rushed his home and shot him as he was still offering them refreshment.
At the end of the night, thirty-eight Macdonalds lay dead. And to this day there are Macdonalds who will not speak to a Campbell.
But although this slur remains on the house of Campbell, the heads of the clan, now the Dukes of Argyll and previously Earls and Marquesses of Argyll, have played an important part in Scottish history.
The first Marquess of Argyll played a peculiar role in the civil wars of the 17th century. He placed the crown on the head of Charles II at Scone, but later supported Cromwell. On the restoration, he reverted to the king, but was convicted of high treason and beheaded in Edinburgh in 1661.
His son supported the Duke of Monmouth, King Charles’s illegitimate son, in Monmouth’s bid for the crown after King Charles died, and he too was executed.
But his son, the third Marquess of Argyll, was restored to royal favour and made the first duke.
The present Duke of Argyll lives in the family castle at Inverary. He has financed and led many hunts in Tobermory Bay for the Spanish galleon with its fortune of gold. His chief diver was “Buster” Crabbe who disappeared while diving off Portsmouth a few years ago during the visit of two Russian leaders.
But although many remnants of the Spanish Armada sunk in Tobermory Bay have been brought to the surface, the treasure ship remained elusive. However, the Duke is reported to be convinced that his divers have found it. He has descended in a wet suit, it is said, to prove their claim and is certain that the vessel is lying under silt. When this has been cleared, all doubts will be removed.
Oban, with its landlocked bay usually full of yachts and naval ships, is the great tourist centre. Dominating the town on the hill behind is a great coliseum called McCraig’s Tower.
The tower was begun in the late 19th century by a benevolent inhabitant for no other purpose than to give employment to his fellow townsmen. But the money ran out and McCraig’s Folly stands to this day, imposing but unfinished.
Iona, a tiny island with a population of 153 people, is of historic interest. After St. Columba arrived there in 563 to evangelize the Picts, the importance of Iona through the years diminished.
In 1938, the ancient abbey of Iona was restored and now the island of Iona plays an important part in the religious life, not only of Scotland but of many other parts of the world as well.
Campbeltown in Kintyre is an important town in the old county of Argyllshire, for it has a population of about 8,000 and makes whisky. It has many distilleries and sends its famous drink all over the world.
Farming – some arable but mostly sheep and cattle – quarrying, tourism and forestry, give work to some. Fishing, too, gives employment. But the industries of the future will be paper pulp, chip wood and other products from the carefully planted forests of the Forestry Commission.
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