LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Glencoe: The Infamous Massacre 1692

by John Sadler.

As promised, John Sadler’s account of Glencoe is packed full of information. It covers some history of the clan system in general, a recount of the civil war, and the more detailed events surrounding the massacre itself.

However, I would suggest there is simply *too much* information, and/or the book has been very poorly edited. Many technical terms (some bordering on jargon) are used with little or no explanation, and this reader was frequently left wondering what was going on. The unnecessarily archaic language of the narrative adds to the confusion: necessary words, such as “tanistry”, “primogeniture”, and “recusant”, needed greater explanation (as offered by Alastair Moffat in “The Highland Clans”), but the use of words such as “inexpugnable” “sanguinary” and “excoriation” is just silly. A myriad of typos (including three different spellings of the word “internecine”) were annoying, and suggest poor proof-reading too. The author’s means of identifying relevant people was incredibly confusing: any given character might variously be referred to by any one of a wide range of names: his title, his heritage, his hometown, his political/religious persuasion, his nickname, his birth name, or simply as “the old man”. I rarely had any idea who anyone was (often they were the same person), particularly in the section on the civil war.

Given that this is a complex subject, it’s a shame has not been more effectively edited. If the reader perseveres, s/he will find sections of much great clarity (the descriptions of weaponry and armour, for example) making some passages a joy to read – and Sadler’s descriptions of some of the key players are wonderful.

On the whole, I don’t recommend this book; but it’s possible someone with an existing knowledge of 17thC Scottish history might find it a more useful and enjoyable read.


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