The Banshee of Glencoe Scotland

The banshee is known in Irish myths and legends for her wailing screams and for bringing the news of death, or death for those close by, to those who were unfortunate to hear her horrid songs. But a wicked event in the highlands of Scotland has lead us to this story of a rare highland banshee.wailing banshe screaming

1692 Glencoe: 38 men, woman and children were slaughtered. This was because King William III (II in Scotland) in August 1691 had demanded all clan chiefs in the highlands take an Oath to show their loyalty to him. Sadly for the MacDonald clan of Glencoe their Chief Alasdair Macdonald left a bit too late and was delayed, he missed the deadline to take the oath of January 1st by two days.  Authorities used this lateness as an excuse to make an example of the clan. Government forces at Fort William were ordered ‘to fall upon the rebells, the MacDonald’s of Glencoe!’ Before the attack the soldiers appeared during the day as peaceful visitors, and then in the early hours of February13th1692 they set about murdering the clan as they slept. Some escaped and made for the winter hills but they would sadly pass away due to the exposure of the harsh winter conditions of the Glencoe hills.

Legend has it the night before this horrid event some members of the MacDonald clan heard the banshee Most associate her with Ireland but she is said to inhabit the highlands and island of Scotland where some may call her a “bean-nighe” or “caoineag”. The bean-nighe and caoineag are both said to warn folk of bad news and the only difference with the two is the caoineag cannot be seen, only heard. But that night it was the MacDonald’s banshee that came to bring the ill news and so hearing the wailing on the wind, taking this as a bad omen some left for the hills, this choice would to save some of their lives.

The banshee, also known as washer woman, death spirit, woman of the fairy mounds or whatever you wish to call her has had tales retold for centuries in Irish mythology. It is said that she can be seen by the river washing her blood covered dress and can be heard either singing a sad song or wailing. If you are to come across one and she has not seen you it is possible to catch one, she can either grant a wish or delay the death of the intended in her sad songs she sings. Other theories are the banshee was a past member of your family that could of lived hundreds of years ago, tragically died in child birth and this is why she is seen sometimes at the river side wailing and washing her bloody clothes. When we hear bad news it always seems to be more comforting coming from a member of your family so in old Ireland the banshee was seen as a good omen. You or a family member would be helped over to the next world and not left to wander the earth alone.

On the other side of the legend of the banshee we are familiar with is a ‘hateful ugly old hag’ who hated life, hated her family, and is a dreaded caller that screams and howls a hatful song that could turn your blood cold. She would comb her hair with a silver comb and leave it on the ground and some poor soul who would pick it up would be next to die. Are these Hollywood’s ideas of twisting an old tale? Are the things we fear just wanting to help us and we are too set in our ways when it comes to fear to understand it or is there a simple explanation to the strange noises we hear in the dark? We may never really know.


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