Famous Scots
- Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734)

Rob Roy Statue, Stirling

"Children of the Mist"
The first Gregor in Scotland was said to have been a son of King Kenneth MacAlpin in the 8th century and the clan motto, in Gaelic, means "My race is royal". The clan MacGregor is reputed to be one of the oldest in Scotland and became established in Argyll and Perthshire, in Glenorchy, Glenstrae and Glenlochy - the clan probably built the original Kilchurn Castle at the Pass of Brander near Glenstrae. But Robert the Bruce granted a substantial part of the MacGregor lands to his close friend and supporter Neil Campbell. Over the centuries, the expansionist Campbells and the MacGregors were in frequent conflict and as the Campbell's very often had the ear of the monarch, the MacGregors were often the losers. Over the years, the MacGregors gradually lost title to their lands and became tenants of the more powerful Campbells.

In order to survive, the MacGregors, like many other clans, often had to resort to raids on neighbouring land, stealing cattle and anything else worth taking. Since the MacGregor lands were on the edge of the Highlands, there were often soft targets in the richer lands of the Central Lowlands to the south, in Stirlingshire. But they were not averse to raiding other clan lands - in 1558 many MacLarens, including their chief, were murdered during a MacGregor raid.

In 1590, the clan chief was held responsible for the murder of John Drummond, the king's forester (who in turn had hanged some MacGregors for poaching) - even though the chief was not involved in the killings. However, he was pardoned by King James VI in 1596. But in 1602 two MacGregors were refused hospitality by Sir Alex Colquhoun at Luss, on the banks of Loch Lomond. This may have been related to an incident in 1592 when the MacGregors fired an arrow which killed Sir Humphrey Colquhoun. But the insult of being refused hospitality had to be revenged and the MacGregors attacked Rossdhu Castle, killed two men and removed a few hundred cows and other livestock. The Colquhoun chief took the matter to the King (with a suitably embellished story). Matters were not helped when the two clans met soon after in a battle at Glen Fruin and 800 Colquhouns were badly beaten by a MacGregor band of half that number. The matter was again reported to the Privy Council in Edinburgh and in April 1603 the name of MacGregor was banned. Anyone continuing to use it could be sentenced to death and the clan chief was hanged in Edinburgh.

Rob Roy's Early Years
Loch Katrine It was against this background that Rob Roy MacGregor was born in 1671 in a cottage on the banks of Loch Katrine (pictured here) in the Trossachs area of Stirlingshire. He was the third son of Donald Glas of Glengyle and Margaret Campbell. Rob Roy would later use his mother's surname when the banning of the MacGregor name was reinforced. As the son of a senior member of the clan, he was well educated, not just in reading and writing but in the crafts of fighting and swordsmanship. While Gaelic was his native tounge, he spoke (and wrote) in English also. Rob obtained land on the east side of Loch Lomond near Inversnaid but augmented his meagre living there with both cattle rustling and cattle droving. Cattle owners who paid "black rent" or "black meal" (the origin of the word blackmail) would have their cattle protected by Rob and his fellow MacGregors. Since they were often the cattle rustlers, paying to have them protect your cattle could be beneficial!

The MacGregors, including Rob Roy, continued to support the deposed King James VII against William of Orange and Queen Mary. When John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee (also known as "Bonnie Dundee"), raised an army in support of James (and his Jacobite cause), the MacGregors joined him. Rob Roy and his father fought at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27 July, 1689 and although both sides lost many men, Rob and Donald Glas survived. During the following winter, however, Donald Glas was captured on a cattle raid and imprisoned. To eke out their low income, the MacGregors formed the "Lennox Watch" to protect cattle and on one occasion Rob restored cattle which had been stolen (by the MacRaes) to their rightful owner, the Campbell Earl of Breadalbane. This raised Rob's status and he was called on to protect a number of other estates.

Next page Business Man - And Outlaw Page 1, 2

Or return to the Index of Famous Scots

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line