- Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734) - Page 2
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Rob Roy the Business Man - And Outlaw
With the Jacobite cause getting nowhere, the Secretary of State agreed in 1691 that there would be an armistice - if the clan chiefs agreed to sign an Oath of Allegiance. (It was the late signing of this Oath that led to the massacre of the MacIans, a sept of the clan Donald, in Glen Coe> in the following year). Initially, Donald Glas refused to sign but did so after the death of his wife. But after signing, the Privy Council demanded that he pay the cost of his imprisonment. To help pay the money, Rob undertook a raid to steal some cattle from around the village of Kippen. The men from there resisted and one was killed in the ensuing fight.
Rob was married to Helen Mary McGregor (a cousin from Comer) on 1 January 1693 at Corryarklet, between Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond. The designated MacGregor chief died the following month without legitimate heir. He had been somewhat weak and had been chief in name only - Donald Glas, Rob's father, had been the real leader.
During a visit to Glasgow in December 1695, Rob was arrested for an earlier misdemeanour and was sentenced to be sent to Flanders. But he escaped and returned home. Despite hard times, he managed to prosper and at least five sons survived to manhood. During this time his reputation as a swordsman was enhanced by winning a number of duels - his long arms were said to give him an advantage.
As a cattle dealer, Rob was making money buying stock in Scotland and selling them at a profit after taking them to England. But after a number of years of success, in 1712 he borrowed £1,000 from the Duke of Montrose to finance a deal. His chief drover, however, appears to have run off with the money. But Montrose believed that Rob was involved in the loss and although he offered to pay back as much as possible immediately, he was taken to court and declared a bankrupt and a thief. Rather than face imprisonment, Rob head north. Montrose demanded the seizure of Rob's property. It is said that Rob's wife Mary was raped and branded when the soldiers carried out the eviction.
Rob remained at large in the Highlands, evading capture and eventually the Campbell Earl of Breadalbane (an enemy of Montrose) gave him land in Glen Dochart. Rob returned to his previous mixture of lawful "protection" and raids (paying particular attention to the lands of Montrose). During this time he earned a reputation for helping poor people who had financial problems with Montrose - earning him a "Robin Hood" reputation.
Rob Roy played a part in the Jacobite Uprising of 1715 - although he and his men arrived too late for the main battle of the campaign at Sheriffmuir which, marginally, the Jacobites won. But hesitation on the part of the Jacobite leaders and the late arrival of James VIII from France led to the withering of the Uprising. Rob Roy was named in the list of those accused of treason for their part in the Uprising but an amnesty was offered to all if they surrendered. Rob Roy eventually gave up some rusty weapons to the Duke of Argyll - who gave him a house in Glen Shira.
Rob Roy continued to raid the lands of the Duke of Montrose who tried on many occasions to capture this thorn in his side. Montrose obtained letters of "Fire and Sword" against Rob Roy McGregor. Montrose did manage to capture Rob Roy at Balquhidder but on the journey back to Stirling, Rob escaped. Then the Duke of Atholl tricked Rob, breaking a promise of safe conduct in the process. Rob was captured but while in prison in Dunkeld he bribed the guards and escaped yet again.
In 1720 Rob Roy moved back near Balquhidder (both Montrose and Atholl had given up trying to capture him by this time) and resumed his previous life. In 1723, Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) was in Scotland as an English Government spy and he wrote an embellished account of Rob's adventures entitled "Highland Rogue". This, like the later novel by Sir Walter Scott, helped to enhance his reputation.
The last ten years of his life were relatively peaceful. In 1730 he was converted to Catholicism - he had not been a particularly enthusiastic Protestant and his belief in the Jacobite cause may have influenced his decision. Rob died on 28 December 1734 after a short illness. He died as a piper was playing "I shall return no more" for a departing visitor.
Rob Roy was buried on New Year's Day, 1735 at Balquhidder in a funeral attended by many clansmen. His wife and two of his sons were later buried in the same grave. His gravestone has a sword carved on it. The gravestone with "MacGregor Despite Them" (shown above) was added in the 1920s.
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