Tuesday, February 9, 2010
My foot is on my native heath and my name is Rob Roy MacGregor.
Today, I am going to introduce you to one of my favorite Scottish heros. Rob Roy MacGregor. His birthday is actually some time this month, though we're not sure which day it is, so I thought it appropriate to talk a little bit about him. In his book, Scotland: The Story of a Nation, Magnus Magnusson says this about Rob Roy:
"Rob Roy MacGregor has become the quintessential Highlander--a curious blend of patriot (like William Wallace), freebooter (like Francis Drake), outlaw, (like Robin Hood) and frontiersman (like Buffalo Bill Cody); a man of honor who was a bandit, a cattle-rustler and the chief of a protection racket known in his time as blackmail (literally, 'black rent')."
So Rob was what you would call a romantic character. Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish poet and author, was a huge fan of Rob Roy. He had in his personal collection, Rob's flintlock gun, his basket-hilted broadsword, his sgian dubh and his sporran. He also wrote a novel about him called Rob Roy. Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, also wrote a book about him called Highland Rogue. (Just as a quick note, if anyone knows where I can get a copy of this book that's not incredibly rare and overpriced, please let me know!)
Rob Roy was born Robert MacGregor to Mary and Donald Glas MacGregor. His mother was actually a Campbell and after the MacGregor clan was outlawed, he went under that name. He was born in February 1671 at the head of Loch Katrine in the Trossachs. He was the third son and his father was the clan chief. He got the nickname Rob Roy from the color of his hair. Roy comes from the Gaelic ruadh which meant red-haired. Rob was a fantastic swordsman. In his life time, he fought twenty-two duels that we know of and probably more that we don't know about. He went on many cattle raids as well and was exceptionally good at not being caught. Tomorrow, I will post information about cattle raids and go into more detail.
Rob also fought in some of the Jacobite Wars. He fought at Killiecrankie under Bonnie Dundee (John Graham) when he was only eighteen, and later fought in the 1715 uprising as well as the 1719 Rising. He was captured several times, once narrowly missing a hanging, but he always was able to get away. Rob was probably one of the luckiest Scotsmen ever. He was an outlaw for most of his life, but was eventually pardoned. He was also one of the only famous Scottish heros who got to die from old age. This about it. Wallace and Montrose were executed, The Black Douglas and Bonnie Dundee died in battle, Bruce died of sickness, but Rob dies at age sixty-three and is now buried in the grave yard of the Old Kirk in Balquidder (pronounced Balwidder) and his tome stone says "MacGregor Despite Them". He was an amazing man and is now a national hero. What always amazed me about his story is that it seems like a work of fiction. It really seems no less grand then the stories about Robin Hood, but we know that there is actually truth to the stories about Rob Roy! He will always be one of my favorite characters in Scottish history.
If you want to do more research about Rob, I would recommend W.H. Murray's book Rob Roy MacGregor His Life and Times. (Listed on my list of books) This is a fantastic book, historically accurate, and reads like a novel.
I'll be back tomorrow with a post about cattle raiding so don't miss it!