Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734)

Rob Roy MacGregor was born on Loch Katrine-side in 1671, the third son of Donald Glas MacGregor of Glengyle and Margaret Campbell, cattle dealers. Donald Glas was a chief of the Clan and also a Jacobite. In other words, he wanted to see the deposed James VII and his heirs returned to the throne.

The MacGregors were a very controversial clan. On several occasions, their surname had been ‘proscribed’ which effectively prevented them from entering into any legal contracts. The first time was after the killing of over 100 Colquhouns by the MacGregors in Glen Fruin in 1603. King James VI proclaimed the MacGregor name “altogether abolished’. The name was briefly restored in 1661 but proscribed again in 1693 by William of Orange after the MacGregors fought against him at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689.

Rob Roy, aged just 18, had fought beside his father in that battle. He managed to escape, whereas Donald Glas was captured and imprisoned for several years in Edinburgh. Rob Roy and his oldest brother Iain then set up the Lennox Watch, a body of men who would offer ‘protection’ to cattle owners in return for money. The protection lasted only while payments were made. If payment ceased, cattle would mysteriously disappear.

After Iain died in 1701 and Donald Glas the following year, Rob Roy became the effective Chief of the MacGregor Clan. His reputation with other clan chiefs and cattle traders rapidly grew and he became involved in lucrative cattle dealing with the Campbells of Breadalbane and the Marquis (later Duke) of Montrose. After the Marquis lent him £1000 to expand his activities, the money was stolen by one of Rob Roy’s trusted men, Duncan MacDonald. As he could not repay the loan, Rob Roy was declared bankrupt and, after failing to respond to a summons, was outlawed in 1713.

Rob Roy fought on the Jacobite side at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. As a result he was accused of treason, lost most of his property and had to live as a fugitive. The Duke of Montrose and the Duke of Atholl were both active in trying to capture Rob Roy. First the Duke of Montrose captured him in Balquhidder but he made a famous escape by the River Forth while being taken to Stirling castle in 1717. He was then recaptured by the Duke of Atholl in Dunkeld, imprisoned in Logierait but again escaped.

Rob Roy’s days as an outlaw came to an end in 1724, after the death of the Duke of Atholl and a reconciliation with Montrose. He sent a letter of submission to King George I through General Wade in 1725. This allowed him to live in relative peace until he died in his bed at Inverlochlarig in 1734. He is buried in the churchyard at Balquhidder.