The recent film 'Rob Roy', starring Liam Neeson, added to our report, a
month or so ago in this column, of the annual meeting of the Clan Gregor
Society (see Salmon Tart), has prompted a Flag visitor to request details
of, perhaps the most famous MacGregor of them all, Rob Roy MacGregor. We
are happy to oblige.
Robert Roy MacGregor (1671-1734), named for his red hair (roy, ruadh =
red), was born at the head of Loch Katrine in the Trossachs, the third son
of Lieutenant-Colonel Donald MacGregor of Glengyle (of Glenorchy stock)
and his wife Margaret Campbell. They and their clan were Protestant. Rob
Roy was a gifted swordsman and his exploits became legendary. An active
Jacobite, aged 18, he fought under Viscount Dundee at Killiecrankie in
1689, and later joined the Lennox Watch, a body of Highlanders who gave
protection in the Lowlands in return for payment termed 'blackmail'. He
married Mary Campbell of the Corner, on the east side of Ben Lomond in
In 1694 when proscription of the name MacGregor was renewed, he took the
surname Campbell. In 1701 he acquired the lands of Craigroyston and later
those of Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond. He also rented
grazing at Balquhidder in Perthshire. In 1708 he became a cattle dealer
and, prospering, bought further property. All this was to be endangered in
1711 when he raised £1000 sterling from the Duke of Montrose and others to
buy cattle (the subject of the Liam Neeson film). According to tradition
Rob's chief drover, a MacDonald, absconded with the letters of credit and
Rob Roy was accused of embezzlement. He was gazzetted in the 'Edinburgh
Evening Courant' and all magistrates and officers of HM Forces were
entreated to seize him. On 3 October 1712 a warrant for his arrest was
issued by the Lord Advocate at the behest of Montrose. On failing to
answer the summons MacGregor was outlawed. His wife and family were
evicted from Craigroyston by Montrose's factor, Graham of Killearn.
Undaunted, Rob Roy then leased Auchinchisallen in Glen Dochart from the
Earl of Breadalbane, a political enemy of Montrose. Unable to pursue his
trade, he relied on sheep and cattle lifting and on the receipt of
'blackmail'. From the Trossachs he raided the Lowlands, particularly
targetting the lands of his now arch-enemy Montrose.
He mobilised Clan Gregor for the Jacobites in the 1715 Rising. The
MacGregors raided the Lennox, seized the boats of the Colquhouns on Loch
Lomond and, in the Callender area captured 22 government guns. Rob Roy
also led his men into Fife and took Balgonie Castle near Markinch. After
the Battle of Sheriffmuir, in which he remained inactive, the subject of
much speculation ever since, he was attainted of High Treason and
Auchinchisallen was burnt by Government forces. In 1716, John, Duke of
Argyll, 'Red John of the Battles', who had led led the Hanoverian forces
which halted the Jacobite advance at Sheriffmuir, allowed Rob Roy to build
a house in Glen Shirra, but his wife remained at Loch Katrine,
Rob Roy's exploits became legendary - much helped by the novel bearing his
name by Sir Walter Scott - but he was very much a-larger-than-life
character. He twice escaped from imprisonment and when captured near
Stirling, he was mounted on a horse and tied behind one of his captors;
but while crossing the River Forth at the Fords of Frew he cut the belt
that held him and plunging into the river managed to regain his freedom.
In 1725 he submitted to General Wade, the famous road-builder, and
received the King's pardon. Having been converted to Catholicism, he died,
peacefully, on 31 January 1734 at Inverlochlarig Beag at the head of the
Glen of Balquhidder. You can visit his grave in the kirk-yard of
His eldest son, James Mor MacGregor, followed in his father's footsteps
and served as a captain in the MacGregor Regiment during the 1745 Rising.
He was wounded in the thigh at the Battle of Prestonpans.
Rob Roy MacGregor probably enjoyed a dram but we are unsure if he would
approve of the cherry on a stick in the whisky-based drink which bears his
name and is this week's recipe.
Ingredients : 1 oz of Scotch; 1 oz Sweet Vermouth; dash of Angostura
Shake the ingredients, strain into a cocktail glass. Decorate with a
cherry on a stick. Then raise a Toast to a kenspeckle Scot.