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Summer at the Lake of Monteith
Last Moments of Rob Roy

Rob Roy Macgregor died on the farm of Inverloch-larabeg, among the braes of Balquhidder, in 1735. When confined to bed, nearly worn out by the laborious vicissitudes of a long and restless life, and approaching dissolution stealing fast upon him, there occurred a scene which was singularly characteristic of the man A person with whom he had had a quarrel called to see him; and on being made aware of this, Rob called to his attendants, “Raise me up; dress me in my best clothes; tie on my arms; place me in the great chair! That fellow shall never see me on a death-bed.” His attendants instantly complied, and he received his visitor with cold civility. Before they parted the .priest arrived, and conjured Rob, as he expected forgiveness from God, to bring his mind in his last moments to forgive all his enemies. Rob at first demurred to this expostulation; and the priest, to enforce it, quoted part of the Lord’s prayer. On hearing this, Rob said, “Ay, now, ye ha’e gi’en me baith law and gospel for’t. It’s a hard law; but I ken it’s gospel.” Then, turning to Rob Oig (young Rob), his son, he addressed him thus—“My sword and dirk lie there. Never draw them without reason, nor put them up without honour. I forgive my enemies; but see you to them, or may” and he expired. Rob Roy lies in the church-yard of Bal-quhidder, beneath a plain stone, on the top of which is carved the outline of a sword, an appropriate emblem of the man and the times—

“Clan Alpine’s omen, and her aid.”

In surveying the character of Rob Roy Macgregor, many excellent traits appear, from which we cannot withhold our admiration. There are no doubt some incidents in his extraordinary career which deserve reprehension; but when we consider the time in which he lived—a time when the whole northern parts of the kingdom were torn by civil discord, and distracted by politics—the Government having neither strength nor wisdom to arrest the evils that flowed from feudal chieftainship, we cease to wonder at the deeds he performed, or the liberties he took. Rob Roy was among the last of the true Highland chiefs of the old stock, who gloried in supporting the ancient dignity and independence of his race. For a long series of years his clan had been subjected to the most fearful and cruel persecution at the hands of Government and the more powerful neighbouring chiefs; and it seemed as if Rob had been raised up by Providence to retrieve the fallen fortunes of his clan, and to arrest the bloodshed of his kindred. Rob Roy had five sons, viz., Coll, James, Ronald, Duncan, and Robert. Of Coll there is very little known; he is, however, said to have been of a quiet and gentlemanly demeanour, and, according to the rev. editor of the “History of Stirlingshire,” to have possessed “every manly virtue.” James is said to have been of great stature, and generally known as “James Mor” or “Big Jamie.” He possessed largely the fiery dash of the original Highlander; inherited, to a very considerable extent, the military ardour of his father; and was a stanch supporter of the ill-fated house of Stuart. In 1745, James, along with his cousin, Macgregor of Glengyle, and twelve of his men, took the fort of Inversnaid, and made eighty-nine of the soldiers prisoners. He held the rank of Major under Prince Charles, and commanded six companies of Macgregors at the battle of Prestonpans, where he had the misfortune to get his thigh bone broken. On account of this accident, he was unable to follow his Prince in his ill-fated march into England; but, on his return, he took an active part in the concluding battle of Culloden, where he again commanded several companies of Macgregors. In the year 1752, James was confined a prisoner in the Castle of Edinburgh, for the part he took, along with his brother Robert, in the abduction of Jean Keay; but effected his escape in the following extraordinary manner:—His daughter, who had come to Edinburgh, conceived a most admirable plan for his escape. Having previously arranged her designs, she, on the evening of the 16th November, 1752, dressed herself in the habit and character of a cobbler, and, with a pair of old shoes in her hand, she went to his prison. Her father instantly put on the disguise, and then commenced an angry dispute with the supposed cobbler about an overcharge of the price, and loud enough to be heard by the sentinels. Watching his opportunity, he hurriedly left the room, and, under cover of the darkness of night, managed to make his escape. Being afraid to return to the Highlands, he took the road to England, and, after severe and fatiguing travel, on the evening of the fourth day after his escape, he found himself benighted on a wild and lonely moor in Cumberland. Travelling on through the darkness, he at length left the moor and entered a large wood. Being unable to proceed farther, he sat down at the foot of a tree, and bemoaned his condition. Alone, far from home and all that were dear to him, weary and hungry, he knew not what to do. The thought of his wife and little ones at home almost broke his heart; and the recollection of his own early and happy days, spent among the green braes of his native Craigroystan, and the sunny banks of Loch-Lomond, harrowed his soul. Happy would he have been, if, on the death of his father, instead of fighting for “Prince Charlie,” he had

“Hung his weapons in the hall.”

Now, hunted by the most gross persecution, and punished for imaginary crimes to satisfy a weak but cruel and ill-advised Government, his goods had become the prey of envious and devouring neighbours. James had been but a short time in the wood when he was suddenly aroused by a wild halloo that echoed far through the dark forest, followed by the sound of several voices. Taking this for his pursuers, he started to his feet, clutched his dagger, cocked the pistols his faithful daughter had folded in the cobbler’s apron, and swore to himself that he would die rather than be taken. Listening for a little, the voices began to grow faint, and he saw at a short distance the glimmering of a light. Anxious to know who these night marauders were, and what might be their errand, he crept cautiously up to the light, and beheld an old woman holding a torch to three men, who were loading panniers on their horses’ backs. Fancy his surprise to hear one of the, men speak in the broken accents of his own native Loch-Katrine! and, standing beside the old woman with the torch, he imagined he saw the form of old Billy Marshall, the tinker, whom he often had befriended in Glengyle! After the horsemen had ridden off, Macgregor stepped up to the hut, and, tapping at the door, it was opened by Marshall himself. Although in the poor disguise of a cobbler, he instantly recognised James, and gave him hearty welcome. Marshall hoped James would at present excuse the poverty of his abode, as it was only temporary, until some ill-will he had gotten to himself in Galloway, for burning a stack-yard, would blow over. James was kindly entertained by the tinker for two days; and on the third he and his host set out on horseback for Whitehaven, where he got a fisherman’s boat for the Isle of Man. From thence he went to Ireland, where he sailed for France. James died in France, poverty-stricken and broken-hearted, in October 1754; and with him passed away one of his clan’s most able and enthusiastic supporters.

We might follow the chequered career of the sons of Rob Roy through a long list of varied adventures and trials, but as none of these are closely connected with the locality, we shall confine ourselves to a few of the daring exploits of “Young Rob,” as he was called, as they are of strong local interest, and eventually cost him his life. Young Rob was the youngest son of Rob Roy, and said to be only seventeen years of age at his father’s death. Scarcely had his father been dead than he began his adventures by shooting his cousin, and ended his days on the scaffold. Young Rob is said to have been tall, but of slender build, and he inherited to a considerable degree his father’s dexterity at the sword. He appears to have been reckless and easily advised—the tool of his more cautious brothers, and, if taunted, would face a multitude single-handed; but was altogether sadly wanting in the great moral sagacity that distinguished his father, and that took him out of so many difficulties. That the sons of Rob Roy were sadly persecuted, there remains not a shadow of a doubt; that they committed excesses there can be no denial; but the fate of James and Robert was peculiarly severe. After the alleged murder of his cousin, Robert fled to France, and was present at the battle of Fontenoy, in Flanders, on nth May 1745; and after his return he never was brought to trial for the supposed crime, and it was only for his part in the abduction of Jean Keay that he was brought to the scaffold. The evidence in that case being of the most conflicting kind, the rev. editor of the “ History of Stirlingshire” says, Rob was executed “ostensibly on that score.” As a proof of the manner in which these men were treated, I have only to mention one instance. James and Ronald were tried at Perth for their share in the murder of their cousin, but were declared “not guilty” by the jury; the judge, however, bound them over to keep the peace for seven years, under a penalty of two hundred pounds.

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