Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734)

Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734)

Outlaw and folk hero

Though he became a legend, Rob Roy was a real person who exemplified the disappearing way of life of clansmen who raided Lowland landholders, but were outside the rule of the Lowland authorities.

Rob Roy MacGregor was born at Glen Gyle on Loch Katrine in 1671. His father was a prominent MacGregor and his mother a Campbell. His upbringing taught him how to defend himself in the hills, and aged 18, he fought as a Stuart supporter under viscount Dundee at Killiecrankie in the first Jacobite battle. He also became active in protection schemes - the MacGregors exacting money for the safekeeping of Lowlanders' cattle.

Rob Roy married in 1693, became a clan leader and, in 1701, acquired land on Loch Lomondside and at Balquidder, where he prospered as a legitimate cattle dealer. However, a business transaction with the duke of Montrose turned sour when one of Rob Roy's men absconded with the duke's money. Rob Roy was accused of embezzlement. An order was issued for his arrest, and he was evicted from his Loch Lomond land by the duke's factor.

The earl of Breadalbane came to Rob Roy's rescue, giving him land in Glen Dochart where, in 1713, he renewed his cattle raiding and blackmail exploits and helped his neighbouring tenants, who were unable to fend for themselves. He led the MacGregors during the Jacobite Rising of 1715, after which he was accused of high treason, and government mercenaries burned his house.

In 1716, the duke of Argyll gave him land at Glen Shira, after which his raiding activities resumed until he was captured by the duke of Atholl. Although he escaped, he was eventually forced to submit to General Wade in 1725, but was granted a Royal Pardon in 1727.

Throughout all these exploits Rob Roy managed to hold his MacGregor Clan together. Born into a a protestant family, he became a Roman Catholic in his later years. He died peacefully in his own bed at Balquidder in 1734.

Testament of Robert Roy Campbell

(National Records of Scotland, CC6/5/24 pp 125-126)

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