|Robert the Red
( Rob Roy)
the true story behind the man 'Outlaw or Hero' make your own mind up!
by John A. Duncan, KCN,
At Loch Katrine on the 7th of March 1671, the 3rd
son of Chieftain Donald (Glas) Gregor of Glengyle and Margaret Campbell,
cousin to John Iain (Glas) Campbell
11th Laird of Glenorchy, later in 1681 The Earl
of Breadalbane, was born and baptised at Buchcanan Parish as
This was to see the start of one of the remarkable stories of the Highlands
of Raibert Rudah (Robert the Red) as he was nicknamed because of his wild
red hair. For most others though he would be known by his anglicised name of
Protestant, he was a Jacobite sympathiser (follower of James
Stuart the ‘Old Pretender’) and the next we hear of Rubah (Rob Roy) is at
the age of 18 as he rallied the Gregors to join Jacobite leader Viscount
John Graham of Claverhouse. Dundee, known by his
supporters as ‘Bonnie Dundee’, was to meet the Hanoverian army of William of
Orange led by General Hugh MacKay at Killiekrankie on the 17th of
July 1689. It was a bloody battle and although the Jacobites were
victorious, Dundee was killed and sometime later Rob’s father, Donald (Glas),
was captured and imprisoned for two years on
doubtful treason charges.
On Donald’s release from prison his wife
Margaret was dead (1691) and Donald was never to return to his former spirit
and health and died in 1702.
Although now in his early twenties, Rob concentrated on
the family business with his brother - cattle rearing with a wee bit of
reiving (stealing) thrown in which was fairly normal practice in the
Highlands. During this time his business aptitude was growing, as was his
political knowledge and he became fairly respected as a businessman, well
known throughout Scotland
respectable holdings in Inversnaid and
Graigrostan. Some say he also ran cattle as a protection racket.
Now 22 Rob was to marry Helen MacGregor of Comar, born at Leny Farm,
Strathyre on January 1693 at Glenarklet. They were to have 4 sons -
James (Mor) the tall, Ranald,
Coll, and Robert known as Robin (Oig) or young Rob. They also adopted a
cousin – Duncan.
In 1711, wanting to expand his cattle trade, Rob borrowed the sum of
£1000 from James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose with whom he had
been doing business for some 10 years. Montrose (known for his greed) had
made a lot of money through his investments in
MacGregor's trade but when one of Rob’s
disappeared with the money, a fortune at the time
even for a wealthy cattle and land owner, Montrose showed no mercy to Rob
who was unable to repay the sum and pressed home the advantage hoping to
claim Rob’s land and cattle. Rob was branded ‘Outlaw’ by Montrose and he
confiscated his lands and cattle.
Cattle, in Rob's Day most were Black
then rented land in Glen Dochart from his
mother’s cousin John Campbell,
the Earl of Breadalbane,
(who earlier in 1703 had been made the
Duke of Argyle’) a political enemy of Montrose. Argyle, who we assume knew
that Rob was a Jacobite sympathiser, was prepared to turn a blind eye as Rob
wreaked his revenge on Montrose by raiding his lands. Montrose however did
manage to capture Rob but he escaped and by now his escapades were attaining
folk hero status in the glens.
The Battle of Sherifmuir in 1715 saw Rob with mixed
allegiances as the Duke of Argyle took the government side against the
Jacobites and he was forced to miss the battle.
Even so he became a marked man with High Treason
charges over his head and spent the next 10 years a hunted man. Although he
was involved in various skirmishes like the one in Glen Sheil in 1719, he
managed to escape capture on various occasions until in 1725 he was captured
by General Wade and imprisoned in the famous Newgate Prison in London. Rob
was sentenced to transportation to Barbados but before he was due to be
deported he received a pardon from King George 1st and returned home to his
family in 1727.
Grave with Helen, Coll & James
was to live out his life with his family in relative tranquillity, changing
his religion from Protestant to Catholicism. He died at Inverlochie on the
28th of December 1734 at the age of 63 and was laid to rest at
His death was reported a week later in the
Caledonian Mercury in Edinburgh. He had left his wife
twenty three English pounds.
His grave can still be seen today alongside that of Helen his wife and two
of his sons Coll and James.
‘Rob Roy Macgregor Hero or Outlaw’
married Margaret MacGregor at Coilletir in 1721 at age 23. At 24 Ranald and
James were following a career of black mail and violence. In 1732 Ranald was
courting Jean, the 16 year old daughter of his chieftain Gregor of Glengyle.
Rob, worried for his son, thought that Ranald would settle down if given a
chance. He obtained a tract of land from young Drummond for him, where
Ranald settled for the next 54 years. Coll and Robin, are buried.
Robin, became the black sheep of the family. He
murdered John MacLaren of Invernenty in 1736. In 1745 he fought under the
duke of Cumberland at Fontenoy. After his discharge he married a sister of
Graham of Drunkie, who died 3 years later. In 1750 he kidnapped Jean Key, a
20 year old, and married her by force. Robin was caught and hanged for the
crime four years later at 38. James, the eldest, was a major in the rising
of 1745 when he helped burn the barracks of Inversaid. He brought honour to
his name at Prestonpans, where Prince Charles Edward Stuart (The Young
Pretender), or 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' defeated Sir John Cope.
He fought at Culloden and escaped with the MacGregors.
He was imprisoned in Edinburgh castle for aiding his brother Robin Og, but
escaped with help from his daughter. He died in poverty in Paris at age 59.
Coll died at Kerkton in 1745. His grandson and great grandson were both
major-generals. Duncan lived in Strathyre under the name of Drummond. He was
tried in Edinburgh for helping Rogin Og, and found not guilty. He left no
family, and died in 1786 at age 80. Little is known of his life.
© John A. Duncan of
Sketraw, FSA Scot. 2002