Rob Roy MacGregor

Born 1671

Died 1734

The MacGregor Connection:

Although a 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 Dundee, 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 with 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 £1,000 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 trusted associates 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.

Rob 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 2nd 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 site of Rob Roy MacGregor, marking his wife (Helen) Mary, and sons Coll and Robert (Balquhidder)

Rob 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 Balquhidder Kirkyard. 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.