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Rob Roy MacGregor

Scotland’s most famous rogue, Rob Roy MacGregor, has been immortalised throughout the nation’s history for his cattle rustling and feud against the Duke of Montrose. Rob Roy was born in March 1671 in Glen Gyle at the head of Loch Katrine, the third son of Donald Glas, a MacGregor chieftain and Mary Campbell. The title Rob Roy is anglicised from the Gaelic Raibeart Ruadh or Red Robert because he had wild red hair, although his famous red locks did eventually darken to auburn in later life. Rob Roy was born into the notorious MacGregor clan, who were outlawed and persecuted for over two centuries by the all-powerful Clan Campbell.

The Trossachs were the MacGregor’s heartland and during the eighteenth century, this rugged mountain range was largely inaccessible to outsiders. There was no government presence inside the mountains and there no roads either apart from some loosely pressed foot tracks. The wooded hills of the Trossachs thus provided the MacGregor’s with an ideal fortress to launch secretive raids upon other clans and crucially enough protection to prevent them from being caught by hostile government forces. The three main corridors of the Trossachs are Callander, which is now home to the Rob Roy and Trossachs Centre, the wooded village of Aberfoyle and Rob Roy’s final resting place in Balquhidder.

Rob Roy was brought up during an extremely turbulent period in Highland history, where the old Gaelic way of life was dying out in favour of commerce, trade and social improvement. His family were strongly associated with the rebel Jacobite cause but Robert did not pursue his goals through politics and came into prominence by starting his own cattle rustling trade, where he would steal cattle from rival clans and sell them in England for a healthy profit. Rob Roy is most famously known for this feud with James Graham, the 1st Duke of Montrose. In 1711, MacGregor borrowed £1000 from Montrose, only this lucrative transaction turned sour when Rob Roy’s, chief drover, allegedly stole the money, which was a considerable fortune for even the wealthiest cattle traders at the time. Rob Roy was declared bankrupt and the Duke of Montrose issued a writ against the outlawed MacGregor and confiscated his lands and cattle. After many narrow escapes, Rob Roy was eventually capture in 1725 and imprisoned down in London. MacGregor was due to be sentenced to transportation to Barbados but he received a pardon from King George I after novelist Daniel Defoe released ‘Highland Rogue’ in 1727, which was a popular fictionalised tale of Rob Roy’s life. He subsequently returned home and spent his final days with his family in Inverlochie, where he died at the age of 63 on the 28th December 1734.