Rob Roy - Encyclopedia

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ROB ROY (1671-1734), the popular designation of a famous Highland outlaw whose prowess is the theme of one of Sir Walter Scott's novels, was by descent a Macgregor, being the younger son of Donald Macgregor of Glengyle, lieutenantcolonel in the army of James II., by his wife, a daughter of William Campbell of Gleneaves. He received the name Roy from his red hair, and latterly adopted Campbell as his surname on account of the acts proscribing the name of his clan. Though in stature not much above the middle height, he was so muscular and thickly set that few were his equals in feats of strength, while the unusual length of his arms gave him an extraordinary advantage in the use of the sword. His eyes were remarkably keen and piercing, and with his whole expression formed an appropriate complement to his powerful physical frame. He inherited a small property on the Braes of Balquhidder, and at first devoted himself to the rearing of cattle. Having formed a band of armed clansmen, he obtained, after the accession of William III., a commission from James II. to levy war on all who refused to acknowledge him as king, and in the autumn of 1691 made a descent on Stirlingshire to carry off the cattle of Lord Livingstone, when, being opposed by the villagers of Kippen, he also seized the cattle from all the byres of the village. Shortly afterwards he married Helen Mary, daughter of Macgregor of Comar. On the death of Gregor Macgregor, the chief of the clan, in 1693 he managed, though not the nearest heir, to get himself acknowledged chief, obtaining control of the lands stretching from the Braes of Balquhidder to the shores of Loch Lomond, and situated between the possessions of Argyll and those of Montrose. To assist in carrying on his trade as cattle-dealer he borrowed money from the 1st duke of Montrose, and, being unable to repay it, he was in 1712 evicted from his property and declared an outlaw. Taking refuge in the more inaccessible Highlands, Rob Roy from this time forward supported himself chiefly by depredations coma mitted in the most daring manner on the duke and his tenants, all attempts to capture him being unsuccessful. During the rebellion of 1715, though nominally siding with the Pretender, he did not take an active part in the battle of Sheriffmuir except in plundering the dead on both sides. He was included in the Act of Attainder; but, having for some time enjoyed the friendship of the duke of Argyll, he obtained, on making his submission at Inveraray, a promise of protection. He now established his residence at. Craigroyston, near Loch Lomond, whence for some time he levied blackmail as formerly upon Montrose, escaping by his wonderful address and activity every effort of the English garrison stationed at Inversnaid to bring him to justice. Ultimately, through the mediation of Argyll, he was reconciled to Montrose, and in 1722 he made submission to General Wade; he was carried off, and imprisoned in Newgate, and in 1727 was pardoned just as he was to be transported to Barbados. He then returned to Scotland.

According to a notice in the Caledonian Mercury he died at Balquhidder on the 28th of December 1734. He was buried in Balquhidder churchyard.

The best lives are K. Macleay, Historical Memoirs of Rob Roy (1818; new ed., 1881); A. H. Millar, Story of Rob Roy (1883). See also Sir W. Scott's introduction to the novel Rob Roy. An early account, The Highland Rogue, &c. (1723), is ascribed to Defoe.

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