Sir Walter Scott, portrayed Rob Roy as a dashing and chivalrous outlaw. Of course, the truth was a little less glamorous. Robert acquired the name of ‘Roy’ early in life due to his mop of red curly hair. In the early eighteenth century, Rob Roy MacGregor had established a protection racket, charging farmers an average 5% of their annual rent to ensure that their cattle remained safe. He had complete control over Argyll, Stirling and Perth and could guarantee that any cattle stolen from his customers would be returned to them. Those who did not pay regretted it …as he had them stripped of all they possessed. Rob Roy was not a man to argue with!
His early days were spent peacefully as a drover, buying and selling highland cattle under the patronage of the Duke of Montrose. He stole most of the cattle from his earlier benefactor, the Duke of Montrose. The Duke was not happy about this, especially as his arch enemy the Duke of Argyll was supporting Rob Roy and giving him refuge in Glenshira, not far from Inverary. Montrose took his revenge by seizing MacGregor’s house and throwing his wife and four young sons out into the depths of winter. In 1715 he was found trailing the rebel army of the deposed Stuarts at Sheriffmuir, waiting patiently for any booty that he could lay his hands on. The end came when he had to surrender to the Duke of Atholl in 1717 but he managed to escape, probably through the protection of the Duke of Argyll. However, Rob Roy was eventually caught and imprisoned again. On the point of being transported to Barbados in 1727, he received a pardon from King George I and decided, as he was not getting any younger (he was now in his mid fifties) that it was time to settle down. This he did and lived the rest of his life as a peaceful, law abiding citizen… apart from the odd duel or two. The same cannot be said about his violent sons, James and Rob Oig (Robert the Younger), but that is another story!
SO WHO WAS HE REALLY? Robert MacGregor, (baptized March 7, 1671, Buchanan, Stirlingshire, Scotland — died December 28, 1734, Balquhidder, Perthshire). His parents were Donald Glas MacGregor and Margaret Campbell. He was also descended from the Macdonalds of Keppoch through his paternal grandmother. Rob’s father, Donald MacGregor, a younger brother of the chief of the clan MacGregor, received a military commission from the deposed King James II after the Glorious Revolution (1688–89). Rob was a freebooter with uncertain loyalty to James and was also engaged in cattle stealing and blackmail. When the penal laws against the MacGregors were reintroduced in 1693, Rob took the name of Campbell. Since his lands lay between those of the rival houses of Argyll and Montrose, for a time he was able to play one off against the other to his own advantage. James Graham, 1st duke of Montrose, succeeded in entangling him in debt, and by 1712 Rob was ruined. So Rob embarked on a career of brigandage, chiefly at the expense of Montrose. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, he was distrusted by both sides and plundered each impartially. After the rebellion was put down, he was treated leniently because of the intercession of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll. In his old age Rob became a Roman Catholic. His letters show that he was well educated; the view of him as a mere brutish highwayman seems not to do him justice.
In January 1693, at Corrie Arklet farm near Inversnaid, he married Mary MacGregor of Comar (1671–1745), who was born at Leny Farm, Strathyre. The couple had four sons: James Mor – big Jimmie -MacGregor (1695–1754), Ranald (1706–1786), Coll (died 1745) and Robert (1715–1754—known as Robin Og or Young Rob). As mentioned above; the most controversial claim concerns Roy’s behaviour during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 when he betrayed his clan by acting as a paid agent to help the English army. Previously, he had been regarded as a staunch supporter of the Jacobite cause and led his clan during the first uprising at the Battle of Killiecrankie. His involvement led to government mercenaries burning down his house. Was he a spy for the Scots? For the English? Or a double agent? I don’t think we will never know for sure the whole story of Rob, he is up there in mythology with Robin Hood, Arthur and Nessie. Although HE definitely DID eist!
The sept of MacGregor claimed a descent from Gregor, or Gregorius, third son, it is said, of Alpin King of Scots, who flourished about 787. Hence their original patronymic is MacAlpine, and they are usually termed the Clan Alpine. They are accounted one of the most ancient clans in the Highlands and it is certain they were of original Celtic descent.