Sections (68)

Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell
The '45
Extracts of Statistics from the Annexed Estates for Western Strathearn (1755-56)
The Reports of the Annexed Estates (1755-69)
A Tour of Scotland - Observations
Seismic Activity (1789)
Account of 1791-99 vol-11 - Comrie, County of Perth
Archibald MacNab (1734-1816)
Henry Dundas (1742-1811)
Sir David Baird of Seringapatam (1757-1829)
Companion and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland – Sarah Murray (1799)
Roman Camp, Dalginross – October (1800)
Flash from the Caledonian Mercury – September (1814)
I've a Boat to Catch (1818)
A Picture of Strathearn - John Brown (1823)
St Fillan’s Highland Society (1827)
Letters from the Distant Past (1831 - 1859)
Comrie, St Fillans and Monivard (1837)
Statistical Account: Parish of Comrie (1838)
The Glen Lednock Census (1841)
The Queen’s Visit (1842)
The Road to Comrie (1857)
For the Sake of Nelly Fergus (1860)
From an Unknown Guidebook-circa (1892)
Comrie (1895)
Tales of Derring Do
Soldier, Soldier, won’t you marry me wi’…
The Adventures of Paddy or Highland Peter
Ghoulie Tales
A Serious Business
Mail Order Bride
The Man with the Powerful Voice
Double Entry bookkeeping
Hey, Gie’s ma Haun…or Murder Most Foul
Kate Mackenzie's Terrible Deeds
Watty and Meg Drummond
The Fencibles
Deacon Reid
Amazing Grace
The Day of the Penny Wedding
The MacArthur's were there before the Hills
The Beggar's Badge
A Pane by any other name can be a Pain!
The Powder Keg
The Coo didnae hae ony Teeth!
The Green Lady of Glen Lednock
The Queen of Tynasithe
The Great Wall of Comrie
Whisky, You're the Devil
A Wee Rumble
A Whale of a Time
An Encounter of the Third Kind
Another Debate
Bosom Pals
Getting Stoned in Comrie
Hanging about Comrie
It's Whisky in the Jar
Picking Other Folks' Brains
Porridge for Breakfast
Tarred and Buttered
The Convert
The Debate
The Schism
The Levitation
The Twa' Brithers
There’s a Hare in my Soup
Yer bum's oot the Window

18th & 19th Century

Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell

Robert (Roy) MacGregor was born in 1671 and baptised in the Glengyle Parish of Callander on 7th March of that year. He was the younger son of Lt. Col. Donald MacGregor of Glengyle in Perthshire and Margaret Campbell of Glen Lyon. Margaret was a half-sister to her infamous brother Robert. Robert Campbell commanded the government troops in the Massacre of the MacDonalds at Glencoe in 1692.

Rob Roy (or Ruadh for his red hair) grew up in tempestuous times. Although we are unaware of his early childhood we can reasonably assume that as a second son he spent his childhood amongst the hills and heather and bracken braes in Strathyre, Balquhidder and Upper Strathearn. His grounding would make him familiar with every nook and cranny of the terrain and he may have gone to school there to learn the basics of languages and counting. He could read and write, spoke Gaelic and English, as well as well as having been taught Latin and Greek.

Counting was important especially when one’s future would depend so much on stealing cattle! Wealth was judged by one’s accumulation of cattle or sheep whether acquired legally or by the more familiar method of stealing or "lifting” someone else’s. “Rustling” cattle was, in many parts of Great Britain, a refined type of sport. In Rob’s hands it became a rare art form!

In stature as the emerging man he was not tall but had massive shoulders with, it has been said, extremely long arms. They were apparently so long that he could tie his garters with his hands without stooping! One imagines the Darwinian concept of later years! Maybe even Rob, (dare one say it!) was one of the missing links! If this description of his physiognomy was true, then it was his luck to be so born. This extra reach gave him considerable advantage with a broadsword, skein dhu or club, regardless of the size of his opponent!

He learned the respectable and honest trade and craft of a cattle drover, later graduating to contracting himself and his kin out to landowners. For a fee they would deliver their cattle to markets in Crieff and Falkirk. He was scrupulously honest in his dealings and woe betides the imprudent who reneged on a done deal. Later, and more by circumstance than by design, he created a niche in the protection business!

Rob Roy started to make a name for himself at age twenty when his father was imprisoned in Edinburgh for both being a Jacobite who had fought at Killiecrankie, as well as being a freebooter trading in “kye” (cattle) and to a lesser degree, sheep. To free his father required raising a large sum of money and being very practical Rob Roy, his closest confidant, Macanleister, and some twenty MacGregors went on a raid on Buchlyvie and “lifted” two hundred and fifty cattle from the Earl of Linlithgow. The cattle were then sold off and the ransom money paid and his father released from prison.

As a reward, and no doubt, gratitude, his father arranged through the Marquis of Atholl to give Rob a tenancy on a farm called Monachyle Tuarach lying to the west of Balquhidder. This northwards-facing farm and steading lies close to the point where Loch Doine runs into Loch Voil and the low-lying fields flood periodically.

As an apprentice in the art of “rustling” Rob concentrated on “lifting” sheep for a while and became known as “Sheep Robbie” in many of the markets in Strathearn and Strathyre. Soon he was familiar with the terrain and every blade of grass in these areas and, as regards Strathearn, made his historical contribution. He later graduated to cattle which were much more prestigious!

His dealings were strictly honourable in matters of “protection.” The basic idea was that the cattle or sheep owner would pay him a tithe or “mail” to protect the herd or flock. This protection ensured that no-one else would steal the owners’ stock. If the owner paid the fee all would be well but if, as sometimes was the case, the owner found this arrangement onerous and withheld payment, it was guaranteed that his stock would vanish in the middle of the night with no-one hearing or seeing anything! Rob and his fellow clansmen would sweep down silently from the hills and glens and “rustle” the herd. Landowners in Strathearn were fair game for this activity and rank held no barriers!

Lord Murray, then Secretary for State for Scotland, managed the estates of his father, the Duke of Atholl in Glen Almond. He declined to accept Rob’s offer of protection. He even went further suggesting aloud to all and sundry that MacGregor honesty was transient. This statement may have been thought by many, but never articulated. The foolish man found shortly thereafter that over three hundred of his sheep had vanished overnight without trace! Attending the market in Crieff he bemoaned this event to John Shian who was a tenant on the Atholl estates in Glen Quaich. Referring to the MacGregor as “Sheep Robbie” Shian suggested that he could find out where the sheep could be found, and in addition that probably Rob Roy had a hand in the matter. These remarks were overheard and reported to Rob and cost Shian dearly. His entire herd disappeared one night and has not been found to this day!

The very name MacGregor was proscribed leading to dire consequences. The first time this had occurred seemed reasonable punishment under the circumstances. In 1591 they had murdered Drummond-Ernoch, the King’s forester in Glen Artney and cut off his head. The second involved the awful hammering they gave the Colquhouns of Luss at the Battle of Glen Fruin in 1602. There they killed one hundred and twenty or so (it was said) of them including prisoners and (it was also said), some schoolchildren.

This second time was probably due to the influence of Lord Murray who bore a bitter grudge against the clan for their depredations. Unlike other MacGregors who took names like Drummond, Black, White, Murray and Comrie, Rob opted for his mother’s maiden name, Campbell. No doubt he had hopes that this would put himself in the good books of Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane, who was a subordinate chief of that clan. In those days, and perhaps even in modern times, it was a case of playing both sides against the middle and the middle sometimes playing against all other sides...all at the same time. In the matter of survival considerable cunning and much political savvy was required! His new name therefore was Robert Roy MacGregor Campbell.

Prior to the Act of Union between Scotland and England no cattle from Scotland had been permitted to cross the border into England. In 1707 to encourage people to accept the Union this became possible. Rob Roy reached an agreement with the Duke of Montrose, who was a great supporter of the Act. They became partners whereby Rob Roy was commissioned to buy cattle in his name as well as in the Duke’s in Scotland and export them to England and then sell them there. The two of them put up 10,000 merks which was sufficient to buy 500 head of cattle with Rob signing as security a bond on a family property called Craigrostan.

When the cattle were driven south they discovered that many others had also been speculating creating a glut in the market place. As a result Rob found that he could not get the prime cost. Doing the best he could he sold the herd for a loss. Returning to Scotland he sought out the Duke to pay out the money advanced, less a deduction for the loss. The Duke, who possessed MacGregor’s bond, however had different ideas. He said that he would not share the loss and insisted on the full amount plus interest. This infuriated Rob Roy who said, “In that case, my Lord, if these be your principles I shall not make it my principle to pay the interest, nor my interest to pay the principle so if your Grace do not stand your share of the loss, you shall have no money from me.” The feud then started and continued for many a year.

In 1716 the Duke of Montrose took legal action against him and using the bond took possession of Rob Roy’s home at Craigrostan. This incensed Rob Roy who along with twenty of his followers declared war on the Duke. He reduced his activities in the droving business and concentrated his full fury on the house of Montrose. For the next thirty years until his death he harried the noble Lord and his tenantry taking advantage of any and all opportunities. His strategies were unique. He would declare to all and sundry that he would appear at a certain time and on a certain day in broad daylight and would be “collecting mail (tax)” from the landowners for all cattle he had “protected” in that area. People from all over the country would show up and buy MacGregor’s new stock in the event that the landowner did not pay the “mail.” Rob Roy transacted everything with impunity! This meant that the Duke’s hard-nosed factors and their tenantry would not have any money to pay rent to the Duke. If cattle were not available he would demand forfeit in grain or meal and this was deposited in a girnal set up near the Lake of Monteith.

The principal factor was a man named Graham and although he had an unfortunate job he appeared to do it with much relish. On one occasion he attacked Rob’s house and abused his wife. She was never quite the same again and, as will be seen, neither was he!

When the local factors were out collecting rent from the tenantry, Rob Roy would have a field day. On another occasion when Graham of Killearn had collected the rent money on behalf of the Duke of Montrose Rob, accompanied by one attendant, Alexander Stewart came across him. The two of them approached Chapellairoch after dark. They quietly approached the house and peeped in the window. There they saw Graham surrounded by a number of tenants who were paying their rent. Graham had put their rent money into his bag and boasted that he would give all the money in the bag for Rob Roy’s head.

Outside Rob in a loud voice, as if commanding a regiment, gave orders to place two men at each window and two at each of the corners of the house and four at each of the two doors. Quickly Rob and Alexander burst into the house each armed with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other and with dirks and other pistols in their belts. He requested that the company remain seated as he had business with only one man, Graham of Killearn. He ordered Killearn to place the money bag on the table and count it. He then told Killearn to make out a receipt certifying that the money was the property of the Duke of Montrose and that the tenantry had paid their rents so that they would not be held responsible. He then ordered supper saying that as he now had a full purse he could pay for it and it was proper that he should pay his bill.

After a lengthy drinking session he ordered his companion to place his dirk on the table. Summoning Killearn he made him swear an oath not to move until an hour had passed after they left, “If you break your oath you know what you are to expect in the next world and in this,” pointing to the blade! Killearn prudently stayed put!

Poor Killearn had a hard time of it. On a subsequent occasion he was captured by Rob Roy and, along with several of his servants, was whisked away to the island of Eilan Dhu, in Loch Katrine. There he was kept in splendid isolation being entertained in less than royal fashion as the Duke’s representative, while negotiations of a monetary nature were undertaken to secure his release. It also gave Rob the opportunity of exacting revenge on him for abusing his wife. After a lot of decision making, which probably included hanging and dismembering, he decided to release him thinking that the man would have to live up to the ridicule of others. His wife apparently was quite pleased with this decision!

Although not a Catholic at this time Rob was an adherent to the Stuart cause and gave strong lip service to it. He however, like many others, was no secret Jacobite. He openly drank toasts to King James across the water. It is recorded that before a crowd in Crieff in 1715, and in front of the town wardens and guards, he cheered for James, the “Old Pretender” and father of the Bonnie Prince - no-one interfered!

As a second son and because of his prowess with strategy, cunning and weaponry he had become the fighting chief of the MacGregors and not, as popularly thought, the Chief of the Clan. He, and about two hundred and fifty MacGregors and MacPhersons, was at the Battle of Sheriffmuir on November 13th, 1716. They took no active part in the battle save to establish a line of retreat on the defeated left wing commanded by the Earl of Mar. He had stationed his men at Kinbuck on the west side of the Allan Water. Facing him were the dragoons of Argyll and as neither party seemed to want to mix it, a Mexican standoff occurred.

The combined MacGregor/MacPherson force retreated over Flanders Moss towards Strathyre. He was much criticised later for his inactivity in the battle, but on the other hand, seeing that there was little to be gained by deploying his force, and no spoils to be had, he adopted an almost neutral stance. He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day! And he did plenty of that!

As a defender of the underdog and in particular fellow MacGregors he would take issue on their behalf. One clansman was a tenant farmer to the Earl of Perth who owned the Drummond estates. Every year the tenant paid his tithes and was no problem to anyone. For some unknown reason the factor, Drummond of Blair Drummond, decided to break the arrangement and evict the tenant and his family. On hearing this, Rob Roy and his cohorts decided to seek redress and approached Drummond Castle at dawn. The first person he met was the perpetrator of the act and, swinging his long arms with his massive fists, knocked him to the ground, and strode into the castle. Then he called out the Earl who appeared in a very cordial and suppliant fashion. Rob explained the reason for his early morning call and that he did not want the Earl’s hospitality but that he wanted his kinsman to be given back his tenancy...or else! In this situation the noble Earl, showing that expediency rather than valour is at the cutting edge of survival, agreed and the lease was immediately restored. Thereafter the two men sat down and had breakfast together!

On another occasion Rob Roy was invited by the Earl of Perth of Drummond Castle to take part in a contest between his house and that of the Duke of Atholl. Although no lover of the Earl he agreed to provide the necessary bodies in return for some promise or other. He assembled sixty clansmen led by seven pipers and marched to Drummond Castle. The Atholl men had set up a strong position on the banks of the river Earn but when they saw the assembled force of MacGregors and Drummonds, and after a preliminary skirmish, withdrew in great haste and were pursued all the way to Perth...many of them being killed on the way.

Periodically he would call on the Campbell’s, or latterly the Drummonds, of Aberuchill Castle, and not always for a social chat. On one occasion they took him prisoner and locked him in a room no doubt hoping to deal with him at an appropriate time. Taking a chair Rob smashed the window and jumped into an oak tree at the side of the castle, shimmied down it and ran up into the Aberuchill Mountains. The tree was still there in 1960 but was cut down by an uncaring owner of the Castle.

Aberuchill Castle

It is incredible that he lived in open defiance of the Law which had garrisons in Dumbarton, Stirling and Inversnaid. He died remarkably in his bed at nearly 65 years of age having converted to Catholicism administered by the priest from Drummond Castle. Apparently he had great difficulty in his confession in forgiving his enemies, particularly John MacLaren.

On his deathbed John MacLaren, his bitterest enemy, came to see him, no doubt wishing that Rob had taken the onward path. On hearing about his visitor Rob arranged to have his finest dress put on and met his adversary, apparently very much alive. MacLaren was surprised that Rob looked so well and a short conversation ensued. Rob, who probably was in the twilight gathered all his strength and appeared to be much healthier than MacLaren had supposed. When MacLaren left he feared that Rob Roy would live on. Being put to bed Rob called his son, Robin Oigg, over and said that as soon as possible after his death the son was to kill MacLaren. He then called for the Pibroch, “I return no more” to be played and then passed on to that great Scotland in the sky. He was buried in the kirkyard in Balquhidder. MacLaren was shot and killed shortly thereafter whilst ploughing at Invernenty.

Sword Fight at Balquhidder

None of his sons were a match for their father. They were kept, and lived, in their father’s shadow. Robert (Robin Oigg) and James abducted Mrs. Jean Keay and forced her to marry Robert. Charges were laid against both with Robert MacGregor being executed in Edinburgh when convicted. An account was recorded in the Edinburgh “Caledonian Mercury” dated 7th February, 1752 where it states rather dryly, “Yesterday Robert Macgregor Campbell, alias Rob Roy Oig, was executed in the Grassmarket, for forcibly carrying away of the deceased Mrs. Jean Keay of Edenbelly; he was gentilly dressed, and read a volume of Goethe’s work from the prison to the place of execution.” He was buried beside his parents in Balquhidder with perhaps Rob Roy’s ghost chiding him because he had been caught!

The Grave of Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell at Balqhuidder. He is buried beside his wife and two of his sons, Coll and Robert.

James Drummond MacGregor escaped from prison and made his way to France where he died in poverty. The French Government had offered him a job as a spy which he declined because he thought the profession dishonourable and detrimental to the good of Great Britain.

With all that had happened to the MacGregors a new motto, “MacGregor, Despite Them”, came into vogue.