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The Real Rob Roy

Updated on August 30, 2013

Robert Roy MacGregor

One of my favorite films of all time is the 1995 version of Rob Roy. This movie stars Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, and John Hurt and is based on the true story of the historical Robert Roy MacGregor of Scotland. As usual, Hollywood took liberties with the actual historical events surrounding the highlander, but the main story line rings true.

Part of my interest in Rob Roy lies in my own family history. My maiden name was Cook, and the Cooks were a sept of the Stuart clan. Perhaps Rob Roy MacGregor fought for one of my long lost cousins!

Birth and early life

Robert Roy MacGregor was born in 1671 at Glengyle, near the banks of Loch Katrine. Robert’s father was Donald MacGregor, and his mother was Margaret Campbell. Donald had a high standing in the clan, so young Rob was well educated and spoke both Gaelic and English. He was also instructed in battle strategies and swordsmanship.

The young warrior

When Robert reached the age of eighteen, he joined his father in battle, as was the custom of most highland clans. Their skirmishes were part of the Jacobite uprising led by Viscount Dundee. The Jacobites fought from 1688 to 1746 as an effort to return King James VII to the Scottish throne, along with assuring that the Stuart descendants would succeed. James VII of Scotland, who was also King James II of England, had been deposed by Parliament in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Why was King James deposed?

James Stuart was a Catholic, and he had close ties to France. Most of the Tories and some of the Whigs were not happy with either of these pertinent facts concerning the king. When his wife bore a son in 1688, James Francis Edward Stuart, it appeared that Catholicism would have a strong hold over Britain for years to come. As a result, the throne was awarded to Mary, James’ Protestant daughter, along with her husband, William of Orange. Mary became Queen Mary II.

Rob Roy’s adult life

At the age of 21, Robert married Mary MacGregor of Comar and had four sons: Randall, Coll, James, and Robert. Later, the couple adopted Duncan, a cousin.

Rob was an accomplished swordsman and cattleman. He fought many duels with swords, and it’s often been said that his prowess was due to his long arms. He owned land on Loch Lomond, near Inversnaid, where he ran cattle and sometimes served as a drover. Many of the highland clans rustled cattle for a living, but Robert discovered it was more profitable and easier to be paid to protect the cattle herds of wealthy aristocrats. Through this questionable career, Rob was able to increase his own herds and his acreage.

Rob Roy vs. the Duke of Montrose

The clans generally used the barter system for trade, and few of them ever even saw any significant amounts of cash. When Robert MacGregor wanted to purchase more land and cattle, he borrowed 1,000 pounds from the Duke of Montrose. The money, however, disappeared. It’s believed than one of MacGregor’s employees absconded with the cash. The duke tried to gain Robert’s lands by charging him with embezzlement.

Rob Roy refused to answer the charges, making him an outlaw. He began to rustle the duke’s cattle on a regular basis, often giving the cattle to poor highlanders. Because of this, he’s often referred to as the Scottish Robin Hood.

MacGregor the traitor

By 1715, Robert MacGregor was leading regular raids against the English. He was branded as a traitor to the crown and was forced to live in hiding and on the run. The Duke of Argyll, Rob’s mother’s cousin and political enemy of Montrose, often allowed Rob to hide on his lands. MacGregor was actually captured twice, but both times he made daring successful escapes.

In 1725, Robert turned himself in. By that time, Rob Roy was already a legend and a hero to the highland clans, so the king, George I, had little choice but to pardon him. Rob returned home to his family in 1727 and relinquished some of his weapons to the Duke of Argyll, and in return, the duke gave MacGregor a house in Glen Shira.

Rob Roy’s death

The last decade of Rob Roy’s life were spent peacefully. He converted to Catholicism four years before his death. In 1734, Robert Roy MacGregor died quietly at home at the age of 63, after a short illness. As he expired, “I shall Return No More” was being played on the bagpipes by a local piper.

The grave of Robert Roy MacGregor can still be seen today at Balquhidder Kirkyard.

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    • profile image

      Geoff Miller 4 years ago

      Oops, forgot to add the Rob Roy link

      http://bit.ly/104TlSi Part 1 ( 2 others on Youtube)

      Good humoured but informative.

    • profile image

      Geoff Miller 4 years ago

      Check this out - 3 part UK video on Rob Roy

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I've wondered for some time about the story behind this name - it's one of those names you hear of for years but perhaps haven't explored. Thanks for the information - voted up and interesting.

    • profile image

      Hubertsvoice 5 years ago

      If I might say so this was another great story. I have not been with HubPages but three weeks or I would surely read all of your stories by now. Thank you I voted up again.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      OMG, Audrey - another similarity we have! I hate flying, and I've already looked at Transatlantic cruises to the UK! I'll have to sell a lot more articles to be able to afford the passage, however. But hey, don't worry - I'm a great swimmer and have natural flotation devices! lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Nancy, you gotta see the movie!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Can we go to Scotland by boat? I'm afraid to fly and I'm not that great of a swimmer since my left arm is bum - I tend to swim in circles and I'm not much of a rower. They don't have a train to Scotland do they? I'd love to see Scotland and Denmark - maybe Germany. The rest of my time I'd love to see the rest of the US I've not seen - I digress. If you go, book me on board as well!

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 7 years ago from Georgia

      This was a really great hub. I enjoyed reading it. I haven't seen the movie, but after reading your great story I want to see it.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Audrey, I agree. We tend to place our heroes on lofty pedestals and then get disappointed when we discover their human frailties!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      De Greek, I hope I get to visit Scotland before I die. I've never been! The only times I've been out of the US were trips to the Bahamas.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Every hero has something though don't they - it's so dang near impossible just not to be human! Good hub as always - and let me know about the Scottish Gabaldons! Now I'm wishing she had another of her books coming out like tomorrow. Even though they are huge books, I just get so mesmerized by her writing.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks to you, my cycling pal! (Mickey)

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Jen, I'm writing a book about some of my family stories!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      So when are next visitinjg Scotland? :-)

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Always on top of it Habee. Thank you again!

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 7 years ago

      I wish I knew more about my own history. I just may have to look into that :) Thanks for another great Hub habee!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      HH, I always enjoy your "history lessons," too!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Wow, Oleha - thanks! Nice to meet you! I'm crazy about Sam!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Wow, Oleha - thanks! Nice to meet you! I'm crazy about Sam!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Sandy! It's a great film!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Mulberry, I love history, too!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Katie, shall we start calling you Mary MacGregor? lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Sheila, let's just say we're all cousins who love each other! lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Charlie, thanks for the excerpt!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks mucho, Pam!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Good, Tony - there are more of us than I thought! lol

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I agree, Kendall!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you, habee, for giving me so much pleasure of reading all these history lessons. I enjoyed it so much. You have done a great job there.

    • profile image

      oleha2365 7 years ago

      very enjoyable . i am always interested in anything about historic Scotland. I follow my brother's hub(samboiam) so i try to check out some of the hubs he follows. yours is one the best ones I've read. thanks

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I seen this on TV. A very powerful story.

    • mulberry1 profile image

      mulberry1 7 years ago

      I remember seeing the movie a number of years ago but that was the extent of my knowledge on the subject. Thanks for putting together a succinct but comprehensive review. I love all kinds of history.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      habee, I love this movie and people tell me all the time I look like the atress who played his wife, I don't get it, I guess folks think we redheads look all alike. Rob Roy is def a powerful story about the real struggles the Scots endured for true... Peace :)

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      I was glad to learn more about Rob Roy. Actually, I wondered if it was going to be the person or the drink! But since I don't know much about either, figured I'd learn something either way. Then, as I read the comments, and saw so many Scots descendents - my grandgather came from Scotland as an infant - I wondered if we're all cousins or past enemies.

    • profile image

      ralwus 7 years ago

      "The deil be in my feet. The deil be in my feet if I gang my tae's length. Do the folk think I hae another thrapple in my pouch after John Highlandman's sneckit this ane wi' his joctaleg? or that I can dive doun at the tae side of a Highland loch and rise at the tother, like a shelldrake? Na, na; ilk ane for himsell,and God for us a'. Folk may just mak a page o' their ane age,and serve themselves till their bairns grow up, and gang their ain errands for Andrew. Rob Roy never came near the parish of Dreepdaily to steal either pippin or pear frae me or mine." Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Habee, Another great hub.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      With me we are three, or four, perhaps?! Rob Roy was much better than Braveheart in my humble opinion - but then as a McGregor maybe I'm just a wee bit biased!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 7 years ago from Northern CA

      I can second your comment above that I prefer Rob Roy to Braveheart. Anything about Scotland is always a joy to read!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Rob, I like it better than Braveheart, too, but we must be the only 2 people on Earth who feel this way!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I saw a litle about "Children of the Mist." Sounds great!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Yes, Charlie, that's why Rob sometimes used the last name Campbell!

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 7 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Excellent hub. I'm of Scots descent and I've always been fascinated by the story of Rob Roy. The movie was great, too. I actually liked it better than Braveheart.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Wow, Sam...thanks!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Great Hub about my great clansman! I am at the moment busy writing a Hub about the history of the McGregors, known as the clan without a name and the "Children of the Mist." Coming soon!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, Bpop!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I know the feeling, Zsuzsy!! Glad this one didn't crumble the hero!

    • profile image

      ralwus 7 years ago

      Great writing Holle. Also the MacGregors were all outlawed, even the name. It was an awful time in the highlands.

    • samboiam profile image

      samboiam 7 years ago from Texas

      Great hub and an enjoyable read. Your writing ability is simply amazing.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Terrific hub, habee.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Habee when I saw the title I was of two minds not to read it as I was worried it would I would discover something I might not want to know....I so dislike finding out that my heros have clay feet. Well I'm glad I did as you did an awesome job. As you said the Hollywood version with yummy Liam isn't that far off.

      great hub as always

      hope you're well

      regards Zsuzsy