Rob Roy – the most famous of the Clan Gregor
The Macgregors are said to have descended from Griogar, a son of Kenneth MacAlpine, the 9th-century King of Scots – hence the clan motto ‘S Rioghal Mo Dhream’ - royal is my race. Their once extensive land holdings were taken from them by the powerful Clan Campbell with their fortunes at their lowest ebb during a period when they were outlawed by the Scottish Crown. Consequently, many changed their names or found protection from other clans. Though associated with several locations around the Loch Lomond and Trossachs area, the ancestral burial ground of the clan is on Inchcailloch, Loch Lomond.
The best-known of all the historical figures in the clan is, naturally, Rob Roy Macgregor – thanks not just to the Hollywood treatment, but quite a range of literature, starting with material attributed to Daniel Defoe as early as 1723. Truly, Rob Roy became a ‘legend in his own lifetime’.
He was born in 1671 in Glen Gyle at the west end of Loch Katrine, on what was then a cattle-drovers route from Loch Lomondside. He grew up the cattle business. As well as dealing and droving, he helped operate a ‘watch’ – offering protection to cattle owners, as long as they paid for the team’s protection. (An old word for rent is ‘male’ in Middle English, Anglo-Saxon ‘mal’. ‘Black’ still has a sense meaning hidden or covert – hence ‘blackmail’ or 'hidden rent'– exactly how Rob’s protection business operated! )
After many adventures recovering stolen cattle – or helping his family ‘lift’ some for themselves – he became an expert in hill-craft as well as a formidable swordsman. In 1693, he married Mary of Comar - Helen Mary MacGregor, from a farm, still marked on OS maps today, between Ben Lomond and Loch Arklet. The 1690s were notorious for their bad winters. Highlanders along the edge of the Highlands increased their raids on Lowland farms, lifting cattle for survival.
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