"The Hunt for Rob Roy: The Man and the Myths"
by David Stevenson
BOOK REVIEWED BY W. JAMES (JIM) NETHERY, FSA Scot
The Duke of Montrose addressed the Annual General Meeting of the Clan Graham Society this past August (2005). He discussed a recently published book entitled "The Hunt for Rob Roy: The Man and the Myths" written by the historian David Stevenson.
It is indeed the hunt for the historic Roy Roy MacGregor as well as the fictionalized Rob Roy that is portrayed as a great romantic figure of massive proportions and covered with red hair.
From his birth in 1671 until his death in 1734 the historic Rob Roy's life is a web of lies, contradictions and myths. He was a con man and a double agent as well as a cattle thief and kidnapper.
His primary antagonist was the 1st Duke of Montrose who had trusted him with his money to purchase cattle on a number of occasions. History shows the Duke as a man whose trust is betrayed and who pursues Rob Roy for his rightful debt and later as a traitor and agent of the Duke of Argyle. Fiction makes Rob Roy a wronged man who is hounded into the highlands by the powerful Duke of Montrose.
At last Mr. Stevenson has painted a much clearer picture of Rob Roy. Now we can correct the image that Hollywood has contrived and from the writings of such notable authors as Sir Walter Scott and William Wadsworth who took generous liberty with history.
This book is complete with references and much of its setting is around Buchanan and Mugdock Castles. Every loyal Graham will enjoy reading this book.
The Duke's talk was about the history of Rob Roy and the MacGregors as they related to the First Duke of Montrose. He pointed out that both film and print the stories have been badly distorted. He referred to the book "The Hunt For Rob Roy:The Man and the Myths" by David Stevenson as the first truly accurate history with valid references that tell the true story.
Rob Roy had never fought in the battle of Sherriffmuir, having held his clan safely some miles away. Because the MacGregors were proscribed Rob Roy took on the name of his protector and was known as Rob Roy Campbell. He had given information about the Jacobites to the Duke of Argyle while posing as to be a supporter of the Stuart Pretender. He also pretended to inform on the government as a double agent for the Jacobites. Much of the information was of little value and often was designed to make him look important to the side he was pretending to support.
The Duke of Montrose explained how Rob Roy had worked for the First Duke and other great men and when he realized that his business was failing had taken orders in the fall for delivery in the spring. He had accepted money from these customers with the understanding that it was for the purchase of highland cattle but at the same time he was placing his own properties in the hands of others to prevent it being claimed as collateral. In essence he was a swindler and a con man.
The legal system took over 10 years to eventually settle with pennies on the pound. Rob also sent his wife to collect rent on lands that were no longer his thereby cheating Montrose and others of the rent that was rightfully theirs. He lived under the protection of the Duke of Argyle and his brother Campbell of Breadalbane while he continued to blackmail the farmers who leased land from Montrose and Atholl.
The Duke pointed out that the amount (£1000) that he originally took from Montrose was not of financial concern to the Duke. The fact that the Duke had placed his trust in Rob Roy and even referred others to him and had then been betrayed by him resulted in Montroses pressing charges against him. Later his informing for both Argyle and the Jacobites and his black mailing of Montroses tenants made the Duke bring charges of treason against Rob Roy.
Rob even challenged Montrose to a duel and then backed out. His explanation for his treasonous and criminal acts was that the Duke of Montrose had placed him in a such financial difficulties that he had no other choice.