Rob Roy — CompleteWalter Scott
Produced by David Widger
BY SIR WALTER SCOTT
For why? Because the good old rule Sufficeth them; the simple plan, That they should take who have the power, And they should keep who can.
_Rob Roy's Grave_--Wordsworth
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION
When the Editor of the following volumes published, about two yearssince, the work called the "Antiquary," he announced that he was, for thelast time, intruding upon the public in his present capacity. He mightshelter himself under the plea that every anonymous writer is, like thecelebrated Junius, only a phantom, and that therefore, although anapparition, of a more benign, as well as much meaner description, hecannot be bound to plead to a charge of inconsistency. A better apologymay be found in the imitating the confession of honest Benedict, that,when he said he would die a bachelor, he did not think he should live tobe married. The best of all would be, if, as has eminently happened inthe case of some distinguished contemporaries, the merit of the workshould, in the reader's estimation, form an excuse for the Author'sbreach of promise. Without presuming to hope that this may prove thecase, it is only further necessary to mention, that his resolution, likethat of Benedict, fell a sacrifice, to temptation at least, if not tostratagem.
It is now about six months since the Author, through the medium of hisrespectable Publishers, received a parcel of Papers, containing theOutlines of this narrative, with a permission, or rather with a request,couched in highly flattering terms, that they might be given to thePublic, with such alterations as should be found suitable.*
* As it maybe necessary, in the present Edition(1829), to speak upon thesquare, the Author thinks it proper to own, that the communicationalluded to is entirely imaginary.
These were of course so numerous, that, besides the suppression of names,and of incidents approaching too much to reality, the work may in a greatmeasure be, said to be new written. Several anachronisms have probablycrept in during the course of these changes; and the mottoes for theChapters have been selected without any reference to the supposed date ofthe incidents. For these, of course, the Editor is responsible. Someothers occurred in the original materials, but they are of littleconsequence. In point of minute accuracy, it may be stated, that thebridge over the Forth, or rather the Avondhu (or Black River), near thehamlet of Aberfoil, had not an existence thirty years ago. It does not,however, become the Editor to be the first to point out these errors; andhe takes this public opportunity to thank the unknown and namelesscorrespondent, to whom the reader will owe the principal share of anyamusement which he may derive from the following pages.
1st December 1817.
When the author projected this further encroachment on the patience of anindulgent public, he was at some loss for a title; a good name being verynearly of as much consequence in literature as in life. The title of _RobRoy_ was suggested by the late Mr. Constable, whose sagacity andexperience foresaw the germ of popularity which it included.
No introduction can be more appropriate to the work than some account ofthe singular character whose name is given to the title-page, and who,through good report and bad report, has maintained a wonderful degree ofimportance in popular recollection. This cannot be ascribed to thedistinction of his birth, which, though that of a gentleman, had in itnothing of high destination, and gave him little right to command in hisclan. Neither, though he lived a busy, restless, and enterprising life,were his feats equal to those of other freebooters, who have been lessdistinguished. He owed his fame in a great measure to his residing on thevery verge of the Highlands, and playing such pranks in the beginning ofthe 18th century, as are usually ascribed to Robin Hood in the middleages,--and that within forty miles of Glasgow, a great commercial city,the seat of a learned university. Thus a character like his, blending thewild virtues, the subtle policy, and unrestrained license of an AmericanIndian, was flourishing in Scotland during the Augustan age of Queen Anneand George I. Addison, it is probable, or Pope, would have beenconsiderably surprised if they had known that there existed in the sameisland with them a personage of Rob Roy's peculiar habits and profession.It is this strong contrast betwixt the civilised and cultivated mode oflife on the one side of the Highland line, and the wild and lawlessadventures which were habitually undertaken and achieved by one who dwelton the opposite side of that ideal boundary, which creates the interestattached to his name. Hence it is that even yet,
Far and near, through vale and hill, Are faces that attest the same, And kindle like a fire new stirr'd, At sound of Rob Roy's name.
There were several advantages which Rob Roy enjoyed for sustaining toadvantage the character which he assumed.
The most prominent of these was his descent from, and connection with,the clan MacGregor, so famous for their misfortunes, and the indomitablespirit with which they maintained themselves as a clan, linked and bandedtogether in spite of the most severe laws, executed with unheard-ofrigour against those who bore this forbidden surname. Their history wasthat of several others of the original Highland clans, who weresuppressed by more powerful neighbours, and either extirpated, or forcedto secure themselves by renouncing their own family appellation, andassuming that of the conquerors. The peculiarity in the story of theMacGregors, is their retaining, with such tenacity, their separateexistence and union as a clan under circumstances of the utmost urgency.The history of the tribe is briefly as follows--But we must premise thatthe tale depends in some degree on tradition; therefore, excepting whenwritten documents are, quoted, it must be considered as in some degreedubious.
The sept of MacGregor claimed a descent from Gregor, or Gregorius, thirdson, it is said, of Alpin King of Scots, who flourished about 787. Hencetheir original patronymic is MacAlpine, and they are usually termed theClan Alpine. An individual tribe of them retains the same name. They areaccounted one of the most ancient clans in the Highlands, and it iscertain they were a people of original Celtic descent, and occupied atone period very extensive possessions in Perthshire and Argyleshire,which they imprudently continued to hold by the _coir a glaive,_ that is,the right of the sword. Their neighbours, the Earls of Argyle andBreadalbane, in the meanwhile, managed to leave the lands occupied by theMacGregors engrossed in those charters which they easily obtained fromthe Crown; and thus constituted a legal right in their own favour,without much regard to its justice. As opportunity occurred of annoyingor extirpating their neighbours, they gradually extended their owndomains, by usurping, under the pretext of such royal grants, those oftheir more uncivilised neighbours. A Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow, knownin the Highlands by the name of _Donacha Dhu nan Churraichd,_ that is,Black Duncan with the Cowl, it being his pleasure to wear such ahead-gear, is said to have been peculiarly successful in those acts ofspoliation upon the clan MacGregor.
The devoted sept, ever finding themselves iniquitously driven from theirpossessions, defended themselves by force, and occasionally gainedadvantages, which they used cruelly enough. This conduct, though natural,considering the country and time, was studiously represented at thecapital as arising from an untameable and innate ferocity, which nothing,it was said, could remedy, save cutting off the tribe of MacGregor rootand branch.
In an act of Privy Council at Stirling, 22d September 1563, in the reignof Queen Mary, commission is granted to the most powerful nobles, andchiefs of the clans, to pursue the clan Gregor with fire and sword. Asimilar warrant in 1563, not only grants the like powers to Sir JohnCa
mpbell of Glenorchy, the descendant of Duncan with the Cowl, butdischarges the lieges to receive or assist any of the clan Gregor, orafford them, under any colour whatever, meat, drink, or clothes.
An atrocity which the clan Gregor committed in 1589, by the murder ofJohn Drummond of Drummond-ernoch, a forester of the royal forest ofGlenartney, is elsewhere given, with all its horrid circumstances. Theclan swore upon the severed head of the murdered man, that they wouldmake common cause in avowing the deed. This led to an act of the PrivyCouncil, directing another crusade against the "wicked clan Gregor, solong continuing in blood, slaughter, theft, and robbery," in whichletters of fire and sword are denounced against them for the space ofthree years. The reader will find this particular fact illustrated in theIntroduction to the Legend of Montrose in the present edition of theseNovels.
Other occasions frequently occurred, in which the MacGregors testifiedcontempt for the laws, from which they had often experienced severity,but never protection. Though they were gradually deprived of theirpossessions, and of all ordinary means of procuring subsistence, theycould not, nevertheless, be supposed likely to starve for famine, whilethey had the means of taking from strangers what they considered asrightfully their own. Hence they became versed in predatory forays, andaccustomed to bloodshed. Their passions were eager, and, with a littlemanagement on the part of some of their most powerful neighbours, theycould easily be _hounded out,_ to use an expressive Scottish phrase, tocommit violence, of which the wily instigators took the advantage, andleft the ignorant MacGregors an undivided portion of blame andpunishment. This policy of pushing on the fierce clans of the Highlandsand Borders to break the peace of the country, is accounted by thehistorian one of the most dangerous practices of his own period, in whichthe MacGregors were considered as ready agents.
Notwithstanding these severe denunciations,---which were acted upon inthe same spirit in which they were conceived, some of the clan stillpossessed property, and the chief of the name in 1592 is designedAllaster MacGregor of Glenstrae. He is said to have been a brave andactive man; but, from the tenor of his confession at his death, appearsto have been engaged in many and desperate feuds, one of which finallyproved fatal to himself and many of his followers. This was thecelebrated conflict at Glenfruin, near the southwestern extremity of LochLomond, in the vicinity of which the MacGregors continued to exercisemuch authority by the _coir a glaive,_ or right of the strongest, whichwe have already mentioned.
There had been a long and bloody feud betwixt the MacGregors and theLaird of Luss, head of the family of Colquhoun, a powerful race on thelower part of Loch Lomond. The MacGregors' tradition affirms that thequarrel began on a very trifling subject. Two of the MacGregors beingbenighted, asked shelter in a house belonging to a dependant of theColquhouns, and were refused. They then retreated to an out-house, took awedder from the fold, killed it, and supped off the carcass, for which(it is said) they offered payment to the proprietor. The Laird of Lussseized on the offenders, and, by the summary process which feudal baronshad at their command, had them both condemned and executed. TheMacGregors verify this account of the feud by appealing to a proverbcurrent amongst them, execrating the hour _(Mult dhu an Carbail ghil)_that the black wedder with the white tail was ever lambed. To avenge thisquarrel, the Laird of MacGregor assembled his clan, to the number ofthree or four hundred men, and marched towards Luss from the banks ofLoch Long, by a pass called _Raid na Gael,_ or the Highlandman's Pass.
Sir Humphrey Colquhoun received early notice of this incursion, andcollected a strong force, more than twice the number of that of theinvaders. He had with him the gentlemen of the name of Buchanan, with theGrahams, and other gentry of the Lennox, and a party of the citizens ofDumbarton, under command of Tobias Smollett, a magistrate, or bailie, ofthat town, and ancestor of the celebrated author.
The parties met in the valley of Glenfruin, which signifies the Glen ofSorrow---a name that seemed to anticipate the event of the day, which,fatal to the conquered party, was at least equally so to the victors, the"babe unborn" of Clan Alpine having reason to repent it. The MacGregors,somewhat discouraged by the appearance of a force much superior to theirown, were cheered on to the attack by a Seer, or second-sighted person,who professed that he saw the shrouds of the dead wrapt around theirprincipal opponents. The clan charged with great fury on the front of theenemy, while John MacGregor, with a strong party, made an unexpectedattack on the flank. A great part of the Colquhouns' force consisted incavalry, which could not act in the boggy ground. They were said to havedisputed the field manfully, but were at length completely routed, and amerciless slaughter was exercised on the fugitives, of whom betwixt twoand three hundred fell on the field and in the pursuit. If the MacGregorslost, as is averred, only two men slain in the action, they had slightprovocation for an indiscriminate massacre. It is said that their furyextended itself to a party of students for clerical orders, who hadimprudently come to see the battle. Some doubt is thrown on this fact,from the indictment against the chief of the clan Gregor being silent onthe subject, as is the historian Johnston, and a Professor Ross, whowrote an account of the battle twenty-nine years after it was fought. Itis, however, constantly averred by the tradition of the country, and astone where the deed was done is called _Leck-a-Mhinisteir,_ the Ministeror Clerk's Flagstone. The MacGregors, by a tradition which is now foundto be inaccurate, impute this cruel action to the ferocity of a singleman of their tribe, renowned for size and strength, called Dugald, _CiarMhor,_ or the great Mouse-coloured Man. He was MacGregor'sfoster-brother, and the chief committed the youths to his charge, withdirections to keep them safely till the affray was over. Whether fearfulof their escape, or incensed by some sarcasms which they threw on histribe, or whether out of mere thirst of blood, this savage, while theother MacGregors were engaged in the pursuit, poniarded his helpless anddefenceless prisoners. When the chieftain, on his return, demanded wherethe youths were, the _Ciar_ (pronounced Kiar) _Mhor_ drew out his bloodydirk, saying in Gaelic, "Ask that, and God save me!" The latter wordsallude to the exclamation which his victims used when he was murderingthem. It would seem, therefore, that this horrible part of the story isfounded on fact, though the number of the youths so slain is probablyexaggerated in the Lowland accounts. The common people say that the bloodof the Ciar Mhor's victims can never be washed off the stone. WhenMacGregor learnt their fate, he expressed the utmost horror at the deed,and upbraided his foster-brother with having done that which wouldoccasion the destruction of him and his clan. This supposed homicide wasthe ancestor of Rob Roy, and the tribe from which he was descended. Helies buried at the church of Fortingal, where his sepulchre, covered witha large stone,* is still shown, and where his great strength and courageare the theme of many traditions.*
* Note A. The Grey Stone of MacGregor.
** Note B. Dugald Ciar Mhor.
MacGregor's brother was one of the very few of the tribe who was slain.He was buried near the field of battle, and the place is marked by a rudestone, called the Grey Stone of MacGregor.
Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, being well mounted, escaped for the time to thecastle of Banochar, or Benechra. It proved no sure defence, however, forhe was shortly after murdered in a vault of the castle,---the familyannals say by the MacGregors, though other accounts charge the deed uponthe MacFarlanes.
This battle of Glenfruin, and the severity which the victors exercised inthe pursuit, was reported to King James VI. in a manner the mostunfavourable to the clan Gregor, whose general character, being that oflawless though brave men, could not much avail them in such a case. ThatJames might fully understand the extent of the slaughter, the widows ofthe slain, to the number of eleven score, in deep mourning, riding uponwhite palfreys, and each bearing her husband's bloody shirt on a spear,appeared at Stirling, in presence of a monarch peculiarly accessible tosuch sights of fear and sorrow, to demand vengeance for the death oftheir husbands, upon those by whom they had been made desolate.
The remedy resorted to was at least as
severe as the cruelties which itwas designed to punish. By an Act of the Privy Council, dated 3d April1603, the name of MacGregor was expressly abolished, and those who hadhitherto borne it were commanded to change it for other surnames, thepain of death being denounced against those who should call themselvesGregor or MacGregor, the names of their fathers. Under the same penalty,all who had been at the conflict of Glenfruin, or accessory to othermarauding parties charged in the act, were prohibited from carryingweapons, except a pointless knife to eat their victuals. By a subsequentact of Council, 24th June 1613, death was denounced against any personsof the tribe formerly called MacGregor, who should presume to assemble ingreater numbers than four. Again, by an Act of Parliament, 1617, chap.26, these laws were continued, and extended to the rising generation, inrespect that great numbers of the children of those against whom the actsof Privy Council had been directed, were stated to be then approaching tomaturity, who, if permitted to resume the name of their parents, wouldrender the clan as strong as it was before.
The execution of those severe acts was chiefly intrusted in the west tothe Earl of Argyle and the powerful clan of Campbell, and to the Earl ofAthole and his followers in the more eastern Highlands of Perthshire. TheMacGregors failed not to resist with the most determined courage; andmany a valley in the West and North Highlands retains memory of thesevere conflicts, in which the proscribed clan sometimes obtainedtransient advantages, and always sold their lives dearly. At length thepride of Allaster MacGregor, the chief of the clan, was so much loweredby the sufferings of his people, that he resolved to surrender himself tothe Earl of Argyle, with his principal followers, on condition that theyshould be sent out of Scotland. If the unfortunate chief's own account betrue, he had more reasons than one for expecting some favour from theEarl, who had in secret advised and encouraged him to many of thedesperate actions for which he was now called to so severe a reckoning.But Argyle, as old Birrell expresses himself, kept a Highlandman'spromise with them, fulfilling it to the ear, and breaking it to thesense. MacGregor was sent under a strong guard to the frontier ofEngland, and being thus, in the literal sense, sent out of Scotland,Argyle was judged to have kept faith with him, though the same partywhich took him there brought him back to Edinburgh in custody.
MacGregor of Glenstrae was tried before the Court of Justiciary, 20thJanuary 1604, and found guilty. He appears to have been instantlyconveyed from the bar to the gallows; for Birrell, of the same date,reports that he was hanged at the Cross, and, for distinction sake, wassuspended higher by his own height than two of his kindred and friends.
On the 18th of February following, more men of the MacGregors wereexecuted, after a long imprisonment, and several others in the beginningof March.
The Earl of Argyle's service, in conducting to the surrender of theinsolent and wicked race and name of MacGregor, notorious commonmalefactors, and in the in-bringing of MacGregor, with a great many ofthe leading men of the clan, worthily executed to death for theiroffences, is thankfully acknowledged by an Act of Parliament, 1607, chap.16, and rewarded with a grant of twenty chalders of victual out of thelands of Kintire.
The MacGregors, notwithstanding the letters of fire and sword, and ordersfor military execution repeatedly directed against them by the Scottishlegislature, who apparently lost all the calmness of conscious dignityand security, and could not even name the outlawed clan withoutvituperation, showed no inclination to be blotted out of the roll ofclanship. They submitted to the law, indeed, so far as to take the namesof the neighbouring families amongst whom they happened to live,nominally becoming, as the case might render it most convenient,Drummonds, Campbells, Grahams, Buchanans, Stewarts, and the like; but toall intents and purposes of combination and mutual attachment, theyremained the clan Gregor, united together for right or wrong, andmenacing with the general vengeance of their race, all who committedaggressions against any individual of their number.
They continued to take and give offence with as little hesitation asbefore the legislative dispersion which had been attempted, as appearsfrom the preamble to statute 1633, chapter 30, setting forth, that theclan Gregor, which had been suppressed and reduced to quietness by thegreat care of the late King James of eternal memory, had neverthelessbroken out again, in the counties of Perth, Stirling, Clackmannan,Monteith, Lennox, Angus, and Mearns; for which reason the statutere-establishes the disabilities attached to the clan, and, grants a newcommission for enforcing the laws against that wicked and rebelliousrace.
Notwithstanding the extreme severities of King James I. and Charles I.against this unfortunate people, who were rendered furious byproscription, and then punished for yielding to the passions which hadbeen wilfully irritated, the MacGregors to a man attached themselvesduring the civil war to the cause of the latter monarch. Their bards haveascribed this to the native respect of the MacGregors for the crown ofScotland, which their ancestors once wore, and have appealed to theirarmorial bearings, which display a pine-tree crossed saltire wise with anaked sword, the point of which supports a royal crown. But, withoutdenying that such motives may have had their weight, we are disposed tothink, that a war which opened the low country to the raids of the clanGregor would have more charms for them than any inducement to espouse thecause of the Covenanters, which would have brought them into contact withHighlanders as fierce as themselves, and having as little to lose.Patrick MacGregor, their leader, was the son of a distinguished chief,named Duncan Abbarach, to whom Montrose wrote letters as to his trustyand special friend, expressing his reliance on his devoted loyalty, withan assurance, that when once his Majesty's affairs were placed upon apermanent footing, the grievances of the clan MacGregor should beredressed.
At a subsequent period of these melancholy times, we find the clan Gregorclaiming the immunities of other tribes, when summoned by the ScottishParliament to resist the invasion of the Commonwealth's army, in 1651. Onthe last day of March in that year, a supplication to the King andParliament, from Calum MacCondachie Vich Euen, and Euen MacCondachieEuen, in their own name, and that of the whole name of MacGregor, setforth, that while, in obedience to the orders of Parliament, enjoiningall clans to come out in the present service under their chieftains, forthe defence of religion, king, and kingdoms, the petitioners were drawingtheir men to guard the passes at the head of the river Forth, they wereinterfered with by the Earl of Athole and the Laird of Buchanan, who hadrequired the attendance of many of the clan Gregor upon their arrays.This interference was, doubtless, owing to the change of name, whichseems to have given rise to the claim of the Earl of Athole and the Lairdof Buchanan to muster the MacGregors under their banners, as Murrays orBuchanans. It does not appear that the petition of the MacGregors, to bepermitted to come out in a body, as other clans, received any answer. Butupon the Restoration, King Charles, in the first Scottish Parliament ofhis reign (statute 1661, chap. 195), annulled the various acts againstthe clan Gregor, and restored them to the full use of their family name,and the other privileges of liege subjects, setting forth, as a reasonfor this lenity, that those who were formerly designed MacGregors had,during the late troubles, conducted themselves with such loyalty andaffection to his Majesty, as might justly wipe off all memory of formermiscarriages, and take away all marks of reproach for the same.
It is singular enough, that it seems to have aggravated the feelings ofthe non-conforming Presbyterians, when the penalties which were mostunjustly imposed upon themselves were relaxed towards the poorMacGregors;--so little are the best men, any more than the worst, able tojudge with impartiality of the same measures, as applied to themselves,or to others. Upon the Restoration, an influence inimical to thisunfortunate clan, said to be the same with that which afterwards dictatedthe massacre of Glencoe, occasioned the re-enaction of the penal statutesagainst the MacGregors. There are no reasons given why these highly penalacts should have been renewed; nor is it alleged that the clan had beenguilty of late irregularities. Indeed, there is some reason to think thatthe clause was formed of set purpose,
in a shape which should eludeobservation; for, though containing conclusions fatal to the rights of somany Scottish subjects, it is neither mentioned in the title nor therubric of the Act of Parliament in which it occurs, and is thrown brieflyin at the close of the statute 1693, chap. 61, entitled, an Act for theJusticiary in the Highlands.
It does not, however, appear that after the Revolution the acts againstthe clan were severely enforced; and in the latter half of the eighteenthcentury, they were not enforced at all. Commissioners of supply werenamed in Parliament by the proscribed title of MacGregor, and decrees ofcourts of justice were pronounced, and legal deeds entered into, underthe same appellative. The MacGregors, however, while the laws continuedin the statute-book, still suffered under the deprivation of the namewhich was their birthright, and some attempts were made for the purposeof adopting another, MacAlpine or Grant being proposed as the title ofthe whole clan in future. No agreement, however, could be entered into;and the evil was submitted to as a matter of necessity, until fullredress was obtained from the British Parliament, by an act abolishingfor ever the penal statutes which had been so long imposed upon thisancient race. This statute, well merited by the services of many agentleman of the clan in behalf of their King and country, was passed,and the clan proceeded to act upon it with the same spirit of ancienttimes, which had made them suffer severely under a deprivation that wouldhave been deemed of little consequence by a great part of theirfellow-subjects.
They entered into a deed recognising John Murray of Lanrick, Esq.(afterwards Sir John MacGregor, Baronet), representative of the family ofGlencarnock, as lawfully descended from the ancient stock and blood ofthe Lairds and Lords of MacGregor, and therefore acknowledged him astheir chief on all lawful occasions and causes whatsoever. The deed wassubscribed by eight hundred and twenty-six persons of the name ofMacGregor, capable of bearing arms. A great many of the clan during thelast war formed themselves into what was called the Clan Alpine Regiment,raised in 1799, under the command of their Chief and his brother ColonelMacGregor.
Having briefly noticed the history of this clan, which presents a rareand interesting example of the indelible character of the patriarchalsystem, the author must now offer some notices of the individual whogives name to these volumes.
In giving an account of a Highlander, his pedigree is first to beconsidered. That of Rob Roy was deduced from Ciar Mhor, the greatmouse-coloured man, who is accused by tradition of having slain the youngstudents at the battle of Glenfruin.
Without puzzling ourselves and our readers with the intricacies ofHighland genealogy, it is enough to say, that after the death of AllasterMacGregor of Glenstrae, the clan, discouraged by the unremittingpersecution of their enemies, seem not to have had the means of placingthemselves under the command of a single chief. According to their placesof residence and immediate descent, the several families were led anddirected by _Chieftains,_ which, in the Highland acceptation, signifiesthe head of a particular branch of a tribe, in opposition to _Chief,_ whois the leader and commander of the whole name.
The family and descendants of Dugald Ciar Mhor lived chiefly in themountains between Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, and occupied a good dealof property there--whether by sufferance, by the right of the sword,which it was never safe to dispute with them, or by legal titles ofvarious kinds, it would be useless to inquire and unnecessary to detail.Enough;--there they certainly were--a people whom their most powerfulneighbours were desirous to conciliate, their friendship in peace beingvery necessary to the quiet of the vicinage, and their assistance in warequally prompt and effectual.
Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell, which last name he bore in consequence of theActs of Parliament abolishing his own, was the younger son of DonaldMacGregor of Glengyle, said to have been a Lieutenant-Colonel (probablyin the service of James II.), by his wife, a daughter of Campbell ofGlenfalloch. Rob's own designation was of Inversnaid; but he appears tohave acquired a right of some kind or other to the property or possessionof Craig Royston, a domain of rock and forest, lying on the east side ofLoch Lomond, where that beautiful lake stretches into the dusky mountainsof Glenfalloch.
The time of his birth is uncertain. But he is said to have been active inthe scenes of war and plunder which succeeded the Revolution; andtradition affirms him to have been the leader in a predatory incursioninto the parish of Kippen, in the Lennox, which took place in the year1691. It was of almost a bloodless character, only one person losing hislife; but from the extent of the depredation, it was long distinguishedby the name of the Her'-ship, or devastation, of Kippen.* The time of hisdeath is also uncertain, but as he is said to have survived the year1733, and died an aged man, it is probable he may have been twenty-fiveabout the time of the Her'-ship of Kippen, which would assign his birthto the middle of the 17th century.
* See _Statistcal Account of Scotland,_ 1st edition, vol. xviii. p. 332.Parish of * Kippen.
In the more quiet times which succeeded the Revolution, Rob Roy, or RedRobert, seems to have exerted his active talents, which were of no meanorder, as a drover, or trader in cattle, to a great extent. It may wellbe supposed that in those days no Lowland, much less English drovers,ventured to enter the Highlands. The cattle, which were the staplecommodity of the mountains, were escorted down to fairs, on the bordersof the Lowlands, by a party of Highlanders, with their arms rattlingaround them; and who dealt, however, in all honour and good faith withtheir Southern customers. A fray, indeed, would sometimes arise, when theLowlandmen, chiefly Borderers, who had to supply the English market, usedto dip their bonnets in the next brook, and wrapping them round theirhands, oppose their cudgels to the naked broadswords, which had notalways the superiority. I have heard from aged persons who had beenengaged in such affrays, that the Highlanders used remarkably fair play,never using the point of the sword, far less their pistols or daggers; sothat
With many a stiff thwack and many a bang, Hard crabtree and cold iron rang.
A slash or two, or a broken head, was easily accommodated, and as thetrade was of benefit to both parties, trifling skirmishes were notallowed to interrupt its harmony. Indeed it was of vital interest to theHighlanders, whose income, so far as derived from their estates, dependedentirely on the sale of black cattle; and a sagacious and experienceddealer benefited not only himself, but his friends and neighbours, by hisspeculations. Those of Rob Roy were for several years so successful as toinspire general confidence, and raise him in the estimation of thecountry in which he resided.
His importance was increased by the death of his father, in consequenceof which he succeeded to the management of his nephew Gregor MacGregor ofGlengyle's property, and, as his tutor, to such influence with the clanand following as was due to the representative of Dugald Ciar. Suchinfluence was the more uncontrolled, that this family of the MacGregorsseemed to have refused adherence to MacGregor of Glencarnock, theancestor of the present Sir Ewan MacGregor, and asserted a kind ofindependence.
It was at this time that Rob Roy acquired an interest by purchase,wadset, or otherwise, to the property of Craig Royston already mentioned.He was in particular favour, during this prosperous period of his life,with his nearest and most powerful neighbour, James, first Duke ofMontrose, from whom he received many marks of regard. His Grace consentedto give his nephew and himself a right of property on the estates ofGlengyle and Inversnaid, which they had till then only held as kindlytenants. The Duke also, with a view to the interest of the country andhis own estate, supported our adventurer by loans of money to aconsiderable amount, to enable him to carry on his speculations in thecattle trade.
Unfortunately that species of commerce was and is liable to suddenfluctuations; and Rob Roy was, by a sudden depression of markets, and, asa friendly tradition adds, by the bad faith of a partner named MacDonald,whom he had imprudently received into his confidence, and intrusted witha considerable sum of money, rendered totally insolvent. He absconded, ofcourse--not empty-handed, if it be true, as stated in an adverti
sementfor his apprehension, that he had in his possession sums to the amount ofL1000 sterling, obtained from several noblemen and gentlemen underpretence of purchasing cows for them in the Highlands. This advertisementappeared in June 1712, and was several times repeated. It fixes theperiod when Rob Roy exchanged his commercial adventures for speculationsof a very different complexion.*
* See Appendix, No. I.
He appears at this period first to have removed from his ordinarydwelling at Inversnaid, ten or twelve Scots miles (which is double thenumber of English) farther into the Highlands, and commenced the lawlesssort of life which he afterwards followed. The Duke of Montrose, whoconceived himself deceived and cheated by MacGregor's conduct, employedlegal means to recover the money lent to him. Rob Roy's landed propertywas attached by the regular form of legal procedure, and his stock andfurniture made the subject of arrest and sale.
It is said that this diligence of the law, as it is called in Scotland,which the English more bluntly term distress, was used in this case withuncommon severity, and that the legal satellites, not usually thegentlest persons in the world, had insulted MacGregor's wife, in a mannerwhich would have aroused a milder man than he to thoughts of unboundedvengeance. She was a woman of fierce and haughty temper, and is notunlikely to have disturbed the officers in the execution of their duty,and thus to have incurred ill treatment, though, for the sake ofhumanity, it is to be hoped that the story sometimes told is a popularexaggeration. It is certain that she felt extreme anguish at beingexpelled from the banks of Loch Lomond, and gave vent to her feelings ina fine piece of pipe-music, still well known to amateurs by the name of"Rob Roy's Lament."
The fugitive is thought to have found his first place of refuge in GlenDochart, under the Earl of Breadalbane's protection; for, though thatfamily had been active agents in the destruction of the MacGregors informer times, they had of late years sheltered a great many of the namein their old possessions. The Duke of Argyle was also one of Rob Roy'sprotectors, so far as to afford him, according to the Highland phrase,wood and water--the shelter, namely, that is afforded by the forests andlakes of an inaccessible country.
The great men of the Highlands in that time, besides being anxiouslyambitious to keep up what was called their Following, or militaryretainers, were also desirous to have at their disposal men of resolutecharacter, to whom the world and the world's law were no friends, and whomight at times ravage the lands or destroy the tenants of a feudal enemy,without bringing responsibility on their patrons. The strife between thenames of Campbell and Graham, during the civil wars of the seventeenthcentury, had been stamped with mutual loss and inveterate enmity. Thedeath of the great Marquis of Montrose on the one side, the defeat atInverlochy, and cruel plundering of Lorn, on the other, were reciprocalinjuries not likely to be forgotten. Rob Roy was, therefore, sure ofrefuge in the country of the Campbells, both as having assumed theirname, as connected by his mother with the family of Glenfalloch, and asan enemy to the rival house of Montrose. The extent of Argyle'spossessions, and the power of retreating thither in any emergency, gavegreat encouragement to the bold schemes of revenge which he had adopted.
This was nothing short of the maintenance of a predatory war against theDuke of Montrose, whom he considered as the author of his exclusion fromcivil society, and of the outlawry to which he had been sentenced byletters of horning and caption (legal writs so called), as well as theseizure of his goods, and adjudication of his landed property. Againsthis Grace, therefore, his tenants, friends, allies, and relatives, hedisposed himself to employ every means of annoyance in his power; andthough this was a circle sufficiently extensive for active depredation,Rob, who professed himself a Jacobite, took the liberty of extending hissphere of operations against all whom he chose to consider as friendly tothe revolutionary government, or to that most obnoxious of measures--theUnion of the Kingdoms. Under one or other of these pretexts, all hisneighbours of the Lowlands who had anything to lose, or were unwilling tocompound for security by paying him an annual sum for protection orforbearance, were exposed to his ravages.
The country in which this private warfare, or system of depredation, wasto be carried on, was, until opened up by roads, in the highest degreefavourable for his purpose. It was broken up into narrow valleys, thehabitable part of which bore no proportion to the huge wildernesses offorest, rocks, and precipices by which they were encircled, and whichwas, moreover, full of inextricable passes, morasses, and naturalstrengths, unknown to any but the inhabitants themselves, where a few menacquainted with the ground were capable, with ordinary address, ofbaffling the pursuit of numbers.
The opinions and habits of the nearest neighbours to the Highland linewere also highly favourable to Rob Roy's purpose. A large proportion ofthem were of his own clan of MacGregor, who claimed the property ofBalquhidder, and other Highland districts, as having been part of theancient possessions of their tribe; though the harsh laws, under theseverity of which they had suffered so deeply, had assigned the ownershipto other families. The civil wars of the seventeenth century hadaccustomed these men to the use of arms, and they were peculiarly braveand fierce from remembrance of their sufferings. The vicinity of acomparatively rich Lowland district gave also great temptations toincursion. Many belonging to other clans, habituated to contempt ofindustry, and to the use of arms, drew towards an unprotected frontierwhich promised facility of plunder; and the state of the country, now sopeaceable and quiet, verified at that time the opinion which Dr. Johnsonheard with doubt and suspicion, that the most disorderly and lawlessdistricts of the Highlands were those which lay nearest to the Lowlandline. There was, therefore, no difficulty in Rob Roy, descended of atribe which was widely dispersed in the country we have described,collecting any number of followers whom he might be able to keep inaction, and to maintain by his proposed operations.
He himself appears to have been singularly adapted for the professionwhich he proposed to exercise. His stature was not of the tallest, buthis person was uncommonly strong and compact. The greatest peculiaritiesof his frame were the breadth of his shoulders, and the great and almostdisproportionate length of his arms; so remarkable, indeed, that it wassaid he could, without stooping, tie the garters of his Highland hose,which are placed two inches below the knee. His countenance was open,manly, stern at periods of danger, but frank and cheerful in his hours offestivity. His hair was dark red, thick, and frizzled, and curled shortaround the face. His fashion of dress showed, of course, the knees andupper part of the leg, which was described to me, as resembling that of aHighland bull, hirsute, with red hair, and evincing muscular strengthsimilar to that animal. To these personal qualifications must be added amasterly use of the Highland sword, in which his length of arm gave himgreat advantage--and a perfect and intimate knowledge of all the recessesof the wild country in which he harboured, and the character of thevarious individuals, whether friendly or hostile, with whom he might comein contact.
His mental qualities seem to have been no less adapted to thecircumstances in which he was placed. Though the descendant of theblood-thirsty Ciar Mhor, he inherited none of his ancestor's ferocity. Onthe contrary, Rob Roy avoided every appearance of cruelty, and it is notaverred that he was ever the means of unnecessary bloodshed, or the actorin any deed which could lead the way to it. His schemes of plunder werecontrived and executed with equal boldness and sagacity, and were almostuniversally successful, from the skill with which they were laid, and thesecrecy and rapidity with which they were executed. Like Robin Hood ofEngland, he was a kind and gentle robber,--and, while he took from therich, was liberal in relieving the poor. This might in part be policy;but the universal tradition of the country speaks it to have arisen froma better motive. All whom I have conversed with, and I have in my youthseen some who knew Rob Roy personally, give him the character of abenevolent and humane man "in his way."
His ideas of morality were those of an Arab chief, being such asnaturally arose out of his wild education. Supposing Rob Roy to haveargued on
the tendency of the life which he pursued, whether from choiceor from necessity, he would doubtless have assumed to himself thecharacter of a brave man, who, deprived of his natural rights by thepartiality of laws, endeavoured to assert them by the strong hand ofnatural power; and he is most felicitously described as reasoning thus,in the high-toned poetry of my gifted friend Wordsworth:
Say, then, that he was wise as brave, As wise in thought as bold in deed; For in the principles of things _He_ sought his moral creed.
Said generous Rob, "What need of Books? Burn all the statutes and their shelves! They stir us up against our kind, And worse, against ourselves.
"We have a passion, make a law, Too false to guide us or control; And for the law itself we fight In bitterness of soul.
"And puzzled, blinded, then we lose Distinctions that are plain and few; These find I graven on my heart, That tells me what to do.
"The creatures see of flood and field, And those that travel on the wind With them no strife can last; they live In peace, and peace of mind.
"For why? Because the good old rule Sufficeth them; the simple plan, That they should take who have the power, And they should keep who can.
"A lesson which is quickly learn'd, A signal through which all can see; Thus, nothing here provokes the strong To wanton cruelty.
"And freakishness of mind is check'd, He tamed who foolishly aspires, While to the measure of his might Each fashions his desires.
"All kinds and creatures stand and fall By strength of prowess or of wit; 'Tis God's appointment who must sway, And who is to submit.
"Since then," said Robin, "right is plain, And longest life is but a day, To have my ends, maintain my rights, I'll take the shortest way."
And thus among these rocks he lived, Through summer's heat and winter's snow
The eagle, he was lord above, And Rob was lord below.
We are not, however, to suppose the character of this distinguishedoutlaw to be that of an actual hero, acting uniformly and consistently onsuch moral principles as the illustrious bard who, standing by his grave,has vindicated his fame. On the contrary, as is common with barbarouschiefs, Rob Roy appears to have mixed his professions of principle with alarge alloy of craft and dissimulation, of which his conduct during thecivil war is sufficient proof. It is also said, and truly, that althoughhis courtesy was one of his strongest characteristics, yet sometimes heassumed an arrogance of manner which was not easily endured by thehigh-spirited men to whom it was addressed, and drew the daring outlawinto frequent disputes, from which he did not always come off withcredit. From this it has been inferred, that Rob Roy was more of a bullythan a hero, or at least that he had, according to the common phrase, hisfighting days. Some aged men who knew him well, have described him alsoas better at a _taich-tulzie,_ or scuffle within doors, than in mortalcombat. The tenor of his life may be quoted to repel this charge; while,at the same time, it must be allowed, that the situation in which he wasplaced rendered him prudently averse to maintaining quarrels, wherenothing was to be had save blows, and where success would have raised upagainst him new and powerful enemies, in a country where revenge wasstill considered as a duty rather than a crime. The power of commandinghis passions on such occasions, far from being inconsistent with the partwhich MacGregor had to perform, was essentially necessary, at the periodwhen he lived, to prevent his career from being cut short.
I may here mention one or two occasions on which Rob Roy appears to havegiven way in the manner alluded to. My late venerable friend, John Ramsayof Ochtertyre, alike eminent as a classical scholar and as an authenticregister of the ancient history and manners of Scotland, informed me,that on occasion of a public meeting at a bonfire in the town of Doune,Rob Roy gave some offence to James Edmondstone of Newton, the samegentleman who was unfortunately concerned in the slaughter of Lord Rollo(see Maclaurin's Criminal Trials, No. IX.), when Edmondstone compelledMacGregor to quit the town on pain of being thrown by him into thebonfire. "I broke one off your ribs on a former occasion," said he, "andnow, Rob, if you provoke me farther, I will break your neck." But it mustbe remembered that Edmondstone was a man of consequence in the Jacobiteparty, as he carried the royal standard of James VII. at the battle ofSheriffmuir, and also, that he was near the door of his ownmansion-house, and probably surrounded by his friends and adherents. RobRoy, however, suffered in reputation for retiring under such a threat.
Another well-vouched case is that of Cunningham of Boquhan.
Henry Cunningham, Esq. of Boquhan, was a gentleman of Stirlingshire, who,like many _exquisites_ of our own time, united a natural high spirit anddaring character with an affectation of delicacy of address and mannersamounting to foppery.*
* His courage and affectation of foppery were united, which is lessfrequently the case, with a spirit of innate modesty. He is thusdescribed in Lord Binning's satirical verses, entitled "Argyle's Levee:"
"Six times had Harry bowed unseen, Before he dared advance; The Duke then, turning round well pleased, Said, 'Sure you've been in France! A more polite and jaunty man I never saw before:' Then Harry bowed, and blushed, and bowed, And strutted to the door."
See a Collection of original Poems, by Scotch Gentlemen, vol. ii. p. 125.
He chanced to be in company with Rob Roy, who, either in contempt ofBoquhan's supposed effeminacy, or because he thought him a safe person tofix a quarrel on (a point which Rob's enemies alleged he was wont toconsider), insulted him so grossly that a challenge passed between them.The goodwife of the clachan had hidden Cunningham's sword, and while herummaged the house in quest of his own or some other, Rob Roy went to theShieling Hill, the appointed place of combat, and paraded there withgreat majesty, waiting for his antagonist. In the meantime, Cunninghamhad rummaged out an old sword, and, entering the ground of contest in allhaste, rushed on the outlaw with such unexpected fury that he fairlydrove him off the field, nor did he show himself in the village again forsome time. Mr. MacGregor Stirling has a softened account of this anecdotein his new edition of Nimmo's Stirlingshire; still he records Rob Roy'sdiscomfiture.
Occasionally Rob Roy suffered disasters, and incurred great personaldanger. On one remarkable occasion he was saved by the coolness of hislieutenant, Macanaleister or Fletcher, the _Little John_ of his band--afine active fellow, of course, and celebrated as a marksman. It happenedthat MacGregor and his party had been surprised and dispersed by asuperior force of horse and foot, and the word was given to "split andsquander." Each shifted for himself, but a bold dragoon attached himselfto pursuit of Rob, and overtaking him, struck at him with his broadsword.A plate of iron in his bonnet saved the MacGregor from being cut down tothe teeth; but the blow was heavy enough to bear him to the ground,crying as he fell, "Oh, Macanaleister, is there naething in her?" (_i.e._in the gun). The trooper, at the same time, exclaiming, "D--n ye, yourmother never wrought your night-cap!" had his arm raised for a secondblow, when Macanaleister fired, and the ball pierced the dragoon's heart.
Such as he was, Rob Roy's progress in his occupation is thus described bya gentleman of sense and talent, who resided within the circle of hispredatory wars, had probably felt their
effects, and speaks of them, asmight be expected, with little of the forbearance with which, from theirpeculiar and romantic character, they are now regarded.
"This man (Rob Roy MacGregor) was a person of sagacity, and neitherwanted stratagem nor address; and having abandoned himself to alllicentiousness, set himself at the head of all the loose, vagrant, anddesperate people of that clan, in the west end of Perth and Stirlingshires, and infested those whole countries with thefts, robberies, anddepredations. Very few who lived within his reach (that is, within thedistance of a nocturnal expedition) could promise to themselves security,either for their persons or effects, without subjecting themselves to payhim a heavy and shameful tax of _black-mail._ He at last proceeded tosuch a degree of audaciousness that he committed robberies, raisedcontributions, and resented quarrels, at the head of a very considerablebody of armed men, in open day, and in the face of the government."*
* Mr. Grahame of Gartmore's Causes of the Disturbances in the Highlands.See Jamieson's edition of Burt's Letters from the North of Scotland,Appendix, vol. ii. p. 348.
The extent and success of these depredations cannot be surprising, whenwe consider that the scene of them was laid in a country where thegeneral law was neither enforced nor respected.
Having recorded that the general habit of cattle-stealing had blindedeven those of the better classes to the infamy of the practice, and thatas men's property consisted entirely in herds, it was rendered in thehighest degree precarious, Mr. Grahame adds--
"On these accounts there is no culture of ground, no improvement ofpastures, and from the same reasons, no manufactures, no trade; in short,no industry. The people are extremely prolific, and therefore sonumerous, that there is not business in that country, according to itspresent order and economy, for the one-half of them. Every place is fullof idle people, accustomed to arms, and lazy in everything but rapinesand depredations. As _buddel_ or _aquavitae_ houses are to be foundeverywhere through the country, so in these they saunter away their time,and frequently consume there the returns of their illegal purchases. Herethe laws have never been executed, nor the authority of the magistrateever established. Here the officer of the law neither dare nor canexecute his duty, and several places are about thirty miles from lawfulpersons. In short, here is no order, no authority, no government."
The period of the rebellion, 1715, approached soon after Rob Roy hadattained celebrity. His Jacobite partialities were now placed inopposition to his sense of the obligations which he owed to the indirectprotection of the Duke of Argyle. But the desire of "drowning hissounding steps amid the din of general war" induced him to join theforces of the Earl of Mar, although his patron the Duke of Argyle was atthe head of the army opposed to the Highland insurgents.
The MacGregors, a large sept of them at least, that of Ciar Mhor, on thisoccasion were not commanded by Rob Roy, but by his nephew alreadymentioned, Gregor MacGregor, otherwise called James Grahame of Glengyle,and still better remembered by the Gaelic epithet of _Ghlune Dhu, i.e._Black Knee, from a black spot on one of his knees, which his Highlandgarb rendered visible. There can be no question, however, that being thenvery young, Glengyle must have acted on most occasions by the advice anddirection of so experienced a leader as his uncle.
The MacGregors assembled in numbers at that period, and began even tothreaten the Lowlands towards the lower extremity of Loch Lomond. Theysuddenly seized all the boats which were upon the lake, and, probablywith a view to some enterprise of their own, drew them overland toInversnaid, in order to intercept the progress of a large body ofwest-country whigs who were in arms for the government, and moving inthat direction.
The whigs made an excursion for the recovery of the boats. Their forcesconsisted of volunteers from Paisley, Kilpatrick, and elsewhere, who,with the assistance of a body of seamen, were towed up the river Leven inlong-boats belonging to the ships of war then lying in the Clyde. At Lussthey were joined by the forces of Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, and JamesGrant, his son-in-law, with their followers, attired in the Highlanddress of the period, which is picturesquely described.* The whole partycrossed to Craig-Royston, but the MacGregors did not offer combat.
* "At night they arrived at Luss, where they were joined by Sir HumphreyColquhoun of Luss, and James Grant of Plascander, his son-in-law,followed by forty or fifty stately fellows in their short hose and beltedplaids, armed each of them with a well-fixed gun on his shoulder, astrong handsome target, with a sharp-pointed steel of above half an ellin length screwed into the navel of it, on his left arm, a sturdyclaymore by his side, and a pistol or two, with a dirk and knife, in hisbelt."--_Rae's History of the Rebellion,_ 4to, p. 287.
If we are to believe the account of the expedition given by the historianRae, they leapt on shore at Craig-Royston with the utmost intrepidity, noenemy appearing to oppose them, and by the noise of their drums, whichthey beat incessantly, and the discharge of their artillery and smallarms, terrified the MacGregors, whom they appear never to have seen, outof their fastnesses, and caused them to fly in a panic to the generalcamp of the Highlanders at Strath-Fillan.* The low-country men succeededin getting possession of the boats at a great expenditure of noise andcourage, and little risk of danger.
* Note C. The Loch Lomond Expedition.
After this temporary removal from his old haunts, Rob Roy was sent by theEarl of Mar to Aberdeen, to raise, it is believed, a part of the clanGregor, which is settled in that country. These men were of his ownfamily (the race of the Ciar Mhor). They were the descendants of aboutthree hundred MacGregors whom the Earl of Murray, about the year 1624,transported from his estates in Menteith to oppose against his enemiesthe MacIntoshes, a race as hardy and restless as they were themselves.
But while in the city of Aberdeen, Rob Roy met a relation of a verydifferent class and character from those whom he was sent to summon toarms. This was Dr. James Gregory (by descent a MacGregor), the patriarchof a dynasty of professors distinguished for literary and scientifictalent, and the grandfather of the late eminent physician andaccomplished scholar, Professor Gregory of Edinburgh. This gentleman wasat the time Professor of Medicine in King's College, Aberdeen, and son ofDr. James Gregory, distinguished in science as the inventor of thereflecting telescope. With such a family it may seem our friend Rob couldhave had little communion. But civil war is a species of misery whichintroduces men to strange bed-fellows. Dr. Gregory thought it a point ofprudence to claim kindred, at so critical a period, with a man soformidable and influential. He invited Rob Roy to his house, and treatedhim with so much kindness, that he produced in his generous bosom adegree of gratitude which seemed likely to occasion very inconvenienteffects.
The Professor had a son about eight or nine years old,--a lively, stoutboy of his age,--with whose appearance our Highland Robin Hood was muchtaken. On the day before his departure from the house of his learnedrelative, Rob Roy, who had pondered deeply how he might requite hiscousin's kindness, took Dr. Gregory aside, and addressed him to thispurport:--"My dear kinsman, I have been thinking what I could do to showmy sense of your hospitality. Now, here you have a fine spirited boy of ason, whom you are ruining by cramming him with your uselessbook-learning, and I am determined, by way of manifesting my greatgood-will to you and yours, to take him with me and make a man of him."The learned Professor was utterly overwhelmed when his warlike kinsmanannounced his kind purpose in language which implied no doubt of itsbeing a proposal which, would be, and ought to be, accepted with theutmost gratitude. The task of apology or explanation was of a mostdelicate description; and there might have been considerable danger insuffering Rob Roy to perceive that the promotion with which he threatenedthe son was, in the father's eyes, the ready road to the gallows. Indeed,every excuse which he could at first think of--such as regret for puttinghis friend to trouble with a youth who had been educated in the Lowlands,and so on--only strengthened the chieftain's inclination to patronise hisyoung kinsman, as he supposed they arose entirely from the modesty of thefather. He would for a long time tak
e no apology, and even spoke ofcarrying off the youth by a certain degree of kindly violence, whetherhis father consented, or not. At length the perplexed Professor pleadedthat his son was very young, and in an infirm state of health, and notyet able to endure the hardships of a mountain life; but that in anotheryear or two he hoped his health would be firmly established, and he wouldbe in a fitting condition to attend on his brave kinsman, and follow outthe splendid destinies to which he opened the way. This agreement beingmade, the cousins parted,--Rob Roy pledging his honour to carry his youngrelation to the hills with him on his next return to Aberdeenshire, andDr. Gregory, doubtless, praying in his secret soul that he might neversee Rob's Highland face again.
James Gregory, who thus escaped being his kinsman's recruit, and in allprobability his henchman, was afterwards Professor of Medicine in theCollege, and, like most of his family, distinguished by his scientificacquirements. He was rather of an irritable and pertinacious disposition;and his friends were wont to remark, when he showed any symptom of thesefoibles, "Ah! this comes of not having been educated by Rob Roy."
The connection between Rob Roy and his classical kinsman did not end withthe period of Rob's transient power. At a period considerably subsequentto the year 1715, he was walking in the Castle Street of Aberdeen, arm inarm with his host, Dr. James Gregory, when the drums in the barrackssuddenly beat to arms, and soldiers were seen issuing from the barracks."If these lads are turning out," said Rob, taking leave of his cousinwith great composure, "it is time for me to look after my safety." Sosaying, he dived down a close, and, as John Bunyan says, "went upon hisway and was seen no more."*
* The first of these anecdotes, which brings the highest pitch ofcivilisation so closely in contact with the half-savage state ofsociety, I have heard told by the late distinguished Dr. Gregory; and themembers of his family have had the kindness to collate the story withtheir recollections and family documents, and furnish the authenticparticulars. The second rests on the recollection of an old man, who waspresent when Rob took French leave of his literary cousin on hearing thedrums beat, and communicated the circumstance to Mr. Alexander Forbes, aconnection of Dr. Gregory by marriage, who is still alive.
We have already stated that Rob Roy's conduct during the insurrection of1715 was very equivocal. His person and followers were in the Highlandarmy, but his heart seems to have been with the Duke of Argyle's. Yet theinsurgents were constrained to trust to him as their only guide, whenthey marched from Perth towards Dunblane, with the view of crossing theForth at what are called the Fords of Frew, and when they themselves saidhe could not be relied upon.
This movement to the westward, on the part of the insurgents, brought onthe battle of Sheriffmuir--indecisive, indeed, in its immediate results,but of which the Duke of Argyle reaped the whole advantage. In thisaction, it will be recollected that the right wing of the Highlandersbroke and cut to pieces Argyle's left wing, while the clans on the leftof Mar's army, though consisting of Stewarts, Mackenzies, and Camerons,were completely routed. During this medley of flight and pursuit, Rob Royretained his station on a hill in the centre of the Highland position;and though it is said his attack might have decided the day, he could notbe prevailed upon to charge. This was the more unfortunate for theinsurgents, as the leading of a party of the Macphersons had beencommitted to MacGregor. This, it is said, was owing to the age andinfirmity of the chief of that name, who, unable to lead his clan inperson, objected to his heir-apparent, Macpherson of Nord, discharginghis duty on that occasion; so that the tribe, or a part of them, werebrigaded with their allies the MacGregors. While the favourable momentfor action was gliding away unemployed, Mar's positive orders reached RobRoy that he should presently attack. To which he coolly replied, "No, no!if they cannot do it without me, they cannot do it with me." One of theMacphersons, named Alexander, one of Rob's original profession,_videlicet,_ a drover, but a man of great strength and spirit, was soincensed at the inactivity of this temporary leader, that he threw offhis plaid, drew his sword, and called out to his clansmen, "Let us endurethis no longer! if he will not lead you I will." Rob Roy replied, withgreat coolness, "Were the question about driving Highland stots orkyloes, Sandie, I would yield to your superior skill; but as it respectsthe leading of men, I must be allowed to be the better judge."--"Did thematter respect driving Glen-Eigas stots," answered the Macpherson, "thequestion with Rob would not be, which was to be last, but which was to beforemost." Incensed at this sarcasm, MacGregor drew his sword, and theywould have fought upon the spot if their friends on both sides had notinterfered. But the moment of attack was completely lost. Rob did not,however, neglect his own private interest on the occasion. In theconfusion of an undecided field of battle, he enriched his followers byplundering the baggage and the dead on both sides.
The fine old satirical ballad on the battle of Sheriffmuir does notforget to stigmatise our hero's conduct on this memorable occasion--
Rob Roy he stood watch On a hill for to catch The booty for aught that I saw, man; For he ne'er advanced From the place where he stanced, Till nae mair was to do there at a', man.
Notwithstanding the sort of neutrality which Rob Roy had continued toobserve during the progress of the Rebellion, he did not escape some ofits penalties. He was included in the act of attainder, and the house inBreadalbane, which was his place of retreat, was burned by General LordCadogan, when, after the conclusion of the insurrection, he marchedthrough the Highlands to disarm and punish the offending clans. But upongoing to Inverary with about forty or fifty of his followers, Robobtained favour, by an apparent surrender of their arms to ColonelPatrick Campbell of Finnah, who furnished them and their leader withprotections under his hand. Being thus in a great measure secured fromthe resentment of government, Rob Roy established his residence atCraig-Royston, near Loch Lomond, in the midst of his own kinsmen, andlost no time in resuming his private quarrel with the Duke of Montrose.For this purpose he soon got on foot as many men, and well armed too, ashe had yet commanded. He never stirred without a body-guard of ten ortwelve picked followers, and without much effort could increase them tofifty or sixty.
The Duke was not wanting in efforts to destroy this troublesomeadversary. His Grace applied to General Carpenter, commanding the forcesin Scotland, and by his orders three parties of soldiers were directedfrom the three different points of Glasgow, Stirling, and Finlarig nearKillin. Mr. Graham of Killearn, the Duke of Montrose's relation andfactor, Sheriff-depute also of Dumbartonshire, accompanied the troops,that they might act under the civil authority, and have the assistance ofa trusty guide well acquainted with the hills. It was the object of theseseveral columns to arrive about the same time in the neighbourhood of RobRoy's residence, and surprise him and his followers. But heavy rains, thedifficulties of the country, and the good intelligence which the Outlawwas always supplied with, disappointed their well-concerted combination.The troops, finding the birds were flown, avenged themselves bydestroying the nest. They burned Rob Roy's house,--though not withimpunity; for the MacGregors, concealed among the thickets and cliffs,fired on them, and killed a grenadier.
Rob Roy avenged himself for the loss which he sustained on this occasionby an act of singular audacity. About the middle of November 1716, JohnGraham of Killearn, already mentioned as factor of the Montrose family,went to a place called Chapel Errock, where the tenants of the Duke weresummoned to appear with their termly rents. They appeared accordingly,and the factor had received ready money to the amount of about L300, whenRob Roy entered the room at the head of an armed party. The Stewardendeavoured to protect the Duke's property by throwing the books ofaccounts and money into a garret, trusting they might escape notice. Butthe experienced freebooter was not to be baffled where such a prize wasat stake. He recovered the books and cash, placed himself calmly in thereceipt of custom, examined the accounts, pocketed the money, and gavereceipts on the Duke's part,
saying he would hold reckoning with the Dukeof Montrose out of the damages which he had sustained by his Grace'smeans, in which he included the losses he had suffered, as well by theburning of his house by General Cadogan, as by the later expeditionagainst Craig-Royston. He then requested Mr. Graham to attend him; nordoes it appear that he treated him with any personal violence, or evenrudeness, although he informed him he regarded him as a hostage, andmenaced rough usage in case he should be pursued, or in danger of beingovertaken. Few more audacious feats have been performed. After some rapidchanges of place (the fatigue attending which was the only annoyance thatMr. Graham seems to have complained of), he carried his prisoner to anisland on Loch Katrine, and caused him to write to the Duke, to statethat his ransom was fixed at L3400 merks, being the balance whichMacGregor pretended remained due to him, after deducting all that he owedto the Duke of Montrose.
However, after detaining Mr. Graham five or six days in custody on theisland, which is still called Rob Roy's Prison, and could be nocomfortable dwelling for November nights, the Outlaw seems to havedespaired of attaining further advantage from his bold attempt, andsuffered his prisoner to depart uninjured, with the account-books, andbills granted by the tenants, taking especial care to retain the cash.*
* The reader will find two original letters of the Duke of Montrose, withthat which Mr. Graham of Killearn despatched from his prison-house by theOutlaw's command, in the Appendix, No. II.
About 1717, our Chieftain had the dangerous adventure of falling into thehands of the Duke of Athole, almost as much his enemy as the Duke ofMontrose himself; but his cunning and dexterity again freed him fromcertain death. See a contemporary account of this curious affair in theAppendix, No. V.
Other pranks are told of Rob, which argue the same boldness and sagacityas the seizure of Killearn. The Duke of Montrose, weary of his insolence,procured a quantity of arms, and distributed them among his tenantry, inorder that they might defend themselves against future violences. Butthey fell into different hands from those they were intended for. TheMacGregors made separate attacks on the houses of the tenants, anddisarmed them all one after another, not, as was supposed, without theconsent of many of the persons so disarmed.
As a great part of the Duke's rents were payable in kind, there weregirnels (granaries) established for storing up the corn at Moulin, andelsewhere on the Buchanan estate. To these storehouses Rob Roy used torepair with a sufficient force, and of course when he was least expected,and insist upon the delivery of quantities of grain--sometimes for hisown use, and sometimes for the assistance of the country people; alwaysgiving regular receipts in his own name, and pretending to reckon withthe Duke for what sums he received.
In the meanwhile a garrison was established by Government, the ruins ofwhich may be still seen about half-way betwixt Loch Lomond and LochKatrine, upon Rob Roy's original property of Inversnaid. Even thismilitary establishment could not bridle the restless MacGregor. Hecontrived to surprise the little fort, disarm the soldiers, and destroythe fortification. It was afterwards re-established, and again taken bythe MacGregors under Rob Roy's nephew Ghlune Dhu, previous to theinsurrection of 1745-6. Finally, the fort of Inversnaid was a third timerepaired after the extinction of civil discord; and when we find thecelebrated General Wolfe commanding in it, the imagination is stronglyaffected by the variety of time and events which the circumstance bringssimultaneously to recollection. It is now totally dismantled.*
* About 1792, when the author chanced to pass that way while on a tourthrough the Highlands, a garrison, consisting of a single veteran, wasstill maintained at Inversnaid. The venerable warder was reaping hisbarley croft in all peace and tranquillity and when we asked admittanceto repose ourselves, he told us we would find the key of the Fort underthe door.
It was not, strictly speaking, as a professed depredator that Rob Roy nowconducted his operations, but as a sort of contractor for the police; inScottish phrase, a lifter of black-mail. The nature of this contract hasbeen described in the Novel of Waverley, and in the notes on that work.Mr. Grahame of Gartmore's description of the character may be heretranscribed:--
"The confusion and disorders of the country were so great, and theGovernment go absolutely neglected it, that the sober people were obligedto purchase some security to their effects by shameful and ignominiouscontracts of _black-mail._ A person who had the greatest correspondencewith the thieves was agreed with to preserve the lands contracted forfrom thefts, for certain sums to be paid yearly. Upon this fund heemployed one half of the thieves to recover stolen cattle, and the otherhalf of them to steal, in order to make this agreement and black-mailcontract necessary. The estates of those gentlemen who refused tocontract, or give countenance to that pernicious practice, are plunderedby the thieving part of the watch, in order to force them to purchasetheir protection. Their leader calls himself the _Captain_ of the_Watch,_ and his banditti go by that name. And as this gives them a kindof authority to traverse the country, so it makes them capable of doingany mischief. These corps through the Highlands make altogether a veryconsiderable body of men, inured from their infancy to the greatestfatigues, and very capable, to act in a military way when occasionoffers.
"People who are ignorant and enthusiastic, who are in absolute dependenceupon their chief or landlord, who are directed in their consciences byRoman Catholic priests, or nonjuring clergymen, and who are not mastersof any property, may easily be formed into any mould. They fear nodangers, as they have nothing to lose, and so can with ease be induced toattempt anything. Nothing can make their condition worse: confusions andtroubles do commonly indulge them in such licentiousness, that by thesethey better it."*
* Letters from the North of Scotland, vol. ii. pp. 344, 345.
As the practice of contracting for black-mail was an obviousencouragement to rapine, and a great obstacle to the course of justice,it was, by the statute 1567, chap. 21, declared a capital crime both onthe part of him who levied and him who paid this sort of tax. But thenecessity of the case prevented the execution of this severe law, Ibelieve, in any one instance; and men went on submitting to a certainunlawful imposition rather than run the risk of utter ruin--just as it isnow found difficult or impossible to prevent those who have lost a verylarge sum of money by robbery, from compounding with the felons forrestoration of a part of their booty.
At what rate Rob Roy levied black-mail I never heard stated; but there isa formal contract by which his nephew, in 1741, agreed with variouslandholders of estates in the counties of Perth, Stirling, and Dumbarton,to recover cattle stolen from them, or to pay the value within six monthsof the loss being intimated, if such intimation were made to him withsufficient despatch, in consideration of a payment of L5 on each L100 ofvalued rent, which was not a very heavy insurance. Petty thefts were notincluded in the contract; but the theft of one horse, or one head ofblack cattle, or of sheep exceeding the number of six, fell under theagreement.
Rob Roy's profits upon such contracts brought him in a considerablerevenue in money or cattle, of which he made a popular use; for he waspublicly liberal as well as privately beneficent. The minister of theparish of Balquhidder, whose name was Robertson, was at one timethreatening to pursue the parish for an augmentation of his stipend. RobRoy took an opportunity to assure him that he would do well to abstainfrom this new exaction--a hint which the minister did not fail tounderstand. But to make him some indemnification, MacGregor presented himevery year with a cow and a fat sheep; and no scruples as to the mode inwhich the donor came by them are said to have affected the reverendgentleman's conscience.
The following amount of the proceedings of Rob Roy, on an application tohim from one of his contractors, had in it something very interesting tome, as told by an old countryman in the Lennox who was present on theexpedition. But as there is no point or marked incident in the story, andas it must necessarily be without the half-frightened, half-bewilderedlook with which the narrator accompanied his recollections, it maypossibly lose, its effect when transf
erred to paper.
My informant stated himself to have been a lad of fifteen, living withhis father on the estate of a gentleman in the Lennox, whose name I haveforgotten, in the capacity of herd. On a fine morning in the end ofOctober, the period when such calamities were almost always to beapprehended, they found the Highland thieves had been down upon them, andswept away ten or twelve head of cattle. Rob Roy was sent for, and camewith a party of seven or eight armed men. He heard with great gravity allthat could be told him of the circumstances of the _creagh,_ andexpressed his confidence that the _herd-widdiefows_* could not havecarried their booty far, and that he should be able to recover them.
* Mad herdsmen--a name given to cattle-stealers [properly one whodeserves to fill a _widdie,_ or halter].
He desired that two Lowlanders should be sent on the party, as it was notto be expected that any of his gentlemen would take the trouble ofdriving the cattle when he should recover possession of them. Myinformant and his father were despatched on the expedition. They had nogood will to the journey; nevertheless, provided with a little food, andwith a dog to help them to manage the cattle, they set off withMacGregor. They travelled a long day's journey in the direction of themountain Benvoirlich, and slept for the night in a ruinous hut or bothy.The next morning they resumed their journey among the hills, Rob Roydirecting their course by signs and marks on the heath which my informantdid not understand.
About noon Rob commanded the armed party to halt, and to lie couched inthe heather where it was thickest. "Do you and your son," he said to theoldest Lowlander, "go boldly over the hill;--you will see beneath you, ina glen on the other side, your master's cattle, feeding, it may be, withothers; gather your own together, taking care to disturb no one else, anddrive them to this place. If any one speak to or threaten you, tell themthat I am here, at the head of twenty men."--"But what if they abuse us,or kill us?" said the Lowland, peasant, by no means delighted at findingthe embassy imposed on him and his son. "If they do you any wrong," saidRob, "I will never forgive them as long as I live." The Lowlander was byno means content with this security, but did not think it safe to disputeRob's injunctions.
He and his son climbed the hill therefore, found a deep valley, wherethere grazed, as Rob had predicted, a large herd of cattle. Theycautiously selected those which their master had lost, and took measuresto drive them over the hill. As soon as they began to remove them, theywere surprised by hearing cries and screams; and looking around in fearand trembling they saw a woman seeming to have started out of the earth,who _flyted_ at them, that is, scolded them, in Gaelic. When theycontrived, however, in the best Gaelic they could muster, to deliver themessage Rob Roy told them, she became silent, and disappeared withoutoffering them any further annoyance. The chief heard their story on theirreturn, and spoke with great complacency of the art which he possessed ofputting such things to rights without any unpleasant bustle. The partywere now on their road home, and the danger, though not the fatigue, ofthe expedition was at an end.
They drove on the cattle with little repose until it was nearly dark,when Rob proposed to halt for the night upon a wide moor, across which acold north-east wind, with frost on its wing, was whistling to the tuneof the Pipers of Strath-Dearn.*
* The winds which sweep a wild glen in Badenoch are so called.
The Highlanders, sheltered by their plaids, lay down on the heathcomfortably enough, but the Lowlanders had no protection whatever. RobRoy observing this, directed one of his followers to afford the old man aportion of his plaid; "for the callant (boy), he may," said thefreebooter, "keep himself warm by walking about and watching the cattle."My informant heard this sentence with no small distress; and as the frostwind grew more and more cutting, it seemed to freeze the very blood inhis young veins. He had been exposed to weather all his life, he said,but never could forget the cold of that night; insomuch that, in thebitterness of his heart, he cursed the bright moon for giving no heatwith so much light. At length the sense of cold and weariness became sointolerable that he resolved to desert his watch to seek some repose andshelter. With that purpose he couched himself down behind one of the mostbulky of the Highlanders, who acted as lieutenant to the party. Notsatisfied with having secured the shelter of the man's large person, hecoveted a share of his plaid, and by imperceptible degrees drew a cornerof it round him. He was now comparatively in paradise, and slept soundtill daybreak, when he awoke, and was terribly afraid on observing thathis nocturnal operations had altogether uncovered the dhuiniewassell'sneck and shoulders, which, lacking the plaid which should have protectedthem, were covered with _cranreuch_ (_i.e._ hoar frost). The lad rose ingreat dread of a beating, at least, when it should be found howluxuriously he had been accommodated at the expense of a principal personof the party. Good Mr. Lieutenant, however, got up and shook himself,rubbing off the hoar frost with his plaid, and muttering something of a_cauld neight._ They then drove on the cattle, which were restored totheir owner without farther adventure--The above can hardly be termed atale, but yet it contains materials both for the poet and artist.
It was perhaps about the same time that, by a rapid march into theBalquhidder hills at the head of a body of his own tenantry, the Duke ofMontrose actually surprised Rob Roy, and made him prisoner. He wasmounted behind one of the Duke's followers, named James Stewart, and madefast to him by a horse-girth. The person who had him thus in charge wasgrandfather of the intelligent man of the same name, now deceased, wholately kept the inn in the vicinity of Loch Katrine, and acted as a guideto visitors through that beautiful scenery. From him I learned the storymany years before he was either a publican, or a guide, except tomoorfowl shooters.--It was evening (to resume the story), and the Dukewas pressing on to lodge his prisoner, so long sought after in vain, insome place of security, when, in crossing the Teith or Forth, I forgetwhich, MacGregor took an opportunity to conjure Stewart, by all the tiesof old acquaintance and good neighbourhood, to give him some chance of anescape from an assured doom. Stewart was moved with compassion, perhapswith fear. He slipt the girth-buckle, and Rob, dropping down from behindthe horse's croupe, dived, swam, and escaped, pretty much as described inthe Novel. When James Stewart came on shore, the Duke hastily demandedwhere his prisoner was; and as no distinct answer was returned, instantlysuspected Stewart's connivance at the escape of the Outlaw; and, drawinga steel pistol from his belt, struck him down with a blow on the head,from the effects of which, his descendant said, he never completelyrecovered.
In the success of his repeated escapes from the pursuit of his powerfulenemy, Rob Roy at length became wanton and facetious. He wrote a mockchallenge to the Duke, which he circulated among his friends to amusethem over a bottle. The reader will find this document in the Appendix.*It is written in a good hand, and not particularly deficient in grammaror spelling.
* Appendix, No. III.
Our Southern readers must be given to understand that it was a piece ofhumour,--a _quiz,_ in short,--on the part of the Outlaw, who was toosagacious to propose such a rencontre in reality. This letter was writtenin the year 1719.
In the following year Rob Roy composed another epistle, very little tohis own reputation, as he therein confesses having played booty duringthe civil war of 1715. It is addressed to General Wade, at that timeengaged in disarming the Highland clans, and making military roadsthrough the country. The letter is a singular composition. It sets outthe writer's real and unfeigned desire to have offered his service toKing George, but for his liability to be thrown into jail for a civildebt, at the instance of the Duke of Montrose. Being thus debarred fromtaking the right side, he acknowledged he embraced the wrong one, uponFalstaff's principle, that since the King wanted men and the rebelssoldiers, it were worse shame to be idle in such a stirring world, thanto embrace the worst side, were it as black as rebellion could make it.The impossibility of his being neutral in such a debate, Rob seems to laydown as an undeniable proposition. At the same time, while heacknowledges having bee
n forced into an unnatural rebellion against KingGeorge, he pleads that he not only avoided acting offensively against hisMajesty's forces on all occasions, but, on the contrary, sent to themwhat intelligence he could collect from time to time; for the truth ofwhich he refers to his Grace the Duke of Argyle. What influence this pleahad on General Wade, we have no means of knowing.
Rob Roy appears to have continued to live very much as usual. His fame,in the meanwhile, passed beyond the narrow limits of the country in whichhe resided. A pretended history of him appeared in London during hislifetime, under the title of the Highland Rogue. It is a catch-pennypublication, bearing in front the effigy of a species of ogre, with abeard of a foot in length; and his actions are as much exaggerated as hispersonal appearance. Some few of the best known adventures of the heroare told, though with little accuracy; but the greater part of thepamphlet is entirely fictitious. It is great pity so excellent a themefor a narrative of the kind had not fallen into the hands of De Foe, whowas engaged at the time on subjects somewhat similar, though inferior indignity and interest.
As Rob Roy advanced in years, he became more peaceable in his habits, andhis nephew Ghlune Dhu, with most of his tribe, renounced those peculiarquarrels with the Duke of Montrose, by which his uncle had beendistinguished. The policy of that great family had latterly been ratherto attach this wild tribe by kindness than to follow the mode of violencewhich had been hitherto ineffectually resorted to. Leases at a low rentwere granted to many of the MacGregors, who had heretofore heldpossessions in the Duke's Highland property merely by occupancy; andGlengyle (or Black-knee), who continued to act as collector ofblack-mail, managed his police, as a commander of the Highland watcharrayed at the charge of Government. He is said to have strictlyabstained from the open and lawless depredations which his kinsman hadpractised.
It was probably after this state of temporary quiet had been obtained,that Rob Roy began to think of the concerns of his future state. He hadbeen bred, and long professed himself, a Protestant; but in his lateryears he embraced the Roman Catholic faith,--perhaps on Mrs. Cole'sprinciple, that it was a comfortable religion for one of his calling. Heis said to have alleged as the cause of his conversion, a desire togratify the noble family of Perth, who were then strict Catholics.Having, as he observed, assumed the name of the Duke of Argyle, his firstprotector, he could pay no compliment worth the Earl of Perth'sacceptance save complying with his mode of religion. Rob did not pretend,when pressed closely on the subject, to justify all the tenets ofCatholicism, and acknowledged that extreme unction always appeared to hima great waste of _ulzie,_ or oil.*
* Such an admission is ascribed to the robber Donald Bean Lean inWaverley, chap. lxii,
In the last years of Rob Roy's life, his clan was involved in a disputewith one more powerful than themselves. Stewart of Appin, a chief of thetribe so named, was proprietor of a hill-farm in the Braes ofBalquhidder, called Invernenty. The MacGregors of Rob Roy's tribe claimeda right to it by ancient occupancy, and declared they would oppose to theuttermost the settlement of any person upon the farm not being of theirown name. The Stewarts came down with two hundred men, well armed, to dothemselves justice by main force. The MacGregors took the field, but wereunable to muster an equal strength. Rob Roy, fending himself the weakerparty, asked a parley, in which he represented that both clans werefriends to the _King,_ and, that he was unwilling they should be weakenedby mutual conflict, and thus made a merit of surrendering to Appin thedisputed territory of Invernenty. Appin, accordingly, settled as tenantsthere, at an easy quit-rent, the MacLarens, a family dependent on theStewarts, and from whose character for strength and bravery, it wasexpected that they would make their right good if annoyed by theMacGregors. When all this had been amicably adjusted, in presence of thetwo clans drawn up in arms near the Kirk of Balquhidder, Rob Roy,apparently fearing his tribe might be thought to have conceded too muchupon the occasion, stepped forward and said, that where so many gallantmen were met in arms, it would be shameful to part without it trial ofskill, and therefore he took the freedom to invite any gentleman of theStewarts present to exchange a few blows with him for the honour of theirrespective clans. The brother-in-law of Appin, and second chieftain ofthe clan, Alaster Stewart of Invernahyle, accepted the challenge, andthey encountered with broadsword and target before their respectivekinsmen.*
* Some accounts state that Appin himself was Rob Roy's antagonist on thisoccasion. My recollection, from the account of Invernahyle himself, wasas stated in the text. But the period when I received the information isnow so distant, that it is possible I may be mistaken. Invernahyle wasrather of low stature, but very well made, athletic, and an excellentswordsman.
The combat lasted till Rob received a slight wound in the arm, which wasthe usual termination of such a combat when fought for honour only, andnot with a mortal purpose. Rob Roy dropped his point, and congratulatedhis adversary on having been the first man who ever drew blood from him.The victor generously acknowledged, that without the advantage of youth,and the agility accompanying it, he probably could not have come off withadvantage.
This was probably one of Rob Roy's last exploits in arms. The time of hisdeath is not known with certainty, but he is generally said to havesurvived 1738, and to have died an aged man. When he found himselfapproaching his final change, he expressed some contrition for particularparts of his life. His wife laughed at these scruples of conscience, andexhorted him to die like a man, as he had lived. In reply, he rebuked herfor her violent passions, and the counsels she had given him. "You haveput strife," he said, "betwixt me and the best men of the country, andnow you would place enmity between me and my God."
There is a tradition, no way inconsistent with the former, if thecharacter of Rob Roy be justly considered, that while on his deathbed, helearned that a person with whom he was at enmity proposed to visit him."Raise me from my bed," said the invalid; "throw my plaid around me, andbring me my claymore, dirk, and pistols--it shall never be said that afoeman saw Rob Roy MacGregor defenceless and unarmed." His foeman,conjectured to be one of the MacLarens before and after mentioned,entered and paid his compliments, inquiring after the health of hisformidable neighbour. Rob Roy maintained a cold haughty civility duringtheir short conference, and so soon as he had left the house. "Now," hesaid, "all is over--let the piper play, _Ha til mi tulidh_" (we return nomore); and he is said to have expired before the dirge was finished.
This singular man died in bed in his own house, in the parish ofBalquhidder. He was buried in the churchyard of the same parish, wherehis tombstone is only distinguished by a rude attempt at the figure of abroadsword.
The character of Rob Roy is, of course, a mixed one. His sagacity,boldness, and prudence, qualities so highly necessary to success in war,became in some degree vices, from the manner in which they were employed.The circumstances of his education, however, must be admitted as someextenuation of his habitual transgressions against the law; and for hispolitical tergiversations, he might in that distracted period plead theexample of men far more powerful, and less excusable in becoming thesport of circumstances, than the poor and desperate outlaw. On the otherhand, he was in the constant exercise of virtues, the more meritorious asthey seem inconsistent with his general character. Pursuing theoccupation of a predatory chieftain,--in modern phrase a captain ofbanditti,--Rob Roy was moderate in his revenge, and humane in hissuccesses. No charge of cruelty or bloodshed, unless in battle, isbrought against his memory. In like manner, the formidable outlaw was thefriend of the poor, and, to the utmost of his ability, the support of thewidow and the orphan--kept his word when pledged--and died lamented inhis own wild country, where there were hearts grateful for hisbeneficence, though their minds were not sufficiently instructed toappreciate his errors.
The author perhaps ought to stop here; but the fate of a part of RobRoy's family was so extraordinary, as to call for a continuation of thissomewhat prolix account, as affording an interesting chapter, not onHighland manners alone, but on every st
age of society in which the peopleof a primitive and half-civilised tribe are brought into close contactwith a nation, in which civilisation and polity have attained a completesuperiority.
Rob had five sons,--Coll, Ronald, James, Duncan, and Robert. Nothingoccurs worth notice concerning three of them; but James, who was a veryhandsome man, seems to have had a good deal of his father's spirit, andthe mantle of Dougal Ciar Mhor had apparently descended on the shouldersof Robin Oig, that is, young Robin. Shortly after Rob Roy's death, theill-will which the MacGregors entertained against the MacLarens againbroke out, at the instigation, it was said, of Rob's widow, who seemsthus far to have deserved the character given to her by her husband, asan Ate' stirring up to blood and strife. Robin Oig, under herinstigation, swore that as soon as he could get back a certain gun whichhad belonged to his father, and had been lately at Doune to be repaired,he would shoot MacLaren, for having presumed to settle on his mother'sland.*
* This fatal piece was taken from Robin Oig, when he was seized manyyears afterwards. It remained in possession of the magistrates beforewhom he was brought for examination, and now makes part of a smallcollection of arms belonging to the Author. It is a Spanish-barrelledgun, marked with the letters R. M. C., for Robert MacGregor Campbell.
He was as good as his word, and shot MacLaren when between the stilts ofhis plough, wounding him mortally.
The aid of a Highland leech was procured, who probed the wound with aprobe made out of a castock; _i.e._, the stalk of a colewort or cabbage.This learned gentleman declared he would not venture to prescribe, notknowing with what shot the patient had been wounded. MacLaren died, andabout the same time his cattle were houghed, and his live stock destroyedin a barbarous manner.
Robin Oig, after this feat--which one of his biographers represents asthe unhappy discharge of a gun--retired to his mother's house, to boastthat he had drawn the first blood in the quarrel aforesaid. On theapproach of troops, and a body of the Stewarts, who were bound to take upthe cause of their tenant, Robin Oig absconded, and escaped all search.
The doctor already mentioned, by name Callam MacInleister, with James andRonald, brothers to the actual perpetrator of the murder, were brought totrial. But as they contrived to represent the action as a rash deedcommitted by "the daft callant Rob," to which they were not accessory,the jury found their accession to the crime was Not Proven. The allegedacts of spoil and violence on the MacLarens' cattle, were also found tobe unsupported by evidence. As it was proved, however, that the twobrothers, Ronald and James, were held and reputed thieves, they wereappointed to find caution to the extent of L200, for their good behaviourfor seven years.*
* Note D. Author's expedition against the MacLarens.
The spirit of clanship was at that time, so strong--to which must beadded the wish to secure the adherence of stout, able-bodied, and, as theScotch phrase then went, _pretty_ men--that the representative of thenoble family of Perth condescended to act openly as patron of theMacGregors, and appeared as such upon their trial. So at least the authorwas informed by the late Robert MacIntosh, Esq., advocate. Thecircumstance may, however, have occurred later than 1736--the year inwhich this first trial took place.
Robin Oig served for a time in the 42d regiment, and was present at thebattle of Fontenoy, where he was made prisoner and wounded. He wasexchanged, returned to Scotland, and obtained his discharge. Heafterwards appeared openly in the MacGregor's country; and,notwithstanding his outlawry, married a daughter of Graham of Drunkie, agentleman of some property. His wife died a few years afterwards.
The insurrection of 1745 soon afterwards called the MacGregors to arms.Robert MacGregor of Glencarnoch, generally regarded as the chief of thewhole name, and grandfather of Sir John, whom the clan received in thatcharacter, raised a MacGregor regiment, with which he joined the standardof the Chevalier. The race of Ciar Mhor, however, affecting independence,and commanded by Glengyle and his cousin James Roy MacGregor, did notjoin this kindred corps, but united themselves to the levies of thetitular Duke of Perth, until William MacGregor Drummond of Bolhaldie,whom they regarded as head of their branch, of Clan Alpine, should comeover from France. To cement the union after the Highland fashion, Jameslaid down the name of Campbell, and assumed that of Drummond, incompliment to Lord Perth. He was also called James Roy, after his father,and James Mhor, or Big James, from his height. His corps, the relics ofhis father Rob's band, behaved with great activity; with only twelve menhe succeeded in surprising and burning, for the second time, the fort atInversnaid, constructed for the express purpose of bridling the countryof the MacGregors.
What rank or command James MacGregor had, is uncertain. He calls himselfMajor; and Chevalier Johnstone calls him Captain. He must have held rankunder Ghlune Dhu, his kinsman, but his active and audacious characterplaced him above the rest of his brethren. Many of his followers wereunarmed; he supplied the want of guns and swords with scythe-blades setstraight upon their handles.
At the battle of Prestonpans, James Roy distinguished himself. "Hiscompany," says Chevalier Johnstone, "did great execution with theirscythes." They cut the legs of the horses in two--the riders through themiddle of their bodies. MacGregor was brave and intrepid, but at the sametime, somewhat whimsical and singular. When advancing to the charge withhis company, he received five wounds, two of them from balls that piercedhis body through and through. Stretched on the ground, with his headresting on his hand, he called out loudly to the Highlanders of hiscompany, "My lads, I am not dead. By G--, I shall see if any of you doesnot do his duty." The victory, as is well known, was instantly obtained.
In some curious letters of James Roy,* it appears that his thigh-bone wasbroken on this occasion, and that he, nevertheless, rejoined the armywith six companies, and was present at the battle of Culloden.
* Published in Blackwood's Magazine, vol. ii. p. 228.
After that defeat, the clan MacGregor kept together in a body, and didnot disperse till they had returned into their own country. They broughtJames Roy with them in a litter; and, without being particularlymolested, he was permitted to reside in the MacGregor's country alongwith his brothers.
James MacGregor Drummond was attainted for high treason with persons ofmore importance. But it appears he had entered into some communicationwith Government, as, in the letters quoted, he mentions having obtained apass from the Lord Justice-Clerk in 1747, which was a sufficientprotection to him from the military. The circumstance is obscurely statedin one of the letters already quoted, but may perhaps, joined tosubsequent incidents, authorise the suspicion that James, like hisfather, could look at both sides of the cards. As the confusion of thecountry subsided, the MacGregors, like foxes which had baffled thehounds, drew back to their old haunts, and lived unmolested. But anatrocious outrage, in which the sons of Rob Roy were concerned, broughtat length on the family the full vengeance of the law.
James Roy was a married man, and had fourteen children. But his brother,Robin Oig, was now a widower; and it was resolved, if possible, that heshould make his fortune by carrying off and marrying, by force ifnecessary, some woman of fortune from the Lowlands.
The imagination of the half-civilised Highlanders was less shocked at theidea of this particular species of violence, than might be expected fromtheir general kindness to the weaker sex when they make part of their ownfamilies. But all their views were tinged with the idea that they livedin a state of war; and in such a state, from the time of the siege ofTroy to "the moment when Previsa fell,"* the female captives are, touncivilised victors, the most valuable part of the booty--
* Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto II.
"The wealthy are slaughtered, the lovely are spared."
We need not refer to the rape of the Sabines, or to a similar instance inthe Book of Judges, for evidence that such deeds of violence have beencommitted upon a large scale. Indeed, this sort of enterprise was socommon along the Highland line as to give rise to a variety of songs andballads.*
* See Appendix, N
The annals of Ireland, as well as those of Scotland, prove the crime tohave been common in the more lawless parts of both countries; and anywoman who happened to please a man of spirit who came of a good house,and possessed a few chosen friends, and a retreat in the mountains, wasnot permitted the alternative of saying him nay. What is more, it wouldseem that the women themselves, most interested in the immunities oftheir sex, were, among the lower classes, accustomed to regard suchmarriages as that which is presently to be detailed as "pretty Fanny'sway," or rather, the way of Donald with pretty Fanny. It is not a greatmany years since a respectable woman, above the lower rank of life,expressed herself very warmly to the author on his taking the freedom tocensure the behaviour of the MacGregors on the occasion in question. Shesaid "that there was no use in giving a bride too much choice upon suchoccasions; that the marriages were the happiest long syne which had beendone offhand." Finally, she averred that her "own mother had never seenher father till the night he brought her up from the Lennox, with tenhead of black cattle, and there had not been a happier couple in thecountry."
James Drummond and his brethren having similar opinions with the author'sold acquaintance, and debating how they might raise the fallen fortunesof their clan, formed a resolution to settle their brother's fortune bystriking up an advantageous marriage betwixt Robin Oig and one Jean Key,or Wright, a young woman scarce twenty years old, and who had been leftabout two months a widow by the death of her husband. Her property wasestimated at only from 16,000 to 18,000 merks, but it seems to have beensufficient temptation to these men to join in the commission of a greatcrime.
This poor young victim lived with her mother in her own house atEdinbilly, in the parish of Balfron and shire of Stirling. At this place,in the night of 3d December 1750, the sons of Rob Roy, and particularlyJames Mhor and Robin Oig, rushed into the house where the object of theirattack was resident, presented guns, swords, and pistols to the males ofthe family, and terrified the women by threatening to break open thedoors if Jean Key was not surrendered, as, said James Roy, "his brotherwas a young fellow determined to make his fortune." Having, at length,dragged the object of their lawless purpose from her place ofconcealment, they tore her from her mother's arms, mounted her on a horsebefore one of the gang, and carried her off in spite, of her screams andcries, which were long heard after the terrified spectators of theoutrage could no longer see the party retreat through the darkness. Inher attempts to escape, the poor young woman threw herself from the horseon which they had placed her, and in so doing wrenched her side. Theythen laid her double over the pummel of the saddle, and transported herthrough the mosses and moors till the pain of the injury she had sufferedin her side, augmented by the uneasiness of her posture, made her consentto sit upright. In the execution of this crime they stopped at morehouses than one, but none of the inhabitants dared interrupt theirproceedings. Amongst others who saw them was that classical andaccomplished scholar the late Professor William Richardson of Glasgow,who used to describe as a terrible dream their violent and noisy entranceinto the house where he was then residing. The Highlanders filled thelittle kitchen, brandishing their arms, demanding what they pleased, andreceiving whatever they demanded. James Mhor, he said, was a tall, stern,and soldier-like man. Robin Oig looked more gentle; dark, but yet ruddyin complexion--a good-looking young savage. Their victim was sodishevelled in her dress, and forlorn in her appearance and demeanour,that he could hardly tell whether she was alive or dead.
The gang carried the unfortunate woman to Rowardennan, where they had apriest unscrupulous enough to read the marriage service, while James Mhorforcibly held the bride up before him; and the priest declared the coupleman and wife, even while she protested against the infamy of his conduct.Under the same threats of violence, which had been all along used toenforce their scheme, the poor victim was compelled to reside with thepretended husband who was thus forced upon her. They even dared to carryher to the public church of Balquhidder, where the officiating clergyman(the same who had been Rob Roy's pensioner) only asked them if they weremarried persons. Robert MacGregor answered in the affirmative; theterrified female was silent.
The country was now too effectually subjected to the law for this vileoutrage to be followed by the advantages proposed by the actors, Militaryparties were sent out in every direction to seize the MacGregors, whowere for two or three weeks compelled to shift from one place to anotherin the mountains, bearing the unfortunate Jean Key along with them. Inthe meanwhile, the Supreme Civil Court issued a warrant, sequestratingthe property of Jean Key, or Wright, which removed out of the reach ofthe actors in the violence the prize which they expected. They had,however, adopted a belief of the poor woman's spirit being so far brokenthat she would prefer submitting to her condition, and adhering to RobinOig as her husband, rather than incur the disgrace, of appearing in sucha cause in an open court. It was, indeed, a delicate experiment; buttheir kinsman Glengyle, chief of their immediate family, was of a temperaverse to lawless proceedings;* and the captive's friends having hadrecourse to his advice, they feared that he would withdraw his protectionif they refused to place the prisoner at liberty.
* Such, at least, was his general character; for when James Mhor, whileperpetrating the violence at Edinbilly, called out, in order to overaweopposition, that Glengyle was lying in the moor with a hundred men topatronise his enterprise, Jean Key told him he lied, since she wasconfident Glengyle would never countenance so scoundrelly a business.
The brethren resolved, therefore, to liberate the unhappy woman, butpreviously had recourse to every measure which should oblige her, eitherfrom fear or otherwise, to own her marriage with Robin Oig. Thecailliachs (old Highland hags) administered drugs, which were designed tohave the effect of philtres, but were probably deleterious. James Mhor atone time threatened, that if she did not acquiesce in the match she wouldfind that there were enough of men in the Highlands to bring the heads oftwo of her uncles who were pursuing the civil lawsuit. At another time hefell down on his knees, and confessed he had been accessory to wrongingher, but begged she would not ruin his innocent wife and large family.She was made to swear she would not prosecute the brethren for theoffence they had committed; and she was obliged by threats to subscribepapers which were tendered to her, intimating that she was carried off inconsequence of her own previous request.
James Mhor Drummond accordingly brought his pretended sister-in-law toEdinburgh, where, for some little time, she was carried about from onehouse to another, watched by those with whom she was lodged, and neverpermitted to go out alone, or even to approach the window. The Court ofSession, considering the peculiarity of the case, and regarding Jean Keyas being still under some forcible restraint, took her person under theirown special charge, and appointed her to reside in the family of Mr.Wightman of Mauldsley, a gentleman of respectability, who was married toone of her near relatives. Two sentinels kept guard on the house day andnight--a precaution not deemed superfluous when the MacGregors were inquestion. She was allowed to go out whenever she chose, and to seewhomsoever she had a mind, as well as the men of law employed in thecivil suit on either side. When she first came to Mr. Wightman's houseshe seemed broken down with affright and suffering, so changed infeatures that her mother hardly knew her, and so shaken in mind that shescarce could recognise her parent. It was long before she could beassured that she was in perfect safely. But when she at length receivedconfidence in her situation, she made a judicial declaration, oraffidavit, telling the full history of her wrongs, imputing to fear herformer silence on the subject, and expressing her resolution not toprosecute those who had injured her, in respect of the oath she had beencompelled to take. From the possible breach of such an oath, though acompulsory one, she was relieved by the forms of Scottish jurisprudence,in that respect more equitable than those of England, prosecutions forcrimes being always conducted at the expense and charge of the King,without inconvenience or cost to the private party who has sustained thewrong. But the unhapp
y sufferer did not live to be either accuser orwitness against those who had so deeply injured her.
James Mhor Drummond had left Edinburgh so soon as his half-dead prey hadbeen taken from his clutches. Mrs. Key, or Wright, was released from herspecies of confinement there, and removed to Glasgow, under the escort ofMr. Wightman. As they passed the Hill of Shotts, her escort chanced tosay, "this is a very wild spot; what if the MacGregors should come uponus?"--"God forbid!" was her immediate answer, "the very sight of themwould kill me." She continued to reside at Glasgow, without venturing toreturn to her own house at Edinbilly. Her pretended husband made someattempts to obtain an interview with her, which she steadily rejected.She died on the 4th October 1751. The information for the Crown hintsthat her decease might be the consequence of the usage she received. Butthere is a general report that she died of the small-pox. In themeantime, James Mhor, or Drummond, fell into the hands of justice. He wasconsidered as the instigator of the whole affair. Nay, the deceased hadinformed her friends that on the night of her being carried off, RobinOig, moved by her cries and tears, had partly consented to let herreturn, when James came up with a pistol in his hand, and, asking whetherhe was such a coward as to relinquish an enterprise in which he hadrisked everything to procure him a fortune, in a manner compelled hisbrother to persevere. James's trial took place on 13th July 1752, and wasconducted with the utmost fairness and impartiality. Several witnesses,all of the MacGregor family, swore that the marriage was performed withevery appearance of acquiescence on the woman's part; and three or fourwitnesses, one of them sheriff-substitute of the county, swore she mighthave made her escape if she wished, and the magistrate stated that heoffered her assistance if she felt desirous to do so. But when asked whyhe, in his official capacity, did not arrest the MacGregors, he couldonly answer, that he had not force sufficient to make the attempt.
The judicial declarations of Jean Key, or Wright, stated the violentmanner in which she had been carried off, and they were confirmed by manyof her friends, from her private communications with them, which theevent of her death rendered good evidence. Indeed, the fact of herabduction (to use a Scottish law term) was completely proved by impartialwitnesses. The unhappy woman admitted that she had pretended acquiescencein her fate on several occasions, because she dared not trust such asoffered to assist her to escape, not even the sheriff-substitute.
The jury brought in a special verdict, finding that Jean Key, or Wright,had been forcibly carried off from her house, as charged in theindictment, and that the accused had failed to show that she was herselfprivy and consenting to this act of outrage. But they found the forciblemarriage, and subsequent violence, was not proved; and also found, inalleviation of the panel's guilt in the premises, that Jean Key didafterwards acquiesce in her condition. Eleven of the jury, using thenames of other four who were absent, subscribed a letter to the Court,stating it was their purpose and desire, by such special verdict, to takethe panel's case out of the class of capital crimes.
Learned informations (written arguments) on the import of the verdict,which must be allowed a very mild one in the circumstances, were laidbefore the High Court of Justiciary. This point is very learnedly debatedin these pleadings by Mr. Grant, Solicitor for the Crown, and thecelebrated Mr. Lockhart, on the part of the prisoner; but James Mhor didnot wait the event of the Court's decision.
He had been committed to the Castle of Edinburgh on some reports that anescape would be attempted. Yet he contrived to achieve his liberty evenfrom that fortress. His daughter had the address to enter the prison,disguised as a cobbler, bringing home work, as she pretended. In thiscobbler's dress her father quickly arrayed himself. The wife and daughterof the prisoner were heard by the sentinels scolding the supposed cobblerfor having done his work ill, and the man came out with his hat slouchedover his eyes, and grumbling, as if at the manner in which they hadtreated him. In this way the prisoner passed all the guards withoutsuspicion, and made his escape to France. He was afterwards outlawed bythe Court of Justiciary, which proceeded to the trial of DuncanMacGregor, or Drummond, his brother, 15th January 1753. The accused hadunquestionably been with the party which carried off Jean Key; but noevidence being brought which applied to him individually and directly,the jury found him not guilty--and nothing more is known of his fate.
That of James MacGregor, who, from talent and activity, if not byseniority, may be considered as head of the family, has been longmisrepresented; as it has been generally averred in Law Reports, as wellas elsewhere, that his outlawry was reversed, and that he returned anddied in Scotland. But the curious letters published in Blackwood'sMagazine for December 1817, show this to be an error. The first of thesedocuments is a petition to Charles Edward. It is dated 20th September1753, and pleads his service to the cause of the Stuarts, ascribing hisexile to the persecution of the Hanoverian Government, without anyallusion to the affair of Jean Key, or the Court of Justiciary. It isstated to be forwarded by MacGregor Drummond of Bohaldie, whom, as beforementioned, James Mhor acknowledged as his chief.
The effect which this petition produced does not appear. Some temporaryrelief was perhaps obtained. But, soon after, this daring adventurer wasengaged in a very dark intrigue against an exile of his own country, andplaced pretty nearly in his own circumstances. A remarkable Highlandstory must be here briefly alluded to. Mr. Campbell of Glenure, who hadbeen named factor for Government on the forfeited estates of Stewart ofArdshiel, was shot dead by an assassin as he passed through the wood ofLettermore, after crossing the ferry of Ballachulish. A gentleman, namedJames Stewart, a natural brother of Ardshiel, the forfeited person, wastried as being accessory to the murder, and condemned and executed uponvery doubtful evidence; the heaviest part of which only amounted to theaccused person having assisted a nephew of his own, called Allan BreckStewart, with money to escape after the deed was done. Not satisfied withthis vengeance, which was obtained in a manner little to the honour ofthe dispensation of justice at the time, the friends of the deceasedGlenure were equally desirous to obtain possession of the person of AllanBreck Stewart, supposed to be the actual homicide. James Mhor Drummondwas secretly applied to to trepan Stewart to the sea-coast, and bring himover to Britain, to almost certain death. Drummond MacGregor had kindredconnections with the slain Glenure; and, besides, the MacGregors andCampbells had been friends of late, while the former clan and theStewarts had, as we have seen, been recently at feud; lastly, Robert Oigwas now in custody at Edinburgh, and James was desirous to do someservice by which his brother might be saved. The joint force of thesemotives may, in James's estimation of right and wrong, have been somevindication for engaging in such an enterprise, although, as must benecessarily supposed, it could only be executed by treachery of a grossdescription. MacGregor stipulated for a license to return to England,promising to bring Allan Breck thither along with him. But the intendedvictim was put upon his guard by two countrymen, who suspected James'sintentions towards him. He escaped from his kidnapper, after, asMacGregor alleged, robbing his portmanteau of some clothes and foursnuff-boxes. Such a charge, it may be observed, could scarce have beenmade unless the parties had been living on a footing of intimacy, and hadaccess to each other's baggage.
Although James Drummond had thus missed his blow in the matter of AllanBreck Stewart, he used his license to make a journey to London, and hadan interview, as he avers, with Lord Holdernesse. His Lordship, and theUnder-Secretary, put many puzzling questions to him; and, as he says,offered him a situation, which would bring him bread, in the Government'sservice. This office was advantageous as to emolument; but in the opinionof James Drummond, his acceptance of it would have been a disgrace to hisbirth, and have rendered him a scourge to his country. If such a temptingoffer and sturdy rejection had any foundation in fact, it probablyrelates to some plan of espionage on the Jacobites, which the Governmentmight hope to carry on by means of a man who, in the matter of AllanBreck Stewart, had shown no great nicety of feeling. Drummond MacGregorwas so far accommodating as to int
imate his willingness to act in anystation in which other gentlemen of honour served, but not otherwise;--ananswer which, compared with some passages of his past life, may remindthe reader of Ancient Pistol standing upon his reputation.
Having thus proved intractable, as he tells the story, to the proposalsof Lord Holdernesse, James Drummond was ordered instantly to quitEngland.
On his return to France, his condition seems to have been utterlydisastrous. He was seized with fever and gravel--ill, consequently, inbody, and weakened and dispirited in mind. Allan Breck Stewart threatenedto put him to death in revenge of the designs he had harboured againsthim.*
* Note E. Allan Breck Stewart.
The Stewart clan were in the highest degree unfriendly to him: and hislate expedition to London had been attended with many suspiciouscircumstances, amongst which it was not the slightest that he had kepthis purpose secret from his chief Bohaldie. His intercourse with LordHoldernesse was suspicious. The Jacobites were probably, like Don Bernardde Castel Blaze, in Gil Blas, little disposed to like those who keptcompany with Alguazils. Mac-Donnell of Lochgarry, a man of unquestionedhonour, lodged an information against James Drummond before the HighBailie of Dunkirk, accusing him of being a spy, so that he found himselfobliged to leave that town and come to Paris, with only the sum ofthirteen livres for his immediate subsistence, and with absolute beggarystaring him in the face.
We do not offer the convicted common thief, the accomplice in MacLaren'sassassination, or the manager of the outrage against Jean Key, as anobject of sympathy; but it is melancholy to look on the dying struggleseven of a wolf or a tiger, creatures of a species directly hostile to ourown; and, in like manner, the utter distress of this man, whose faultsmay have sprung from a wild system of education, working on a haughtytemper, will not be perused without some pity. In his last letter toBohaldie, dated Paris, 25th September 1754, he describes his state ofdestitution as absolute, and expresses himself willing to exercise histalents in breaking or breeding horses, or as a hunter or fowler, if hecould only procure employment in such an inferior capacity till somethingbetter should occur. An Englishman may smile, but a Scotchman will sighat the postscript, in which the poor starving exile asks the loan of hispatron's bagpipes that he might play over some of the melancholy tunes ofhis own land. But the effect of music arises, in a great degree, fromassociation; and sounds which might jar the nerves of a Londoner orParisian, bring back to the Highlander his lofty mountain, wild lake, andthe deeds of his fathers of the glen. To prove MacGregor's claim to ourreader's compassion, we here insert the last part of the letter alludedto.
"By all appearance I am born to suffer crosses, and it seems they're notat an end; for such is my wretched case at present, that I do not knowearthly where to go or what to do, as I have no subsistence to keep bodyand soul together. All that I have carried here is about 13 livres, andhave taken a room at my old quarters in Hotel St. Pierre, Rue de Cordier.I send you the bearer, begging of you to let me know if you are to be intown soon, that I may have the pleasure of seeing you, for I have none tomake application to but you alone; and all I want is, if it was possibleyou could contrive where I could be employed without going to entirebeggary. This probably is a difficult point, yet unless it's attendedwith some difficulty, you might think nothing of it, as your long headcan bring about matters of much more difficulty and consequence thanthis. If you'd disclose this matter to your friend Mr. Butler, it'spossible he might have some employ wherein I could be of use, as Ipretend to know as much of breeding and riding of horse as any in France,besides that I am a good hunter either on horseback or by footing. Youmay judge my reduction, as I propose the meanest things to lend a turntill better cast up. I am sorry that I am obliged to give you so muchtrouble, but I hope you are very well assured that I am grateful for whatyou have done for me, and I leave you to judge of my present wretchedcase. I am, and shall for ever continue, dear Chief, your own to command,Jas. MacGregor.
"P. S.--If you'd send your pipes by the bearer, and all the other littletrinkims belonging to it, I would put them in order, and play somemelancholy tunes, which I may now with safety, and in real truth. Forgivemy not going directly to you, for if I could have borne the seeing ofyourself, I could not choose to be seen by my friends in my wretchedness,nor by any of my acquaintance."
While MacGregor wrote in this disconsolate manner, Death, the sad butsure remedy for mortal evils, and decider of all doubts anduncertainties, was hovering near him. A memorandum on the back of theletter says the writer died about a week after, in October 1754.
It now remains to mention the fate of Robin Oig--for the other sons ofRob Roy seem to have been no way distinguished. Robin was apprehended bya party of military from the fort of Inversnaid, at the foot of Gartmore,and was conveyed to Edinburgh 26th May 1753. After a delay, which mayhave been protracted by the negotiations of James for delivering up AllanBreck Stewart upon promise of his brother's life, Robin Oig, on the 24thof December 1753, was brought to the bar of the High Court of Justiciary,and indicted by the name of Robert MacGregor, alias Campbell, aliasDrummond, alias Robert Oig; and the evidence led against him resembledexactly that which was brought by the Crown on the former trial. Robert'scase was in some degree more favourable than his brother's;--for, thoughthe principal in the forcible marriage, he had yet to plead that he hadshown symptoms of relenting while they were carrying Jean Key off, whichwere silenced by the remonstrances and threats of his harder naturedbrother James. A considerable space of time had also elapsed since thepoor woman died, which is always a strong circumstance in favour of theaccused; for there is a sort of perspective in guilt, and crimes of anold date seem less odious than those of recent occurrence. Butnotwithstanding these considerations, the jury, in Robert's case, did notexpress any solicitude to save his life as they had done that of James.They found him guilty of being art and part in the forcible abduction ofJean Key from her own dwelling.*
* The Trials of the Sons of Rob Roy, with anecdotes of Himself and hisFamily, were published at Edinburgh, 1818, in 12mo.
Robin Oig was condemned to death, and executed on the 14th February 1754.At the place of execution he behaved with great decency; and professinghimself a Catholic, imputed all his misfortunes to his swerving from thetrue church two or three years before. He confessed the violent methodshe had used to gain Mrs. Key, or Wright, and hoped his fate would stopfurther proceedings against his brother James.*
* James died near three months before, but his family might easily remaina long time without the news of that event.
The newspapers observed that his body, after hanging the usual time, wasdelivered to his friends to be carried to the Highlands. To this therecollection of a venerable friend, recently taken from us in the fulnessof years, then a schoolboy at Linlithgow, enables the author to add, thata much larger body of MacGregors than had cared to advance to Edinburghreceived the corpse at that place with the coronach and other wildemblems of Highland mourning, and so escorted it to Balquhidder. Thus wemay conclude this long account of Rob Roy and his family with the classicphrase,
Ite. Conclamatum est.
I have only to add, that I have selected the above from many anecdotes ofRob Roy which were, and may still be, current among the mountains wherehe flourished; but I am far from warranting their exact authenticity.Clannish partialities were very apt to guide the tongue and pen, as wellas the pistol and claymore, and the features of an anecdote arewonderfully softened or exaggerated as the story is told by a MacGregoror a Campbell.