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    On the banks of Loch Katrine with Rob Roy MacGregor

    Loch Katrine Scotiana.com 2007

    Loch Katrine Scotiana.com 2007

    Loch Katrine Scotiana.com 2007

    Loch Katrine Scotiana.com 2007

    Once more, history, legend and landscape happen to be intricately mixed in our discovery of Scotland, each element contributing in its own way to enhance our sense of place there. We’ve made several incursions into the Trossachs during our different tours in the country and in 2007 we drove along Loch Katrine up to its end, discovering on our way breathtaking landscapes on a very sunny day. On the shore of this beautiful loch,  we found a blue board giving us information about the history of the place.

    Scotiana.com 2007

    Scotiana.com 2007

    It read :

    Children of the Mist

    Loch Katrine was made famous by the exploits of real-life Rob Roy MacGregor, whom Sir Walter Scott romanticised as his Highland hero.

    For hundreds of years this land belonged to MacGregors, the Children of the Mist. Rob Roy MacGregor – clan leader, dispossessed landowner, cattle trader and rustler – was born nearby in Glen Gyle, at the head of the Loch.

    Tradition has it that Rob Roy MacGregor sought to revenge the cruel attack on his wife and the loss of his home at Craigrostan at the hands of the Duke of Montrose’s men.

    He stole rent collected by the Duke’s evil factor and kinsman, Graham of Killearn, and carried him off to the island, now known as Factor’s Island. Rob forced the factor to write to the Duke demanding compensation for burning Craigrostan, but he let him go unharmed. Killing the factor would only have added to Rob’s problems!

    So, we were driving on Rob Roy’s territory ! What better guide to visit the country than the Scottish Robin Hood! But let us try to know more about our invisible fellow traveller.

    No doubt that Rob Roy is a venerated figure in Scotland !  Suffice it to say that crowds of visitors go to see his grave at Balquhidder and his birth place at Glen Gyle. Monuments have been erected here and there in the country and there are entire rooms dedicated to his memory in Scottish museums.

    Rob Roy statue Peterculter Scotiana 2007

    Rob Roy statue Peterculter Scotiana 2007

    One day, while we were driving across the bridge of Culter Burn, at Peterculter, in Aberdeenshire, we suddenly noticed, in the distance, a very colourful statue standing out in the greenness of a dense vegetation, on the ledge of a cliff overhanging a roaring torrent.  We immediately stopped the car to take photos! Could it be a statue of Rob Roy?

    Rob Roy statue Peterculter Scotiana.com 2007

    Rob Roy statue Peterculter Scotiana.com 2007

    What we could see, with a close-up of our camera, was the painted statue of a strong man clad in highland dress and armed with a long sword and a round shield covered with brass studs. Judging by the spike sticking out of it that kind of shield must have been as offensive than defensive. After them!

    MacGregor tartan (Vestiarium Scoticum) Source : Wikipedia

    MacGregor tartan (Vestiarium Scoticum) Source : Wikipedia

    The vivid colours suggested that the statue had just been painted and though we’re not expert in the subject, the tartan worn by the statue appeared to be that of the MacGregor clan. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen other pictures of this statue since, and on them Rob Roy seems to be wearing different colours. But we know there can be many variations in the colours of a clan tartan.  I’ve also learned that the Peter Culter statue of Rob Roy had been erected to commemorate his flight from Aberdeen in the early 18th century after he had visited some relatives of him to gain support for the Jacobite cause.

    Frederick, Warne & Co edition

    Frederick, Warne & Co edition

    Much of what I’ve learned about Rob Roy, apart from the usual web sources and Walter Scott’s novel Rob Roy,  I’ve got it from this old beautiful edition of a book I have in my library and which was written by Francis Watt and Andrew Carter, two English reverends who had travelled all over Scotland. It’s good to begin with such attractive reading before immersing in more austere books of history.

    Frederick Warne & Co edition Frontispice illustration

    Frederick Warne & Co edition Frontispice illustration

    Picturesque Scotland illustration

    Picturesque Scotland illustration

    .

    Rob Roy’s real name was Robert MacGregor. He got his nickname when he was young, because of his red hair.  When the name of MacGregor was outlawed, in 1694, he adopted his mother’s name of Campbell but finally he arranged to have the words “MacGregor despite them” engraved on his tombstone, in Balquhidder.

    Rob Roy was born in 1671 at Glen Gyle. In 1693, he married Helen Mary of Comar, a member of the MacGregor clan, and first lived with his family at Portnellan, on the north side of Loch Katrine.

    After a tumultuous life as an outlaw, he was finally rehabilitated and died peacefully in Balquhidder, in December 1734, at the age of 63.

    He was immortalised in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Rob Roy, published in 1818. I’ve begun to read this book, all the more interested by the story that it begins in Bordeaux.

    Walter Scott Rob Roy Folio edition 2001

    Walter Scott Rob Roy Folio edition 2001

    Among several editions of the book which can be found in my library I’m particularly fond of the illustrated Folio 2001 edition.

    For those who aren’t against a romanticized version of history I would mention the film by Michael Caton-Jones with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange (2001).

    Rob Roy Michael Caton-Jones 2001

    Rob Roy Michael Caton-Jones 2001

    Here’s an extract of the film.

    And I will end this post by encouraging people who like walking to embark on one of the most interesting thematic trails organized in Scotland, the Rob Roy Way…

    Have a good walk, virtual or not !

    A bientôt. Mairiuna

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    2 comments to On the banks of Loch Katrine with Rob Roy MacGregor

    • I have an American friend who had a strange experience while on the sir Walter Scott at loch Katrine, he is now trying to find out if anything horrible happened on the south side of the loch midway between the start of the cruise and the cafe ne’er the top of the loch. His name is Mark Hamilton from Alabama .hope you could maybe point me in the right direction to find out more for my friend, thanks John Adam..

    • Rob Roy or any other Scottish clan dressed like that statue displays. The tartan plaid was a long piece that started on the shoulder under the legs and privates and brought around the back to fasten on the other shoulder with great metal badge of clan. Not a wee dress as seen. No shirt until the 18th century as men had to be men before that. Sir Walter Scott always left a dish of food on his table at his house called Abottsford on the Scottish border. He died bankrupt have spent so much on this house. Rob Roy Scott always said had visited him and so the plate of food was left out in case he ever returned. Rob Roy McGregor died long before Scott bought that house so what the writer did was really in the mind

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