Author Topic: Rob Roy, the man & the myth  (Read 744 times)

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Offline Phantom

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Rob Roy, the man & the myth
« on: November 14, 2020, 08:26:33 AM »
I've been watching a BBC documentary "Blood of the Clans" about the Scottish clans, produced by Scots historians & narrated by the excellent Neil Oliver. Episode 2 is exclusively about Rob Roy, depicted in the (Liam Neeson?) film as a bold rebel Scottish "Robin Hood", defying & fighting the English at every turn. The truth it seems is somewhat different (& not just standard Hollywood retelling) .
Rob Roy began his career extorting money from Scots farmers in an early protection racket. "I'll stop your cattle being stolen for an annual payment" he said, confident that indeed he could, as he was the one actually stealing the cattle. This culminated in a scam whereby he obtained advance payments for cattle purchases from many Scots (including the Duke of Montrose) & promptly absconded with all the money.
To avoid retribution he was protected & hidden by the Duke of Argyll - a British army hero, but also an enemy of Montrose.
Fast forward a few years & the 1715 Jacobite rebellion erupts. Rob promptly enlists with the rebels & is instructed to attack the town of Inverury. Inverury however is on Argyll's land, so Rob stages a mock attack which does no harm at all, Argyll performing a mock pursuit to keep up appearances.
The Jacobites then launch a more concerted attack, which culminates in the battle of Sheriffmuir. Unknown to the Jacobites Rob is passing information to his friend Argyll - who is fighting for the English. To cap it all Rob arrives 5 hours late to the battle & then refuses to take part, the Jacobites being defeated.
Later, rebel Rob gets the opportunity to make amends at the battle of Glenshiel, but again turns up but declines to get involved.
Unsurprisingly after the rebellion(s) he is eventually pardoned by the English.
Seeing heroes (& villains) having their role exaggerated or misrepresented is not unusual, but I must confess the gap between Rob Roy's portrayed life & actual life is quite staggering - not only was he not the benevolent rebel often depicted, if anything he was an active help to the English, either through his intelligence gathering or his non participation at various battles.
I can't think of anyone more inaccurately depicted by popular myth - or anyone with whom the Scots should be less enamored - anyone have any better candidates?