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Friday, 1 March 2013

Rob Roy MacGregor

One of the perennial heroes of the Highlands is, of course, Rob Roy MacGregor, whose colourful life and exploits have inspired not a few novels such as the one penned by Sir Walter Scott and films such as the one starring Liam Neeson. The legend of Roy Rob began spreading even when he was still alive and became increasingly romanticised during the nineteenth century and afterwards. Here, for example, is a short historically-based narrative recorded by Calum Maclean from John MacDonald, Highbridge, Brae Lochaber, on the 18th of January, 1951. The story has all the hallmarks of a heroic death that befits the romantic persona that surrounds the outlaw Rob Roy:
Chuala sibh uile iomaradh air Rob Ruadh Mac Griogair. Chaochail e anns a’ bhliadhna seachd ciad diag agus còig thar an fhichead. Agas tha e air a thiodhlacadh am Bail Cuidir ann an Siorrachd Pheairst. Agas ’nuair a dh’fhàs e easlainteach bochd, bha fior-nàmaide dhà a chuala m’a dhéidhinn. Agus thuirst e:
“’S fhearr dhomh a dhol a choimhead air.”
Agus dh’fhalabh e. Agus air a thuras a’ dìreadh ’un an taighe, thug gille a bh’ aig Rob Ruadh an aire dha. Bha e ’na phìobaire an gille seo. Thuirst e ri Rob gun robh a leithid seo a dhuine a’ dìreadh ’un an taighe:
“O, ma tà,” thuirst Rob, “cuir oram m’ éideadh agas làn m’ aramachd. Na faic(hc)eadh an duine sin mise gun m’ aramachd agas m’ éideadh oram.”
Chaidh seo a dhèanadh. Agas bha esan gu math lag, breòite a’ cur air èididh. Agas
thàinig an duine a staigh. Dar a thàinig an duine a staigh, chuir e fàilte air. Agas bha iad ann an rùn mhath dha chéile. Agas dh’fhalabh an duine. Dar a dh’fhalabh e, thuirst e:
“Chuir siod leithid de chùram oram agas de dhragh agas cha bhidh mi fada beò,” thuirst Rob. “Agas cluichidh tu ’m porst. Agas mam bidh am porst agat air a chluich gu cheann, bidh mise air slighe eile, air slighe m’ aineoil.”
“Ma tà,” thuirst am pìobaire, “tha mi an dòchas,” thuirst e, “gur h-ann colta’ ri fìrean a bhios tu, gur h-ann a’ sìor-dol an àirde a bhios tu. Agas cluichidh mi am porst.”
Agas rinn e sin. Agas ma robh an porst air a chluich, bha Rob Ruadh Mac Griogair marabh.
And the translation goes something like the following:

You’ve all heard about Rob Roy MacGregor. He died in 1735 [recte: 1734] and he is buried in Balquidder, Perthshire. When he began to feel very ill, his arch nemesis heard about it and said:
“I’d better go and visit him.”
And so he set out. On his way up to the house, one of Rob Roy’s sons saw him approaching. This lad happened to be a piper. He said to Rob that such and such a person was coming up to the house:
“Oh, well,” said Rob, “help me put my kilt and weapons. Don’t let that man see me without my weapons and kilt on.”
This was done. And he was quite weak and feeble as he dressed himself with his kilt. Then the man came in. When he did, he was made welcome. They showed good will towards one another. And when he left, he said:
“That has strained and stressed me so much that I’ll not be alive much longer,” said Rob. “And you’ll play a tune but before the tune is ended, I’ll be on my way to the stranger’s country.”
“Well,” said the piper, “I hope that’ll you’ll be like a bird on the wing and that you’ll rise up higher and higher. I’ll now play the tune.”
And he did so but before the tune was ended Rob Roy was dead.
 
The tune in question, at least according to tradition, to have been requested by Rob Roy was Cha Till Mi Tuilleadh (I’ll Return No More), or MacCrimmon’s Lament, said to have been composed by Dòmhnall Bàn MacCrimmon who was mortally wounded at the Rout of Moy in 1746.

Reference:
SSS NB 3, pp. 285–86
Image:
Rob Roy MacGregor (1671–1734)

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