Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Rob Roy

It was 300 years ago to the day, that the Duke of Montrose issued a warrant for the arrest of Rob Roy MacGregor.

The story has it that as a result Rob Roy became an outlaw and took to the hills time and again narrowly escaping  his dogged pursuers. And so, on the basis of very little evidence in Wisden, Rob Roy was transformed by Daniel Defoe, Walter Scott and a handful of film makers into a legendary action hero – the Scottish Robin Hood, the Caledonian Zorro.  Who cares that there is little to substantiate this legend? The Rob Roy of lore maybe as mythical as FB's in-swinger, but none the less potent for all that.

As an impressionable child, Fantasy Bob bought into this legend. On the A93 leaving Peterculter on the way to Banchory, Crathie, Balmoral and beyond there is a painted statue on a rock above an impressive gorge through which runs the Culter Burn. It was here that FB was led to believe as a youngster that Rob Roy pulled off a particularly daring escape by leaping the raging torrent onto the rocks below, leaving clumsy Redcoats cursing him behind.  Such escapes were a weekly if not daily occurrence for Rob Roy and many other burns are similarly feted.  But only the Culter Burn has the statue apparently erected in his honour.

Rob Roy at Culter
FB is still coming to terms with the fact that Rob Roy was never recorded as having been anywhere near this spot - a statue in Stirling is far nearer his known stamping ground -  and that a more realistic assessment of the practicalities of leaping the burn at that point would suggest that he would more likely be floating in the flood with a broken neck than standing defiantly waving his claymore at his pursuers.  As the prosaic further takes over the poetic, FB has also discovered that the original statue (it has been replaced several times in its life) was in fact a ship’s figurehead, from a whaler with the name Rob Roy, put there by workers of the nearby mill – possibly because they had nowhere better to put it. It has been a source of local attention and pride ever since. But nothing to do with the real Rob Roy.

Whether Rob Roy was a proper hero or whether his existence was more mundane is for others than FB to judge. It does seem likely however that all this chasing about the hills, if it ever happened, left little time for cricket and the descendants of Rob Roy seem not to have recovered the lack of attention to cricketing skills established by their myth laden predecessor.

Gregor MacGregor -
a Highland Rogue?
For the annals of first class cricket are light in members of the MacGregor clan. So are the annals of Scottish cricket.  In fact so light are they that they are dominated by one MacGregor -  Gregor MacGregor – who played 8 Tests for England in the 1890s.  He also was capped by Scotland at rugby, and may well be a candidate for Scotland’s greatest ever all round sportsman.  There is no indication of whether Gregor MacGregor is a direct descendant of Rob Roy.  However it may have been the genetic propensity for leaping Highland burns that contributed to his great athleticism.


  1. Possibly the main reason for the lack of Macgregors in cricketing annals is the mountainous environment which they inhabited, which left little opportunity for doughty groundsmen over the centuries to work their magic. The Macgregor clan were in fact group outlaws, due to their cattle-raiding initiatives against neighbours, and were consigned to the hills for much of their existence: the name Macgregor means Children of the Mist. I suspect that if Rob Roy had ever played cricket, there would have been plenty of umpiring disputes.

    1. Children of the Mist is very poetic - far more so than FB's lineage of Child who Missed a Straight One