In times past there have been many heroes in the Scottish Highlands. Many names have gone into the history books, telling of brave deeds and lofty ideals. And some were heroes even though their names will never be known, for just to survive in the bleak wilderness was, and is heroic.
Tonight, however we have gathered to honor one man. If we have to choose one man from all the Highlanders of history, one man who might best represent the sterling qualities of that unique race, one man who’s life story reflects all the hardships, all the bravery, all the unfair persecution inflicted upon these people, we can do no better than to choose Rob Roy MacGregor.
Baptized in 1671, married in 1693, the father of 4 sons, this was no man of myth, but very much a man of a time gone by. He was among the last of the great free spirits of the Highlands, before a foreign way of life swept them all away and branded the Highlanders as misfits and criminals.
He was a well learned and a well-trained man in Highland ways as befitted the son of a chieftain of Clan Gregor. Not only was he trained to handle finances, make decisions, and battle skillfully but there was no more cunning or better reiver than he. He also knew when and where to fight or to walk away when the odds were too great against him and come back another day.
He has been described by some as a great rogue. But was he really? Highlanders thought of him as the “Scottish Robin Hood”, so frequently did her help those less fortunate. He was outlawed many times by government officials, who have ever favored the wealthy. He was pursued mercilessly by those who wanted his land or revenge, but he skillfully evaded capture or was able to escape, being crafty as he was, for he knew the territories and ways of the highlands like no other and he had the love and cooperation of the Highlanders to assist him. He survived by anticipating danger, by skill and by knowledge. He had the total respect of those who knew him well, for he never compromised his principles or his honor, even when it meant losing the opportunity of regaining land that had been taken from him. Twice he was asked to bear false witness, the reward being freedom and land. But he refused as that was not an act of a Highlander as he.
When he died, it was in his own bed, surrounded by family and friends, and was much mourned by all those who knew and respected him.
So, let us toast our hero, this last of the great free Highlanders. Let us remember this man, who lived at the end of an era, let us remember him for his high standard of honor, of education, of courtesy, of humor, and of the integrity that he embodied.
By David MacGregor, President of the Clan Gregor Society, Great Lakes Chapter