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March 5th 1736

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Robin Oig McGregor

Rob Roy McGregor has been immortalised by Sir Walter Scott, but his sons are rather less well known. They also inherited the McGregor tendency to consider themselves above the law and it was quite in character that young Robin Oig McGregor, egged on by his formidable mother, decided to end a long standing quarrel with John Maclaren of Invernenty, by the unconventional but very effective way of shooting him dead while he was out ploughing.

Such lawlessness could hardly be expected to go unpunished and a warrant went out for the arrest of Robin Oig. “A tall lad aged about 20, thin, pale coloured, squint eyed, brown hair, pock pitted, in kneed and broad footed.”  In spite of such a graphic description Robin Oig vanished from the area. We know that at some time later he enlisted with the Black Watch and fought in France where he was captured and put in prison.

Later he was allowed to return home to Scotland. He returned to Balquhidder and even took himself a wife. No attempt was made to arrest Robin for the murder committed some twelve years earlier. All might have been well but unfortunately Robin’s wife died and his brothers decided that he should marry again, this time for money. They discovered a Mrs Jean Kay, a widow. She was not only young, only nineteen years old, but more importantly she had a fortune of 17,000 merks Scots and a yearly income of 600 merks.

His initial advances were rejected. But a week later, the three brothers with several followers arrived in the evening at Mrs Kay’s house demanding her hand in marriage. When she still refused she was put on a horse and the party set off towards Loch Lomand. They spent a night at Rowandennan and the next day a small man named Smith, who claimed to be a priest, performed an alleged marriage ceremony, with poor Jean being prevented from collapsing by brother James while Robin held her right hand. There was more wandering until almost a month later they arrived back at Balquhidder. Here Robin declared in the presence of the kirk session that she was indeed his wife.

By this time steps had been taken by her family to secure her freedom, the integrity of her property and the arrest of the brothers. The ever resourceful James tried one more ploy. He took her with him to Edinburgh and persuaded her to apply to the Court of Session to suspend the legal proceedings. But by this time the poor girl was obviously sick, both in mind and body, and the attempt failed. James returned to Balquhidder and left Jean in Edinburgh where she died in October 1751. James was arrested, found guilty of the forcible abduction of Jean Kay and was sentenced to death. Resourceful to the last he escaped from the Tollbooth and made his way to France.

It was two years later that Robin Oig was arrested. He was charged with the long forgotten murder of John Maclaren but the case collapsed on technical grounds. Nothing daunted, the authorities proceeded to the case of the forcible abduction of his ‘wife’ Jean Kay, for which crime he was sentenced to death.

He was duly hung in February 1754 “behaving with great decency and very genteelly dressed,”  His body was taken back to Balquhidder for burial. Perhaps by now even the McGregors realised that the old days had passed and were never to return again.

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