Wednesday, January 06, 2010

West Highland Way, Day 4: In the Footsteps of Rob Roy

Today would be our roughest walking, 14 miles to Inverarnan beyond the northern end of the lake, over rocky outcrops, boulders, rubble, and streams through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth with Highlands rising on both sides of the glacier gouged lake. It is wild country through the forest, silent other than the lake lapping at the shore below our craggy path.

We had been able to accumulate enough food along the way to have our usual picnic lunch at Inversnaid, not much here except a coach tour hotel which we avoided.

The afternoon walking was even more rugged than the morning through old forest,

but about a mile north of lunch we came to a spot I had been anticipating, as my walking buddies could tell you. Aside from having to put up with my renditions of "Oh, Flower of Scotland" they had to endure listening to me go on about Rob Roy MacGregor. The guy is either a Scottish hero or a cattle thief, but if you have watched Liam Neeson in the Rob Roy movie how could you not see him as a hero. So when we came to the spot of Rob Roy's cave, one of his hideaways at shore's edge, I was coaxed to have my picture taken.

Rob Roy actually went by his mother's name, Campbell, as use of the MacGregor name was abolished for over 170 years after the battle of Glen Fruin in 1603 in which the outnumbered MacGregors whupped the butts of the Colquhoun clan.

The Scottish Parliament in 1617 declared,
"...the name of MacGregor should be abolished and that the whole persons of that name should renounce their name and take some other name and that they nor none of their name and that they nor none of their posterity should call themselves Gregor or MacGregor under pain of death .... that any person or persons of the said clan who has already renounced their names or hereafter shall renounce their names or if any of their children or posterity shall at any time hereafter assume or take to themselves the name of Gregor or MacGregor ....that every such person or persons assuming or taking to themselves the said name .... shall incur the pain of death which pain shall be executed upon them without favour."
Family legend and The Gathering of the Clan by Carl Steele claim Alexander Steele, one of our grandfathers with five greats prefixed, was chief of the MacGregor clan, elected in 1714. He was born in Glen Strae where a branch of the MacGregors were concentrated and could have been a MacGregor using the name Steele since the MacGregor name was banned. All other evidence, however, does not support this family contention but rather that he was the son and grandson of English knights. How an English knight ended up Glen Strae - it must have been a pretty miserable place given the condition and status of the MacGregors at the time - is anyone's guess. He certainly would have hobnobbed with the MacGregors and was the same age as Rob Roy so I'd like to think they hung out together.

The loch was beginning to narrow and we realized we would soon be leaving it behind.

Climbing past the tip of the lake we could look back and see the beautiful little Island I Vow, or Eilean a' Bhò in Gaelic, where the MacFarland clan once had a castle stronghold.

We took a few minutes to say goodbye to the Loch,

and turned north to Inverarnan and our night's lodging at Drover's Inn, here since 1705 on an old drove road.

A sign in the room warned about the Scottish midges and in the bar "No Bloody Swearing". Waiters in kilts, my favorite beer in the whole world, another tasty dinner following a 14 mile walk along Loch Lomond.

Contentment, except that just at the end of the rough part of the walk my left shoe sole began flapping. I've borrowed some duct tape from the innkeeper. Let's hope it works.


Pat said...

You and Tetsu with your soles flapping - you crack me up!!

BTW, your confidante let slip a comment about being related to Rob Roy so I was prepared to refute any such claims. I figured Alexander probably fought alongside Robert in battles though - not too shabby! That must be where we (I) got our spunk from.

Another great post!

Katharine said...

Yes, you have to be careful about unsourced genealogy information. I think this idea that Alexander Steele was a MacGregor chief started with the Carl Steele book and now it's all over the Internet.

From our discussion I think you were wondering whether Alexander died in 1719 at the Battle of Shiel where Rob Roy was badly wounded fighting the British. We can only wonder.

Pat said...

Yeah - that's the one.

Something I read equated a Scottish chief with "captain". I mean, not everyone in that area would've had the same last name - do you think?

Wouldn't it be interesting to know how the grand/son of English knights ended up on the Scottish side? Or maybe he was a double agent? What does your shoulder tell you?

Katharine said...

A captain was only a leader of men, like Rob Roy was a captain, the third son of his father who was a chief. So you would have lots of captains but only one chief.

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