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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 12:11 GMT
Rob Roy 'was a traitor'
Statue of Rob Roy MacGregor - Undiscovered Scotland
Rob Roy MacGregor: "A good rogue."
Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor was a traitor, spy and a conman, a new book will claim.

The life of the rebel clansman has been re-examined by David Stevenson, emeritus professor of Scottish history at the University of St Andrews.

The revelations go against the "tartan Robin Hood" image of the icon as portrayed by Hollywood and in the novels of Sir Walter Scott.

The historian's most shocking suggestion is that during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, Rob Roy betrayed the Jacobite side to which he had professed loyalty, by selling secrets to the government.

Prof Stevenson, whose book Rob Roy: The Man and the Myth is due out next year, said he was surprised to uncover the full extent of the legend's villainy.

He told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper: "I expect the book will put a few noses out of joint, but I did not intend to denigrate a national hero when I started my research.

He was a confidence trickster and was very clever at getting people to take his side
Professor David Stevenson
"In fact, I was surprised at the extent of his double dealing and criminality.

"He was a confidence trickster and was very clever at getting people to take his side.

"He sells himself as the little man being done down by the powerful."

Prof Stevenson's research through archives, including court proceedings and the estate records of the Dukes of Montrose and Argyll, reveal that the cattle drover was outlawed because of a stage-managed swindle in which he planned to make himself bankrupt.

Rob Roy was also a paid agent for the Hanoverians, and was selling intelligence to the chief of the Hanoverian army in Scotland, the professor claimed.

'Hero or villain?'

Stevenson added that he felt some researchers in the past had deliberately chosen to ignore the more negative aspects of Rob Roy's character because they did not square with the popular myth.

Chief executive of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Tourist Board, James Fraser, under whose remit the Rob Roy Centre in Callendar falls, said the findings were not entirely surprising, but that they "added to the intrigue surrounding Rob Roy".

He said: "In the centre we have a picture of Rob Roy and it says 'Hero or villain?' We leave it to the visitor to make up their own mind as to whether he was a rogue or a hero.

"It was quite common for people to change sides. If we look at the whole history of the clans at the time, we could pick a number of characters who changed sides or who stood a certain way in return for land.

"I think Rob Roy was a bit of a rogue, but a good rogue."

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