MAN VERSUS MYTH
Now, the question of Rob Roy’s loyalty must be faced some time or
another, and it must be admitted quite frankly that he was not over-
scrupulous nor truthful, and the long and the short of it is that it is
wiser not to look for public school ideas in a Highland cateran1
Such brisk common sense is refreshing, but rare.
In this book the story of Rob Roy’s life has been told, and his reputation in the centuries after his death has been examined. It has become clear that the man of the legend differs greatly from the man who actually lived, yet it is striking how much of the legend came into being in Rob’s own lifetime. Moreover, much of the interpretation the legend provides of his own actions and those of others was created by Rob himself. His explanation of his downfall and his life as an outlaw won him a popular regard that he has never lost. He was a master at bypassing difficult questions and convincingly presenting his own version of events. In person and on paper he was outstanding at making people believe him and sympathise with him – not least because they liked him. Even those who disapproved of his actions tended to be won over when they met him.
This charisma, the ability he had of gaining people’s liking and trust, was doubtless central to his business success. It was also absolutely crucial to his survival in his long years of outlawry. But it may be that this charisma gave him an over-confidence that contributed to his downfall, by inspiring in him an unrealistic belief that he would always be able to manipulate events and people to his own advantage. In 1711–12 he clearly faced a severe financial crisis. Perhaps, at that point, it would have been possible to negotiate a settlement with his creditors, though that would have been humiliating, the loss of his reputation for trustworthiness, and quite possibly the loss of his land. Rob would have been negotiating from a