While our usual historical walks and talks have been curtailed by this year Stirling’s Level 3 restrictions it has certainly not stemmed Balfron Heritage Group’s creative duties. We have just now published a one-man play by Jim Thomson about the fascinating tale of Rob Roy’s favourite son’s trial for the abduction of Jean Key from Edinbellie near Balfron.
The play is set on Robin’s last night in his condemned cell having been found guilty of ‘hamesucken’ – breaking in with ill-intent – and carrying off the recently widowed Jean. The court has believed the Key Family’s account of the events and the written testimony of the young heiress who by this time has died of smallpox in Glasgow.
Three of the MacGregor brothers with others of the clan had raided the house at Edinbellie and taken Jean by force to Ruindennan (Rowardennan) where James Mòr had arranged for a minister to marry her to his young brother who was very much down on his luck financially. They had then headed to the safer environs of Perthshire. The influential Key family were not to take this lying down and when the authorities dragged their heels on the apprehension of the culprits, they hired their own bounty hunters to track them down. Although this move was unsuccessful it led to the MacGregors and their quarry coming down to Edinburgh to take their chances – which James, as ever, confidently but inexplicably, thought were good – with the justice system. It led to their eventual arrest and Jean’s short time of freedom before her own tragic end.
Jim explains: “Recently I read about actor Tom McGovern’s great success in his portrayal of Peter Arnott’s ‘The Signalman’ one-man play and I thought that Robin Oig’s version of events of the abduction could lend itself to that format. The young MacGregor always maintained that he and Jean had a romantic relationship before the carrying off but that her mother would not have allowed them to go with him voluntarily so soon after the death of her first husband John Wright.”
It has also been decided that there will be no copyright or performing rights implications for anyone who wishes to stage this 4,500-word play.
Copies have been posted out to individuals whom we thought might be interested as well as to some of Scotland’s COVID-beleaguered theatres.
Our whole ethos is to get history out there in an easily accessible way. So, if anyone interested who does not receive a copy of the booklet would like to present the play, they are most welcome to contact the Group at firstname.lastname@example.org”.