Rob Roy

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Rob Roy can refer to:

(1) the popular novel by Sir Walter Scott(1771-1832)[1], published in 1817,

(2) to his central character, Robert Roy Campbell MacGregor (1671-1734)[2], the brigand turned hero, who became known as "Rob Roy",

(3) to a number of stage and film dramatizations of the novel from 1818 onwards.

The novel

The story of Robert Roy MacGregor (1671–1734), the Scottish outlaw and later folk hero, has many versions of varying truth, and was first recorded during his lifetime in the publication of a fictionalised account of his life called The Highland Rogue (full title: The Highland rogue: or, the memorable actions of the celebrated Robert Mac-gregor, commonly called Rob-Roy 1723), but it was the publication of Rob Roy[3] by Sir Walter Scott in 1817, that really internationalised his fame and fleshed out his biography. The novel was first published as one of the Waverley novels, appearing in three volumes and dated 1818, being published in Edinburgh on 30 December 1817 by Archibald Constable and Co. and in London on 13 January 1818 by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown.

Dramatizations of Rob Roy

The work was adapted for the stage almost immediately after publication and numerous times afterwards. The texts are often only marginally based on the novel, and the authors of the adaptations are not always credited (the play in some instances even credited to Scott alone).

The entries below concern stage versions performed, or thought to have been performed, in South Africa.

Rob Roy Macgregor, or Auld Lang Syne! by Isaac Pocock

Also found as Rob Roy Macgregor, or Auld Lang Syne, Rob Roy, or Auld Lang Syne, Rob Roy Macgregor or simply Rob Roy.

The original text

The text by Isaac Pocock (1782-1835)[4] was for a was a musical version, loosely based on Scott's novel and incorporating songs and verses from Robert Burns (1759-1796)[5] and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)[6], and music by John Davy (1763–1824)[7], drawing heavily on traditional Scottish folk songs.

It was first played at Covent Garden on 12 March 1818, with William Charles Macready in the title role, and published in the same year by John Miller, London, in 1818 and in New York by D. Longworth, 1818.

It was first performed, to great success, in Edinburgh on 15 February 1819, and played through into the following year. It was perhaps also the version of Rob Roy Macgregor performed for the King's visit in 1822. The version appears to have been the most successful and longest lasting of the early adaptations and certainly the version most often performed in South Africa in that the 19th century.

Translations and adaptations

Rob Roy MacGregor by Walter Scott and William Henry Murray

The original text

Referred to as an opera, or sometimes a melodrama, it is 24]) the work was ostensibly adapted from his novel Rob Roy (1818) by Sir Walter Scott, in association with William Henry Murray[8], with whom he had collaborated before. (Some sources, e.g. Burwick[9], credit Murray as the sole author.)

According to some sources it was first performed on June 10, 1818 in Edinburgh. It is mentioned again as a play "adapted and produced by Murray" in 1822 during, the King's last and least formal public appearance during his visit to Edinburgh.

However there does not seem to be an extant text for the play (or plays) mentioned, and other sources suggest that the work in question may actually have been Rob Roy MacGregor, or Auld Lang Syne, the well-known and successful London play by Pocock and Davy, which opened in Edinburgh on 15 February, 1819, produced by Murray in his capacity as theatre and company manager of the Theatre Royal by the North Bridge in the city. He also played "Captain Thornton" in the production.

For example, the entry on Murray by John Joseph Knight in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39:p.415[10] states that "..15 Feb. 1819, when 'Rob Roy MacGregor, or Auld Langsyne,' was produced, and proved the greatest and most enduring success probably ever known in Scotland. Murray was Captain Thornton." ... and that Murray "..wrote many dramas intended to serve a temporary purpose, and without literary aim. 'Diamond cut Diamond,' an interlude, from 'How to die for Love,' a translation from Kotzebue ; 'Cramond Brig,' assigned by error to Lockhart, and depreciated by Scott ; 'Mary Stuart,' 'Gilderoy,' and a burlesque of 'Romeo and Juliet,' were among his successes."

Rob Roy, The Gregarach by George Soane

The original text

Rob Roy, The Gregarach is a romantic drama in three acts by George Soan[11].

Described as "A romantick drama", it was first produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, on March 25, 1818, almost simultaneously with Pocick's version. Published in London by Richard White 1818.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history of all versions of the tale in South Africa

Below is a list of performances of ALL known versions of Rob Roy in South Africa

1823-24: A play called Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell, or simply referred to a Rob Roy, said to be based on Scott's novel (or credited to Scott himself), was performed a number of times in the African Theatre, Cape Town by the amateur company English Theatricals in these years. It is most likely that this was the widely known and published Pocock musical version of 1818, but it may have been the William Henry Murray version, entitled Rob Roy Macgregor, which had been devised in association with Scott and was performed in Edinburgh in 1818. It was certainly not the Soane version, which was a straight play, for the adverts make reference to a "melodramatic opera", with "original Overture and Music".

1823: Performed as Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell "with the original Overture and Music, new Scenery, Dresses, etc." on 15 November, in the African Theatre, Cape Town, with as afterpiece The Mock Doctor (Fielding).

1823: Performed again by the company English Theatricals as Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell on 20 December, this time with All the World's a Stage (Jackman) as afterpiece.

1824: Performed as Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell, now called a "melodramatic opera", in the African Theatre, Cape Town, by the English Theatricals on 11 August, with The Weather-Cock (Forrest).

1823: Performed (and announced as Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell) on 15 November by the English Theatricals company in the African Theatre Cape Town , with The Mock Doctor (Fielding) as afterpiece.

1823: Performed again on 20 December by the English Theatricals company in the African Theatre Cape Town , with All the World's a Stage (Jackman) as afterpiece.

1824: Performed on 11 August by the English Theatricals company in the African Theatre Cape Town , with The Weather-Cock (Forrest) as afterpiece.

1861: Performed as Rob Roy Macgregor, or Auld Lang Syne by Sefton Parry and his company in the Theatre Royal, Harrington Street, Cape Town, on 4 July, with Thomas Brazier as "Rob Roy". Ici on Parle Français (Williams) performed as an afterpiece.

1861: Performed by Sefton Parry and his company in the Theatre Royal, Harrington Street, Cape Town, on 8 July, with The Loan of a Lover (Planché) as an afterpiece.

1862: Performed by Sefton Parry and his company in the Theatre Royal, Harrington Street, Cape Town, on 28 March, with The Dancing Barber (Selby) as an afterpiece. The evening a benefit for T. Brazier.

1866: Three performances (on 27 and 30 August, 1 September) of Rob Roy by the Le Roy and Duret Company ("supported by a host of amateurs") in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, , with Bachelor's Buttons (Stirling) as afterpiece. Critically the production of Rob Roy was panned as "slovenly", with few actors said to have known their parts (though a few, especially Alex Kay, are singled out as good amateur performers).

1875: Performed in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company on 2 June, with The Happy Pair (Smith).

1876: Performed in the Athenaeum Hall, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company under the management of Charles Wilstone on 12 and 15 August, with J.B. Howe as leading actor.

1877: Performed as Rob Roy, or Auld Lang Syne in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company on 22 December, with a "Scotch Chorus, Song, Duets, Dances, etc.".

1888: Performed as Rob Roy in the Theatre Royal in Burg Street, Cape Town, by Cape Town Highlanders on 18 February.

1911: Performed a scene from Rob Roy in the North End Library Hall in Port Elizabeth by a group of amateurs on 23 May. Starring John Simpson as the Bailie, Miss Jeannie Walker, and John Duncan.


D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928[12]: 73-77, 142, 197-199

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.98, 106, 111, 180, 212, 214-5, 219, 324, 342, 346, 349, 386

Frederick Burwick. Playing to the Crowd: London Popular Theatre, 1780-1830 (Palgrave Macmillan, 08 Nov 2011 )[13]

Facsimile version of the London published text of Pocock's play (1818), Google eBook[14]

Facsimile version of the New York published text of Pocock's play (1818), Google eBook[15]

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: p. p. 40

Gordon Goodwin. "Davy, John (1763-1824)", Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 14. [16],_John_(1763-1824)_(DNB00),_William_Henry_(DNB00)

Eastern Province Herald, May 2, 1911.

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