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Rob Donn and the MacKays of Bighouse Melvich

Hugh MacKay of Bighouse (d. 1770), one of Rob Donn’s employers, owned Strath Halladale and built Bighouse Lodge on the river near Melvich. A relative of Lord Reay, Chief of Clan MacKay, he managed the Reay estate and employed Rob Donn as a drover taking cattle south to the great trysts at Crieff and Falkirk. Bighouse’s daughter Janet married Colin Campbell of Glenure, whose 1752 murder featured in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped. Although Rob Donn composed several praise poems for this family, he also accused Bighouse of deceit when selling cattle to the Lowlanders, and once said, when invited to admire a new suit:

Chan eil putan innt’ no toll                            

Nach do chost bonn do dhuine bochd.

There’s not a button or button-hole in it

That hasn’t taken money off a poor man.

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