Mar 152018

On this date in 1906, Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce incorporated Rolls-Royce Limited as a business for car manufacture that quickly developed a reputation for superior engineering quality and for manufacturing the “best car in the world.” Later, Rolls-Royce became a leading manufacturer of piston aero-engines after it was led into building them by the economic necessities of the First World War.



From 1940, Rolls-Royce participated in the development of the jet engine and built for itself, and retains, a pre-eminent position in aero engine development and manufacture for use in military and civil aircraft. My father’s brother, my uncle Alec, worked in various divisions of Rolls-Royce aerospace engineering from the end of the Second World War until his retirement in both Scotland and New Zealand, so I feel a (minimal) connexion. He would pop in and out of our lives in both Australia and England because he was always flying all over the place on business, back in the days when only movie stars and millionaires traveled by plane. Hence, Rolls-Royce is sealed in my consciousness as the height of luxury, as if its image as a car manufacturer were not enough. There was a time when a Rolls-Royce automobile was not only identifiable by its shape, but also by the fact that its engine was so quiet that the sound of the tires on the road made more noise than the engine. “Ghost” was a deserving model name.

In 1884 Henry Royce started an electrical and mechanical business. He made his first car, a two-cylinder Royce 10, in his Manchester factory in 1904. Henry Royce was introduced to Charles Rolls at the Midland Hotel, Manchester on 4 May of that year. Rolls was proprietor of an early motor car dealership, C.S.Rolls & Co. in Fulham. In spite of his preference for three- or four-cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the Royce 10, and in a subsequent deal made on 23rd December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make. There would be four models:

a 10 hp, two-cylinder model at £395

a 15 hp, three-cylinder at £500

a 20 hp, four-cylinder at £650

a 30 hp, six-cylinder at £890

All would be sold under the Rolls-Royce label, and be sold exclusively by Rolls. The first Rolls-Royce car, the Rolls-Royce 10 hp, was unveiled at the Paris Salon in December 1904.

When Rolls-Royce Limited was formed in 1906, it was apparent that new premises were required for production of cars. After considering sites in Manchester, Coventry, Bradford and Leicester, it was an offer from Derby’s council of cheap electricity that resulted in the decision to acquire a 12.7-acre site on the southern edge of the city. The new factory was largely designed by Royce, and production began in early 1908, with a formal opening on 9 July 1908 by Sir John Montagu. The investment in the new company required further capital to be raised, and on 6th December 1906 £100,000 of new shares were offered to the public.

During 1906 Royce had been developing an improved six-cylinder model with more power than the Rolls-Royce 30 hp. Initially designated the 40/50 hp, this was Rolls-Royce’s first all-new model. In March 1908 Claude Johnson, Commercial Managing Director and sometimes described as the hyphen in Rolls-Royce, succeeded in persuading Royce and the other directors that Rolls-Royce should concentrate exclusively on the new model, and all the earlier models were duly discontinued. The new 40/50 was responsible for Rolls-Royce’s early reputation with over 6,000 built. Its chassis was used as a basis for the first British armored car used in both world wars.

In 1907, Charles Rolls, whose interests had turned increasingly to flying, tried unsuccessfully to persuade Royce and the other directors to design an aero engine. On 12 July 1910, at the age of 32, Rolls was killed in an air crash at Hengistbury Airfield, Southbourne, Bournemouth when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, and the eleventh person internationally. His was also the first powered aviation fatality in the United Kingdom.

When World War I broke out in August 1914, Rolls-Royce were taken by surprise. As a manufacturer of luxury cars, Rolls-Royce was immediately vulnerable, and Claude Johnson thought the bank would withdraw its overdraft facility on which Rolls-Royce depended at that time. Nevertheless, believing that war was likely to be short-lived the directors initially decided not to seek government work making aero engines. However, this position was quickly reversed, and Rolls-Royce was persuaded by the War Office to manufacture 50 air-cooled V8 engines under license from Renault. Meanwhile, the Royal Aircraft Factory asked Rolls-Royce to design a new 200 hp engine. Despite initial reluctance they agreed, and during 1915 developed Rolls-Royce’s first aero engine, the twelve-cylinder Eagle. This was quickly followed by the smaller six-cylinder Hawk, the 190 hp (140 kW) Falcon and, just before the end of the war, the larger 675 hp Condor.

Throughout World War I, Rolls-Royce struggled to build aero engines in the quantities required by the War Office. Rolls-Royce resisted pressure to license production to other manufacturers, fearing that the engines’ much-admired quality and reliability would risk being compromised. Instead, the Derby factory was extended to enable Rolls-Royce to increase its own production rates. By the late 1920s, aero engines made up most of Rolls-Royce’s business. Rolls-Royce’s Eagle, first produced in 1915, was the first engine to make a non-stop trans-Atlantic crossing by air when in June 1919 two Eagles powered the converted Vickers Vimy bomber on the transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown.

Royce, who lived by the motto “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble,” was awarded the OBE in 1918, and was created a baronet, of Seaton in the County of Rutland, in 1930 for his services to British Aviation. Because he was childless, the baronetcy became extinct on his death. He died on 22 April 1933.

There is a cocktail called the Rolls Royce made of 2 oz. gin, ½ oz. dry vermouth, ½ oz. sweet vermouth, and a dash of Bénédictine. Look it up if you want more details. There is also a dinner roll called the Rolls-Royce, so named because of the play on “rolls” than any deeper significance. When I was a boy, “Rolls” was the diminutive of Rolls-Royce leading to some bad puns in advertising:

(Man talking to a boy eating chocolate covered cake rolls)

Man: What do you think of the rolls? (i.e. pun on Rolls[-Royce]).

Boy: They sure go fast.

There is a recipe for Rolls-Royce dinner rolls here – The joke is certainly old now, but the site cannot resist saying, “Be prepared to make extras because these delicious dinner rolls will go fast!”

Mar 072016


Robert Roy MacGregor, Scots folk hero commonly called Rob Roy, was baptized on this date in 1671. His name in Gaelic is Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair, “ruadh” (red) being a reference to his bright red hair. Rob Roy was born at Glengyle, at the head of Loch Katrine, as recorded in the baptismal register of Buchanan Parish. His father was Donald MacGregor and his mother Margaret Campbell. In January 1693, at Corrie Arklet farm near Inversnaid, he married Mary Helen MacGregor of Comar (1671-1745), who was born at Leny Farm, Strathyre. They had four sons: James (known as Mor or Big), Ranald, Coll and Robert (known as Robin Oig or Young Rob). They also adopted a cousin named Duncan.

Along with many Highland clansmen, at the age of eighteen Rob Roy together with his father joined the Jacobite rising led by Viscount Dundee, known as Bonnie Dundee, to support the Stuart King James II who had been deposed during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Although victorious in initial battles, Dundee was killed in 1689, deflating the rebellion. Rob’s father was taken to jail, where he was held on treason charges for two years. Rob’s mother Margaret’s health failed during Donald’s time in prison. By the time Donald was finally released, his wife was dead and he never returned to his former spirit or health.


In 1716 Rob Roy moved to Glen Shira for a short time and lived under the protection of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll also known as Red John of the Battles (Iain Ruaidh nan Cath). Argyll negotiated an amnesty and protection for Rob and granted him permission to build a house in the Glen for the surrendering of weapons. A sporran and dirk handle which belonged to Rob Roy can still be seen at Inveraray Castle. Rob Roy only used this house occasionally for the next three or four years. In July 1717, Rob Roy and the whole of the Clan Gregor were specifically excluded from the benefits of the Indemnity Act 1717 which had the effect of pardoning all others who took part in the Jacobite rising of 1715.

Rob Roy was badly wounded at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719, in which a Hanoverian British army with allied Highlanders defeated a force of Jacobite Scots supported by the Spanish. Some time around 1720 and after the heat of Rob’s involvement in the Battle of Glen Shiel had died down, Rob moved to Monachyle Tuarach by Loch Doine and some time before 1722 Rob finally moved to Inverlochlarig Beag on the Braes of Balquhidder.


Rob Roy became a well-known and respected cattleman — this was a time when cattle rustling and selling protection against theft were commonplace means of earning a living (giving us the word “blackmail” for protection money). According to one story, Rob Roy borrowed a large sum to increase his own cattle herd, but owing to the disappearance of his chief herder, who was entrusted with the money to bring the cattle back, he lost both money and cattle, and defaulted on his loan. As a result, he was branded an outlaw, and his wife and family were evicted from their house at Inversnaid, which was then burned down. After his principal creditor, James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose seized his lands, Rob Roy waged a private blood feud against the Duke until 1722, when he was forced to surrender. Later imprisoned, he was finally pardoned in 1727. He died in his house at Inverlochlarig Beg, Balquhidder, on 28 December 1734. How much of this is true is disputed.


A highly fictionalized account of his life, The Highland Rogue was published in 1723, making Rob Roy a legend in his own lifetime. Supposedly George I was moved to issue a pardon for his crimes, based on the book, just as he was about to be transported to the colonies. The publication of Rob Roy, by Sir Walter Scott in 1817, further added to his fame and fleshed out his biography. Hector Berlioz was inspired by the book to compose an overture. William Wordsworth wrote a poem called “Rob Roy’s Grave” during a visit to Scotland. The 1803 tour was documented by his sister Dorothy in Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland.


Adaptations of his story have also been told in film including the 1922 silent film Rob Roy, a 1953 film from Walt Disney Productions Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue and the 1995 Rob Roy directed by Michael Caton-Jones and starring Liam Neeson. All take substantial liberties with source material.


The Rob Roy is a cocktail created in 1894 by a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, New York City. The drink was named in honor of the premiere of Rob Roy, an operetta by composer Reginald De Koven and lyricist Harry B. Smith loosely. A Rob Roy is similar to a Manhattan but is made with Scotch whisky instead of rye or bourbon. Like the Manhattan, the Rob Roy can be made “sweet”, “dry”, or “perfect”. The standard Rob Roy is the sweet version, made with sweet vermouth, so there is no need to specify a “sweet” Rob Roy when ordering. A “dry” Rob Roy is made by replacing the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. A “perfect” Rob Roy is made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. The Rob Roy is usually served in a cocktail glass and garnished with 2 maraschino cherries on a skewer (for the standard version) or a lemon twist (for the perfect and dry versions). Pure jet fuel.

I thought clapshot would be a fitting recipe because it is very traditional, using highland ingredients, although it appears in literary accounts in Orkney first. Clapshot is no more than the classic bashed ‘neeps and tatties of the Burns Night supper table, with the two mixed together, perhaps with the addition of chopped wild onions or kale. It’s a good side dish whichever way you make it. The thing is that mixing the mashed rutabaga and potato together, instead of having them served separately, makes a huge difference. Don’t ask me why. I’ve had something very similar in northern Argentina except that the mix was rolled into balls and deep fried. I’ve pressed clapshot into patties and shallow fried it until it is golden with good effect. I hardly need add a recipe.



Take equal proportions of potatoes and rutabaga (swede, wax turnips). Peel them and cube them small. Poach each separately until they are cooked very soft. Mash them well, so that there are no lumps (I use a food processor). Add salt and pepper to taste. Then mix them together well thoroughly. Additions may include chopped chives, chopped green onions, or finely chopped cooked kale. You may also add a little butter.