By Billy Scobie
My introduction to Robin Hood was in the La Scala cinema in Dumbarton East, in the 1950s. When I used to travel, with my Mum, on the bus out to the Vale, in my mind’s eye I would imagine Robin and his Merry Men acting out their adventures in the woodland of Dalmoak on the Renton Road. Just a wee boy’s silly fantasy.
However… Nobody has ever conclusively identified the actual historical figure who gave rise to the legendary Robin Hood, but in the time of Shakespeare the writer Anthony Munday stated that the original Robin Hood had in reality been the Earl of Huntingdon. This identification, which became widely accepted, holds out fascinating possibilities…
The “Register of Paisley” tells us that when Alwyn, Earl of Lennox, died in 1155, the Lennox came into the keeping of David, Earl of Huntingdon (brother of the King of Scots). For some forty-four years (1155-1199) the earldom of Lennox was held by the Earl of Huntingdon.
David had a son, Robert, who is recorded as having “died young”… but we might know him as the outlaw, Robin Hood.
Significantly the tales of Robin Hood are generally set in the years around the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, at the very time Robert would have reached manhood. The main centre of power in the earldom of Lennox was Dumbarton Castle, which had not yet become a royal possession. So, if Robert of Huntingdon, son of the Earl of Huntingdon-Lennox, really became Robin Hood, although many (or even most) of his legendary activities may have been undertaken in the English earldom of Huntingdon, it would not have been at all unreasonable for at least some of his adventures to have occurred within the earldom of Lennox – even in the district surrounding Dumbarton.
This may be speculation, but it’s based on genuine history (check it out with Wiki). So, was our Robert the inspiration for Robin Hood? Certainly many authors, cinema and television scriptwriters continue to think so… and maybe my notion of my childhood hero doing his stuff on the Renton Road wasn’t so far-fetched after all.