Morrison

Origins of the clan

The two branches in the Hebrides, Morrison of Lewis and Morrison of Harris, trace their lineage to Norseman Olaf the Black who married a Kintyre noblewoman named Lauon in 1214. Shortly after the birth of their first son, GilleMhuire (Gaelic for “the servant of Mary”), Olaf’s ship, carrying his wife, child and crew, was shipwrecked in stormy seas off the northern point of Lewis. Clinging to a piece of driftwood, they floated to shore and established a settlement among the inhabitants there.

When the church discovered that Lauon was a first cousin of Olaf’s first wife, Bishop Reginald of the Islands declared their marriage incestuous which rendered GilleMhuire illegitimate. However, upon reaching adulthood, he married the last heiress of Clan Gow (Clann Igaa), thereby becoming the owner of her lands, including Pabbay Castle near Harris, and leader of her people which were incorporated into his family as the Clan MacGhilleMhuire, later Anglicized to “Morrison”.

Olaf the Black became King of Mann and the Isles in 1226 and the Morrisons built a fortress called Dýn »istean on the northern point of Lewis. The chiefs of this branch held the Celtic office of Brieve (judge) on the islands for generations until 1616 when this branch is lost to history.

Olaf later married again, this time to a daughter of Farquhar, Earl of Ross named Christiana. Their son, Leod, was the progenitor of the much larger and more powerful Clan MacLeod. Recognizing the kinship between their clans, the Morrisons of Harris became the hereditary armourers for the MacLeods who, in return, provided protection to the smaller group.

16th century and clan conflicts

In the 16th century, Hutcheon Morrison confessed on his deathbed to being the biological father of Torquil MacLeod who had been assumed to be the son of the MacLeod chief. As a result, Torquil was disinherited and the office of chief of the MacLeods passed to another. Torquil, having been raised a MacLeod his whole life, viewed himself as the legitimate chief and made an alliance with the previously peaceful Morrisons and the more aggressive Clan MacKenzie. However, after defeating the MacLeods, Torquil declared himself a MacLeod and turned on the Morrisons and MacKenzies, forcing them from their lands and possessions. The Morrisons later returned to settle in Ness but, remaining enemies of the MacLeods, never achieved any status or power.

The Morrisons tried to live at peace with their more aggressive neighbours. The MacAulays of Lewis, who were centred in Uig, killed Donald Ban, the brother of John Morrison the Brehon, at Habost. When the Morrisons retaliated by raiding Uig, the MacAulays appealed to their allies, the Clan MacLeod of Lewis. The Morrisons were soundly defeated at the Caws of Tarbert, whereupon a strong force of MacAulays and MacLeods invaded the Morrison lands. The chief was captured and imprisoned at Rodil. He managed to escape, but the MacLeods used their influence with the king to have him declared an outlaw. As every manís hand was now turned against him, Morrison resorted to desperate measures and kidnapped one of the Macleod heiresses. He agreed to surrender her in exchange for a royal pardon.

The girl was apparently released, none the worse for her ordeal. The feud was carried on by the next chief Uisdean, or Hucheon, who invaded north Harris. Once again, the Clan MacLeod of Lewis intervened, and Iain Mor MacLeod engaged the Morrisons at Clachan on Taransay. It is said that Hucheon was the only Morrison to survive the battle, swimming over two miles to the mainland despite serious wounds

17th century

In the 17th century, Ay Mac Hormaid of Clan Morrison married the daughter of the Bishop of Caithness, of the powerful Clan MacKay family, her dowry being the whole of Durness across the sea on the northwestern mainland. About 60 Morrison families followed them in relocating there. Although this remote area is still known today as MacKay country, there are a relatively equal number of Morrison families still residing in Durness.

The Morrisons of Aberdeenshire derive their name from the “Son of Maurice”, believed to be a Norman lord given title to lands there by the Norman rulers of England to help control the border country and thus are not a highland clan but rather a lowland family.

Tartans

††††† (Scottish Tartans World Register: WR998). In 1968 official Clan Morrison tartan was recorded by Lord Lyon, from a piece of paper allegedly found in an old Morrison family bible. The paper which referenced the tartan was dated 1747, was found in 1935 after the demolition of a Black house on Lewis.

††††† (Scottish Tartans World Register: WR933). This tartan, very similar to the one recored by Lord Lyon in 1968, is obviously based on the pattern found in the Morrison bible. The source of this tartan is “MacKinlay“.

††††† (Scottish Tartans World Register: WR1083). The links between the Morrisons and MacKays is evident in the similarity between this tartan and the MacKays’. The source of this tartan is “Adam No 92“.

Clan chief

The current chief, Dr. Iain Morrison traces his lineage back to the Pabbay of the Harris branch and uses the Motto Teaglach Phabbay (”Family of Pabbay”). A similar crest exists with the slogan Dun Uisdean (”Hugh’s Castle” or “Dun Eistein”) to represent the Lewis branch.

Clan castle

††††† Dýn »istean fortress was the seat of the chief of the Clan Morrison on the Isle of Lewis.

††††† Bognie Castle is also said to have been built by the Clan Morrison.

Clan septs

Owing to the long history, the inconsistency in anglicizing Gaelic names, and the changes in the English language over the centuries, many surnames of today can trace their ancestry back to the Morrisons. These are known as “septs” of the clan. Not all families with these “sept” names are necessarily Morrisons, however, as many chose (or were given) names that sounded like pre-existing English names.

The primary septs most often recognized as being Morrisons are Gilmore, Brieve and MacBrieve. Other families that could be Morrisons include Breive, Gillamor, Gillemoire, Gillemor, Gillemore, Gillemur, Gillemure, Gilmer, Gilmoir, Gilmor, Gilmour, Gilmoure, Gilmur, Gilmure, Gylmor, MacBreive, MacGilmor, MacIllimhier, Morison, Morrieson, Morrison, Murieson, Murison and Murrison.

Clan profile

††††† Gaelic Name: MacGhille Mhoire.

††††† Motto: Teaghlach Phabbay (Pabbay family).

††††† Badge: Driftwood.

††††† Lands: Lewis.

††††† Origin of Name: Son of Maurice or Son of the servant of Mary.

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