Entry in Scottish Surnames by Donald Whyte


MORRISON Morrisons in various parts of the country do not descend from a common ancestor. The usual interpretation of the name is 'son of Maurice', a common name in medieval times. The Maurice or Mourice, the eponymous ancestor of the Morrisons of Lewis - the Clann MhicGillemhoire - is thought to have been a natural son of Olaf the Black, King of Man and the Isles from about 1226. His mother appears to have been Lauon, daughter of a Kinttyre chief, and his wife was a daughter of the chief of the Gows. Mourice was a natural brother of Leod, progenitor of the MacLeods of Lewis and Harris.

The heirs of Mourice became hereditary brieves or justices of Lewis. Hutcheon (Gaelic Uisdean), brieve of Lewis, was summoned to Inverness with Rory MacLeod in 1551 for harbouring rebels. The brieves were well versed in Gaelic law, and prior to the fall of the Lordship of the Isles in 1493, there was probably a right of appeal to the Council of the Isles. John Morrison, brieve of Lewis, was a supporter of Torquil Cononach during the troubles caused by the Fife Adventurers in the time of King James VI. Another Hutcheon appears as brieve in 1616. Those later brieves were MacDonalds by blood, as the Morrison heiress married ca. 1346, Cain MacDonald of Ardnamurchan. The only Hebridean Morrisons who recorded arms were those of Ruchdi, North Uist, who traced their descent from the Morrisons of Dun of Pabbay, descended from the brieves. William Shepherd Morrison, 1893-1961, was a younger son of John, son of John Morrison of Ruchil and Ann Ross. He served in World War 1 in the RFA, and was wounded and mentioned in despatches three times. He afterwards studied law, and became MP for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, 1929-59. He rose to become Speaker of the House of Commons, 1951-59, the only Gaelic speaker ever to hold that post.

In 1959 he became Viscount Dunrossil of Valaquie, North Uist. His widow, Catherine Alison, daughter of the Rev. Dr William Swan, of South Leith, born in 1893 was survived by four sons. John Morrison, eldest brother of the Viscount, married her sister, Dorothy Mary Swan. He was granted arms in 1959 as chief of the Morrisons. A Lewis man, Alexander; son of Alexander Morrison in Habost, Ness, graduated at Aberdeen in 1908 and had a distinguished teaching career in South Africa.

In Aberdeenshire, a notable family descended from Alexander Morison, who obtained the lands of Bognie in 1635. His son George married Christian, Viscountess Frendraught, and he redeemed the wadset of the estate. In 1673 he had a grant of arms:

Azure, three saracen '5 heads conjoined on one neck Argent. The arms are similar to those recorded, 1672-78, for Alexander Morrison of Prestongrange, a Lord of Session, whose kinsman, Henry Morrison, WS, also registered arms. Theodore Morison of Bognie, son of George, attended Aberdeen Grammar School, and excelled at archery, for which he provided a medal bearing his father's arms. From his second son, James, of Strewberry Vale, Finchley, Middlesex, descended the later lairds of Bognie and Frendraught.

The Hon. Lord Morison (Alastair Malcolm Morison), a Senator of the College of Justice since 1985, comes from a family who have been prominent in legal circles. His father; Sir Ronald Peter Morison, 1900-76, QC, was admitted advocate in 1923 and to the English Bar in 1940. He was a son of the Rt Hon. Thomas B. Morison, 1868-1945, PC, who was admitted advocate in 1891 and to the English Bar in 1899. He became a KC in 1906, and was Solicitor-General for Scotland, 1913-20, and Lord Advocate, 1920-22. In 1922 he became a Senator of the College of Justice, and retired in 1937. He was a son of Peter Morison, SSC.

Morrison is a prolific surname around Durness, in Sutherland, and according to tradition the ancestors came from Lewis. Their tartan is that of their Mackay neighbours, with a red line added.

Tom Paterson - Last updated 25 Jan 2019