There is little in the way of historical information on the origins of Clan Morrison. It is generally accepted that the hereditary judges, or brieves, of the Isle of Lewis were chiefs of the clan until that office disappeared in the early 1600's. The seat of the brieves was at Habost in Ness, near the Butt of Lewis. One tradition is that this line of brieves were descended from a Morrison heiress of the original line and a Macdonald of Ardnamurchan who married her in the 1300's. The Morrisons of Harris claim to be of the original line.
The Gaelic name of the Morrisons is Mac Ghille Mhoire,which means "son of the servant of the Virgin Mary." Gille Mhoirewas once a common name in Gaelic-speaking areas since it was the practice to name children after Christian saints in this fashion. The choice of the saint's name may have been connected with the name of the local church, and there were more churches named after the Virgin Mary than any other saint. Other examples of names that developed this way include Gilbride, for St. Bridgit, and Malcolm, for St. Columba.
The one-time popularity of the name Gille Mhoire probably accounts for the origin of a number of independent Morrison families along the western coast of Scotland. Depending on regional patterns, the name was also modernized in other ways, including Gilmour, McIlmorrow and McIlvory, and is found in Ireland and the Isle of Man as well.
The name Morrison probably originally developed to denote a "son of Maurice [pronounced Morris]." Maurice was a name brought to Scotland by the Normans
about 1000 years ago. A number of different Morrison families in Scotland likely obtained their name in this way. The popularity of this name in the Lowland areas resulted in it sometimes being used to anglicize a Gaelic name such as Mac Ghille Mhoire.
The seat of the Morrisons of Harris was at Pabbay (Gaelic: Pabaigh), a small island off the coast. One branch of this family were hereditary armorers to the MacLeods, who were the dominant clan of the Isle of Harris. It is from the Morrisons of Pabbay that our current chief descends. It is interesting to note that one of the two churches on Pabbay was named Teampull Mhoire, or "Mary's Church."
Some genealogies of the MacLeods claim that their progenitor, Leod, was a son of Olaf the Black, King of Man. The Kilbride Manuscript, dated about 1550, gives a genealogy of the MacLeods that includes the name Oilmoir in the family. Later versions render this name as Gillemuire, and that is the basis of various stories of a connection between the Morrisons of Lewis and Harris and Olaf the Black.
There are various accounts of the origins of the Morrisons of the Outer Hebrides, or Clan Mac Ghille Mhoire, but we have no definitive proof of any of them. The following is a somewhat romanticized version of one of these accounts.
One of the Popular Tales:
Eight centuries ago, a Norse ship struggled in heavy seas off the Scottish island of Lewis. A proud Kintyre noblewoman named Lauon stood on the deck cradling her new-born infant son, Gillemorrie, in her arms while her husband, Olaf the Black, shouted orders to the crew. Despite his Herculean efforts the ship foundered. Olaf, Lauon and their son plunged into the frigid waters and clung to a piece of driftwood floating near their sinking vessel. Fortune smiled upon the shipwrecked trio, and they were deposited safe but wet upon the stony Lewis shore.
Lauon married Olaf in 1214 and bore him one child (Gillemorrie). The fact that she was a cousin- german to Olaf's first wife was unacceptable to the church. Bishop Reginald of the Isles declared their relationship incestuous and nullified the marriage, thereby rendering her son illegitimate.
Gillemorrie, upon achieving manhood, married the last heiress of the Clan Igaa (also known as the Clan Gow). She held the stronghold of Pabbay Castle near Harris as her birthright. It was from this union that the Clan Morrison sprang.
Two distinct branches evolved; the Morrisons of Harris and the Morrisons of Lewis. The Morrisons of Lewis established a fortress named Dun Eistein on the northern tip of the island. They gave rise to ten generations of hereditary brieves (experts in law) which held sway over the outer Hebridean islands until 1613. This branch of the family vanished from the pages of history following the issuance of "Letters of Fire and Sword" on August 28, 1616.
A Lowland Origin of the Name
Many Morrisons from the Lowlands of Scotland are "sons of Maurice." Maurice was a given name brought to Scotland by the Normans a couple of hundred years before surnames were adopted. Since many of these Normans held large feudal estates and positions of power, they were influential beyond their numbers. In Scotland, Maurice was often spelled "Morice" and was pronounced "Morris." The surname Morrison then developed in the same way that many other Scottish Lowland names did (e.g., Davidson, Robertson, Wilson, Jameson, etc.).
A Gaelic Origin of the Name
It was common among early Gaelic-speaking Christians in Scotland and Ireland to name children after a saint. To honor the Virgin Mary (Moire in Scottish Gaelic), sons would be named Gille Mhoire, meaning "servant of the Virgin Mary." Later, when surname designations were adopted, descendants of someone so named adopted the surname Mac Ghille Mhoire. The gradual anglicization of names in Scotland resulted in this name being spelled in different ways, often due to local influences and patterns. One obvious direct anglicization, Gilmour (or Gilmore), is very common in the area around Inverness. In Gaelic-speaking areas where anglicizing influences were strong, some Mac Ghille Mhoires became Morrisons. This name, while not a direct translation of the Gaelic, apparently was close enough for the Scots- and English-speaking officials who kept the parish records. It is informative to trace the evolution of the name Mac Ghille Mhoire in the Carrick district of South Ayrshire, where Gaelic continued to be spoken through the 1600's. The name appears as MacIlmorrie in the 1500's and appears to gradually change to Morrison in the northern part of that district, where it was closer to the anglicizing influences of Ayr and Glasgow. However, in the more remote southern part of Carrick, the name seems to have changed to MacIlmurry, then MacMurray and eventually simply Murray. The Morrison DNA Project has recently found DNA matches between Morrisons and McMorrises, and is investigating possible connections between Morrisons and McLemores (who seem to have another variation of this same Gaelic name). It seems that the form of the name that a family has today may depend in large degree on whether or when the family left the original district in Scotland.
(A sept in Scotland is a family allied to a clan that may or may not be related to the main clan)
Common spellings of Morrison include Morrison, Morison and Murison.
The name is also sometimes found as Marrison, Morrisson, etc.
The following names have been traditionally recognized as septs of Clan Morrison:
In addition, it is known that some Morrisons in the Isle of Harris adopted the name Smith.
In Gaelic, Morrison is Mac Ghille Mhoire, which has sometimes been anglicized in Scotland to MacIlmorrow, but that name has largely disappeared by now. Some of this name may have become MacMurrays or Murrays. In America, the name is sometimes found as McLemore and McElmurry. On the Isle of Man, it was once spelled Mylvorrey, but has now been standardized to Morrison.
Clan Morrison Society (Scotland):
The green Clan Morrison Society Tartan (Scotland) is a variant of the MacKay sett with a red stripe. In the absence of an identifiable Morrison Tartan, the Society selected a MacKay sett and added a red stripe.
The selection was based on the Morrison ties with the MacKays. Ay Mac Hormaid (Morrison) fell in love with, and married, the daughter of the Bishop of Caithness. Her dowry was the whole of Durness on the mainland, and 60 Morrison families relocated there in the 1600's
(Lyon Court Book #21, 03 Jan. 1968).
It was reported that in the 1930's, workers demolishing a "Black House" on the island of Lewis, discovered an old bible wrapped in a scarlet tartan. An enclosed note, dated 1745, identified the tartan as belonging to the Morrisons. It was officially recognized as the Morrison Tartan by the Lord Lyon on January 3, 1968. It was first worn again at the 1964 Clan Gathering.
Members of the Clan Morrison are entitled to wear either tartan. Both are available in modern (bright aniline dyes, ancient (lighter vegetable dyes) or weathered (muted tones similar to those used in Brave Heart) variants.
The CLAN MEMBERS' BADGE consists of the Chief's Crest within a strap and buckle bearing the Chief's Motto. By wearing it, the clan member acknowledges himself to be a follower of the owner of the crest. The crest is a part of Dr. Iain Morrison's personal heraldic achievement. Technically speaking, it is not the clan crest and one should not claim it as my crest.
The Chief's Arms include a motto above the crest (TEAGHLACH PHABBAY) and a slogan (DUN EISTEIN) in a compartment below the shield. This was done to encompass both the Harris and Lewis branches of the family. Dr. Iain Morrison traces his lineage to Phabbay, and TEAGHLACH PHABBAY (the family of Phabbay) is his personal motto.
Family of Pabbay
(pronounced "Dun Esh-ten")
The name of the ancient Morrison stronghold on the Isle of Lewiswelcoming space for people from all walks of life to come together and have fun.
Dun Eistein (at the northern tip of Lewis) is a natural island stronghold separated from the mainland by a precipitous ravine that is flooded by the sea at high tide. The Brieve lived in a house (Tigh Mor) near Habost in Ness.
Pabbay (Gaelic: Pabaigh), an island situated in the Sound of Harris, was the ancestral home of the family of the current line of Morrison chiefs. Pabbay means "Priest's Isle" and was the home of two ancient churches. One of these was named Teampull Mhoire and so was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The origin of the Morrisons of Pabbay is not known beyond more than a dozen generations of oral history, but it is at least possible that these Morrisons were originally MacGhilleMhoires and are descended from a certain GilleMhoire (servant or follower of the Virgin Mary) who was associated with this church.From happy hours to hikes, movie nights to museum tours, we offer a wide variety of events and activities to suit every interest. Check out our calendar to see what's coming up!
Transcription of the Original Grant Of Arms
To Dr. John Morrison
TO ALL AND SUNDRY WHOM THESE PRESENTS DO OR MAY CONCERN,
We, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Doctor of Laws, Advocate, Lord Lyon King of Arms, send Greeting; WHEREAS, JOHN MORRISON OF RUCHDI in Yallaquie in the Island of North Uist and County of Inverness, and of Dun Eistein in the Isle of Lewes, Principal Chief of the Haill Name and Clan of Morrison, having by Petition of date 6th February 1967, SHEWN THAT the Petitioner has been unable to trace any descendent in the name of Morrison, of the Breves of Lewes or the House of Habost or Chiefs of the Clan Morrison, excepting the house and forbears of him, John Morrison of Ruchdi, Representer of the House of Morrison of Ruchdi, deriving from the Morrisons at the Dun of Pabbay in Harris; THAT Arms were matriculated in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland (Volume XLIV, folio 48)of date 19th October 1959, in name of the Petitioner, which Ensigns Armorial the Petitioner Prays may be matriculated of new in his own name with the addition of plant badge and bearers and pinsel suitable to the Chief of the hail name and Clan of Morrison; AND the principal landed or armigerous members of the said Clan and Name of Morrison having by their petition of 8th March 1967 represented (inter alia) THAT the House of Morrison of Ruchdi has a properly deduced Gaelic pedigree back some twelve generations from the Morrisons in the Dun of Pabbay on Tarbert of Harris who appear to have been Officers of that Castle, they having constituted themselves an ad hoc gilfine for the want of any now traceable known Hereditary Chief of the whole name of Morrison, have, after earnest thought and consideration, and feeling the great need of the name of Morrison for an Hereditary Chief and there being a number of Morrisons in the South West and North East of Scotland not conclusively connected with the Morrisons of Dun Eistein and those of the rest of Morrisons in Lewes and Harris wherein the Morrisons of Habost, Breves of Lewes, and the Morrisons of Ruchdi, perhaps Keepers, and Armourers at the Dun of Pabbay appear to have been of the Principal duine-uasail of the name and Clan of Morrison, whereby Chiefs traditionally held Dun Eistein as their Seat; AND the line having then been lost they have made choice and selection of JOHN MORRISON of RUCHDI as being the only person other than the cadets of the his house of Ruchdi with a Celtic descent many generations back to the Morrisons, apparently Officers at the Dun of Pabbay and having been the best and most fitting person to represent line of ancient Morrison Chiefs if it should be found proper by Us that We, in his person erect and re-establish in the Clan and Name of Morrison to be so organised as an Honourable Clan and Name; which they earnestly desire should be done for the weil, good and standing of the Clan and Name of Morrison, that such a Chief should be constituted and duly invested in the Insignia of the Chiefship of the whole name of Morrison (and any septs of the same thereafter ascertained) to wit Arms as the machinery for operating such a hereditary Representation of the Name of Morrison and further, that, from there already being some organisation and regard in the South West of Scotland and the Morrisons therein for the Morrisons of that part of Scotland and that although in these respective parts of the traditions and development of these Morrisons, though bearing the name, have evolved from local traditions from these respective areas and accordingly that it would make a more effective organisation of The Name of Morrison if the Morrisons of that name in the said areas were furnished with Area-Chiefs relative to the South West, under Lord Margadale as Area or Regional Chief under the Principal Chiefship of Morrison of Ruchdi in the Hebrides, as being the only House whom it has been possible to trace back to the Morrisons in the days of the Hebridean organisation centreing in the case of the Name and Clan of Morrison upon the Fortress of Dun Eistein; and for that effect that the said John Morrison of Ruchdi, being possessed of the Arms and Insignia appropriate to such Chiefship, as John Morrison, Lord Margadale of Islay, possessed of arms appropriate to an Area or Regional Chief of the Morrisons of Islay, the Sundrays and South West Scotland; THAT the said whole kin or Clan and Name of Morrison be hereby organised under the Hebridean stem-Morrison of Ruchdi and that Lord Margadale, Area-Chief in the Strathclyde area (as above defined), may be furnished with such insignia We may find proper and useful for the said hereditary Principal Chief and Area - Chiefs to which it may be possible, after further research, to add suitable hereditary chiefs representing, if it happily so turned out, the House of Habost and Breves of the Lewes and the Morrisons of Lothian, and the Merse, all under Morrison of Ruchdi as Principal Chief analogocus to the useful organisation in like form of the Clan Donald and Clan Chattan; AND the said landed men, the Petitioners having earnestly prayed that We might re-matriculate the Arms of the said John Morrison of Ruchdi and Dun Eistein as so constituted Chief with such suitable additaments as are appropriate to the Hereditary Chief of the Haill Clan and Name of Morrison which it is humbly submitted will be of benefit and utility unto the whole Name and Clan of Morrison of Scotland and beyond;
KNOW YE THEREFORE, that agreeably with Our Interlocutor and Warrant of date 23rd May 1967, we have maintained ratified and confirmed as We Do By These Presents MAINTAIN, RATIFY AND CONFIRM unto the Petitioner JOHN MORRISON OF RUCHDI and Dun Eistein, Principal Chief of the Haill Name and Clan of Morrison the following Ensigns Armorial as depicted upon the margin hereof and matriculated of even date with These Presents upon the 19th page of the 51st Volume of Our Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, videlicet: - Per bend sinister Gules and Argent, a demi-lion rampant issuant Or, armed and langued Azure, holding in his paws a battle-axe, the shaft curved, of the Third, axe-head of the Fourth in Chief, in base, issuing from the sea undy Vert and Or, a tower Sable, windows and port Or, over all a bend sinister embattled Azure, charged with an open crown Or, jewelled Gules, between two fleur-de-lys Argent. Above the Shield is placed an Helm befitting his degree, with a Mantling Gules doubled Argent, and on a Wreath of the Liveries is set for Crest issuant from waves of the sea Azure crested Argent a Mount Vert, thereon an embattled wall Azure, maisoned Argent, and issuing therefrom a cubit arm naked proper, the hand grasping a dagger hilted Or, and in Escrol over the same this Motto TEAGHLACH PHABBAY: and on a Compartment below the Shield, consisting of two timber logs of driftwood proper floating in the sea Azure crested Argent, along with this slogan DUN EISTEIN, are set for Supporters two dolphins haurient Vert issuant from the waves aforesaid; and for his Badge a tower embattled Sable, port and windows Or, issuant from the sea wavy Azure crested Argent, upon the battlements two hands couped proper, grasping a broadsword in pale Or: and for his Slogan the words DUN EISTEIN, which are depicted on a Standard twelve feet in length, of these Liveries Gules and Argent,, and having the Arms of Morrison of Ruchdi in the hoist, the Crest being depicted in the first and third compartments and the Badge in the second compartment, with the Motto DUN EISTEIN in letter Or upon two transverse bands Azure; and for his Pinsel, Gules, his Crest within a strap and buckle proper within a circlet Or bearing his name and the title MORRISON OF RUCHDI in letters Azure, and in the fly a strand of driftweed proper, being his Plant Badge of his Clan Morrison, surmounted of an Escrol Argent bearing his Motto DUN EISTEIN in letters Sable, by demonstration of which Ensigns Armorial he and his successors in the same are, amongst all Nobles and in all Places of Honour, to be taken, numbered accounted and received as Principal Chiefs of the Haill Kin and Clan and Surname of Morrison; IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF we have Subscribed these Presents and the Seal of Our Office is affixed hereto at Edinburgh this 19th day of October in the Year of our Lord One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty-seven.