The Morrison Clan, Badge, Motto & Tartan


Morrison badgeThe Isle of Lewis, on the west coast of Scotland is said to be the place where the Clan Morrison originated. The first inhabitant was said to be Mores, son of Kennanus, whom the Irish historians call Makurich, son of one of the kings of Norway.

Ghille Mhuire, or 'Servant of the Virgin Mary', was, according to tradition, washed ashore, having survived a shipwreck by clinging to a piece of driftwood; this is commemorated in the clan's plant badge. He is said to be a natural son of King Olav, and therefore half-brother of Leod, progenitor of the MacLeods. Ghille Mhuire married the heiress of the Gows, or Clan Igaa, who held Pabbay in the Sound of Harris.

Nathaniel Holmes Morison wrote on March 11th, 1880, "If the name Morrison is derived from the Gaelic Mhor, or Mor, as I think it is, it must have been formed from that word after the persons bearing the name of Moor, etc., had ceased to be Gauls, and became either Norsemen or Saxons, and used one of those languages. The Gaelic for "son" is Mac, while 'son' at the end of the name is both Norse & Saxon." The fact that the Morrs and not the Morrises, have the same crest as the Morrisons, plainly points in that direction for the ancestry of the name...the Saxon language was well established in England and in the lowlands of Scotland in the 9th century.

In George Black's The Surnames of Scotland, he arrives at the conclusion that the Morrisons are really not one Family. He surmises that they have a number of different origins, and that it is the Anglicanization process over time that has brought them together. Extracting all of these variations from George Black's book brings out the following premise:

  • MACMAURICE - Son of Maurice. According to Buchanan of Auchmar in his genealogy of the Buchanan Clan published in Glasgow in 1723 the name is derived from an illegitimate son of Maurice, second son of that name, Laird of Buchanan, in the reign of Robert I. There is also another sept of MacMaurices from illegitimate son of Walter fourth of that name, Laird of Buchanan in the reign of James III. Descendants of the latter were located as Morreises or Morison's in Perthshire, while the former were mainly located in the heads of Straithern, and Straithallan and some in the parish of Callender.

  • MACVARISH, MACVARRAIS, MACBHARRAIS etc - Son of Maurice. The name occurs in Alexander Macdonald's poem "The Bark of Clanranald", and is common among the Macdonald's of Moidart.

  • MACVURICH, M'MHUIRICH - The Bardic Family claims descent from the famous Irish poet Muireach Albannach from the first half of the thirteenth century, apparently from the Western Isles. Some are now known as Macpherson as a further confusion of the name.

  • MURIESON, MURISON, MURRISON - Appears more commonly around Aberdeen shire (particularly the Morison's of Bognie) than anywhere else.

  • O'MUIRGHEASAIN - Descendant of Muirgheas a surname in Inishowen, County Donegal, Ireland. At some unknown date a branch of the Family migrated from Inishowen to Scotland and settled in Lewis and Harris. Some have become bards to the Macleod's of Dunvegan. Later the name became O'Morrisone, and O'Morison. When the literary tradition with Ireland was broken the O' fell out and Muirgheasin was corrupted to Morrison. Their Chief resided at Habost Ness in Lewis and became hereditary brieve or Judge of Lewis. George Black claims that there is no proof that these Morrisons were descended from the son of the King of Norway, or that "Morrison" can be interpreted as meaning "Mary's son" i.e. "Mac Gille Mhuire".

Whatever the origins of the name, it is clear that the Morrison's have existed from the beginnings of recorded Scottish history, and that they remain a united clan today.

There are two tartans for the Morrison clan, a red clan tartan, and a green hunting tartan. The crest is: "two arms, dexter & sinister in fesse, coupled, holding a two-handed sword, in pale." The Motto: 'Marte et Mari faventibus', meaning "War & the Sea-favoring".(p17 #1) Their battle-cry was 'Teaghlach Phabbay'. In the 1930's a Bible wrapped in a 300-year-old piece of tartan was found in the Black House on Lewis. The Bible and Tartan belonged to a seventeenth-century Morrison and the Lord Lyon Court decided that it was the nearest authentic Morrison on which to base the new tartan, which is red with a small narrow stripe of black, brown, green, and white. As a member of the Clan Morrison Society a Morrison is entitled to wear either tartan.

Thistle: National flower of Scotland

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Web Author: Dianne Elizabeth, 1999
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Web Site: Dianne Elizabeth's Family History, Created July 17th, 1999
Page Title: The Morrison Clan, Badge, Motto & Tartan
Page Created: January 17th, 2000
Revised: September 11th, 2000