murison.net

History of Murison

I have read conflicting derivations of the MURISON surname. Below are some of the details that I have come across. Please contribute any information that you may have regarding this by adding comments.

MURISON is not a common Scottish surname and it is predominantly connected with Aberdeenshire. It is patronymic in origin. i.e. "son of Muris".
Muris is a variant of Maurice, a personal name introduced to Scotland by the Normans. The given name Maurice is derived from the Latin "Mauritius", a derivative of "Maurus" indicating "a moor" and Maurice was the name of several early saints, including a third century Swiss martyr. Variants of this surname includes Muirson, Murieson, Mureson and Murrison.
This surname appears in records from Scotland since 1448 when one Simon Muryson is recorded as a husbandman of the Grange of Abirbothry. In the same year, one Johannes Murysone is listed as a burgess of Kircaldy and Sir William Mureson, a cleric, was admitted burgess of Aberdeen in 1491. Cybke Murisone was a tenant of part of Kethik in 1504 and in 1528 Archibald Murson was a bailie for Arbroath Abbey in Banff. Records show that John Murescun was a follower of Campbell of Lundy in 1529 and William Muresoun was reidare (a reader or one in minor orders in the Scottish church after the reformation) at Crouden in the 1574. George Muirsoun of Ferne was a follower Walter Ross of Morange in 1596. According to the "officers and Graduates of Aberdeen" several Murisons graduated from the university since 1670. Notable bearers of this surname include Prof. Alexander Falconer Murison, and his son, Sir James William Murison, Judge of the British High Court, Zanzibar (both appear on murison.net family tree). George Muirson or Murison (died 1709) was a graduate of King's College, Aberdeen, who became a missionary for propagation of the gospel at Rye, New Hamptonshire, in the US.
Blazon of Arms: Argent, three Moors' head couped sable banded azure a border engrained gules.
Crest: Three Moors' heads conjoined on one neck
Motto: Mediocriter (With moderation)


MURRISON is also a variant of Murison.


In Reply to: MURISON ORIGINS AND FAMILY TREE posted by Paul Murison on January 16, 2001
Murison is not a common Scottish family name. It is commonly associated with Aberdeenshire.
It means 'son of Muris' a variation of the french maurice. Either from the Norman invasion of 1066 or the later Templar settling of the 1300's. The given name Maurice is derived from the latin mauritious, indicating a moor, possibly further evidence of the templar connection.Earliest record is 1448, in Scotland when one Simon Mwyrson was recorded as a husbandsman of Abirbothy. Latter descendants, Sir Willian Murison, a cleric
Many other churchmen
Sir James William Murison, Judge and later high comissioner of Zanzibar (appears on murison.net family tree)
American side may stem from Geo Murison Rye New Hampshire died 1709
Johannes Murysone is listed as the Burgess of Kirkaldy. and Archiebald as the was a bailie in Fife in 1529.


From Chris Duff, this is Iain Murison's notes gathered by his grand-father John Murison (1871-1944): Murison is a variant of Morison (one r ), the name given to the law-giver or judge under the Norse kings when the Western Isles formed part of the Norse kingdom. Home of the Morisons was Habost (Tabost?) on the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis, Morison of Habost (Tabost?) being the Chief. His crest is a hand grasping a sword hilt, blade pointing upwards. Motto (in Latin): Wind and Sea Favouring. Dress tartan red and a Hunting tartan green. Morison offshoots from original stem have crest three Saracen faces on one neck with Latin motto: Foresight is better than Riches. From these latter Morisons has sprung the Murison crest which also has three faces but with the Latin motto Mediocriter (The Middle Way).

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Alex Morrison on October 26 2014, 06:10

I have added a paper on the Morrison tartans which further demonstrates how myth and fable can quickly cloud the real story. Whoever was behind the founding of the Morrison Society in 1909 appear to have created a considerable amount of mischief about the origins of the name and the adoption of a tartan and badge.

James Travers-Murison on August 27 2014, 09:04

Alex if you would like to contact me I am briefly in Scotland but will be leaving very soon to Australia. UK dial 07432 191002.

James Travers-Murison on August 27 2014, 08:58

I accept the whole thing is conjecture and your point about surnames being very fluid until 1700 including the fact that being son of Morris or Muri might simply mean you are referred to as Murison or Morrison whilst having no other connection to the name. But I will say their weren't many people called Muri. And as my point about this was it was therefore more important to look to the coat of arms to work out a lineage. However it does appear that Maurice does have some historical connection to Morrison and also the Moor's head. And this may mean that the story of Sir Kenneth Moir may be more story than fact. If De La More were already using a Moor's head on their arms prior to this. Still legend has its place in history and is usually part of the truth and I would bet that the increase to three heads had something to do with Ken and Teba. My apologies for spelling it Toba but this again reinforces what I said about spelling and errors which likely connect Murison and Morison and the enigma of the three heads some of their line have in common. The fact that Morrison in 1670 registered their heads doesn't mean that the heads were not in existence long prior to that on arms, dating back to Moir and Sir Ken. And our Murison arms I doubt come from this Morrison, but more likely round Aberdeen and the priory of Maryculter of the Templars. More likely I think from the Moir line itself. I have not yet found evidence of Moir family coming from here and may contact them for research purposes. And most likely the Morrisons of Preston Grange also came from this line of Moir. So way back in 1400 during the War of the Roses we may have been kin, Alex, if you originate from them. I also note that the motto with moderation and the Morrison motto of prudence before reward basically have the same meaning of being careful. Again this may have a common base.

Alex Morrison on July 15 2014, 06:10

I would like to add this to the the comments which I trust will be of interest. The Scottish History of the Morrison Origins

“There was, not surprisingly, a certain coolness from some who felt their illusions had been shattered and some who had vested interests in ‘clanship’”.
Gordon Donaldson (1995, p89)

When I discovered that the 90 year old Morrison kilt handed down to me by my father was full of moth holes I felt the need to replace it. This sparked an interest in researching my family, an interest in genealogy that has taken me far beyond drawing up a family tree. Not only did I want to know who my ancestors were, I wanted to know where they lived and what they did. To achieve this I needed to establish some credible historical facts derived from an understanding of linguistics, sociology, anthropology, geography and psychology. Having a social science university teaching background helped, particularly in sorting fact from fiction.

What’s in a name?

Many people hold a belief that a name somehow represents a common relationship however distant between all others sharing that same name. Thus, if your name is Morrison it follows according to the common origin theory that sometime in the past you shared a male relative whose name was Morrison. This type of false reasoning is reinforced by writers of commercial Scottish clan histories who make claims about the fabled origins of their particular clan.

Take for example this assertion by the legendary seventeenth century indweller John Morrison of Lewis, quoted by Captain Thomas (1880, pp19-20), written between 1678 and 1688: “The first and most ancient inhabitants of this countrie [Lewis] were three men of three several races, viz. Mores, the son of Kennanus, whom the Irish historians call Makurich, whom they make to be naturall son to one of the kings of Norovay, some of whose posteritie remains in this land to this day. All the Morrisons in Scotland may challenge their descent from this man”. Captain Thomas himself was deluded by what he read and heard about the origins of the Morrisons, concluding … “These traditions all point in the same direction, and establish beyond reasonable doubt the common origin of the family, and Lewis as its early home” (1880, p20).

Misplaced sentimentality is naive in the extreme. If one were to be drawn into this level of pseudo clan reductionism, then at best the only commonality between us all dates back to the primordial swamp where life on Earth is thought to have begun, or Adam and Eve, or even aliens from outer space. To reinforce this point by way of a tongue in cheek example, could we say that the 2010 President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, is related to David Jonathan of Sussex in the UK and Jacob Jonathan in Miami USA? They all share the same surname, therefore they must be related. But what if it turns out that David Jonathan adopted his name from his foster parents who raised him when his biological parents were killed in a German bombing raid in WW2. Jacob Jonathan from Miami got his surname from his father, a Polish refugee from WW2 who changed his name from Janusz Jarogniew to John Jonathan.

Consider also people named Morrison at birth who later changed to another name. Take for example the legendary American screen actor John Wayne. He was born Marion Robert Morrison, but when he began his acting career a stage producer convinced him to change his name to John Wayne. Does this then mean people with the surname Wayne are related to John Wayne?

To help the reader understand the complexity of the evolution of the name Morrison in Scotland, it is important to state from the outset there are a multitude of origins for the name Morrison, just like the name Jonathan above, and only a few close knit communities existing today have within them any close kin who can at best be traced back a few hundred years. Unless you are related to one of the ancient kings or noble families of Scotland authenticated by the historical records, then in reality who you descend from is anybody’s guess. There are very few reliable records you can call on to verify your claim that dates back to early Scotland. For example, when the Vikings settled in the Hebrides in the 9th Century John Morrison and Captain Thomas claim this as the starting point for the Morrison Clan, but where are the records to verify it, or do we blindly trust the fable?

The origins of names is not dissimilar to the geographic origins of Scotland. If you followed the Scottish BBC TV documentary presenter Neil Oliver, he gave an excellent overview about the beginnings of Scotland, from the time of the violent tectonic, glacial and volcanic actions upon the landscape, the peopling of the land, and their ever so gradual and eventual intermixing and settled ways of life. What Scotland didn’t have were pockets of discrete clans that emerged spontaneously dotted all over the map who were identified by tartans and traditions. Broad family groupings that we recognise today as “clans” evolved over time, and even then they were subject to infusions of outside genetic material with the inevitable ebb and flow of boundaries and invasions. The clan industry we see today is really a nineteenth century invention, fuelled by a voracious tourism marketers keen to profit from the sale of clan bric-a-brac.

Origins

I am a Scot, but what does it mean? Scottish people have evolved from an amalgamation of Picts (northern Scotland down to the borders), Gaels (Ireland and South West Scotland), Britons (from the south moving north across the border country) as well as the Romans, Normans, Norse Vikings and Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons who all had a significant influence. Then there were the European traders who brought further ethnic mixes into the equation. George F Black cites, for example, the origin of the people of Buckhaven in Fife being from a Dutch ship that was stranded about the time of Phillip the 11 of Spain in 1556 (1946, xix). Modern Scots are therefore like the crystals in a kaleidoscope, the more you turn the viewer the more the pattern changes.
There were periods in Scottish history, around the 9th Century, when Norway at times held suzerainty over the Orkneys, the Western Isles, and the Hebridean Isles (including Skye, Harris and Lewis) until 1266. However, the most fluid ethnic ebb and flow came across the lowland borders where successive waves of Angles, Romans, Normans and English swept into what is now Scotland attempting to either tame the “savages” or claim sovereignty.

So who were the Morrisons? Trying to find the definitive origin out of the blend of Scottish history and folklore is akin to playing the children’s game of apple dunking blindfolded (Apple dunking involves trying to pluck a floating apple from a tub of water with your teeth).

Many Morrison clusters have been identified throughout Scotland moving north from the Midlothians, to Fifeshire, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, Sutherland and to the Hebridean islands of Lewis and Harris. Other areas around Glasgow and Clackmannanshire are also places where Morrison families have established. There are also strong associations with the name Morrison in Ireland and England. Today the name Morrison is recorded as about the twentieth most common name in Scotland, and is prominently seen throughout the UK via the Morrison chain of supermarkets and fuel distributers which were established in Yorkshire by an English Morrison family.

The multiple origins of the Morrison surname
If one looks at all the evidence then any proposition that the Morrison ”clan” came from a single source is quite erroneous. There are in fact several Morrison groupings identified above but they have somehow been subsumed under one umbrella “clan”.
David Moody attempts to disentangle the common belief that all members of a “clan” are related. Quoting Donaldson (1995) on the subject of surnames Moody suggests “casual assumptions or guesses about kinship and descent based solely on surnames are no substitute for serious research into ancestry” (p86). Further, he agrees with Donaldson’s major point regarding the “unwarranted assumption ... that individuals sharing a surname have, or at some time had, blood relationship with one another (p87)” because it is based on a false assumption.

The key here is the difference between genealogy (the study and tracing of lines of descent) and etymology (the origin and meaning of names). That is, just because your name is Morrison does not mean you are related or that your early ancestors were Morrisons. This is further distorted by the origins of the name which suggests a variety of sources based on both etymology and geographical origins of human migration (that is for example, Pict, Gael, Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Roman or Norman just to name a few!).
Moody (p87) identifies at least four classes of origin for Surnames: (1) Place Names, (2) Parents’ names or patronymics, (3) Occupation, and (4) Personal Characteristics.
Many people took their name from their location such as “Sutherland” or “Argyll”. Early names were also adopted from an association with land ownership. For example, a landowner may have had workers under him who took on his name even though they were not related. Thus someone who might have been one of the MacGilleMhoires from Lewis who fled to Sutherland might have taken on the name MacKay because the MacKays owned the land.
Patronymics (see Moody, p88) is even more convoluted: A man called John whose father’s name was Morris would rightly be called Morrison (son of Morris) and his son James should be called Johnson (son of John). His son Andrew would be named Jameson (son of James). You can see from this it becomes a lottery as to who became a Morrison at the time surnames became fixed.
Both patronymic and occupational names (such as Weaver), or even personal characteristics such as a “strong arm” (Armstrong) “became detached from their descriptive meaning and took on a life of their own as what we call a surname, which is passed from father to son” (Moody p88).
One of the most detailed and scholarly approaches to Scottish surnames is the outstanding work by George F Black: The Surnames of Scotland, Their Origin, Meaning, and History (first printed in 1946 at the New York Public Library). Black notes that “Morrison” derives from “son of Maurice” (p612). Further, he states “Forms of Maurice (from Lat. Mauricius, ‘moorish’, the name of a saint martyred in 286AD)”... as introduced into Britain by the Normans among whom it was popular”. (p612). He traces the modern Morrison form to Latin documents in Glasgow in 1450 when the name was “Mauricii”. In 1463 he identifies Andreas Morison, a licentiate of law in St Andrews. In the sixteenth century Scots Guards records show the spelling as Maurieson. In Kirkcaldy in 1540 Moresone, and later Moresoune, Moriesone and Moriesoun, were alternative spellings. Other interesting variations are found in Aberdeen in 1448 as Mwryson, and 1448 in Kirkcaldy as Murysone (p621).
In fact the are many different spellings scattered throughout the historical documents of Scotland which have later been transcribed to the modern spelling of Morrison including Morison, Morisson, Morcion, Morisone, Morsion, Moryson, Morrieson, Morriceson, Morishon, Merson, Morason, Morzon, Moorison, Morisoun, Marrson, Murrion, Murison, Muirison, Murieson, Murrison, Muresoun, Muirsoun, Murson, Murescun, Muryson, and no doubt many other phonetic synonyms.
To demonstrate this point, R R Stodart’s 1881 work “Scottish Arms, being a collection of armorial bearings AD 1370-1678” changes the spelling from “Moresoun of Darse; or Prestongrang, 1643” and then writes “‘John Morison, bailie and treasurer of Edinburgh, who died in 1615, was called “the rich’…” (p155) in the next sentence.
At this point it is worth quoting from The Internet Surname Database: “Recorded in several spellings including Morrison, Morrieson, Morison, and Moryson, this is an Anglo-Scottish surname, which is almost equally popular in Ireland. It is the patronymic form of the surname Maurice or Morris, deriving from the Latin "Mauritius", and meaning swarthy, from "Maurus", a Moor. ..The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Morisson. This was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax records of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.” (http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Morrison)
These linguistic analyses of the Morrison name imply it is Anglo-Scottish and the Morrisons from the Lowlands were probably the original bearers of the name in Scotland, complete with their crest of three Moor’s heads, not the Norse/Gaels from Ireland or Lewis/Harris whose origins derived from the Gaelic translation of “McBref”, “MacGilleMhurie,” and “O’Muirghesasain” who rebranded themselves as Morrison.
According to Moody (1988, p19) surnames only became fixed in the Highlands in the eighteenth century. Donaldson clearly makes the point that surnames are not an infallible guide to family relationship and pedigree: “The distinction between a Highland and Lowland origin has often been effaced when a Gaelic name has been translated into English... MacGille-mhoire becomes Morison which means that they are added to the host of unrelated patronymics spanning the whole country and with no affinity among them” (Gordon Donaldson quoted in “Scotland's History: Approaches and Reflections”, ed. James Kirk, Edinburgh, 1995, pp. 89-94).
Some Linguistic Theories

Amongst the multitude of common theories about the origins of the name Morrison is this one written by Bain (The Clans and Tartans of Scotland, 1938, p240) who wrote that the Morrisons were of Norse origin and many were forced to flee Lewis in 1597 with up to 60 families relocating to the highland area of Sutherland in MacKay territory. Bain makes this assertion about Norse origin without any evidence, rather, he simply repeats the mythology as though it was an established fact. Note also that those Morrisons left on Lewis after the intervention of the “Fife Adventures” and Neill MacLeod’s treachery between 1598-1607 lost their entitlement to hereditary brieveship in 1613. Are we to believe that from this 1597 exodus that the Morrisons spread all over Scotland? Hardly.
MacCoinnich (2014) traces the change of the name from McBref or MacGilleMhuire to Morrison in the early 1600s as follows: “The adoption of the name ‘Morrison’ at some point during the first half was probably a matter of convenience in an increasingly anglophone world. It bore some similarity to MacGilleMhoire, anglicising it as ‘Moire-son’, in much the same pattern, perhaps, as names of neighbouring kindreds such as MacMhathain and MacMhurchaidh became Scotticised or anglicised as Matheson and Murchison respectively. Moreover, the form ‘Morison’ was free of overtones of a barbarous Gaelic past in a way that ‘McBref’, Mac Gille Mhoire and their variations were not. Sliochd a’ Bhritheimh were not the only clan to rebrand their names at this time and the re-inventing and re-packaging of the past and of names was widely practiced in the Highlands. There are many possible reasons why this Lewis kindred would wish to rebrand themselves at this time, and if this was the case it is worth looking at which of their contemporaries in Scotland were named ‘Morrison’”.
Further to this, the prominent Scottish Moir family suggest that in their family history “there is no “Clan Moir”. This is just another instance of the use of the adjective. The “Clan Mhic Gille Mhoir”, of which Dr. Brown refers in his history of the Highlands, is explained by Sir George Robert Gordon, the contemporary writer, whom he is quoting, to be merely a sept or branch of the Clan MacLeod" (Henry Paton, p23).
MacCoinnich quotes W C Mackenzie posing the possibility of this Lewis/Harris rebranding being traced back to either the Morrisons of Dairsie or Prestongrange (these two related families are discussed in detail later), but this can only at best be held as speculative or coincidental. The more likely, according to MacCoinnich, was an Andrew Morrison of Avoch, the chief collector of customs, connected to Rev Donald Morrison (minister of Barvas) through a friendship of William Lauder from Avoch whose daughter married Donald Morrison. This possibility is linked to the change from being brieves (the hereditary brieveship was lost in 1613) to clergy.
George F Black (1946) also discusses the evolution of the Morrison name on Lewis and West Highlands: “ ...this name is said to have displaced G. Mac Gille Mhurie, ‘son of the servant of (the Virgin) Mary” (p612). Finally, he analyses the form of name “O’Muirghesasain” which he traces to Inishowen in County Donegal. Families with this name settled in Lewis and Harris. “Later the name became O’Morrisone and O’Morison. When the literary tradition with Ireland was broken the O’ fell out and Muirgheasain was corrupted to Morrison” (p638).
So where did it all begin?

Making sense of all that has been written about the name Morrison, be it fables, speculation, history or fact requires the skill of being able to weave a recognised clan tartan from all its basic ingredients without a pattern. The strongest evidence about the origin of the name Morrison is that it has mutated from the Roman Moor Legion commander named Maurice who was later canonised by the Catholic Church to become Saint Maurice. This helps explain the evolution of the name. Next is the tricky bit, how a single Moor’s head which was a symbol of bravery on medieval European armorials developed into three Moors heads on the Morrison (1672) and Moir armorials (1672) with a completely different symbolic meaning, namely gory trophies of battle. There is no necessity for the two to be a contradiction per se. It is just ironic that a Crusader (Sir Henry Moir or de la More) whose name is derived from the Christian St Maurice the Moor from Egypt in turn demonises ethnic Moors who were Muslims.

Let me try and set out the relevant ingredients:
The evolution of the Morrison name
St Maurice
The name Moir and More
Sir Kenneth Moir and The Crusades
The Morrisons of Prestongrange, Dairsie and Bognie
Heraldic Arms and Mottos

The Evolution of the Morrison name

The most heated academic debates often involve arguments that oppose a prevailing orthodoxy. If the argument is strong enough it will overthrow the orthodoxy. This essay presents arguments that challenge the orthodoxy regarding the origins of the Morrisons in Scotland commonly purveyed by commercial “clan” materials and literature and perpetuated in so-called “Clan” society websites. If one is the put “Morrison” into a search engine the result is a cascade of syrupy myths about gallant Hebridean warriors who descended from Norse kings. This in itself is misplaced nostalgia, celebrating Norse folklore rather than Scottish heritage.

Put plainly, the Morrisons did not originate in the Hebrides and are not evolved from Norse Vikings. The Morrisons are a wide ranging loose collection of families with no essential historic links. The most probable origin of their name is likely an evolving amalgam of St Maurice on the one hand, and/or the hero of a battle fought against the Saracens during the Crusades involving Sir Kenneth Moir. Over time the name Morrison has been distilled from a variety of origins and become fixed. It could equally have become Muir or Murison, and certainly there are numerous other permutations of the name all around the periphery with some vague historical connection.

St Maurice

St Maurice the Moor, after who the name Maurice or Morris is said to have derived, was according to legend a 3rd Century leader of the Roman Thebian Legion. Maurice came from the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes and was a Christian who joined the Roman army. From there he is supposed to have been under the command of Maximian who ordered his legion to harass some Christians. Maurice refused and he and many of his men were executed. For his act of martyrdom he was created a Saint.

Because Maurice was an Egyptian he is portrayed as a black man. He became the patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire from the beginning of the 10th century.

According to European Heraldry the insignia of the black head was probably meant to represent Maurice the soldier saint since a majority of the arms awarded were knightly or military. Thus the origin of the Blackamoor (the black Moor head) on many coats of arms is a recognition of a church militant and champion of the Roman Church in a time when its authority was being challenged by Luther and Calvin.

The arrival of the name More or Maurice is reported as coming to England from Normandy with William the Conqueror about 1050. During the reign of David 1 of Scotland (1124-1153) a strong Norman influence was introduced into many parts of Scotland. This was a result of rewarding Norman warriors with land after they helped subdue the warring Moray family. The Normans also helped David 1 maintain control of the the border regions, including Carlisle which was for a time part of Scotland.

The name Moir and Muir

Quoting from the abridged article by Henry Paton in the “Moir Genealogy and collateral lines” (Alexander Moir, 1913), “There can be no doubt that the surnames Moir, More, Moor, Moore, Muir and Mure are but variations of one and the same patronymic. The form in which it first appeared in Scotland, and in which it persists for about two centuries, is More” (p22).

From his research, Paton believed the name existed in England at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. He goes on to say that it “was in the form “de la More” or “Mora” that the name came to Scotland. In 1213, an Adam de la Mora was sent by King John of England to the King of Scotland with a gift of gir-falcons. It looks as if he, and perhaps some others of his name, had then settled in Scotland, for by the end of that century, when Edward 1. was dealing with the Scots, about the succession of the Scottish Crown, there were a considerable number of “De la Mores,” including an Adam de la More, in Ayreshire and Lanarkshire” (p21).

In fact six Mores were forced to sign the Ragman Roll in 1296:
More (Mor) de Cragg, Reynaud (del counte de Lanark).
More de Leuenaghes, Douenal le fiz Michel (del counte de Dunbretan).
More, de Thaugarfton, Symon de la (del counte de Lanark).
More, Adam de la (del counte de Are).
More, Gilcrift (del counte de Are).
More, Renaud de la (Renaud) (del counte de Are).

In addition to these Mores there is another name that could well have lent itself to becoming Morrison in later years, Morref. There were 14 Morrefs who signed the Ragman Roll, for example ,Morref, Huwe de (del counte de Edeneburgh) and Morref, Johan de (del counte de Fyf). The name Morref later became written as Murray, but given the latitude given to the broad sounding of names and their phonetic interpretation the son of Morref could easily have been transcribed from the patronymic form of Morrefson to Morrison.

Sir Kenneth Moir and The Crusades

Running counter to the image of St Maurice the martyr and patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire is the idea that the bloodied Moors heads on some British coats of arms are traceable to the Crusades.

Sir Kenneth Moir (de la More) was a champion knight who, in 1330, is said to have joined with Sir James "Black" Douglas and other Crusaders to Spain with the heart of Robert Bruce to defeat the Moors who had laid siege to the fortress at Teba in Andalusia. Their original intention was to sail to Santiago de Campostella which had been ordained as a holy town by Pope Alexander lll following the discovery of the remains of the Apostle James with the promise of safe conduct from Edward III of England.
Their mission changed when they learned that the King of Castile and León, Alphonso Xl had laid siege to the Castillo de las Estrellas at Teba which was occupied by the Saracen Army of Mohammed lV, Sultan of Granada. The knights travelled to Seville and offered their support to Alfonso for his Crusade to rid the Iberian Peninsula of non-Christians.

Somewhere in all this legend is the story that Sir James “Black” Douglas, Sir Simon Locard of Lee, Sir William de Keith, Sir William de St. Clair and his younger brother John of Rosslyn, Sir Symon Glendonwyn, Sir Alan Cathcart and the brothers Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig and Sir Walter Logan were outnumbered and killed on the battlefield. Sir Kenneth survived and transported home the bodies of the fallen Scottish knights.

The Moir armorial bearing has three Moor heads ‘in their gore cut proper with blood dripping arranged in a triangle’. From the question “Why three Moors heads?“ comes the saying: "One Christian Moir slew three pagan Moors!”

The Morrisons of Prestongrange, Dairsie and Bognie
There is an interesting historical and family linkage between the Morrisons of Prestongrange and the Morrisons of Dairsie. When I first began researching the similarities of the names, marriages and references such as “brother-in-law” I looked for evidence of a family connection. The common link was John Morrison, Baillie of Edinburgh (1581) who purchased Prestongrange in 1609. One of his sons, Alexander Morrison, was a lawman who became Lord of Session in 1626.

His son, Sir Alexander Morrison of Prestongrange (Abt 1611-1683), married Jean Boyd (daughter of the 7th Lord of Kilmarnock, Robert Boyd) on 9 July 1637. Jean’s sister Agnes married Sir George Morrison of Dairsie. Alexander’s sister Bethia married Sir Robert Spottiswood on 6 June 1629. Sir John Spottiswood sold Dairsie to his relation by marriage, Sir George Morrison. Although I could not find any genealogy documents to show the relationship between Alexander and George Morrison, they were related, most probably first cousins. This was strengthened by a reference in “An Ordinance of Pardon and Grace to the People of Scotland [12 April 1654]” in which there is a reference to Sir George Morrison of Prestongrange having to pay Two Thousand Pounds to the Deputy Treasurer in Leith. There is a further reference to George Morrison of Prestongrange in the Parliamentary Register of Edinburgh on 27 April 1689 in the Act for Raising Four Months’ Supply. These references suggest George was originally associated with the Prestongrange family and was then distinguished by his purchase of Dairsie from the Spottiswoods.

The family of John Morrison was skilled at making good marriages to important families. In addition to the Boyd and Spottiswood families, there was also a close tie in with the Dick family. Two of John Morrison’s children, Henry and Elizabeth, married two of John Dick’s children. Henry married Katherine Dick. Elizabeth married William Dick of Braid, and their son, John Dick, married the widow of Sir John Morrison Of Dairsie, Nicola, daughter of Sir George Bruce of Carnock. The Dick family traces its roots back to Denmark as Dyke-Graff, and then later they became well established in the Orkneys. John Dick was in 1628 an “advocate and sheriff depute of Orkney”.

It is therefore easy to conclude the Dairsie and Prestongrange famies are related. Sir Alexander inherited Prestongrange from his father Lord Alexander, and married Jean Boyd around 1637, and Jean’s sister Agnes married George Morrison, presumably a few years later as their first child John was born in 1645.

The historical references to the family suggest Sir George was the son of Sir John Morrison of Dairsie. Apart from the reference to Sir John being married to Nicola Bruce, the only other reference to him claims he was the grand son of John Morrison, Baillie of Edinburgh. Given the relationship between George and Sir Robert Spottiswood and between the Boyd sisters and Alexander and George, it would make reasonable sense that both Alexander and George would at least be cousins from Prestongrange. Since Sir Robert Spottiswood was married to Sir Alexander’s sister Bethia, one could conclude that the Morrisons and Spottiswoods were friends, and this friendship would most likely have been shared with Robert’s older brother Sir John Spottiswood. There is also a connection between the Morrisons and William Sinclair of Roslyn. He married the sister of Sir John and Sir Robert Spottiswood, Ann, in 1610. Thus these three families are also related by marriage.

Heraldic Arms and Mottos

I then came across a document that cemented my suspicions about the family connection between Prestongrange and Dairsie. R R Stodart’s 1881 work “Scottish Arms, being a collection of armorial bearings AD 1370-1678” provided the evidence I had been searching for:

“Moresoun of Darse; or Prestongrang, 1643, is added.
John Morison, bailie and treasurer of Edinburgh, who died in 1615, was called “the rich;” he married Katherine Preston, daughter of the Lord President of the Court of Session, and had a large family. His grandson, Sir John of Dairsie, co. Fife, was father of Sir George of Dairsie; this family made alliances by marriage with houses of rank.
Mr Alexander, a younger son of the bailie, acquired Prestongrange in East Lothian 1628, and was a Senator of the College of Justice 1626. His son, Alexander of Prestongrange, registered arms 1672-78 -argent, three moors’ heads coped proper. Henry, writer to the signet, a cadet of Dairsie, at the same time registered the coat with the three heads on one neck. The last of the Prestongrange family was George of Little Chalfield, Wiltshire, who d.s.p. 1788, his heirs being Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, and George, Earl of Glasgow.
In 1673 George Morison of Bognie, co. Banff, founder of a family still existing, was granted arms almost identical with those in this MS” (p 155).

To date I have not found any evidence to suggest the Bognie Morrisons are related to the Prestongrange or Dairsie Morrisons. What is interesting though is the timeframe in which all three families register almost identical Arms (1672-3) of three Moors or Saracens heads. The Moir/Muir family also registered Arms in 1672 with three Moors heads.

Reference to James Fairbairn’s book of Crests of the families of Great Britain and Ireland (1905) identifies The Motto Pretio Prudentia Praesat (Prudence excels rewards) attached to several Morrison families as well as Monson and Richardson.

Fairbairn also lists various Morrison families and their crests on pages 398 and 399 (spelling of Morison) and page 400 (spelling of Morrison). On page 402 the names Moore “a Moor’s head” and Muir “a savage’s head” are found in some of their families. The name Monson (page 394) of Preston “three saracens’ heads conjoined in one neck, one each to the dexter and sinister, and one looking upwards” with the motto “Pretio prudentia praesat” would appear to be variation of the the spelling of Morrison of Prestongrange. However, elsewhere Fairbairn spells the Morrisons of Prestongrange, Edinburgh “Morison” and describes their crest as “three saracens’ heads conjoined in one neck, the faces looking upwards and to the dexter and sinister with the motto “Pretio Prudentia Praesat” (p399).

Thus it can be concluded that the Lowland Morrison families have a common link via the Heraldic Arms and Motto that they share. Further to this, it is argued that the Hebridean and Sutherland Morrisons only became Morrisons around 1600 when they changed their name. This Morrison group is also distinct from the Lowland Morrisons by virtue of their Heraldic Arms and Motto which does not reference Moors heads and has a different motto.
The compelling body of evidence that ties the history of the name to St Maurice, evolving to become the Norman name “de la More”, the Norman influence in Scotland after King David 1, the reputed origin of the three Moors heads to Sir Kenneth More, the adoption of the three Moors heads on the family crests of the Morrison Arms and the same motto all suggest the fabled origins of the “Clan Morrison” is just that, a fable. The real origin of the Morrison family in Scotland is Norman, not Norse, and they were Lowlanders not Western Islanders.

References

Bain, Robert. (1938). The Clans and Tartans of Scotland, Collins, Glasgow.
Black, George F. (1946). The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History, The New York Public Library, New York.
Chronicon Regum Manniae (1158-1223)Clan Morrison Website. http://www.clanmorrison.com.au
Devine, T M. (1983). The Merchant Class of the Larger Scottish Towns in the late Seventeenth and Late Eighteenth Centuries, in G Gordon and B Dicks, Ireland and Scotland 1600-1850, pp 92-111.
Donaldson, Gordon.(1995). quoted in Scotland's History: Approaches and Reflections, ed. James Kirk, Edinburgh.
Logan, James. (1950). The Scottish Gael, quoted in D C Stewart The Setts of the Scottish Tartans.
MacCoinnich, A. (2014). Dùn Èistean and the “Morrisons” of Ness in the Lordship of Lewis. The historical background, c. 1493 – c.1700 in Barrowman, R. (ed.), Stornoway.
MacKenzie, W C. (1903). History of the Outer Hebrides, Simkin Marshall, London.MacLeod, Andrew P. (November, 2000).
The Ancestry of Leod, Clan MacLeod Magazine, No. 91.
Magnusson, Magnus. (2001). Scotland, The Story of a Nation, Harper Collins, London.
Matheson, W. (1980) ‘The Macleods of Lewis.’ In the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 51, pp. 320-337.
Moir, Alexander. (1913). Moir Genealogy and Collateral Lines. Press of the Union Printing Company, Lowell, Massachusetts.

Moody, David. (1988). Scottish Family History, B T Batsford, London.

Morrison, Alick. (1986). The Chiefs of Clan MacLeod, Edinburgh, pp1-20.

Morrison, John. (c. 1683) A Descriptione of the Lews, in Virtual Hebrides, http://www.virtualhebrides.com/articles/virtual-hebrides/descriptione-lews.htm

Morrison, Leonard A. The history of the Morrison family with most of the Traditions of the Morrisons (clan Mac Gillemhuire), heredity judges of Lewis by Capt. F W L Thomas (electronic version).

McNie, Alan. (1986). Clan Morrison, Cascade Publishing, Jedburgh, Scotland.
Scobie, W. Mysteries of the Morrison Tartans. http://www.tartansauthority.com
Sellar, W.D.H. (1998) ‘The Ancestry of the Macleods reconsidered.’ Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 60. pp. 233-258.
Scott, Walter. (1829). History of Scotland, in Lardner’s Cabinet Encyclopaedia, Vol 1.
Stewart, Donald C. (1950). The Setts of the Scottish Tartans, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh.
Surname Database, http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Morrison

Watson, Fiona. (1998). Under the Hammer, Tuckwell Press, London.

James Travers-Murison on July 3 2014, 17:06

True our arms do come from the Morisons, but most likely not the Morisons of the Norse King and the Hebrides. Most likely we have no connection to them at all. I explain below the other derivation of Morison which comes from a Norman Knight Templar and the Battle of Toba in Spain. Which in my forthcoming book, purchasable soon, will detail how we are part of the Battle of Bannockburn and the Holy Grail and Scotland's quest eternal for freedom and equality of all people.

James Travers-Murison on July 3 2014, 16:55

My opinion is that this Maurice origin is a misnomer, a canard due to some academic trying to relate his Latin to the name Murison and the fact of the coat of arms being Moors heads. It is quite clear that the coat of arms is of crusader origin and has nothing to do with us being dark skinned Moors. It is of the bloody beheaded heads of three Moors taken in battle. In fact I assert our origin stems from Sir Kenneth Moir, a Knight Templar. I say this because this was the first known use of the Three Moors Heads. They were created after the battle of Toba in Spain for him after he distinguished himself in battle taking the heads of three Moorish princes after the rest of the Templars were slaughtered including the Sir James Douglas carrying Robert Bruce’s heart in casket to take to Jerusalem. I suspect the young Sir Ken returned to Scotland tail between his legs with Bruce’s heart and Douglas body. Ken was in fact a Norman called de la More and his name was changed to Moir meaning in Gaelic ‘brave’ for his feat with the Moor’s heads. I suspect that he settled round Aberdeen in a Templar abbey. ‘In about the year 1187, William the Lion granted part of the Culter lands on the south bank of the river Dee in Aberdeenshire to the Knights Templar and between 1221 and 1236 Walter Bisset of Aboyne founded a preceptory for the Knights Templar, so there is a possible link with the Murison name and the Templars that settled in the north east of Scotland..’ according to www.murison.co who doesn’t explain the link though I have asserted an hypothesis as to why which I have no proof of the Aberdeen connection only the Arms. Some of their sons adopting the name Moir-son, which due to illiteracy got changed to Morison due to an i being incorrectly placed and then Murison about 1600. Spelling was so bad in these days this is not surprising, however coats of arms tend to be less butchered. In fact Sir Ken may not have settled in Aberdeen. ‘Earliest record is 1448, in Scotland when one Simon Mwyrson was recorded as a husbandsman of Abirbothy’. This place is located not in Aberdeen – see where the name is used in a rent book of Cupar Abbey.
https://archive.org/stream/rentalbookofcist01gram/rentalbookofcist01gram_djvu.txt
Two places in Scotland are designated Cupar — one a
royal burgli and the capital of Fifeshire ; the other a
town in Angus or Forfarshire, resting on the eastern
border of Perthshire, and the site of an important
abbey. To etymologists the name is a puzzle. In
his " Memorials of Angus and Mearns," Mr Jervise
remarks that it may be derived from the Gaelic
Cid-hhar, the back or end of a height or bank. " If a
Gaelic derivation is to be preferred," our correspon-
dent, Dr Charles Mackay, suggests that " the name
may have come from cohhair, a sanctuary or place of
monkish retirement." But Dr Mackay, Professor
Ehys, Dr W. F. Skene, and Dr Thomas M'Lauchlan
are all disposed to think that the name is not Celtic.
It has been suggested that as David I. and his royal
successors brought into Scotland traders from the
Low Countries, the name may be derived from the
Flemish coper, signifying one who exchanges com-
modities. And in a recent publication there is a list
of religious houses in Great Britain that, in the
thirteenth century, sent wool to Flanders.
This could mean the Moirsons originated near Perth, not Aberdeen, in fact not far perhaps from where my Murisons came from. Of course this is mere conjecture and either way Mwyrson may not even be connected to Murison. Again bad spelling could have sounded out Moirson as Mwyrson by a semiliterate clerk of the church. Furthermore since at least 1600s the Morisons with Morison of Preston Grange having used the Three Moors Heads in their arms, hence I am sure we came from them. I suspect some of the sons were less bright and spelt worse and the Murisons were not the most academic of Sir Moirs offspring. Hence my heritage which stems from poor crofter Murisons from Alyth near Dundee, who sought land leaving from Aberdeen way according to our records, which supports an Aberdeen origin. I am fascinated by the Inverness connection of Murisons as my father ended up there during WWII. His Murisons escaped Alyth to make a mint on the jute trade in Dundee where James Murison ended up on Dundee’s Council as an astute jute broker having his father marry into the Thomson family of Seafield Co.
My 50th being on the 700th of the Battle of Bannockburn combined with my father’s service in the Gordon Highlanders and his secretive kanny holding onto his Murison heritage that drove us all mad, which I have only just discovered on his death and even then I had to fight the estate to attain it as he had hidden it away in trusts for donkey’s years, has led to a return to Scotland for me. The point being that I am certain we were connected to Bannockburn and the Templars fighting there and somehow the tide of battle turned to the Scots due to possibly Sir Ranald De La More and the Templar Knights giving a tactical edge in that battle, so ending English tyranny over us against massive odds; causing such a fearful rout of the English that it took them till 1700 to rule over Scotland again. And my last past life was connected to that battle, victory and Templar involvement. And once again Scotland is caught in a battle for freedom from England and as such I have come from Australia to do battle. To join up and fight for freedom! I call on all Murison, Morison, Moir, Muir and the whoever to come back to the Homeland and fight for Freedom and Independence with a pilgrimage to Spain and Toba on the 25th August when the battle was fought there! Come ye yonder Murison clan home to the fair hills of Aberdeenshire to resurrect Scotland the Brave! Email me at info@wna.org.au

James Travers-Murison on July 3 2014, 16:33

My opinion is that this Maurice origin is a misnomer, a canard due to some academic trying to relate his Latin to the name Murison and the fact of the coat of arms. In fact I assert our origin stems from Sir Kenneth Moir, a Knight Templar. I say this because this was the first known use of the Three Moors Heads. They were created after the battle of Toba in Spain for him after he distinguished himself in battle taking the heads of three Moorish princes after the rest of the Templars were slaughtered including the Sir James Douglas carrying Robert Bruce’s heart in casket to take to Jerusalem. I suspect the young Sir Ken returned to Scotland tail between his legs with Bruce’s heart and Douglas body. Ken was in fact a Norman called de la More and his name was changed to Moir meaning in Gaelic ‘brave’ for his feat with the Moor’s heads. I suspect that he settled round Aberdeen in a Templar abbey. ‘In about the year 1187, William the Lion granted part of the Culter lands on the south bank of the river Dee in Aberdeenshire to the Knights Templar and between 1221 and 1236 Walter Bisset of Aboyne founded a preceptory for the Knights Templar, so there is a possible link with the Murison name and the Templars that settled in the north east of Scotland..’ according to www.murison.co who doesn’t explain the link though I have asserted an hypothesis as to why which I have no proof of the Aberdeen connection only the Arms. Some of their sons adopting the name Moir-son, which due to illiteracy got changed to Morison due to an i being incorrectly placed and then Murison about 1600. Spelling was so bad in these days this is not surprising, however coats of arms tend to be less butchered. In fact Sir Ken may not have settled in Aberdeen. ‘Earliest record is 1448, in Scotland when one Simon Mwyrson was recorded as a husbandsman of Abirbothy’. This place is located not in Aberdeen – see where the name is used in a rent book of Cupar Abbey.
https://archive.org/stream/rentalbookofcist01gram/rentalbookofcist01gram_djvu.txt
Two places in Scotland are designated Cupar — one a
royal burgli and the capital of Fifeshire ; the other a
town in Angus or Forfarshire, resting on the eastern
border of Perthshire, and the site of an important
abbey. To etymologists the name is a puzzle. In
his " Memorials of Angus and Mearns," Mr Jervise
remarks that it may be derived from the Gaelic
Cid-hhar, the back or end of a height or bank. " If a
Gaelic derivation is to be preferred," our correspon-
dent, Dr Charles Mackay, suggests that " the name
may have come from cohhair, a sanctuary or place of
monkish retirement." But Dr Mackay, Professor
Ehys, Dr W. F. Skene, and Dr Thomas M'Lauchlan
are all disposed to think that the name is not Celtic.
It has been suggested that as David I. and his royal
successors brought into Scotland traders from the
Low Countries, the name may be derived from the
Flemish coper, signifying one who exchanges com-
modities. And in a recent publication there is a list
of religious houses in Great Britain that, in the
thirteenth century, sent wool to Flanders.
This could mean the Moirsons originated near Perth, not Aberdeen, in fact not far perhaps from where my Murisons came from. Of course this is mere conjecture and either way Mwyrson may not even be connected to Murison. Again bad spelling could have sounded out Moirson as Mwyrson by a semiliterate clerk of the church. Furthermore since at least 1600s the Morisons with Morison of Preston Grange having used the Three Moors Heads in their arms, hence I am sure we came from them. I suspect some of the sons were less bright and spelt worse and the Murisons were not the most academic of Sir Moirs offspring. Hence my heritage which stems from poor crofter Murisons from Alyth near Dundee, who sought land leaving from Aberdeen way according to our records, which supports an Aberdeen origin. I am fascinated by the Inverness connection of Murisons as my father ended up there during WWII. His Mursons have escaped Alyth to make a mint on the jute trade in Dundee where James Murison ended up on Dundee’s Council as an astute jute broker having his father marry into the . My 50th being on the 700th of the Battle of Bannockburn combined with my father’s service in the Gordon Highlanders and his secretive kanny holding onto his Murison heritage that drove us all mad, I have only just discovered on his death and even then I had to fight the estate to attain it as he had hidden it away in trusts for donkey’s years. The point being that I am certain we were connected to Bannockburn and the Templars fighting there and somehow the tide of battle turned to the Scots due to us ending English tyranny over us against massive odds. And once again Scotland is caught in a battle for freedom from England and as such I have come from Australia to do battle. To join up and fight for freedom! I call on all Murison, Morison, Moir, Muir and the whoever to come back to the Homeland and fight for Freedom and Independence with a pilgrimage to Spain and Toba on the 25th August when the battle was fought there! Come ye yonder Murison clan home to the fair hills of Aberdeenshire to resurrect Scotland the Brave! Email me at info@wna.org.au

Dacota Babcock on September 12 2012, 14:55

My grandfather is John Henry Murison, Direct descendant of Murice Murison. My family has been trying to view the family tree through this website using IE and still can't view it.
- I have checked the family tree page & it is working. Please can you try again - DM