My name is Philip John Morrison and I was born in London in 1951. My father was a Scot born in Montrose, Angus and he met and married my mother, Sylvia, in London after WW2.
I started to research my family tree on my father’s side and I need to go back in time, about 1,224 years in order to find a fascinating story.
The isle of Lewis & Harris is in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland where until the 8th century it was inhabited by Scots and Picts speaking Gaelic and living a Celtic lifestyle.
However, everything changed when the Norsemen arrived in 793.
Shetland is just 190 miles due west of Norway and Viking longships, navigated by expert sailors, could make the journey from Hordaland in 24 hours with favourable weather conditions. And from that point access to Orkney, The Hebrides and the Scottish mainland – Caithness and Sutherland for example – was relatively easy.
During these genetically mixing years the islanders generally led normal lives building a mix of Christian churches and pagan monuments. Although pagan when they arrived the Norsemen later succumbed to Christianity.
Over the next couple of centuries the Viking Norsemen (and women) inter-married with locals, and later with men and women from Ulster and the Isle of Man. They introduced new fishing techniques as well as sowing new crops and many of the inhabitants became bilingual. Old Norse and Gaelic, that’s something.
Earl Somerled was a Norse war lord and a big cheese at the time ruling over the isles until his death in 1164. During the 12th century he was regarded as a significant figure and descendants of his ruled until the late fifteenth century.
Research shows that the name Morrison from the Isle of Lewis & Harris was derived from the Gaelic surname: MacGilleMhoire and over time was anglicised to Morrison and probably spelt with a single ‘r’.
Around 1688 John Morrison of Bragar documented an historic account of Lewis that all Morrisons can claim to be descendants from one man, an illegitimate son of one of the kings of Norway. Olaf the Black of Norwegian descent ruled the Isle of Man (Mann) and parts of the Hebrides during 1226-1227, his father was King of Dublin. His first marriage was nullified which would have deemed his son, Gillemorrie, illegitimate. Gillemuire of course translates to MacGilleMhoire.
The chiefs of the clan Morrison of Lewis held the Celtic office of Brieve (judge) on the islands for generations until 1616.
Septs of Clan Morrison includes: Gilmour, Gilmore, Brieve, MacBrieve, and Judge.
A recent genetic study suggests that Somerled has hundreds of thousands of patrilineal descendants and I think I am probably one of them despite there being no traceable descendant of the chiefs of the Morrisons of Lewis.
MORRISON – patriline
Larbert lies in the Forth Valley above the River Carron a few miles northwest of Falkirk and west of Stenhousemuir. Stenhousemuir and Larbert are twin villages so it is possible that if you were actually born in Stenhousemuir in the parish of Larbert then it often goes from then onwards your place of birth, residence, etc., is recorded as Larbert.
Today, Larbert and Stenhousemuir are commuter towns with a combined population of over 16,000.
In 1848 the Scottish Central Railway built their railway bringing further employment opportunities with the Dobbie, Forbes and Co foundry opening in 1872. Larbert railway station was opened on 1st March 1848.
However, at the time of the birth of Robert it was a village where the inhabitants mainly engaged in agriculture. By 1759 the Carron Iron Works opened producing cast-iron goods and the Carronade (naval cannon) brought much needed employment. Workers flocked to Larbert and the village spread eastwards towards Stenhousemuir. The rapidly expanding parish totaled 4,000.
Despite employment at the foundry and the supporting coal mines life was pretty tough. At the time of Robert’s early childhood the parochial school of Larbert had moved to Stenhousemuir which he probably attended. It wasn’t unusual at these times for parents’ to remove their children from education once they had reached 12 years of age and put them in the work place.
Robert would have known James Bruce, the African traveller, who was born in 1730 at Kinnaird just outside Larbert, who traced the origins of the Blue Nile. And John Baildon born in Larbert in 1772 who became a pioneer in metallurgy.
He was also born at a time of change in Scottish country life as until c1760 society remained frugal, homely and provincial but great change was coming regarding tastes, manners and habits. Wider interests began to be shown, more comfortable lifestyle for example due to the rise in the domestic economy of Scotland.
Robert worked as a weaver and had sufficient funds to ensure that he and his wife had their own grave stone in Larbert’s old Parish Church. According to family records he was an Elder at the octagonal Tattie Kirk in Falkirk which was built in 1806 and that his family moved to Larbert during the 1700s from Tullibody in Clackmannan.
Robert (1765-1815) married Janet Carmichael (1763-1815) from Larbert. Her parents were John Carmichael (1728-) and Janet Adam (1730-). Robert’s birth records are rather illusive but two main facts are clear. His occupation was a weaver as shown on his son’s death certificate and a grave marker in Larbert Old Parish Church shows “1815 Robert Morrison & Janet Carmichael” – it’s also probable that he spent his entire life living and working in the immediate area as their childrens’ birth places testify. I use the surname Morison/Morrison as shown in historic records.
Janet Morison was born in Dennyloadhead – 3 miles from Larbert in 1786 and christened on 8th December, witnessed by George Fisher and John Mclauchlan. Death records are unknown and Janet doesn’t appear in Scotland’s first census in 1841.
James Morison was born in 1788 at Larbert and died aged 86 in Larbert Village at 9pm on 20th December 1874 of senile decay. He was single and his occupation was a weaver. In 1851 he lived in Stenhousemuir at Willowbank Cottage together with his brother John. By 1861 he and his brother were living at Carron Park. His nephew, Robert (1841-1919) registered his death.
Robert Morison was born in 1789/1790 and christened in Larbert on 27th January 1790 witnessed by John Mclauchlan (who also witnessed the christening of Janet a few years earlier) and Thomas Bain. His death is unknown and he doesn’t appear in the census of 1841.
John Morrison was born in 1796 (probably at Larbert) and died aged 65 in Stenhousemuir at 5.45am on 13th September in 1861 of kidney inflammation. He was single and worked as a weaver. His brother, James, registered the death.
Archibald Morrison was born around 1802 in Larbert and died in Stenhousemuir. He was the only child of Robert and Janet who married.
Archie was my great-great grandfather, a shoemaker all of his life. It’s possible that he worked for Thomas Hardy who had a boot-making business in Larbert. His work colleague could possibly have been William Malcolm who was of a similar age and also a shoemaker.
He would have witnessed the upheaval that tore Scottish Protestants apart and divided them into two different churches during the Disruption of 1843.
In 1837 on 2nd July at Larbert he married Elizabeth Philp (1811-1867) from Falkirk. Her parents were William Philp and Helen Rentoul (1779-).
In 1841 he lived at Philps Fews in Larbert and worked in the village too.
By this time Robert (1841-1919) was born on 15th March in Larbert.
Two years later they have another son, Philip also born in Larbert on 18th May 1843. He married Jane Younie from Forres, Morayshire at Blythswood, Glasgow on 31st December 1873 whose parents were John Younie (1801-1860) and Ann Wilson (1802-1879). It was a bit sad to learn that Ann died in the Morayshire Union Poorhouse in 1879.
Philip and Jane produced several children. Ann born on the 3rd June 1875, Elizabeth in 1878 and both born in Govan. Jane arrived on 29th June 1881 whilst they lived at Kinning Park in Glasgow as was Archibald around 1885 and John around 1887.
Philip died aged 74 at 6.35 pm on 2nd November 1917 of carcinoma of rectum, at 8 Rae Street, Stenhousemuir. He started his adult life in Edinburgh where he was a lodger at 38 Rankeillor around 1861. He was a grocer’s apprentice. Some years later he is living at 185 West Scotland St, Kinning Park, Glasgow with his family and working as a Japanner. By 1891 he is still working as a Japanner although the family have moved along the street to number 195. By 1901 the family are back in Stenhousemuir at 8 Rae Street. He is a Berlin Blacker at one of the local foundries.
Another two years pass when James is born (1845), in Larbert and in 1848 a fourth son, Alexander, who died between 1851-61.
Ten years have passed and Morrison has gained two ‘s’ and his wife’s christian name has been recorded as Elesabeth at the 1851 census of March. Their address is simply recorded as Larbert, Stirlingshire.
In 1852 their fifth and final child, Helen was born in Larbert on 25th May 1852.
Another 9 years later the family resided at Willow Bank in Larbert. Robert, James and Helen are still living at home but sadly Alexander has died.
Elizabeth died on 7th March 1867 in Stenhousemuir.
In 1871 finds the family still in Larbert where they share a house with 7 members of the Baird family at house number 120 but the street name is unclear. Philip and Helen still live at home with their 70 year old father. Helen is 18 and Philip is now 24 and a Japanner in a local foundry, probably working for Dobbie Forbes, Jones & Campbell, Carron & Co or Turnbull, Mathieson.
They may well have made use of the hostelries of the time at the Red Lion, Wheat Sheaf, Black Bull or The Plough. The Plough Hotel is still there today and only a few minutes walking distance from Rae Street.
Archibald died at 07.20 on 13th January 1872 at the home of his son Philip – 8 Rae Street, Stenhousemuir in the Parish of Larbert after suffering Hemiplegia for 3 years. Up to the time of his death he was still working as a shoemaker aged 71.
My great grandfather, Robert Morrison, was born in Larbert on 15th March 1841 and at the age of 26 he married Isabella Dobson (born in Galashiels on 6th April 1840 and died in Mitchell’s Land, Larbert on 15th September 1931) on 28th June 1867 at Green Bank Street, Galashiels in Selkirkshire three months after the death of his mother. He worked as an Iron Moulder, probably at the Carron Iron Works when residing in Larbert. Isabella’s parents were James Dobson (1802-1855) from Galashiels and Isabella Purves (1801-1892) from Eckford, Roxburgh.
They had seven children (6 boys and one girl).
From the time of their marriage Larbert didn’t feature again until 1891 as they lived in Galashiels until 1872 at 30 Greenbank Street and then later at 33 Croft Street where they produced their first three children:
Isabella Morrison was born on 16th March 1868 at 21 Greenbank Street, Galashiels. Her death is unknown.
Archibald Morrison was born in on 21st June 1869 at Galashiels and died in Arbroath on 24th April 1950. He married Helen Blackie Steel in Falkirk on 26th August 1898. They produced three girls, Jane born 1899, Isabella born 1900 and Helen in 1906. He followed his father and became an Iron Moulder.
James D Morrison (1871-1950) was born in Galashiels on 29th April 1871 and died in Falkirk on the 26th April 1950. He married Jeanie Blackadder on 24th January 1906 at Carronshore. They had four children, Elizabeth (Betty) in 1907, Robert in 1908, Richard in 1910 and Isabella in 1916. He also followed his father and became an Iron Moulder.
At the 1871 census they are still residing in Galashiels but one year after his father’s death we find the family back in Larbert. Robert was born on 3rd December 1873, and by 1901 he’s a tailor and clothier.
In 1877 my grandfather, Philip, was born.
A couple of years later it appears that the family have moved south to England where George Morrison (1879-) was born in Rotherham, Yorkshire. Later he was a medicine compounder.
In 1881 Robert was an Iron Foundry Manager living at 126 High Street in West Bromwich with his wife and their six children.
One year later John Morrison was born in Falkirk, actually in a village called Bonnybridge, less than 3 miles from Larbert, on 1st September 1882. By 1901 he is an apprentice chemist presumably locally as his address at that time was South Road, Moir Villa, Larbert. The Registers of Pharmaceutical Chemists and Chemists and Druggists, 1919 shows: “1908 Jan 2,MORRISON John … Moir Villa,Stenhousemuir,Larbert Examination Certificate No. 17033 Chemist & Druggist.” However, there is a sad tale to tell about John. Apparently, he prescribed a drug for a young girl who died as a result. He was distraught and eventually sold up his business carrying around the funds of the sale in a doctor’s medical bag. On 1st October in 1936 he was committed by his family to Stirling District Asylum (known locally as Bellsdyke) and was treated for Paranoia until his death on 10th April in 1960. His address was shown as 414 Main Street, Stenhousemuir.
By 1891 the family have relocated back to South Road, Larbert where Robert is working as an Iron Moulder. All of the children are living at home except Isabella who would be 23.
In 1901 they are still living at South Road, Moir Villa in Larbert. Archibald has moved out and married in 1898 and there is still no sign of Isabella.
Regarding the address, Moir Villa, it is actually located in Main Street, Stenhousemuir. However, Main Street runs from Larbert Village to Stenhousemuir so when we read “South Road, Moir Villa in Larbert” it can be assumed that in the past South Road actually meant, Main Street South or South Main Street. From a brochure produced by Visit Falkirk, there’s a property offering B&B at Moir Villa, Stenhousemuir, FK5 3JR and whilst research doesn’t throw up any further clues about Moir Villa there is a Lloyds pharmacy located on Main Street sharing the same postcode. Moir Villa is or was adjacent to The Plough where I’m sure the Morrisons’ of this time enjoyed a pint or two.
The offspring of his children may well have enjoyed locally produced toffee purchased through the window of a Mrs McCowan in Stenhousemuir. Later, her husband Andrew and son Robert turned it into the Highland Cream Toffee and using a Highland cow as its trademark it soon evolved into a national institution.
My grandfather, Philip Morrison, was born in Larbert on 25 February 1877. When he reached 24 he is still living at home in Moir Villa and working as a Grate Fitter.
In 1906 he married Lilias Hope Roberts (1884-1976) in Larbert but they didn’t produce any children. Her parents were Charles (1855-) and Margaret Roberts (1857-) from Falkirk Landward, Stirlingshire.
He would have experienced the opening of Larbert’s first tram in October 1905.
However, there were obviously problems with the marriage as Philip emigrated to Canada sometime before the outbreak of WWI but he entered the country illegally and was returned to Scotland.
His father died in 1919 and two years later we find him in Montrose but he’s separated from his wife. Whilst in Montrose he meets my grandmother, Agnes Isabella Webster (1883-1973) the daughter of John Webster (1841-) and Agnes Young (1842-1921). Agnes was head laundry maid at Montrose Infirmary where Philip was recovering from appendicitis and that’s where they met.
They remained living unmarried in Montrose. Lilias presumably denying her husband a divorce as she retained her married name until her death in Falkirk aged 92.
Philip and Agnes produced three boys all born in Montrose:
David Philip (1923-1999) – my father
Philip died at 10 Mill Street, Montrose on 11th February 1959 and is buried at Sleepyhillock Cemetery, Montrose.
Agnes died in Montrose hospital on 16th June 1973 and is also buried at Sleepyhillock.