As far as we know, it all started with my
5gt-grandfather John Murison (c1690-c1765), who was a crofter on the
lands of Alexander Gordon, Laird of Troup, in the parish of Gamrie, Banffshire.
We know little of this gentleman, except he married twice, was said
to be illiterate and he made sure his sons were not by ensuring
they received a fair amount of education. John was comfortably well
off by all accounts and could obviously afford to do this. John's
descendants generally were countryfolk and remained in the Gamrie
and Alvah area as crofters and blacksmiths until the mid-1800s.
John's son Andrew, however, got itchy feet and
made his way to Edinburgh. He wrote to his father with news of
developments in the city, including "the building of a great large
street." A couple of years later (1754) he was in London, reporting
back on the sight of troops embarking for Virginia as the French
were making encroachments there. Back in Edinburgh, he got into
importing/exporting and advising his brother James on his business,
who was a merchant at Troup and getting into trouble for evading
customs duties and not paying his bills. Another of Andrew's
brothers, William, had apparently joined a militia and been sent to
the East Indies. Upon his return, he deserted. Andrew procured his
freedom without punishment, but William showed no gratitude, so
Andrew decided to have no more to do with him.
It appears Andrew became a lawyer and we learn he
has been engaged in the trial of Mungo Campbell, an ExciseOfficer,
for shooting the Earl of Eglinton; involved in the trial of a
horse-stealer; and generally travelling the courts of the West
Circuit. Brother William is an embarrassment. He's gone completely
off the rails and is regarded as "a begger and common vagabond." He
was taken up by the Sheriff of Jedburgh on one occasion and only
escaped imprisonment when the judge discovered he was Andrew's
brother. Brother James is not much better - his business methods
leave a lot to be desired, with unpaid bills and imported goods
seized as contraband. Andrew advises him to give up smuggling.
Half-brother Peter manages to acquire 21,000 Pounds (a lot of money
in 1763) from somewhere and buys the estate of Delgaty (Dalgety?).
(Five years earlier he had contracted venereal disease and had had
to leave the service of Lord Prestongrange.) He also tries to
persuade William to go to America and offers to pay his passage, but
William refuses. James, meanwhile, continues to lose money and
thinks he must marry a rich woman to keep him the rest of his days.
He does marry about five years later (c1775), having decided to go
on the straight and narrow and go into the brick-making business.
Whether he actually did so is not clear, but it is known he was not
a happy man when he died in 1803.
Meanwhile, back on the farm things are generally
as they should be. James' son James married a lawyer's daughter
from Leith and was Sheriff's Officer for Gamrie when he died at
Newtack in 1833. His son, Francis, married a blacksmith's daughter
from Inverness and was a tenant of Protstonhill Croft, Gamrie.
Francis' son, Francis, carried on the blacksmith tradition at the
smithy at Itlaw, having married the daughter of a Fueur in Dufftown.
Another of Francis' sons, James, caught a boat to Canada around
1870 and found his way to St Thomas in Ontario where he got a job on
the Great Western Railway. He writes to his blacksmith brother
telling him drunkeness is common as drink is cheap, and sends news
of former employees of the Great North of Scotland Railway who have
also emigrated to Ontario. Food is plentiful, but James prefers his
porridge and thinks that others would do well to eat such food.
Farmland is available and James decides to rent a
farm, which he does in 1874. He talks about his younger brother,
John, who must have followed James to Ontario and who intends to
start lead mining.
1874 saw an epidemic of "tifid fever" (typhoid?)
due to the town of St. Thomas having outgrown its drainage
facilities. James is a succesful farmer and in 1880 rents another
farm. He describes a trip to Chicago on the occasion of "a
fraternal gathering of the Knights Templars." He tells Francis if
he had worked in Canada as hard as he had worked as a blacksmith he
would have been an independent man by now. The Canadian Murisons
continued to live around St. Thomas and Elgin West until the turn of
the 20th century, when the name petered out.
The Industrial Revolution touched every family.
James worked on the railways in Canada before going back to
farming. Francis the blacksmith had a son, Francis, who became a
marine engineer; another son, James went to South Africa and worked
for South African Railways. Yet another son, John, became a marine
engineer and spent his life sailing the southern seas with the
British Steam Navigation Company and his son, Duncan, was a Master
Mariner with the same company. END
Alastair: This little story is as I know it at
present. Some of it comes from my grandfather's and my Uncle
Duncan's researches, and other parts come from precis of
letters lodged at the National Archives of Scotland by my
grandfather. One day, I'll have the chance to read these documents
and fill out this story.
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