MURISON FAMILY OF GAMRIE, BANFFSHIRE.
As far as we know, it all started with my 5gt-grandfather, John
Murison (c1695-c1760), who was a crofter on the lands of Alexander
Garden of Troup in the parish of Gamrie, Banffshire. A family
document dated 3 October 1732 shows a “Tack by Alexander Gairdon of
Troup to John Murison as tenant of Crossford for life, reserving to
the granter power to enclose, improve or resume the land.” We know
very little of this gentleman, except he married twice, was said to
be illiterate and that he made sure his sons had an education. He
was thought to be comfortably well off and able to afford to do
this. John’s descendants generally were countryfolk and remained in
the Gamrie and Alvah area as crofters and blacksmiths until the
One of John’s sons, Andrew Murison (1730-1809), got itchy feet and
made his way to Edinburgh, where he became a Writer of the Signet.
He had studied law under Lord Gardenstone of Troup, a prominent
lawyer and second son of his father’s landlord, Alexander Garden. He
wrote many letters back to Gamrie and one to his father in 1752 gave
news of developments in the city, including “the building of a large
street.” A couple of years later he was in London and reporting back
on the sight of troops embarking for Virginia, as the French were
making encroachments there, and complaining of the cost of living in
Back in Edinburgh, he got into importing/exporting business, mainly
wines and spirits, and was advising his brother, James, on his
business as a merchant in Troup. James was getting into trouble for
evading customs duties and not paying his bills. In 1758, his
brother William, had apparently joined a militia and been sent to
the East Indies on the ship ‘Lennox’. Upon his return, he deserted.
Andrew procured his freedom without punishment, but as William
showed no gratitude, he decides to have no more to do with him.
Andrew tells of cases he is involved with on the West Lothian
Circuit, such as the trial of Mungo Campbell, an Excise Officer, for
shooting the Earl of Eglinton, and the trial of a horse-stealer. In
a letter to his brother in 1764, he tells of the very public death
of a prominent lawyer, Lord Edgefield, who took his own life by
jumping off the pier at Leith and drowning. Brother William is still
a cause of embarrassment, having gone completely off the rails and
regarded as “a beggar 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. Andrew tries to
persuade him to go to America and offers to pay his passage, but
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. James continues
to lose money and thinks he must marry a rich woman to keep him the
rest of his days. He does marry later, in 1775, having decided to go
straight and enter the brick-building business. Whether he did is
not clear, but it is known he was not a happy man when he died in
In another letter, Andrew tells of half-brother, Peter, who had
become a gentleman’s servant, having the “misfortune to get a
venereal disease” and so having to leave the service of Lord
Prestongrange. He soon finds a place at Troup with Mr. Garden and in
1759 marries the daughter of James Bell, a stabler. Lord
Gardenstone’s younger brother, Peter Garden, buys the estate of
Delgaty in 1762 for 21,000 Pounds. James’ son, James, marries a
lawyer’s daughter from Leith and had been appointed Sheriff’s
Officer for Gamrie by the time he dies at Newtack in 1833. His son,
Francis, marries a blacksmith’s daughter from Inverness and is a
tenant on a Protstonhill croft in Gamrie. Francis’ son, Francis,
runs the smithy at Itlaw in the parish of Alvah, and has married the
daughter of a Fueur in Dufftown.
Another of Francis’ sons, James, in 1872 decides to make a new life
for his family in Canada and finds his way to St. Thomas in Elgin
County, Ontario, where he gets a job on the Great Western Railway.
He writes back to his blacksmith brother telling him drunkenness 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 others
would do well to eat such food. He eventually becomes a successful
farmer and his children and grand-children spread out west into
Manitoba, British Columbia and south into America.
In 1765, Andrew reports having bought Anchorfield, a house in Leith,
north of Edinburgh. Here, he and his wife, Mary Herdman, bring up
their children, all of whom had been registered at birth with the
patronym Morison. One son, Alexander, becomes a well-known doctor and
specialist in mental diseases, and is knighted in 1838 for his
medical services to the Royal Family (he was physician to Charlotte,
the Princess Royal). A grand-son of Sir Alexander’s, Dr. Alexander
Morison discovers that great-grandfather Andrew, in marrying Mary Herdman, had married into the Blackhalls of that Ilk through a
Forbes line, so changed his name to Blackhall-Morison. Andrew’s
daughter, Margaret, marries into the McCraes and one of her sons,
Andrew Murison McCrae, marries an illegitimate daughter of the 5th
Duke of Gordon, Georgiana Huntly Gordon. The family immigrates to
Australia, where they become famous as artists, poets and writers.
Alexander Morison, The Blackhallf of that Ilk and Barra: Hereditary
Coroners and Foresters of the Garioch. (New Spalding Club, 1905).
Alexander Morison, A Manuscript Genealogy of the Morisons of
Anchorfield, Hetland and Johnsburn, 1877 onwards from the “Alexander
Blackhall-Morison Collection” in the archives of the Royal College
of Physicians in Edinburgh.
Letters and Assorted Papers, National Archives of Scotland Ref:
GD1/808/1-9, “Murison (Morrison) Family, Troup, Banffshire and
Canada, dated 1732-1881.
Sundry email correspondence (always gratefully acknowledged) and
much researching by your poster.
Chris Duff, Ontario, Canada (whose mother was a Murison)
University of Guelph
5 December 2015
Through the auspices of Alastair McIntyre and his Electric Scotland
web-site, I’ve been following his promotion of the Scottish Studies
Department at the University of Guelph. This week’s issue gives a
link to your home page which I have found to be of great interest.
In 1872, a forebear of mine, James Murison, beat me to arriving in
Ontario by 110 years. I didn’t know this until I started carrying
out research on the Murison family history in 2004. Since then, I’ve
been down to St. Thomas and Elgin County to see the Murison memorial
inscriptions on the many cemetery gravestones.
The Murisons originally were crofters on the land of the Laird of
Troup in the Parish of Gamrie, Banffshire. They moved on to be
blacksmiths at Alvah Smithy in the mid-1800s, with Francis Murison
(1837-1901) at the anvil, and his brother, James (1833-1908),
working on the railway at Portsoy. James married Jane Ewan, who gave
him a son and daughter before dying young. He married again, to
Isabella Garrow (1833-1908), in 1857 and he sired three more
children before they all emigrated in 1872. Other Garrows followed.
James worked on the railway at St. Thomas initially, and then went
farming. He wrote a number of letters back to his brother, Francis,
at the Alvah Smithy. These letters are most interesting, in that
they give an excellent account of life in St. Thomas and then moving
on to farming topics. Prices of land and produce and wages are
discussed and it is evident James was making a great success of his
life in Ontario. I have barely readable copies on file.
My Murison family had the foresight to keep correspondence and
documents relating to the lives of various family members going back
to the 1700s. These were kept at the family home in Edinburgh until
the last of my aunts and uncles died. They were then deposited with
the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh on some sort of
permanent loan arrangement. A brief outline of their contents,
including all the letters from Canada, can be read by referring to
the NAS file “GD1/808/1-9: Murison (Morrison) Family, Troup,
Banffshire and Canada”.
takes you to NAS – Simple Search Screen. Click onto
this and a window called Search Catalogue Records comes
up. Go to the second choice – Reference - and type in
GD1/808 and select Exact match. Click to get the 77
pages of the GD1 catalogue. Scroll down to page 42 for