The Chlann Mhic-Ghille-Mhuire, meaning "Devotee of St. Mary" or Morrison clan
is said to be Scandinavian in origin, supposedly descending from the natural son of the King of Norway who was shipwrecked
of the shores of Lewis.
This is the Morrison clan whereas the Morrisons of the Central Highlands, "sons
of Maurice", and the Morrisons who descend from the O'Muirgheasain bards from Ireland who settled in Harris have no connection
with the Hebridean clan of Lewis.
The Morrison chiefs once held the hereditary office of Brilheanh, brieve and judge,
under the Macleods from whom they held Habost in north Lewis.
The first recorded Morrison is Uisdean of Hugh who lived in the 16th century,
a contemporary of the last Macleod of Lewis, Roderick, who was chief till about 1595. He is said to have incurred their wrath
when he betrayed Torquil Dubh Macleod, who was beheaded by the Mackenzies in 1597. The Morrisons consequently had to seek
refuge on the mainland and about sixty families of Morrisons are said to have settled in the vicinity of Durnessin the Mackay
country, accounting for the similarity of the Morrison and Mackay tartans.
They lost the brieveship (a kind of hereditary guardian and interpreter of the
old Brehon Laws) of Lewis in 1613 when they resisted the takeover by the Mackenzies, and by the 19th century it became impossible
to even trace the line. A branch of the clan, the Morrisons in Pabbay of Harris were the hereditary smiths and armourers to
the Macleods of Harris. John Morrison of this family was a celebrated poet of the 19th century. The Morrisons of Ruchdi in
North Uist are descendants of the Morrisons of Pabbay and on petition of the Lyon Court were reinvested in arms as the chiefs
of Clan Morrison.
The Clan Morrison History
Eight centuries ago a Norse ship struggled in
heavy seas off the Scottish island of Lewis. A proud Kintyre noblewoman named Lauon stood on the deck cradling her new-born
infant son, Gillemorrie, in her arms while her husband, Olaf the Black, shouted orders to the crew. Despite his Herculean
efforts the ship foundered. Olaf, Lauon and their son plunged into the frigid waters and clung to a piece of driftwood floating
near their sinking vessel. Fortune smiled upon the stoic trio, and they were deposited safe but wet upon the stony Lewis shore.
Lauron married Olaf in 1214 and bore him one child
(Gillemorrie). The fact that she was a cousin german to Olaf's first wife was unacceptable to the church. Bishop Reginald
of the Isles declared their relationship incestuous and nullified the marriage, thereby rendering her son illegitimate in
the eyes of the church.
Gillemorrie, upon achieving manhood, married the last heiress of the Igaa (also known
as as the Clan Gow). She held the stronghold of Pabbay Castle near Harris as her birthright. It was from this union that the
Clan Morrison sprang. The strong influence of the Celt and the Norse forged the clan into a gaelic clan of the Hebridies.
Two distinct branches evolved; the Morrisons of Harris and the Morrisons of Lewis. The Morrison of Lewis established a Dun
or fortress named Dun Eistein on the northern tip of the island. The Lewis Morrisons gave rise to ten generations of brieves
(hereditary judges) which held sway over the outer Hebridean islands until 1613. This branch of the family vanished from the
pages of history following the issuance of "Letters of Fire and Sword" on August 28, 1616.
In 1226 Olaf the Black
became King of Man and the Isles. His third wife Christiana (daughter of Ferquhar, Earl of Ross), gave birth to Leod, the
progenitor of the Clan Macleod. The Morrisons of Harris became the hereditary armourers of the MacLeods.