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My GGG Grandfather – William Morison #52ancestors

June 18, 2020

Professional genealogist and podcaster Amy Johnson Crow has put out the challenge to genealogists and family historians, to write stories about 52 of their ancestors in 52 weeks. I am happily taking up the challenge, and look forward to writing stories, that will collate many years of research results. In most cases, the research for my ancestors is not complete, and possibly never will be complete, but I’m hoping to build a story of the lives they lived with the information I have to hand. I’m hoping to publish these stories in a book at the end of 2020. Each week a prompt will be given as the theme for the week.

Week 23: Unexpected

My great great great grandfather William MORISON was born in 1822 at Glenshiel, Ross-Shire, Scotland, to parents Alexander MORISON and Margaret MacLEOD. In 1817,  William married Jennat MacRAE at Glenshiel. They had a large family of eleven children – eight boys and three girls, including a set of twins, a boy and a girl, who passed away shortly after their birth. Their second child Farquhar was my great great grandfather, who arrived in Australia in 1848.

William was the schoolmaster at the parochial school in Glenshiel. He was also the Registrar for the area. After his death in 1860, both positions, went to his eldest son Alexander MORISON, who passed them on to his brother, James. Their sister,Jane, eventually took on the positions, which it appears she kept until her retirement.

Other than the above information, I have been able to find very little to fill out the story of William MORISON’s life, until recently. Unexpectedly, I came across the following entry on Scottish Indexes High Court of Justiciary Trial Papers that showed that William was a victim of forgery in 1835.

Title:                         Trial papers relating to John MacDonald
Name:                      William Morison
Role:                         Victim
Designation:            Glenshiel, Ross
Crime:                       Forgery
Crime Location:       Leackachan, Glenshiel, Ross
Trial Date:                23 April 1835
Trial Location:          Inverness
NRS Reference:       JC26/1835/10

My intention was to immediately get access to these records. In normal times, I would have asked my Scottish researcher friend if she would mind personally getting them for me, from the National Records of Scotland, archive centre. But these weren’t normal times. As we were in the midst of a pandemic, the archives centre was of course closed, until who knew when. I resigned my impatient self that I would just have to be patient, and wait until the centre re-opened.

But just a few weeks later, as I was aimlessly googling and searching late at night,  I came across a message board from about 15 years ago, where I had posted about my Scottish Morison family. Honestly, I have no memory of writing that post, but it was there to see, and I had signed off with my original email address from many years ago, which is no longer valid, as it was attached to an internet provider, that probably doesn’t even exist now.  But that night, I read a message from a person who had tried to email me, but had no answer, and was wanting to contact me, as she had information about William.

I contacted her immediately, not expecting a reply after so many years, but just a few days later, there was a reply. Her interest  wasn’t in the MORISON family, but in the person who was charged with the forgery against William MORISON, as he lived in an area that she was researching. This researcher, Marianne, had the actual trial documents in her possession and very generously shared them with me.


In 1834, John MacDONALD, who was slightly acquainted with William MORISON as they both lived at Leackachan, Glenshiel, passed a forged Bill of Payment to The National Bank of Scotland for £12. The cheque was signed by William MORISON. Subsequent investigation found the signature was different to that of William Morison, who said he did not sign the Bill. MacDONALD was found guilty and transported to Tasmania in 1837.

Following is the statement made by William MORISON:

I, William Morison, Schoolmaster of the Parish of Glenshiel, in the County of Ross, a married man, aged fifty years, who, being judicially examined and interrogated, declare that the Declarant knows and is well acquainted with John MacDonald, residing at Leackachan, in the parish of Glenshiel, who has been resident in that parish, for, the Declarant believes, the last sixteen years, that he is a cooper and an excellent tradesman, but much addicted to drinking. that this is the only vice the Declarant knows him to be guilty of. that the only transactions the Declarant ever had with MacDonald are, that in September, eighteeen hundred and thirty three, the Declarant became liable by a written obligation to Mr. John Duncan, manager at Ratargan for a dozen herring barrels, which MacDonald had borrowed from Duncan and not returned and that on one occasion he lent him half a crown.
That MacDonald, never upon any occasion colluded the Declarant to sign any bill or document whatever, or to accomodate him in any shape, except as where stated, and he never did put his name to any bill or other writing in which Macdonald was a co-obligant, or to which he was a party with the exception of the said obligation in favor of Duncan. And being now shown a Bill dated “Leackachan 2nd July 1834”, for £12 sterling, purporting to be drawn at four months date, and signed “William Morison” and addressed “To Mr. John Macdonald, Cooper, Leackachan, Kintaile”, and signed, “John MacDonald” and endorsed “William Morison”. Pay the National Bank of Scotland or order “Roderick Matheson” declares that the name “William Morison” there exhibited is not the Declarant’s signature (signature William Morison), and that the Declarant never saw the said Bill before, and the same is now marked and signed by the Declarant and Sheriff, as relative hereto declares that the Declarant’s signature is quite dissimilar from that of “William Morison” on the said Bill, and that the signature which he here sets down is written in the character always observed by him in his genuine subscription.
Declares that the Declarant also sometimes contracts his name and signs “Wm” for William, and of this mode of subscription the following a correct specimen (signature: Wm Morison)
Declares that the Declarant has seldom seen and does not very much know the handwriting of the said John MacDonald, all which he declares to be truth.
Declares also, that in the month of November last, the Declarant received intimation from Dingwall, that a Bill of the same date, amount, and term on payment and signed by the same parties, as that already shown him, was lying in The National Bank, there under Protest, and calling on him for payment, to which he immediately replied, denying all knowledge of the transaction. That he was served with a charge of (unrecognisable word) on the twenty first of January last, and that in the following day he had an interview with the agent at Janetown, where he then was, and to whom he repeated in person what he had formerly written. (signed William Morison)


William MORISON died, aged 80, at 5am at The Schoolhouse, Glenshiel, on 09 July 1860. The cause of his sudden death was disease of the heart. The Registrar was his eldest son, Alexander. He was buried at Clachan Duich cemetary. Kintail.

*Please note: The common surname spelling these days seems to be “Morrison” but it was more commonly spelt as “Morison” in Scotland. At least this is how it was for my family. It appears that the double ‘RR’ was added on arrival in Australia.

O.P.R Marriages 067/00 0010 0067 Glenshiel. National Records of Scotland.
Specimens National Archives of Scotland NAS 02024 JC26 -1835-10-00037
Indictment National Archives of Scotland NAS02024 AD 14-35-12-00048
Indictment Lord Advocate vs John MacDonald National Archives of Scotland NAS02024 JC26-1835-10-00014
Precognition 1835R National Archives of Scotland NAS02024 AD14-35-12-00029
Protest National Bank National Archives of Scotland NAS02024 AD14-35-12-00033
1860, MORISON, WILLIAM, Statutory Death Registers Deaths 067/6 National Records of Scotland

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From → Family stories

  1. Very interesting and revealing about the value of serendipity in research.

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