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John Morrison #52ancestors

November 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 hope to compile the posts published for the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks Challenge into a book.

Week 45

The following newspaper article was published 135 years ago, almost to the day.

John MORRISON was my great grandfather. His son Thomas Albert MORRISON is my grandfather.

John Morrison was born on 13 January, 1870 at Wild Duck Creek, near Heathcote, Victoria. His parents were Farquhar Francis MORISON and Anne McPHERSON, who emigrated to Australia from Glenshiel, Ross & Cromarty in the Highlands of Scotland.

Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette, Friday 20 November 1885, Page 2

A short time ago, a lad named John Morrison visited his uncle, Mr. A. McPherson, at Pyramid Creek, with whom he stayed about four weeks. On the 19th of October last, he left, with the intention of returning home to his parents at Heathcote, and on the morning of that day went into the National Bank, and presented a cheque, value £50, purporting to be signed by Alex. McPherson.

Mr. Dagwall the manager, knowing the signature was not the usual one of Mr. McPherson, informed the boy that he would have to bring Mr. Alex. McPherson to the bank, before the cheque would be cashed. Morrison then left, and did not return.

Shortly afterwards the matter came to the knowledge of the police, and after due enquiries had been made, it was decided to prosecute him, on a charge of uttering a forged cheque. A warrant for his apprehension was issued, and forwarded to the police authorities at Heathcote, to which place it was supposed he had made his way.

Subsequently he was arrested by Senior Constable Sheridan, brought up at the Heathcote Police Court. and remanded to Kerang, where he appeared, before Messrs. Littleton and Westblade, J ‘s.P, on Wednesday. Senior constable Coolan conducted the case for the prosecution, while Mr. Hughes, instructed by Mr Deakin, of Heathcote, defended the accused. The following evidence was adduced:

Alexander McPherson; sworn, deposed: I live with my son at Pyramid Creek. I know the prisoner. He was staying at my son’s place in October last. He was here about three weeks. He left about the 9th of that month, and said he was going home to his mother.

On the day that prisoner left, Constable Myers came to my place to enquire about a cheque. He showed it to me. I believe the one produced is the same. The signature to the cheque is not mine. I never signed a cheque for any sum about that time nor authorised anyone to do so. I could not swear to the prisoner’s handwriting. To Mr. Hughes: I did not lay an information against the prisoner. I do not want to prosecute him, as he had a fall from a horse some time ago, and I do not think he is accountable for what he does.

John W. Dagnall, sworn, deposed: I am the manager of the National Bank, Kerang. I know the prisoner. On the 19th of October last he called at the bank, and handed me a cheque for £50, which he wanted cashed. The cheque produced is the same. I asked him if the signature to the cheque was that of Alexander McPherson, and he said “yes.’ I also asked him who filled in the body of the cheque, and he said ” Archy (meaning Alex McPherson’s son), filled it in.

” I am acquainted with the signature of Alex. McPherson, and knew it was not his. I then told him he would have to bring one of the McPhersons to the bank, before the cheque could be cashed. The accused then went away, and did not return.

I retained the cheque. Both Alex. McPherson and his son transact business at the National Bank. To Mr. Hughes: I did not institute any proceed-ings against the prisoner. I explained the circumstances to the police, and told them they had better keep an eye on him for fear any thing should come of it.

Archibald McPherson, sworn, corroborated his father’s evidence, and further stated: When Constable Myers came to my place about the forged cheque, I examined my cheque book, and found two or three cheques had been taken out. The number of the cheque uttered corresponds with the block in the book. The cheques were taken out with out my consent. To Mr. Hughes: I am the prisoner’s uncle. He has been in bad health for some time past. When the prisoner left my place, I gave him a little money, and he had sufficient to take him home. While he was with me I could see he was a little deranged in his mind, as he acted very strangely. I never laid an information against him.

John Myers, sworn, deposed: I am a mounted constable, stationed at Kerang. I. remember the 19th October last. I saw Mr. Dagnall on that day, and he informed me that a young man came to the bank that morning with a cheque for £50, purporting to be signed by Alexander M’Pherson, and wanted it cashed. He knew it was not M’Pherson’s signature.

I got the cheque from Mr. Dagnall, and went at once to M’Pherson’s residence and asked him whether he had signed a cheque for £50, He said he had not, and from what I learnt there I laid an information against the prisoner, and obtained a warrant for his apprehension. To Mr. Hughes : Mr. Dagnall never stated in my presence that he did not want the lad prosecuted, neither am I aware that this was the wish of the M’Pherson’s.

The police at Sandhurst gave instructions for the case to proceed. The evidence of John Sheridan, senior constable, stationed at Heathcote, as given by him at the local court at that place was then read over, in which he deposed to the arrest of the prisoner, charging him with uttering a forged cheque. This closed the case for the prosecution.

Mr. Hughes, in reviewing the evidence for the defence, said he thought there was sufficent evidence before the court to justify the bench in discharging the prisoner. The parties concerned did not wish to prosecute him and had not done so, and it was plainly evident that the boy did not know what he was doing, and could not be held responsible for his conduct. He had always been weak minded, and since he had met with the accident had become-quite silly.

The boys father and mother would be able to tell the bench the state his health was in, and it was quite certain incarceration in gaol would not improve it. If the case were sent to a jury the country would only be put to a great deal of needless expense, as the accused would in all probability be acquitted. He therefore trusted the bench would see their way clear to discharge his client.

The evidence of Annie and Francis Morrison, the boy’s parents, showed that he had been under medical treatment for the last five or six years, and never enjoyed good health; and, since he had sustained the fall from a horse, had been much worse. The bench, after a short consultation, said they considered the case one for a jury to decide, and committed the prisoner to take his trial at the Sandhurst General Sessions on 4th December.. Bail was allowed, himself in £50, and one surety in a like amount.


John Morrison appeared at the Sandhurst General Sessions on Friday 04 December 1885, charged with uttering a forged cheque. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Before the court case, he was examined by Dr. Dick, Inspector of Asylums and Dr. Cruickshank of Sandhurst, to ascertain his mental capacity. They found him to be of sound mind at the present time, but could not certify to his state of mind at the time the cheque was presented to the bank.

After 15 minutes deliberating, the jury found John Morrison not guilty, on the grounds that he was not responsible for his actions at the time.

Click on the link for more about John Morison

*Please note: Alternative surnames – ‘Morison’ and ‘Morrison’. The earlier generations used the single ‘r’ with the later generations using ‘double r’

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

UTTERING A FORGED CHEQUE. (1885, November 20). Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette (Vic. : 1877 – 1889), p. 2. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from

Uttering a Forged Cheque. (1885, December 8). Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette (Vic. : 1877 – 1889), p. 2. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from

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From → family history

  1. What an incredible account! And how fortunate that everyone concerned (except the court and police, apparently) favored leniency in your great grandfather’s case. Who knows what it might have meant for your family if he had been sent to jail or worse instead of found not guilty. An excellent bit of research to find this stirring tale.

    • I did wonder how different my g grandfather’s life and our family’s life may have been had their been a guilty verdict. Thanks for your lovely comment.

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