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Murdo Morrison

Murdo Morrison

Murdo, son of Alexander Morrison and Margaret Macdonald, Stornoway was married to Catherine Maclean, 5 Aird, Uig. They managed a bakery in Bayhead, Stornoway and raised 7 children: Alex John; Myra; Murdo; Catherine; Margaret; Muriel and John Malcolm.

Murdo's son Murdo was also known as Murtie 'Warhorse'. He was taken prisoner at St Valery during the Second World War. He survived many difficulties including the death march from Poland through Germany. A plumber to trade, he brought running water to many houses in Uig and Bernera.

In his book Around the Peat Fire Calum Smith writes of Murdo:

"As time went on and I got older, bigger and stronger, the tasks became more numerous and more remunerative. There was one that I did for some considerable time for which I got paid, although I got no money.

We were then getting all our grocery and bakery requirements from Murdo Morrison's in Bayhead and meeting the weekly bill for such a large family out of a labourer's meagre wage our out of his dole money was well nigh impossible. As a way of making this easier, it was suggested by Mr Morrison that I should assist in the bakery on Saturday mornings from 8am to 1pm with my earnings to be set against the week's bill. This is what I did and it was quite an experience.

On arriving at work in the morning I was given a white apron like the other bakers and my first task each week was to clean the inside of the mechanical dough mixer with a metal scraper and then to oil it ready for use the following week. That done, I was given general duties to perform; sieving flour, kneading bread, filling and lidding meat pies, glazing buns, washing down surfaces, sweeping the floor, shovelling coke, in fact anything that had to be done of which it was thought I was capable.

Above the bakehouse, there was a store to which I was sent occasionally to tidy up. Access was by a set of concrete steps and an end door. There was also a side door leading on to a catwalk that connected with a joiner's shop across the alley. The workshop was run by Mr Morrison's brother who did a small sideline as an undertaker and sometimes a spare coffin found its way across to the place where I tidied up, for storage purposes. One Saturday morning Mr Morrison came in as I was looking at one of these coffins which was lying open with the load to one side.

"That's a fine coffin", he said. "It certainly is", I agreed. "Try it on Johnnie boy", he continued. "What do you mean, try it on?", I asked. "Lie down in it, to see if it will fit you", he said with a twinkle in his eye. "Not on your life!", I responded. "You'd put the lid on and screw me down for the hell of it".

He then shuffled away, chuckling gleefully at his own macabre humour. Kenny (Lex) Maclean was the foreman baker and his assistant was Alexander Donald (Krooge) Nicolson. He would stand very straight, throw out his chest and declaim in ringing tones when any of us youngsters called him Krooge; "My name is Nicolson, Alexander Donald".

Malcolm (Salutation) Macdonald was the apprentice. Murdo (Warhorse) Morrison, the master baker himself, was always there and everything in that bakehouse went with a cheerful, at times even hilarious, swing. He was a dedicated Labour Party supporter and there were arguments, discussions, criticisms, counter criticisms, quips and banter. It was lively and stimulating.

When the regular bakery staff went off for breakfast, I was left alone with some task to do until they came back. Mr Morrison would come in with a bottle of lemonade, scones and/or cakes and say, "There you are Johnny boy, sit down and have that while the others are at breakfast". He called everyone Johnny boy quite indiscriminately; his foreman baker, the journeyman, the apprentice, myself; whomever he had occasion to address.

He was full of generous impulses. The lemonade and cakes were always free. At times during the week on my way home from school, he would beckon to me across the street, take me into the bake shop and pointing to the tray of hot meat pies fresh from the oven, would say, "Take one of these Johnny boy to eat going out the road". They were the best meat pies in Stornoway; the freshly minced steak was taken from the neighbouring butcher's shop just before the pies were got ready for the oven and the foreman baker attended personally to the mixing and seasoning and supervised the filling of the pies.

When the baking tray came out of the oven with the finished articles, the first pies that came off the tray were for the foreman baker to take home for his own family's use, so they had to be good. On Saturday nights when people took home the weekend groceries, no-one left his shop with an empty basket or creel, whether or not they could pay. But he found in the end that his mistaken brand of benevolent practical socialism could not work within the framework of a rapacious capitalist economy and he went bankrupt.

Title: Murdo Morrison
Record Type: People
Also Known As: Murdo Warhorse
Date of Birth: 1882
Date of Death: 1951
Occupation: Baker
Sex: Male
Bk Reference: CECL 7005
Record Maintained By: CECL
Subject Id: 61430