75168: Donald Morrison

Donald was born in about 1801, the son of Morris Morrison and Peggy Johnson of Ardmaree, then old Ruisgarry. He became a farmer and married Marion Shaw, with whom he was to have at least six children, living at Tarabhig in a property later known as Tobhta Mòr ni’ Chaluim. In the 1830 rental list for Ruisgarry Donald is shown paying rent of £5.6.9.

Donald was renowned for his strength, giving his name to a large rock in Borve – Ultach Ghille Mhoire, Morrison’s Burden.

In Sgeulachdan Bhearnaraidh it is recounted that Donald once sailed to Mull with his brother-in-law, looking for trees. There, a storm overcame them and his brother-in-law disappeared. Donald clung to a plank and was rescued by a ship sailing to America. Donald joined the crew, but on Berneray it was feared, for many months, that Donald had drowned. Only his mother believed he was still alive. As the ship returned across the Atlantic, the skipper set Donald ashore on Pabbay. At that time the Pabbay folk sailed across each Sunday, landing at Cròic Ruisgearraidh and walking over Ben Leva to the Established Church. One Sunday, Berneray folk noticing a stranger heading over Ben Leva towards Tarabhig were amazed to realise it was Donald, back from his adventures.

Another tale in Sgeulachdan Bhearnaraidh tells of Donald’s encounter with an over zealous official regarding Donald’s share of kelp to spread on his crops.

Oral tradition tells of how Donald was chosen, along with Archibald Munro, to guard the shipwreck of the Sir William Wallace. On a bitter night, with no footwear other than mogain, a type of heavy knitted woollen stocking, the two men died of exposure. His widow continued living in Ruisgarry as a cottar with their young children.

However, there is a contradiction between oral tradition and local records regarding Donald’s date of death. Oral tradition, as recorded in The Place Names of Berneray and Sgeulachdan Bhearnaraidh, gives the date of the wreck as winter 1842. However, newspaper accounts of the wreck clearly record the date as 24th October 1834. Since Donald, unlike Archibald, appears in the 1841 census, and Donald’s two youngest children were born in 1839 and 1843, the simplest explanation seems to be that Donald survived that freezing night, whereas Archibald perished. 


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Date Of Birth:
Brothers Keeper Reference:
CEBH 213
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