Letters of William Shepherd Morrison, 1st Viscount Dunrossil (1893-1961) to his brother, Dr. Donald John Morrison, and other items

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of circa 100 items of correspondence between William Shepherd Morrison (1893-1961) and his brother Dr. Donald John Morrison, referred to in the letters as ‘Pwe’. The laters are dated from 1915 to 1961and include (as a point of illustration of the type of content) the following:

  • - letter dated 11 June 1915, from the Western Front with the prospect of a German attack on Calais - 'Let the ... come !'
  • - letter dated 4 December 1927, from King's Bench Walk, Temple, EC4, was asked if he'd like a 'safe seat' - 'I have been boosted into one of the best constituencies in England- the Cirencester and Tewkesbury Division of Gloucestershire'
  • - letter dated 12 May 1929, on Cirencester and Tewkesbury Division headed paper, 'I was adopted yesterday' as candidate
  • - letter dated 4 October 1935, from King's Bench Walk, The Temple, 'purchased ... 1 cwt daffodils for 30/- and the same number of narcissi for 15/-'
  • - letter dated 30 November 1935, from Withington, Glos., 'S.B. (Stanley Baldwin) came in and after some general chat about the difficult and distressing nature of his task of cabinet making, said I want to offer you the job of Financial Secretary'
  • - letter dated 5 October 1936, from UK Delegation to the League of Nations, Geneva, in which he talks of 'narrating to Eden the successful result of a conversation which I had just concluded with the Portuguese'
  • - letter dated 2 November 1936, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Whitehall Place, SW1, in which he refers to his appointment as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, writing 'I knew nothing of this move till 6 pm on Wednesday last when I was summoned to see the PM' and when Baldwin had said 'I want to see you in the Cabinet before I go'
  • - letter dated 22 December 1936, Withington, Glos., referring to lunching in a company which included Winston Churchill who 'started to harangue to the company on the wickedness of hustling the King off his throne', and also referring to the Abdication itself, writing that Parliament 'took the Abdication Bill in its stride as if it were the Dunfermline Gas and Water Bill'
  • - letter, undated, describing dinner with the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace at 'their first party' and how the 'grub was of the best', and how after dinner they went 'into a long room where there was cinema' and 'an equerry came up and sat me down beside' the Queen
  • - letter dated 18 February 1938, Withington, Glos., in which he writes about meeting De Valera (Irish PM) and how 'I took a liking to him on our first contact' and how he 'spoke Gaelic and he said my accent was like that of Munster where he was born'

Later letters (from 1940s onwards) refer to figures such as Leslie Hore-Belisha, Ernest Bevin, Aneurin Bevan, Nikolai Bulganin, Nikita Khruschev, and Hugh Gaitskell. Later letters are headed in large part from: Headquarters 13th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise); and S. GPO Headquarters, St.Martin's Le Grand; Ministry of Town and Country Planning, 32-33 St.James's Square; Speaker's House, SW1; The Manor House, Withington, Gloucestershire; SS 'Ceramic'; Admiralty House, North Sydney; and, Government House, Canberra. Some earlier letters written at Withington, are written on House of Commons Library paper.

The letter headed Headquarters 13th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise) is in typescript and written in Gaelic with an accompanying note in English.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Shepherd Morrison was born on 10 August 1893, one of eight sons of John Morrison of Torinturk, Argyll, and Marion Morrison. He was educated at George Watson's College in Edinburgh, and during his schooling entered the Officers Training Corps (OTC), 1906-1912. He studied Arts and Law at Edinburgh University, beginning in 1912, and continued in the OTC Artillery, 1912-1914.

When the First World War broke out, Morrison interrupted his studies and in August 1914 entered the Royal Field Artillery, Special Reserve, as a 2nd Lieutenant. In March 1915 he was wounded at Neuve Chapelle, a British offensive in the Artois region, and in March and June 1915 he was mentioned in Dispatches. In March 1915 he was awarded the Military Cross, and by June 1915 he was a Lieutenant, and September 1916 an Acting Captain. In January 1916 he was again mentioned in Dispatches, and in November 1917 he became a Captain. Once more, in March 1919, he was mentioned in Dispatches. Towards the end of hostilities, he served with the Scottish Command Gas School, 1918-1919. In 1919 he resigned his Commission.

Morrison resumed his studies at Edinburgh University and while there was President of the University Union and Senior President of the Students Representative Council. He obtained the degree of M.A. in 1920. In 1923 he was called to the Bar, Inner Temple, in London. Also in 1923, in December that year, and again in October 1924, in General Elections, he contested for the Unionists in the Western Isles, Scotland, campaigning in Gaelic. In 1924 too, he married Katharine Allison Swan, in Leith. She had also been a graduate of Edinburgh University and she too was reading for the Bar.

As far as a political career was concerned, Morrison would not become an MP until 1929 when he won the constituency of Cirencester and Tewkesbury, in England, for the Conservatives. He would hold the seat though for some thirty years, until 1959. He became a KC (Kings Council) in 1934, and was appointed recorder of Walsall, Staffordshire, in 1935. He became Financial Secretary to the Treasury later that year. In 1936 he was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and a member of the Privy Council. He was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister of Food in 1939-40, Postmaster-General in 1940-42, and Minister of Town and Country Planning from 1943 until 1945 when his party went into Opposition.

By 1951, the year when the Conservatives were returned to power, Morrison was a Bencher (or Master of the Bench) - a senior Inn of Court member - and from October 1951 to 1959 he was Speaker of the House of Commons presiding, for example, over debates on the Suez crisis in 1956. In 1959 he retired from the House and soon afterwards, in November 1959, he was chosen to succeed Sir William (Viscount) Slim as Governor-General of Australia. He was created Viscount Dunrossil of Vallaquie (on the island of North Uist, Outer Hebrides) and appointed G.C.M.G.

Morrison had seven brothers: John Morrison, Donald Morrison, Alexander Morrison, Neil Morrison, Donald John Morrison, Cecil John Rhodes Morrison, and Roderick Morrison. In 1965, the Lord Lyon King of Arms recognised the eldest brother, John Morrison of Ruchdi, as chief of clan and name Morrison. Donald Morrison had studied pharmacology and then became a crofter and general merchant in North Uist. Alexander Morrison was a farmer in Canada, but was killed at Loos in 1915. Neil Morrison became a solicitor. Donald John Morrison - called 'Pwe' or 'DJ' - became a GP in Ballantrae, Ayrshire. Cecil John Rhodes Morrison became a doctor, a radiologist, in London. Sadly, Roderick Morrison died in infancy.

William Shepherd Morrison, 1st Viscount Dunrossil, died on 3 February 1961 at Government House, Canberra, Australia. After a state funeral, he was buried in the graveyard of the Church of St John the Baptist, Reid, Canberra. His eldest son, John Morrison, succeeded to the viscountcy. His widow, Lady Dunrossil died in England in 1983.

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Acquisition Information

Purchased from a nephew of W. S. Morrison in May 2008. Accession no: E2008.24.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Notes prepared by a nephew of William Shepherd Morrison. (2) Who's who 1960. pp.2144-2145. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1960. (3) University of Edinburgh Roll of Honour 1914-1919. p.538. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1921.

Other Finding Aids

Some notes acquired when the collection was acquired

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D. Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections

Related Material

Apparently - and according to the National Register of Archives - the Welwyn Garden City Central Library in England holds Morrison correspondence with Frederic Osborn, 1943-47.