1st January 1782
Back to List

John Wayne (real name Marion Robert Morrison) has strong connections with Randalstown and the parish of Drummaul.

The actor John Wayne, b 1907 Iowa & died 1979 in Los Angeles), was descended from a family who lived in the parish of Drummaul and emigrated to the US in the early 1800s.

His family were of Scotch-Irish (Ulster-Scots) origins and reportedly this was something he often liked to bring up in conversation. They reportedly lived in or close to the townland of Caddy, just outside Randalstown.  The Caddy Fife & Drum band celebrate him today and have a drum named “the Duke” emblazoned with his picture.

The actor’s great-grandfather Robert Morrison was born around 1782 near Randalstown, though the exact whereabouts are not known. He was baptised in Connor Presbyterian church and became a weaver. Weavers often moved around to follow available work and this has made it difficult to trace precisely where they lived. 

He left for the US sometime after 1801. After arriving in New York he travelled to South Carolina where he again worked as a weaver. Robert married Mary Mitchell in the US and the coupled settled in Ohio.

One of their children, James, married in 1836 and named one of his children Marion Mitchell Morrison - a name that was passed onto his grandson, who was born at Winterset in Iowa in 1907. The family soon moved again, this time to California – and the rest is history.



  • This is very interesting as my 4x great grandfather was born in drummaul circa1796 (James O'Neill - see my other posts)

    James became a Weaver and seemed to migrate to Edinburgh which aligns with the idea that Weavers moved about. James subsequently joined the army.

    I would like to know to ask about Connor presb church.......what is the significance of the name Connor? It might be a coincidence but James grandson had connor as a middle name.

    Also, was drummaul / randalstown known for its weaving industry.....many thanks


    Thursday 3rd December 2020 07:43PM
  • Connor is the name of the parish where the church was situated.  According to this site it means a wood where wolves used to live. (The last wolf in Ireland was shot in the 1750s).


    Connor/Conor is also a common forename and surname in Ireland. (Over 1600 Connors in the 1911 Irish census).

    Randalstown was no more special for weaving than anywhere else in Ulster. Most labourers in this part of Ireland did some weaving. They were usually labourers who did weaving in the winter months when there was no labouring work. Most used portable looms in their homes, similar to those still used in the Outer Hebrides to make Harris Tweed. However as the 1800s advanced mechanisation on farms reduced the need for labourers and mechanisation of weaving (in big water powered mills) made home weaving largely uneconomic.

    You seem curious as to why your ancestor went to Scotland. Ireland lacks natural resources. No coal, oil, iron ore etc, and so apart from a modest amount of shipbuilding in Belfast and the Belfast linen mills (which mostly only employed women), it did not really get the industrial revolution that benefited England and Scotland where mills, steelworks, ship building, coal mining and all their support industries were major employers creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Much better paid than subsistence farming or weaving. Added to that you had the effects of a massive population explosion in Ireland – up from 3 million in 1750 to 8 million in 1841 (no-one is really sure of the reasons why but reduced neo-natal deaths seem to be a factor) and the famine. So some push factors and some pull factors saw huge numbers of people leave Ireland. Something like 8 million people emigrated from Ireland between 1801 & 1921.


    If you look at the Scottish censuses for the Glasgow area in the late 1800s, you will see that about every fifth person recorded there was born in Ireland. Scotland was a particularly popular place to go to work because it was easy and very cheap to get to. The shipping companies main business was cargo and the passengers were just top-up revenue. Competition was fierce and passenger fares very low. People working in Scotland could come home for weddings or the harvest, as well as holidays such as the Glasgow Fair.  You could also send children back to stay with their grandparents, thereby leaving the wife free to work. You couldn’t do all those things so easily from Australia, America or Canada.  

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 4th December 2020 04:19PM
  • My 2nd great grandfather is William L. Morrison, born 1801, somewhere in N. Ireland. I became very hopeful when FamilySearch told me that John Wayne was my 9th cousin. Turns out, though, the documented connection is to William's wife, Cynthia Rudd. Who knows, though? William and Robert may be related. Still searching for his family.

    Ann McCarthy

    Friday 11th March 2022 09:08PM

Some communities associated with this timeline