Mary Graham

The genealogy of our only Scottish ancestor (prior to Mom Morry) has always been a matter of pride to the Morrys, though perhaps somewhat misplaced, as I will explain.

Family lore on this genealogy was passed down to this generation by Dad Morry. The story evidently came to him from both his maiden aunt Emily Frances Victoria Morry (known as Frances) and her first cousin Helena (Morry) LeMessurier. There are four handwritten pages in the Morry Papers at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador that appear to have been written by one of these ladies to Dad Morry when he was a young lad. Here are digitised copies of these:

Pages One and Two

Pages Three and Four

In these accounts it has always been suggested that Mary Graham was a direct descendant of the Stewarts (or Stuarts), the Scottish royal family. It is stated that Mary was daughter of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, 1648-1689 (known as Bluidy Clavers to his detractors and Bonnie Dundee to those who considered him a hero). According to these accounts, John was the son of Lord William Graham and Mary Stuart, daughter of Robert III of Scotland.

However this chronology, frequently quoted by Dad Morry and written of by the ladies mentioned above, is completely inaccurate. Mary Graham, who married Matthew Morry, the immigrant, was the daughter of Christopher Graham and Mary Churchwill of Dartmouth. If there was a Mary Graham who was the daughter of John Graham of Claverhouse she would have lived almost a century before Matthew Morry’s wife, who was born about 1750. Moreover, John Graham of Claverhouse did not marry Mary Stuart, daughter of Robert III of Scotland. He was in fact born two centuries too late to have that honour. Indeed he himself was a descendant of Princess Mary and Sir William de Graham and 8 generations separated them.

This mix-up in chronology doesn’t mean that the family connections of the Morrys to the royal Stuarts via the Grahams are false. It may simply mean that the intervening generations have been forgotten over the years, leading to the curious compression in the accounts of Dad Morry and his sources. Enid O’Brien and Aunt Jean Funkhouser both studied these accounts and tried to make sense of them, as have I, but none of us have ever put the effort into this that would be needed to finally set to rights the whole affair. Another retirement task!

For what it is worth, I present below some of the particulars on the Grahams of Claverhouse.

Mary Graham, the first wife of Matthew Morry, was nonetheless a remarkable woman. She raised a family of at least nine children through to adulthood while her husband conducted his business affairs at home and in the New World. She herself never lived to emigrate with her husband. She died and was buried in Dartmouth in 1796. Matthew had already begun to make plans for a permanent relocation to Newfoundland, having acquired the right to water front premises in Caplin Bay in 1790. Only a few of his children made the move with him.


James, the 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Montrose (known to history as the “Great Montrose”) was a kinsman of John Graham of Claverhouse and they fought side by side on behalf of their monarch, both dying for their cause. An account of their kinship is given in the family tree.

The Tartan of the Grahams of Montrose

The ancestral lands of all of the Graham septs are shown on the map below. The clan was generally associated with the lowlands, though they did gather forces around them from the highlands during the Troubles.

I am copying below a portion of text from the brief account of Clan Graham by John Stewart of Ardvorlich which was published in 1958 under the series of Johnston’s Clan Histories. The text quoted pertains to the Claverhouse line of Clan Graham.



   Sir Robert Graham, 1st Baron of Fintry, was the eldest son of the second marriage of Sir William de Graham to the Princess Mary, daughter of King Robert III. His younger brother was William Graham of Garvock. Robert acquired the lands of Fintry in Stirlingshire, and also certain lands in Angus with which he and his successors became identified, and, when, in the seventeenth century, the lands of Fintry were sold to the chief of the Grahams, the 2nd Marquess of Montrose, the lands in Angus came to be known as Fintry.

The second laird of Fintry married Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Douglas. Miss Graeme of Inchbrakie, in her exhaustive book on the Grahams, called Or and Sable, mentioned a contract of marriage where it is set forth that “Robert of Fintrie has to wife Elizabeth of Douglas, or failing her Margaret, whom failing Pelys, whom failing Elysson,” and that should Robert predecease the marriage then David, his brother germane, should marry whichever of the four sisters was “most expedient” Expediency did not have to be resorted to! Sir David, 6th of Fintry, was implicated in a mysterious Popish Plot to restore Roman Catholicism to Scotland , known to history as “The Spanish Blanks”. Many were found to be involved when the plot was discovered, but the laird of Fintry was the only leader to be beheaded in 1592. His son, also Sir David, was a devoted follower of his chief, Montrose, during the Troubles. Robert, the 12th Laird, was the last of the line to hold lands in Scotland, and it was a condition of the sale of the lands in Angus, towards the end of the eighteenth century, that the purchasers were not to use the style “of Fintry” The Grahams of Fintry later settled in South Africa, where the town of Grahamstown bears their name, and where many of them continue to this day.

Of all the Fintry stock, the most famous was John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee. He was seventh in descent from John, son of Robert 2nd of Fintry. His predecessors had acquired the lands of Ballargus in Angus about 1481 and those of Claverhouse, near Dundee , about twenty years later. John Graham was born in 1648, eldest son of William Graham of Claverhouse and Lady Magdalene Carnegie, daughter of John, Earl of Ethie, afterwards Earl of Northesk.

After finishing his education at St. Andrews University , he entered foreign service, first as a volunteer in France , later in Holland , where he served under William, Prince of Orange. Having gained experience, he returned to Britain where, by the interest of James, Duke of York (King Charles II’s brother, later James II), he obtained command of an independent troop of horse, and was employed in policing the south-western counties of Scotland, where the Covenanting population was practically in open rebellion against the government of King Charles.

Very briefly, the trouble arose when Charles II re-imposed Episcopacy upon Scotland after his Restoration. The country took it in different ways: the Highlands were more or less indifferent; Central Scotland resented it, talked, but did nothing; but the south-west counties, particularly Ayrshire and Galloway, rebelled and defied the government. Religious meetings of the Covenanters called conventicles, which were generally held in the open and at which many of the men were armed, were looked upon as particularly odious and dangerous by the authorities, and it was while employed on the duty of stamping out conventicles, dispersing the congregations, and apprehending the ringleaders, that Claverhouse incurred the unmitigated hatred of the Covenanters [Editor’s Note: It was for his handling of these events that earned the odious title “Bloody Claverhouse” or “Bluidy Clavers”]. He acted with thoroughness and on occasions with harshness, but it is questionable whether he ever exceeded his orders. On one occasion, at Drumclog, in 1679, he was defeated when he tried to disperse a conventicle, but a few weeks later he was present at the Battle of Bothwell Brig where the King’s forces defeated the Covenanters. Strangely enough, Claverhouse married in 1684 Jean, daughter of Lord Cochrane (eldest son of the Earl of Dundonald), a notorious Covenanter. In spite of the machinations of his enemies who found this marriage a useful weapon against him and tried to turn it to their advantage, he continued to rise in the Royal favour, and when King Charles II died in 1685 and was succeeded by Claverhouse’s patron, James, Duke of York, as James II, he had further advancement, being promoted Major-General in 1686. In 1688 William of Orange landed in England with the intention of wresting the throne from King James. Claverhouse took part in the brief and inglorious campaign, and a month before the King fled to France he created him Viscount of Dundee.

Dundee was one of the few men of action in Britain who remained unswervingly loyal to King James, and he, assisted by a handful of friends, emulated his great kinsman, Montrose, by retiring to the Highlands and raising an army in the King’s name to oppose the forces of William of Orange who had been proclaimed and accepted by the vast majority of the people as William III. The story of Dundee ‘s short but brilliant campaign is well known. In the only large-scale engagement of the rising he lured his enemy through the pass of Killiecrankie, and inflicted a crushing defeat upon a superior force. Dundee was killed in the very hour of victory. With his death the rising petered out under the inept leadership of General Cannon, his successor.

It is inevitable that the careers and accomplishments of the two most notable Grahams should be compared. Both men embarked in support of waning, if not lost causes. Both men imbued by intense loyalty to their sovereign sacrificed their homes and their lives. Both men took their chosen course against the most fearful odds, and by their personal magnetism were capable of raising, leading, and inspiring the Highland clans. Montrose, though he suffered death and ignominy at the hands of his opponents, never earned the hatred and abuse of Covenanting historians to the same extent as Dundee . Indeed, Montrose, in the course of time, has become a national hero, the beau ideal of chivalry and loyalty. Dundee , killed in the hour of victory, has, probably undeservedly, come down as “Bloody Clavers”.

From: Johnston’s Clan Histories – The Grahams. By John Stewart of Ardvorlich. Edinburgh , 1958.

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