Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Morison, John (1750-1798)
MORISON, JOHN (1750–1798), Scottish divine and poet, was born at Cairnie, Aberdeenshire, in June 1750. Educated at King's College, Aberdeen, he spent some years as a private tutor, first at Dunuet, Caithnessshire, and afterwards at Banniskirk. Graduating M.A. in 1771, he was schoolmaster at Thurso about 1773, subsequently went to Edinburgh for further study, and in September 1780 was appointed minister of Canisbay, Caithness-shire, the most northerly church on the mainland. In 1792 he received the degree of D.D. from Edinburgh University. He died, after many years' seclusion, at Canisbay, 12 June 1798.
Morison's claim to remembrance rests on his contributions to the final edition of the 'Scottish Paraphrases,' 1781. When the collection was in preparation, he submitted twenty-four pieces to the committee, of which he was himself a member, but only seven (Nos. 19, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 35) were accepted, and some of these were slightly altered, probably by his friend John Logan [q. v.] Most of the seven became 'household words' in the presbyterian churches, and one or two are freely used as hymns by other denominations. The thirty-fifth,' 'Twas on that night when doom'd to know,' has long been the Scottish communion hymn, but it appears to be founded partly on Watts's' 'Twas on that dark, that doleful night,' and partly on a Latin hymn by Andreas Ellinger (cf. Private Prayers cited below; Maclagan, p. 107; Bonar, Notes). From 1771 to 1775 Morison contributed verses, under the signature of 'Musæus,' to Ruddiman's 'Edinburgh Weekly Magazine,' but these are of no particular merit. He wrote the account of the parish of Canisbay for Sinclair's 'Statistical Account,' and collected the topographical history of Caithness for Chalmers's 'Caledonia.' A translation of Herodian's 'History ' from the Greek remained in manuscript. He was an accomplished classical scholar and an able preacher.
[Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ, iii. 359; Calder's History of Caithness; Maclagan's History of the Scottish Paraphrases; Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology; Burns's Memoir of Dr. Macgill; Bonar's Notes in Free Church Hymnal; Free Church Magazine, May 1847; Life and Work Magazine, January 1888; Private Prayers put forth by Authority during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (Parker Soc.), p. 405; Cairnie parish register.]