Movie legend John Wayne lands drum role

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editorial image


HE was more familiar with the sound of Apache drums during his long movie career but the ancestor of an Antrim emigrant has been immortalised on a Lambeg.

Hollywood legend John Wayne famously described himself as “just a Scotch-Irish boy” whose Ulster-Scots roots were in the Randalstown area.

The star of Stagecoach and True Grit – born Marion Morrison in Winterset, Iowa – was the great great grandson of Robert Morrison from Andraid on the River Maine.

After researching the local link, two community groups came together to pay their own unique tribute to ‘The Duke’.

Caddy and District Community Group (CDCG) along with Neillsbrook Community Development Group (NCDG) worked for months on the quest to trace the Morrison family tree – all the way back from the American frontier to Co Antrim.

With the help of the Ulster-Scots Community Network, the amateur historians found that Robert Morrison was baptised at Connor Presbyterian Church in 1782.

The network’s education officer, Matthew Warwick, said the young rebel was effectively forced into exile.

“At 16 years old, like so many of his fellow mid-Antrim Presbyterians, Robert Morrison took part in the 1798 Rebellion of United Irishmen, or the ‘turn-oot’ as it is known locally,” he said.

“After the suppression of the rebellion, Morrison learned that a warrant had been issued for his arrest for the role he had played in the insurrection.

“Fearing imprisonment, he fled with his mother Nancy across the Atlantic, arriving in New York in either 1799 or 1801.”

Thousands of Ulster Presbyterians fled their homeland for America during the 18th century, seeking religious tolerance and a new life in a land of opportunity.

The Morrisons followed the path of many previous settlers through the Carolinas, Kentucky and eventually into Ohio.

One of Robert Morrison’s sons, Clyde Morrison, eventually travelled west to California, where his eldest son Marion Morrison was to become an Oscar winner and arguably the most famous actor of all time.

Chairman of NCDG Brian Johnston said: “We would work a lot with Caddy Fife and Drum Group and they would perform at our community events so we all linked together for the project.

“We wanted to do something different for a drum and so once we had established the local link to John Wayne, we felt it would be great to have his picture on our drum.

“It will certainly catch people’s eye as it definitely stands out.”

Mr Johnston, who is also the secretary of the Claddy group, said there is a thriving community spirit and a great interest in local history.

“We run local history shows and it would just surprise you how much information that you gather up at them.

“This makes the drum more local and when someone asks why John Wayne is on it, then it’s a learning process for people,” he said.

“The drummers have been tapping away at it already. Our drumming group is out there at the hall every Thursday night and, because of where the hall is situated tight to the roadside, people who are passing often stop and call in.

“And maybe strangers stop on the way by, who have visitors from England or wherever in the car with them, stop and take photos.”

John Wayne starred in more than 140 films during a glittering career spanning five decades.

He won an Oscar for his performance as Marshal Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.




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