Morrison Collection

The James Morrison Photographic Collection
1890 – 1925


The collection was discovered in 1985 in an old blocked up cupboard in the farm house at Stoneyards Belhelvie where James Morrison had lived from around 1870. Mr and Mrs Sibald the owners of Stoneyards in 1985 discovered the glass plates during renovations to the house.


The plates were later passed to the Buchan Heritage Society, giving them sole ownership and copyright, with the support and approval of James Morrison’s two daughters.
Some work was carried out on the collection at that time by the late Eric Ellington with financial support from BP.


This is a unique collection, most of which has never been seen by the public before, little did James Morrison think as he travelled around rural Aberdeenshire on his cycle, and later motor cycle, that we would again be looking at his view of country life over a hundred years on, marvelling at his ability as an amateur photographer.


The collection consists of seven hundred glass plate negatives all of which have been   conserved and digitised.


They mostly depict rural life in an area north of Aberdeen from 1890 to 1925 looking at portraits of families and farm workers on the farms and crofts of that time and particularly the horse and the dedicated men who worked the land.


This collection provides an excellent view of our heritage and social history as well as of  significant value to education.


James Morrison was born in 1865 to farmer’s son William Morrison and his wife Jane Murray at Newseat of Schivas in the parish of Tarves. He was the eldest of five children.


They moved to Stoneyards of Belhelvie, a fifty acre farm, around 1870 where later James worked alongside his father at Stoneyards.


He married Helen Riddell in 1911 at the age of forty six and had three of a family. His son, James, became a policeman in London and his two daughters Mary and Rosa who never married and continued to stay in the family home at Menie.


He was a very sociable man with an interest in the traditions and played the pipes and the fiddle. He was a very distinguished member of the coast guard service and was a member for fifty years.


After coming off the farm he started up as cycle agent at his home at Menie. He died there in 1952 and is buried in Belhelvie Church yard.


He is believed to have taken up photography as hobby in the 1880s achieving a very high degree of skill.

The collection covers a wide and diverse view of life; most of his prints include people from all levels of society, a great glimpse of the work and daily darg of people in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries and particularly the First World War period. They also show the great pride and relationship of men and horse.


Since the launch of the digitised collection with a display at Fyvie Castle on November 2011, there have been twenty five Village halls throughout the northeast  where the complete collection was made available as well as similar number of clubs visited.


Most of the work involved in bringing this collection to the public eye was due to the dedication, time and effort of chairman, Sandy May.


There are only a small number of photographs in the collection where we have accurate information on the content, therefore we need your help to identify people and places in these prints.


If you would like to contact us further on the Morrison Collection please click here to fill out our contact form.