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David Donald Murison (28 April 1913 - 17 February 1997)

Margaret Mackay

This year sees the centenary of the birth in Fraserburgh of David Murison, who was editor of the Scottish National Dictionary (SND) from 1946 to its completion thirty years later in 1976.

He brought to this heroic task a combination of the academic study of Classics, Celtic and Old English at the universities of Aberdeen and Cambridge, his native knowledge of the richness of the Scots language and especially the Scots of the North-East, and a tremendous capacity for devotion to the work.

Following his initial academic appointment, as assistant to the Professor of Greek at the University of Aberdeen, David Murison was first the deputy, and shortly after the successor, to William Grant, who had initiated the project and had seen the publication of the first three letters of the alphabet before his death. Murison took the SND forward, moving its base in due course from Aberdeen to Edinburgh.

Scotland owes a tremendous debt to a small band of dedicated scholars, their teams and supporters, for the outstanding lexicographical resources which serve all with an interest in the lives, history and culture of her people. The careful entries in the SND, to each of which Murison gave personal attention, provide a wealth of information with their definitions, illustrative quotations and details of etymology, pronunciation, grammar and usage.

With A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) the SND forms the source for the Concise Scots Dictionary (CSD), of which a second edition is now being prepared by Scottish Language Dictionaries, and for its online Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL). The current vigorous state of Scots language, lexicography, research and study would delight Murison and vindicate his hopes for its future.

In his retirement David Murison returned with his wife Hilda to Fraserburgh, from where he continued to contribute from his vast knowledge, lightly carried, and his interest to our understanding of Scotland through further writing and publications, until his death there in 1997.

At the AGM of Scottish Language Dictionaries on September 13 David Murison was remembered with gratitude and affection. This poem, written by his friend George Bruce, a fellow native of "The Broch", captures his winsome personality, his great erudition and his modesty, and was read in his memory. It is reproduced here with kind permission.

Mindin David Murison

'It's nae mows,' he said tae me
fin' I hid tell't him that a bodie
wis jist 'kenspeckle' an he hid said,
'Na, ill teenit' o the man fa made
a monkey o wir tongue. Aye, bit said
wi twinklin ee. Sae I mind
this humorous chiel, thrawn till's daith,
niver gien tae bleat aboot his sel,
bit coorse on aa that stuid atween him
an the grite en o chievin the last wurd
i the buik o Scots. Syne he wud be
king o aa, his heid repository
o territory that raxed fae Picts tae present,
fae John o Groats tae Tweed.
Sic a wecht o warlds tae cairry,
an that he did maist lichtly.
That deen hame, tween roarin seas
an Mormond Hill. Bit niver feenished.
He tripped alang, sma-boukit man,
gryte hertit, mair than ony meth unnerstan.

From Today Tomorrow: The Collected Poems of George Bruce 1933-2000
ed. Lucina Prestige, Edinburgh: Polygon, 2001.