The Duke John Wayne’s Northern Irish roots

The Quiet Man actor John Wayne, nicknamed the Duke, may have been born in Iowa but his roots trace him back to County Antrim in Ireland.

John Wayne (real name: Marion Michael Morrison) was one of the most famous actors during the Hollywood Golden Age.

Though he appeared in a total of 179 film and television productions, he is noted most for his role as the retired and haunted boxer Sean Thornton in the film The Quiet Man alongside Maureen O’Hara.

The John Ford directed technicolor movie remains one of the most popular Irish movies in America today.

John Wayne with Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man

John Wayne’s Irish connections span back to his great-grandfather, Robert Morrison, who came from the parish of Drummaul in County Antrim. He eventually emigrated to the US in the early 1800s.

After arriving in New York his great-grandfather traveled to South Carolina where he worked as a weaver, similar to the job he had back in Ireland. Robert married Mary Mitchell in the US and the coupled settled in Ohio.

One of their children, James, married in 1836 and named one of his children Marion Mitchell Morrison – a name that was passed onto his grandson (the future John Wayne), who was born at Winterset in Iowa in 1907. The family soon moved again, this time to California.

During the filming of The Quiet Man, Wayne brought his family to spend six weeks on location in Cong, Co Mayo. 

In 2013, Wayne’s son Patrick and daughter Marisa were honored at the second John Ford Ireland Symposium in Dublin. Speaking at the Savoy Theater on O’Connell Street, Patrick (who was 73 at the time), told the crowds that his father had never forgotten where he’d come from.

Patrick said “He, as a person, came from a humble background and never lost touch.”

“He thought loyalty, family, respect, and decency in people were very important.”

After John Wayne’s death in 1979, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States.


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