NOSTALGIA: The successful Morris family

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But there were some parents, who despite poverty and hardship, managed to secure the best education possible for their children.

There have been many bright children in the past who were denied a good education because their parents couldn’t afford to keep them at school.

One such couple was Sarah and George Morris, of Ingham Road, Thornhill Lees, who made huge sacrifices, to send all their five children to grammar school and then on to university or teacher-training college.

This might not sound exceptional today, but in the 1920s, for working class people it was unheard of.

But they managed to do it on a millworker’s wage, and one of their sons, Willie, became Ambassador of Egypt.

Willie went to Oxford University where he gained two first class honours degrees – one in history and one in law.

Later, after competing with some of the best brains in the country, he gained one of the very few, very coveted vacancies in the Foreign Office.

He travelled the world and held positions in various countries before becoming Ambassador to Egypt from 1975 to 1979. He was knighted in 1977.

Sir Willie, who mixed with kings and queens and presidents, never forgot his Dewsbury roots or his working class background and remained the same plain-speaking Yorkshireman he had always been.

His obituary in The Times said: “Sir Willie was a striking and successful example of a break with the past, being one of that new generation who entered the Diplomatic Service in the immediate postwar years, without the aristocratic or professional family background which had been traditional in the Service before the Second World War. His father had been a Yorkshire millworker.”

Sir Willie was clearly one of the outstanding diplomats of his generation.

In a crisis, his Yorkshire commonsense and unflappability won the highest praise, and his quick humour and understanding, his lack of side or any desire to score, made people of all kinds accept him readily as a trusted friend and confidant.

Looking back on the successful lives of all the Morris children, one wonders how far they would have progressed in life, no matter how academically bright, if they hadn’t had parents prepared to make the sacrifices their parents had.

Clifford and Jack became local headteachers, daughter Vera became deputy head of a comprehensive school, son George became a deputy headteacher, and had a distinguished Naval career, and, most remarkable of all, Willie.

These exceptional children were all raised in a two-up-two-down house in Ingham Road, Thornhill Lees, on their dad’s wages as a warper at Wormald and Walker’s mill.

Their mother, who had five children in seven years, learned how to make every penny count by baking her own bread and making all the family’s clothes, including her sons’ suits right up to them going to university.

Her second son Jack, who I interviewed many years ago, told me how all his life he had marvelled at how his parents had managed to put them all through grammar school, university and teaching college on a millworker’s wage.

Although they’d received a grant of £25 to pay for their school uniforms, it had still been a great struggle.

All five children had to squeeze round the kitchen table to do their homework together.

It was so crowded two spinster sisters living next door let them use their front room in which to study.

Mr Morris’s only pleasure had been the occasional cigarette and a glass of beer, but even these stopped when all five children were at grammar school or university.

When war broke out in 1939, all four Morris boys joined the Navy and by the end of the war all four were commissioned officers.

Most of the Morris children are still remembered in Dewsbury by the generations of children who were taught by them.

Jack, who went to Wheelwright Boys Grammar School, was headmaster of Carlton Road School, and later head of Thornhill First and Middle School.

His sister Vera went to Wheelwright Girls’ Grammar School, and then to teacher training college.

Both Jack and Clifford went to Wheelwright Boys’ Grammar School, and then to teacher training college.

Brothers Willie and George both went to Batley Grammar School and then on to university where they both excelled.

George went to Leeds University and Willie went to Oxford University.

The photograph on this page shows proud parents, George and Sarah Morris, with their five children, Vera, George, Clifford, Willie and Jack.

I don’t know if Jack is still with us but I am grateful to him for giving me the details above so that once again I can present to the people of Dewsbury an important part of their social history.

A remarkable story of the life of the Reverend Henry Francis Lyte, the man who wrote the world famous hymn “Abide with Me”, will be related on Friday night, October 28 in Dewsbury Minster Church, starting at 7.30pm.

Please don’t miss it because there are many local connections to this fascinating story, told by one of his descendants, John Lyte, of Briestfield, who has thoroughly researched the life of his famous ancestor.

The talk will be fully illustrated and there is no admission charge.

For those wanting to research relatives who served or were killed in World War One, every Wednesday from 10.30 onwards, there will be a drop in centre held at Longcauseway Church, Dewsbury, run by Dewsbury Sacrifices which should be a great help to them.