Eulogy for W. L. Morison

Neale Morison, 8 April 2000

Dad was an educator, and he brought his work home with him. Not only did he deliberately teach us what he could, but like all parents he passed on far more of himself than he may have intended.

Dad introduced us to an academic enthusiasm for the picking of nits. On the rare occasions when he referred to a device for the magnetic recording of moving pictures, Dad would say "Vye-dee-o". When challenged, he claimed it was the correct Roman Law pronunciation.

I'll ask those of you who have an opinion on this to postpone the discussion until afterwards.


Dad educated himself in music. He bought an AWA Radiogram that smelt of furniture polish, light machine oil and valve electronics. He also bought the Oxford Companion to Music and The Record Guide, and set about acquiring the recommended versions of pieces by Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn and Mozart. One of his favourites was the Mozart Clarinet Quintet you heard as you entered. He loved English light music, particularly Gilbert and Sullivan and Flanders and Swann.

Mum sang often, and so did Dad, in his clear tenor voice, though only in private and seldom without an agenda. A common agenda was teasing Mum. He used to sing a pretty little song:

Where are you going to, my pretty maid,
Where are you going, my honey?
Going over the hills, kind sir, she said,
To my father a-mowing the barley,

Innocent enough. But the sting was in the tail:

And now she is the lawyer's wife,
And dearly the lawyer loves her,
They live in a happy, contented life,
And well in a station above her.

Using folk music as a political weapon was about all my father had in common with Bob Dylan.

Hardware and Hobbies

He was a textbook father. His own father died when he was very young, and Dad had no role model for the situation in which he found himself. So he read Dr Spock to find out what to do with us. He culled what he could from the Boy's Own Annual and Scouts, and took a night course in carpentry, where he learned a deep awe of dovetail joints.

But Dad was a man of vision, often of dark vision. He saw far in advance the myriad consequences of every action, and had an antipathy towards powerful instruments of profound change. This accounts for his politics and his behaviour with an electric drill.

He wouldn't drive a car, because too much could go wrong. Machines are our enemies, to be subjugated to our will, verbally if possible but failing that with extreme force. Dad didn't like his Black and Decker, but he knew it had to be done, and if he screwed a shelf to a wall it's still there thirty years later. The ferocity of his expression varied with the revolutions of the motor.

He built an elaborate platform for our Triang-Hornby electric trains, from bargain army surplus ammunition boxes, which caught his eye with their beautiful dovetail joints. There was a touch of trainspotter in Dad. You couldn't just run the engines around the track. You had to know their make and their history, and you felt a little guilty about coupling carriages to an engine that would never in reality have pulled them.

He created colour-coded stamp collections for Donald, Alethea and me. We'd sit beside him as he read the Gibbons catalogue. That was where I heard for the first time, and often the last, of many African and island nations. One of his last requests was that I make the necessary arrangements for the stamp collections.


Dad didn't believe in God, but he did believe in absolute truth, and honour. Dad was a closet Methodist, all except for the God part. On Sunday he and Mum sat beside the AWA Hi Fi that after 25 years finally replaced the radiogram, listening to Songs of Praise. So let's farewell him with a hymn. Please join me in singing the 23rd Psalm, The Lord's my Shepherd. The words are in your programme. Let's try to really belt it out. Dad did not believe he would be able to hear us now, but he also believed there was no harm in being proven wrong.

Neale Morison

Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd

The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want,
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
Even for his own name sake.

Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill:
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me,
And in God's house for evermore
My dwelling place shall be.

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