Obituary - William Morgan 1911-2009

3rd July 2009 at 01:00

In his 30 years in the classroom, Bill Morgan taught several generations of pupils, won the football pools and developed a neat sideline in manufacturing illicit elderberry wine.

Indeed, until his death at the age of 97, Morgan's love of children, football and a tipple remained undimmed.

William Morgan was born in Ebbw Vale, in south Wales, in 1911. True to cliche, the land of his birth engendered in him a life-long love of singing and rugby.

He left Wales during the Second World War, when he joined the Welsh Guards and was sent to India and Burma - the forgotten war. It was not until months before his death that he began to talk openly being shot at by Japanese snipers or seeing friends mutilated and killed.

The war ended shortly before he was to be promoted from captain to major. After his discharge, Morgan returned to Britain and enrolled in a teacher training college in Birmingham. This was a deliberate career move: he was fond of young children, and welcomed the chance to work with them.

It was while at college that he met Marjory, the woman who was to become his wife. But the exigencies of their new profession stood in the way of romance: Marjory was sent to train in Bath, while Morgan was appointed PE and geography specialist at a primary in Birmingham.

A year and several professional negotiations later, they both moved to Blackburn, and married in 1949. In 1950, Morgan began work at Cedar Street Primary, the school where he would remain until his retirement 28 years later.

It was the PE side of his job that he always spoke about the most. He loved coaching the boys' football team, an activity that neatly complemented his own sporting activities. As well as playing cricket and tennis, he was a dedicated follower of professional cricket, rugby and football.

And he was an equally dedicated player of the football pools. Even when the English football season was over, he would eagerly gamble on the Australian leagues. Though he never made millions, he did have a few decent wins. On one occasion, in the mid-1970s, he arrived home, grabbed Marjory and began waltzing around the house with her in celebration of a Pounds 2,000 windfall.

He and Marjory did not only dance at home: they regularly attended teachers' social events and retirement dances. But they also had a far less public hobby.

Along with a colleague at the secondary where Marjory worked, the couple set up a home distillery. There, they would regularly brew carrot or elderberry wine, painstakingly separating the tiny berries and fermenting them in large demijohns stored in school cupboards.

But the distilling was merely a prelude to a more important process: the drinking. The more sugar they added, the more alcoholic the wine became; the Morgans' bottles were always sugar-filled.

After a stressful day at work, Morgan would regularly go for walks in the woods and hills near his Blackburn home, then return for a stiff glass of elderberry wine.

The wine was also, surreptitiously, enjoyed by the couple's son, David, who was born in 1959. He was the couple's only child: Marjory was 44 when he was born, and he followed 10 years of miscarriages.

They were still talking about the possibility of more children into their fifties. However, no new Morgan children were born until the arrival of David's son, James, in 1989. His grandfather eagerly taught the lad to play football, cricket and rugby, sports he still followed enthusiastically into his nineties.

Eighteen months ago, he surprised doctors by surviving an illness that left him bed-bound and unable to eat for weeks. Then, on May 11, three months before his 60th wedding anniversary, his heart and lungs failed.

Bill Morgan is survived by his wife, Marjory, son, David, and grandson, James.

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