Real Lives: Former Canongate minister dies

William Morris. Picture: The Herald
William Morris. Picture: The Herald
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A FORMER assistant at Canongate Kirk, Reverend Doctor William Morris, has died, aged 88.

The Welsh-born minister lived for much of his life in Scotland and served in several roles in churches across the country.

Born William James Morris on August 22nd, 1925 in Cardiff, he attended high school in his home city before going on to study at the University of Wales. He graduated in arts from Cardiff in 1946 and divinity from the United Theological College at Aberystwyth in 1949.

It was after this that he left his country of birth and made the journey to Scotland, where he would remain for most of his life. He trained for the ministry, and Edinburgh proved to be his first destination. Between 1949 and 1951 he was assistant at the Canongate Kirk to minister Ronald Selby Wright, a future moderator.

Dr Morris was licensed by the Presbytery of Glamorgan in 1950 and ordained in the Presbyterian Church of Wales. His temporary return to his home country included short ministries at Barry Island and Cadoxton before he came back to Scotland in 1953 as minister of St David’s Church in Buckhaven, Fife. He also made a return to Edinburgh, the capital city playing host to his postgraduate education when he took his PhD at the New College in 1954.

Although Dr Morris was not Scottish by birth, he had a strong connection to the country which was solidified in 1952 when he married Jean Howie, a daughter of the Kilmarnock Laigh manse. His wife would go on to spend 12 years as chairman of the parole board for the Glasgow Council of Social Service.

In 1957, he moved to Peterhead Old Parish Church before succeeding Rev Nevile Davidson at Glasgow Cathedral ten years later. Between 1977 and 1980 he served as convener of the advisory board to the General Assembly. He also took on the role of chaplain of Strathclyde Police, the Trades House, Glasgow Academy and the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, as well as the position of honorary president of the Glasgow Council of Social Service while his wife was chairman. The couple lived in the cathedral manse in Pollokshields for many years before later moving to Newton Mearns.

After 40 years of service, Dr Morris retired from Glasgow Cathedral in 2007, succeeded by Rev Laurence Whitley. He received many distinctions over the years he spent in Scotland, including honorary degrees from Strathclyde and Glasgow universities. He also served as chaplain of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s bodyguard in Scotland based at Archer’s Hall in Edinburgh. He had been one of the Queen’s chaplains since 1969 and was also a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, an honour given to those who have served the monarchy in a personal way.

He was predeceased by Jean and
is survived by their son.