Obituary: Robin Morris, sportsman, journalist and community activist

Robin Morris
Robin Morris
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Robin Morris, sportsman, journalist and community activist: Born 12 July 1949 in Edinburgh. Died 4 February 2018 in Edinburgh, aged 68.

There can’t be many local funerals where the line of mourners waiting to get into the church stretches right around the block and even the overflow hall with CCTV relay has standing room only. But last Friday more than 500 people gathered at Christ Church, Morningside, in Edinburgh to remember and celebrate the life of local man Robin Morris, who died on 4 February after a heroic but ultimately unwinnable battle with cancer.

People came from the local community, from around the UK and from as far away as South Africa and Australia to celebrate the life of this amazing man.

Robin was a pupil from the age of five at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, at that time a boys-only school, where he recently organised a highly successful reunion of fellow-Watsonians who had left school 50 years earlier. This was not too difficult for Robin because he had made a point of staying in touch with most of his former schoolmates. Some of us used to joke that, wherever he went, even into a room full of supposed strangers, Robin would discover at least four people he’d been at school with.

Professionally, Robin had led a multi-faceted life, which was reflected in the assembled gathering at Christ Church and later at Mortonhall Crematorium: former colleagues from his early days as a banker, first with the British Linen Bank in Leith, then the Bank of Scotland Head Office and later with Credit Lyonnais in London; as well as sports journalists who had worked with him on the compilation of fixture results; and professional sportsmen and women.

Outside of work, Robin had numerous interests, many of them to do with sport. As a young man he loved running, with endurance races and steeplechase being his best track events, and he spoke proudly of having been invited in 1970 to train at the soon-to-be opened new Meadowbank Stadium, alongside athletic greats such as Dave Bedford, David Jenkins and Dave Morecroft. Later on his focus changed to hill running and he helped to found the Scottish Hill Runners Association, the first meeting of which was held in the back of Robin’s car.In 1983 he became the winner of the first Scottish Hill Running Championship. He also played golf and was a proud member of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society, where at the time of his death he was engaged in establishing a library of golf memorabilia, including hickory clubs, which he himself enjoyed using on the golf course while dressed in his plus fours.

His interests in sport were wide-ranging and he was delighted to be asked in 2002 to join the panel which would choose the inaugural and subsequent inductees into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.

Robin’s Christian faith was was very important to him and he was an active member of Christ Church, joining the vestry in 1985.

And he was passionate about his local community. He served as Secretary, then Vice Chair and eventually Chair of Merchiston Community Council, a post which he held until 2017. He represented his community council at the Edinburgh Association of Community Councils and was a member of Edinburgh City Council’s Licensing Forum, of its South Central Neighbourhood Partnership and of its Local Environment Forum. Because he talked to people, and kept his ear to the ground, he knew about local issues long before they came to public notice. The Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links had recently recruited him as their Treasurer, while to the local Liberal Democrats he had been for many years a valued activist. The Eric Liddell Centre, of which Robin was a founder member, had since 2012 enjoyed his support as a trustee. An enthusiastic signatory to the local branch of PAL (People Against Litter), Robin was a familiar sight picking up litter and cigarette ends around the streets of Bruntsfield and Morningside. This is hardly a glamorous job and one of his community council colleagues aptly wrote of him as follows: “Robin’s contribution to MCC was exceptional. No action which might improve the community was beneath him”.

But Robin’s first and greatest love was his family. In 1979 he married Rosalind Boyes and their two daughters Wendy and Suzanne, now a doctor and a teacher respectively, were his pride and joy. The hospitality at the Morris family home in Morningside was unstinting; even if you had only rung the bell to deliver some papers for a meeting, you would be invited in and plied with tea and home-baked cake.

Robin and Roz loved travelling and were pleased that at the end of last year they were able to have a final holiday in Madeira and another in Orkney – both places where they had spent many good times together throughout their long and happy marriage. They had a cottage by the sea in St Abbs which, when Robin’s busy diary permitted, became a much-valued weekend and holiday retreat.

Robin loved meeting and talking to people. If you were being introduced to him for the first time, you could expect to be interrogated at length about your origins, your family, your education and your interests – but always in a kindly way. Even when he was very ill and not able to leave the house, Robin was interested to hear what was going on in the lives of his friends.

Last week’s celebration of Robin’s life, led by his good friend Christ Church Rector Susan Macdonald, was a truly uplifting event and the congregation filed out of the church afterwards to the haunting strains of Vangelis’s theme tune to Chariots of Fire, Robin’s all-time favourite movie, featuring his great hero, Eric Liddell, whose values and beliefs he always admired, respected and shared.

Bridget Stevens