Wednesday 24 June 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old architect called James Gowan

James, who has died at the age of 92 ,was best known as the more reticent and cerebral partner of the larger-than-life 'starchitect', James Stirling. Although Stirling's equal in design of their early projects, he rarely received the credit he was due and following the duo’s acrimonious split in 1963, he worked alone and in relative obscurity for the next forty years.

What you possibly didn't know about James, that he :

* was born in Pollokshields, Glasgow, Scotland in 1923, the son of James Gowan and Isobel Mackenzie, from a family of Paisley meat traders and was brought up by his grandparents in Partick (right), following his parents’ separation and in reference to his youth, admitted in his fifties that : "I will never escape the Scottish Puritanism."

* having left school joined the Glasgow School of Art,  enrolling for a 'Beaux Arts' architectural degree after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, but had his studies interrupted when he was called up and spent the duration of the War serving as a radar instructor and after being demobbed at the age of 22, at the end of the War, resumed his studies in England at Kingston School of Architecture, where he was taught by Philip Powell of 'Powell & Moya Architect Practice'.

* later recalled and revealed his thoughtful approach to his studies : "When I was a student, we did studio exercises to teach both the classical and the gothic. The gothic exercises were tasks like setting out the diagonal vaulting of a chapel. That really fed into your mind the fact that the two styles were fundamentally different. With the classical, you didn’t start out with diagrams, you started with elements — orders, capitals, entablatures — which were pieced together. It sounds simplistic, but with the gothic nature of things, you had to have a geometrical armature. With a classical building, you didn’t, you could start with a plan form or an elevation. The distinction may seem narrow in words, but in effect it is not."

* after his graduation,  worked 'Powell & Moya' on plans for the 'Churchill Gardens Housing Complex' and, at the age of 28, on their winning entry to the 'Skylon 
Competition', for the 1951, Festival of Britain and after leaving, was briefly attached to the Design Office of Stevenage New Town, before he joined  'Lyons Israel Ellis', in 1954 after mistakenly thinking it was the practice of Eric Lyons, whose Span Housing he admired.

* having met the ambitious, 28 year old, James Stirling at 'Powell & Moya', in 1956, together set up set 'Stirling and Gowan' and landed a dream 'first job' for 30 apartments,'Langham House Close' near Ham Common, South-West London, for Stirling’s friend Paul Manousso, at first rejected by planners on the grounds that it infringed the neighbouring property's rights to light.

* later recalled he that Stirling said "the client would be hopping mad but that there was bugger all that could be done about it...he was going to see the client and chuck in the job rather than have the man kick him out. I asked if I could look at the problem and he passed it over. On Monday, I came in with a new plan form sketched out which he took along to the client. There was a certain disappointment because you got less on the site, but they put in the application right away and got it passed."

* saw the project, when completed in 1958, establish them as one of the most radical practices of their generation and was later described by the architectural critic, Ian Nairn, as : 'the first building in a new tough style which was as much a reaction against well-meaning vacuity as the Angry plays and novels. The fierce but not overbearing yellow brick and exposed concrete still make their protest straight.'

* continued the theme of buildings that strongly expressed their function, with the family house on the Isle if Wight, the 'House at Cowes', designed by James, between 1956 -57.

* of his early years of working with Stirling, later reflected : "We appeared to have in common, the pursuit of a single magical idea of overwhelming beauty, usually, which worked fairly well, sometimes, and would make everybody's eyes pop out. That's a reasonable objective for two young architects" and on another occasion : "We were reacting against the older generation, setting up a critique of what might be done – a reaction against boredom, plainness and the mechanical nature of contemporary rationalism, of social rationalism and dainty well-produced things."

* from 1958, supplemented his income by working as a tutor for the Architectural Association and numbered among his students and one of the brightest, the nascent neo-classical architect, Quinlan Terry and also Peter Cook and also later recalled : "Richard Rogers (left) was one of about twenty like this. All about six foot tall and so big and one day they cornered me and demanded of me an explanation of "what architecture was directed at ?" I had no idea, but I had to eat. I knew it was expected of me and in desperation I said :"It's to do with the search for the truth" and we were all terribly embarrassed, I was. They all hung their heads because it had an evangelical ring about it. It sounded pretty self-righteous and Christian" and added : "but curiously it's rather near the mark".

* worked with Stirling on the 'Housing Estate in Preston' and later reflected  : "When Stirling and I had finished the scheme, having been kicked around by almost everybody, it really was a very painful experience" and also the process of producing a 'blurb' to go with the project : "So Partner A wrote a piece of blurb and passed it to Partner B to hammer around and work on as we tended to do. We'd ricochet the thing to and fro, drawing a little bit of blood each time, until one of us lay down, though exhaustion. It was a 'simple' working relationship."

* with the 'Assembly Hall in Brunswick Park Primary School' in Southwark, London, later recalled that when they sold it to the Greater London Council Committee they :"didn't want the building. They thought it was horrible : insufficient windows at lower level for children. They hated the high level windows, the subdivision of the main space. They were all ladies really. It wasn't really a fair match : the two of us. It was a terrifying sight and every point they made, we just smashed down really and we made a piecemeal mess of them and we left the Committee Room, more or less shouting  "Yaboo" at one another. It had got to that level and "the same to you" and closing the door."

* reached the apotheosis of his work with Stirling with the 'Engineering Department Building' at the University of Leicester in 1963 and saw it hailed as the 'first postmodernist building in Britain' and later recalled : "I set the initial configuration going, working with Kit Evans, while Stirling was in America for four months. At first, we didn’t have the two auditoriums set at right angles to one another, but I saw that it could be more exciting. The thing I had in mind was the Picasso profile with the big eye slapped on the front. Later, the development of the tower was done by Stirling and the development of the back was done by me."

* later said : " Stirling is a classicist, and I am a goth...You can say Leicester is all sorts of things, but if you’re going to put your finger on it, yes, it is 'gothic' I say, Stirling at heart is a classicist. There is nothing wrong with that, but he didn’t put the building together. He didn’t think of it in the first place. He came back from America when the initiation had been done. His contribution is quite recognisable : the building is moderated. It is my gothicism with Stirling hitting it with as much classicism as he can, disregarding my ten footers with a degree of pleasure wherever he could."

* had consciously shifted violently away from the prevailing functionalist doctrines of the postwar era and instead undertook dynamic structural feats and forceful geometries with steeply raked auditoria thrust out from beneath a pair of glazed towers, as monolithic wedges clad in red tile with a crystalline roof sailing over the workshop building : sky-lights on the diagonal, with the cantilever at either end which weren’t a feature of the early drawings and were incorporated because "Professor Parkes, the Head of the department, wanted a north light, which forced you to set the skylights on the diagonal. The overhang was derived from a project for a warehouse by a student who was at the AA when I was teaching there, Edward Reynolds."

* saw the building as an embodiment of what he referred to as “the style for the job”, an idea taken up by the critic Reyner Banham in his review of the project when he said : “The building succeeds because job and style are inseparable. The character emerges with stunning force from the bones of the structure and the functions it shelters.”

* had a fierce ideological split with Stirling over their next design, the History Faculty Library at the University of Cambridge because : “At Leicester we had found a vocabulary that was recognisably ours … and Stirling was enamoured of it", whereas he believed "repeating the aesthetics was unwise” and walked away from the project and ended the partnership in 1963.

* in 1964 at the age of 41, started work on his own from his studio/house in Notting Hill and in the same year designed 'Schreiber House' in Hampstead for his client, the furniture manufacturer, Chaim Schreiber and saw it described by Woodman as : 'the most significant London townhouse of the second half of the 20th century' with the four-storey building providing an open-plan world in which he designed the moulded furniture and bespoke fittings in teak and bronze in a realisation of one of the most elaborately developed interiors in the history of post-war domestic architecture, along with what were the latest mod-cons of 'warm blown-air' and a 'built-in vacuum cleaner system.'

* gained the commission to design housing for the London County Council in Creek Road, Greenwich (left), in 1967 and Trafalgar Road in 1968 and ten years later for the local authority at East Hanningfiled, near Chelmsford.

* continued to teach in the 1970s and gave a 'tongue-in-cheek' description of his relationship with clients to students at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in 1975 :"With a miraculous idea you have got to stand by it like a nursemaid from then on. Once the idea gells any client who wants more storage space is a fool, a barbarian and he has to be silenced and dealt with. He is normally silenced by lies which is : he says : "I'd like to hang my coat up there" and you say : "A coat ? The column won't carry it. If it's something larger, it will completely disrupt the building programme." One doesn't meet him on his own ground. The implications of his tiny requests are thousands and thousands of pounds, which, of course, scares the arse off him. It is a working relationship of a kind, where you need a new client every time. There have got to be a lot of them, because they never come back."

* in his fifties drew speculative sketches of gigantic bird buildings and portly pigs, as well as a giraffe-shaped skyscraper for the Thames at Greenwich Reach, whose long legs were suited to weathering the tidal conditions and for the 'Millbank Housing Competition', in 1977, a monumental howling dog, plated in gold, whose construction would have been funded by a massive levy on City bankers and said : “The quality I had in mind was the one that HG Wells describes in 'The War of the Worlds'. An object arrives in the middle of an English village and it is pretty fearsome. You can’t see a door. It just lies there smouldering and you are left guessing what it is until the hatch opens a couple of days later. It was that sense of wonder I was aiming for.”

* in 1982, designed a second, highly postmodern 'Schreiber House in Chester' and a colourful, toytown bookshop for the Royal College of Art and in the 1990s focused his energies on designing a handful of hospitals and was involved in teaching schemes in Italy in collaboration with Renato Restelli and in 2006, at the age of 83 completed his last project, the 'Instituto Clinica Humanitas' at Rozzano on the edge of Milan.

* in 1994 published a compilation of his thoughts and writing about architecture 'Style and Configuration' and had given insight into his creative process some twenty years before when he said : "It seems to work better at the last minute. When the fire's taking place, chemical things appear to happen to me to sharpen my intelligence. If the sun's shining and there's no sense of urgency, nothing seems to happen" and " There's a pain in my head at all times. Sometimes the pain is gentle and sometimes it's unbearable, but it's not an unpleasant pain, it's as if there was some remarkable mechanical device whirring quietly away."

* had, on his passing, Ellis Woodman, Executive Editor of Building Design say of him :
'His penetrating intelligence went hand-in-hand with a barbed but ultimately generous wit which endeared him to generations of students. The roll-call of his now-celebrated former students – which includes Richard Rogers, Quinlan Terry, Peter Cook, Tony Fretton and Alex de Rijke and Stephen Bates – is startling not just for its length but also its diversity. If contemporary British architecture is rich in free thinkers, it is in significant part down to James’ influence.'

Historian and 'Building Design' columnist, Gillian Darley, question :
'Later. Gowan at East Hanningfield was still a master - now of a tight budget and modest brief. 
So why did we waste him ?'

Architect, Tony Fretton, Emeritus Professor TU Delft, say of him :
'In some ways James was too clever for the world that followed.'

Saturday 20 June 2015

Britain is a country where an old Prince commemorated an old victory over Napoleon in a Battle called Waterloo

Only countries in decline remember long gone victories in battles fought with no combatants still alive and, that being the case, on Thursday, on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, June 18th 1815, the 67 year old, heir to the throne, the Prince of Wales, attended a 'National Service' of Commemoration in St Paul’s Cathedral. Also in attendance were the Prime Minister, President of the European Parliament, Lord Mayor of London, the present Duke of Wellington, senior representatives of the Armed Services, representatives and ambassadors of all combatant countries involved in the Battle. Apart from the aristocratic, political and military elites, the 'Nation' was represented by some descendants of men who fought in the Battle and 200 children and 200 teachers, alongside members of the public who entered a ballot for tickets. As a reflection of the social order, it was entirely right that those who were there by 'Right' were joined by those who were there by 'Lottery', albeit some distance apart.             
During the service, an 'anthologicon' was read, drawn from extracts from contemporary accounts of events before, during and after the Battle by British, French and German readers under-laid by the sound of the organ.
The Dean of St Paul's, the Very Reverend Dr David Ison, said :

"We remember the dead of the Battle of Waterloo on this day two hundred years ago. We give thanks for the legacy of relative peace in Europe in the years that followed. And we recall current conflicts in our world, and pray for the armed forces of this and other nations which strive to bring stability to a troubled world. We pay due honour to Arthur, Duke of Wellington, and those who fought alongside him, and recognise the fortitude of Napoleon Bonaparte and those under his command."

So what exactly was being commemorated in St.Paul's Cathedral ?

It's true that Waterloo put the final nail in the coffin of Napoleon’s ambition to conquer Britain, as well as bringing an end to more than 20 years of war, but what about "the legacy of relative peace in Europe in the years that followed" ?
'Peace' meant the victory of the feudal crowned heads of Europe over the forces of the French Revolution. This Waterloo ushered in the repressive united Europe of the Vienna Settlement : Castlereagh and Metternich, Louis XVIII and Charles X of France and Ferdinand VII of Spain, anti-liberal anti-democratic reactionaries set on consigning the Europe of republics and peoples to the history books.

Lord Byron, visiting the field of Waterloo in 1816, early in his exile from Britain, wrote back to a friend:
“I detest the cause and the victors – and the victory.” A few months later he again railed against the Battle as “the grave of France, the deadly Waterloo”, before asking the question : “But is Earth more free?”

Byron was not alone. William Hazlitt, the most ardent of all British radical admirers of Napoleon, called the Battle of Waterloo : “the greatest and most fatal in its consequences of any that was ever fought in the world”. William Godwin,  another of the Waterloo dissidents, spoke against the “miserable consequences of that accursed field” and continued throughout his life to believe that, however flawed Napoleon might be, he was still to be preferred to the restored Bourbon kings.

Napoleon gave himself up to the British off the west coast of France a few weeks after the battle, but when the ship on which he was sailing arrived in Torbay he was not allowed to leave partly because of fear of onshore popular sympathy if he were to set foot on English soil as he wished. Some years later when asked by his doctor what he would have done if he had managed to invade southern England in 1805 he replied :
“I would have hastened over my flotilla with two hundred thousand men, landed as near Chatham as possible and proceeded direct to London, where I calculated to arrive in four days from the time of my landing. I would have proclaimed a republic and the abolition of the nobility and the House of Peers, the distribution of the property of such of the latter as opposed me amongst my partisans, liberty, equality and the sovereignty of the people.”

 Many Britons felt little affection for the generals and rulers who emerged victorious at Waterloo. William Cobbett, the great political reformer said :
“The war is over. Social Order is restored; the French are again in the power of the Bourbons; the Revolution is at an end; no change has been effected in England; our Boroughs, and our Church, and Nobility and all have been preserved; our government tells us that we have covered ourselves with glory.”

Thus it was two hundred years ago, so it is today : Our Church and Nobility are still preserved and the old elites still cover themselves in past glory and commemorate their victory.


Thursday 18 June 2015

Britain is finally a country for and Westminter Abbey a place to commemorate an old poet called Philip Larkin

Poets' Corner became established at Westminster Abbey after Geoffrey Chaucer's remains were
interred in a tomb there in 1556.

On 2 December 2016, a floor stone dedicated to Philip will be unveiled in the 'Corner' on the anniversary of his death 31 years before in 1985. He will finally take his place alongside Britain's other best loved poet's and between Ted Hughes and Rupert Brooke. The decision to honour him was made by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall who said : "Philip Larkin is one of the great poets of the 20th Century in English and it's been pressed on me by a number of his colleagues and friends that it's the right time to memorialise him."

Philip, who was born in Coventry in 1922, studied at Oxford University and had his first poems published when he was 18 in 1940. He took up the position of librarian at the University of Hull in 1955 and, in the same year, published his acclaimed collection, 'The Less Deceived'. His last collection, 'High Windows' was published when he was 52 in 1974.
In December 1984, a year before his death from cancer, he was offered the chance to succeed Sir John Betjeman as 'Poet Laureate' but declined, being unwilling to accept the post's high public profile.

Professor Edwin Dawes, who chairs the , said that he was quoted more frequently than those of any of his twentieth poetic contemporaries and said : "The memorialisation of Philip Larkin in Poets' Corner will be warmly welcomed by his many admirers in all walks of life. We are delighted that in 2016 Larkin will take his place at the very cultural heart of the nation, in Westminster Abbey amongst Britain's greatest writers."

So why has it taken so long for Philip to be recognised in the Corner ?
The answer resides in the posthumous publication of his letters in 1992, followed by a 1993 biography by Andrew Motion, which caused controversy and led to accusations that he was racially prejudiced, bigoted and misogynistic.

They revealed that he, for example  :

* was strongly against the award of Arts Council grants to 'wogs like Salmagundi or whatever his name is'.

* suggested :
'Prison for strikers,
Bring back the cat, 
Kick out the niggers, 
How about that?'

* thought of Hull : 'God, what a hole, what witless crapulous people, delivered over gagged and bound to TV, motoring and Mackeson's stout . . . Hull is a frightful dump.'

* observed : 'The lower-class bastards can no more stop going on strike now than a laboratory rat with an electrode in its brain can stop jumping on a switch to give itself an orgasm.'

* in 1978, wrote to Robert Conquest: 'We don’t go to Test matches now, too many fucking niggers about.'

*  commented : 'I find the “state of the nation” quite terrifying. In 10 years’ time we shall all be cowering under our beds as hordes of blacks steal anything they can lay their hands on.'

But of course, he had written :

'Toads' in 1955

'Afternoon' in 1959 :

'The Whitsun Weddings' in 1964 :

'This be verse' in 1974 :

Sunday 14 June 2015

Britain is no country for an old Nobel Prize Winning scientist called Sir Tim Hunt

Sir Tim, is a seventy-two year old Fellow of the Royal Society and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physiology for his work on 'Regulators of the Cell Cycle', who has found
himself the focus of global outrage, after his remarks at  a lunch sponsored by 'powerful, role-model female scientists' at the 'World Conference of Science Journalists' in South Korea. He told his audience :

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry” and that he was “in favour of single-sex labs”. He also added, by way of explanation, that he had a reputation as "a male chauvinist". Needless to say his remarks were received in silence.

Tim may have meant to be humorous, but his words were not taken as a joke by his audience. One or two began tweeting what he had said and within a few hours he had become the focus of a particularly vicious social media campaign. He was described on Twitter as 'a clueless, sexist jerk'; 'a misogynist dude scientist' while one tweet demanded that the Royal Society 'kick him out', which before long, it duly did.

It wasn't long before Sir Tim appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme to apologise :  “I’m really, really sorry I caused any offence.” He had intended his comments to be “light-hearted” and “ironic”. “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls,” he continued. "I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it's very disruptive to the science because it's terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field. It's terribly important that you can criticise people's ideas without criticising them and if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth. Science is about nothing but getting at the truth and anything that gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science." He added: "What was intended as a light-hearted, ironic comment apparently was interpreted deadly seriously by my audience. I'm really, really sorry I caused any offence, that's awful. I just meant to be honest, actually."

Tim's honesty has cost him dear :

*  A statement issued by the Royal Society read: 'The Royal Society believes that in order to achieve everything that it can, science needs to make the best use of the research capabilities of the entire population. Too many talented individuals do not fulfil their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the Society is committed to helping to put this right. Sir Tim Hunt was speaking as an individual and his reported comments in no way reflect the views of the Royal Society.'

* A more important statement on University College London website said that it could confirm that he had resigned on Wednesday from his position as 'Honorary Professor' with the 'UCL Faculty of Life Sciences', 'following comments he made about women in science at the World Conference of Science Journalists on 9 June'.

* Once unknown, he is now 'known' and will be forever remembered, not for his contribution towards the advancement of science, but his views about the perils of women working in laboratories.

What might explain Tim's outdated views about women ? Where did Tim spend his formative years as a boy, teenage and as a young man, at a time when he was forming his ideas about girls and women ?
He was :

* was born on during the Second World War in 1943 the son of Richard a lecturer in Palaeography in Liverpool and, according to Wikipedia, Kit, who isn't assigned a job or profession but is simply described as 'daughter of a timber merchant'.

 * at the age of eight, was packed off to Dragon School, the renown co-educational school in Oxford and is listed among Wikipedia's 108 'Notable Old Dragons', only six of whom were women.

* at the age of he moved to the all boys independent, Magdalen College School, in Oxford (right) followed in 1961, when he was 18, by his undergraduate study of Natural Sciences at the all-male , Clare College Cambridge.

By the time he graduated in 1964, before the 'Swinging Sixties' got fully underway, Tim's formative years had been spent in the company of girls in the boy-dominated Dragon School and womenless Clare College. It was then he started his career in science, where even today, fifty years later, only 13% of workers are women.

His wife, the scientist Mary Collins confirmed his naivety about women when she said : “It was an unbelievably stupid thing to say. You can see why it could be taken as offensive if you didn’t know Tim. But really it was just part of his upbringing. He went to a single-sex school in the 1960s. Nevertheless he is not sexist. I am a feminist, and I would not have put up with him if he were sexist.”

A reminder of the magnitude of Tim's discovery about cell division :

Thursday 11 June 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its old Prince of Darkness, Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee, film actor, well known for his deep, strong voice and imposing height has died at the age of 93.

What you possibly didn't know about Christopher, that he :

* was born in 1922 in Belgravia, Westminster, the son of a contessa and Edwardian beauty and an Army Lieutenant-Colonel, who separated when he was very young and taken by his mother to Switzerland, was educated in 'Miss Fisher's Academy' in Wengen  where he played his first villainous role as Rumpelstiltskin.

* returned to London and his mother married a cousin of Ian Fleming and attended Wellington College, where he won scholarships in classics.

* at the age of 17 in 1939, volunteered to fight for the Finnish forces during the Winter War against the Soviet Union, went on to serve in the Royal Air Force, intelligence services and the Special Operations Executive and retired at the end of the War with the rank of flight lieutenant.

* In, at the age of 24 in 1946, signed a seven-year contract with the Rank Organisation and made his film debut in a gothic romance, 'Corridor of Mirrors' in 1947 and his first film for Hammer, 'The Curse of Fankenstein' ten years later, in which he played Frankenstein's monster, which in turn led to his first appearance as the Tansylvanian vampire in the 1958 film 'Dracula'.

* returned to the role of Dracula in Hammer's 'Dracula : Prince of Dasrkness' in 1965 and with no lines, merely hissed his way through the film and saw his subsequent films as the Count give him little to do, but a good income :

* in 1966 played Rasputin in 'Rasputin, the Mad Monk' : and had, apparently, met Rasputin's assassin, Yussupov, when he was a child.

* was responsible for bringing acclaimed occult author Dennis Wheatley to Hammer and starred in 'The Devil Rides Out' in 1967 and played Lord Summerisle in the cult classic, 'The Wicker Man' in 1973, which he  believes to be his best film :

* since the mid 1970s, eschewed horror roles almost entirely and in 1974 played the James Bond villain, Scaramanga in 'The Man with the Golden Gun' in 1974. and in 1998, starred in the title role of 'Jinnah', the founder of modern Pakistan, which he declared to be, by far, his best performance :

* played Saruman in the 'The Lord of The Rings' trilogy
and has performed roles in 275 films since 1946 making him the Guinness World Record holder for 'most film acting roles ever'.

* in 2009 was knighted at the age of 87 by another old Prince for 'services to drama and charity' and received the BAFTA Fellowship Award in 2011 :

* in 2011 whilst giving a speech at the University College Dublin admonished the students against baneful occult practices warning them that he had met "people who claimed to be Satanists. Who claimed to be involved with black magic. Who claimed that they not only knew a lot about it. I warn all of you never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind, you'll lose your soul".

Friday 5 June 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an indefatiguable Anti-Fascist called Morris Beckman

Morris, who has died at the age of 94, was the last of that group of men, who seventy years ago would not stand idly by as the Far Right made speeches and sold pamphlets that denied the Holocaust and preached the hateful gospel of anti-Semitism.


What you possibly didn't know about Morris, that he :

* was born in the London Borough of Hackney in 1921, the youngest of six children of Rebecca and Josepherus, late nineteenth century Jewish emigrants from Poland 
and bought up in a household with a maid, sustained by his father's income as a textile merchant and joined the Hackney Downs School, a grammar school for boys founded by the Worshipful Company of Grocers in 1876, run with rigid discipline and a public school atmosphere for bright sons of the wealthy, with a new intake of bright Jewish boys and was remembered by Alfred Sherman, one of his contemporaries and later co-founder of the right-wing 'Centre for Policy Studies', as a 'flagship of opportunity for talented children, many of whom were very poor.'

* was bought by, but did not necessarily always follow his father, orthodox in religion : "The synagogue and the shawl was his life outside the business" and although a talented footballer at school "who was offered a trial for Spurs, a game in one of their junior teams, but in those days the thought of a Jewish boy playing football, with my father, was absolutely unheard of " and found religious duties made it difficult taking part in saturday games.

* encountered no anti-Semitism at school in the 1930's, but when he was 15/16 in 1936/37, returning home from his boys club, crossing Hackney Downs alone at 11.30 at night : "suddenly I realised, walking towards me were four young fascists in uniform. Two on the outside had come behind me and I heard "Effing Jewboy. We're gonna bloody .." Now I was very fit then, very athletic and I used to box for the house. So I didn't think, I just said "Wait". As I said this, I turned and hit the one on my left and jumped over the railings and ran across the field and they chased me" then outran all but one and used his cricket skills : "I came after him, I had this brick in my hand. I said "right you bastard"" and hit him on the shoulder which made him stumble and with the others coming up made his escape and hid from them in some gardens.

* passed his matriculation at school at the age of 16 and was studying for his 'highers' in the sixth form, with a view to a career as a civil engineer, but was unsettled by the prospect of war approaching and impatient for action and early in 1939, said to his friend, Max, "Come. Let's go and fly", but were told by a RAF recruitment officer "to go back to school and not waste the fellow's time", then saw an advert for a six month, crash course for radio officers in the Merchant Navy, involving dismantling and reassembling transmitters and using morse code and, while keeping up the pretence he was still at school and thinking "I thought I'd go and see some foreign places and have interest and excitement", without the family knowing, enrolled on a course at a college in Clapham.

* graduated from the course in three months and went to a café, celebration lunch with nine other students, which they shared with a "very exuberant lady, red henna hair, She'd been on the stage in her earlier career and we used to call her Fanny Bagwash. When we'd finished lunch she lines us all up and she hugged us and gave us each a kiss and said :"Send me a postcard" and we all said "Yes. We'll do that Fanny". She looked quite tearful."

* still without the knowledge of his family, signed on with the Marconi International Marine Company and was given £25 to get kitted out in the suppliers at Gardiners' Corner then went home and told his father and recalled : "That was a terrible night. He went mad", but reported for duty as the 'Sparks' on the rusty old tanker, S.S.Venetia, at Shell Haven, Gravesend and was taken out to the ship by an old boatman who said :  "You joining her?". I said "Yes". He said : "You poor sod. I wouldn't be in your shoes." I said : "Thanks very much" and sailed to the island of Aruba off the coast of Venezuela to pick up 8,000 tons of high octane fuel and now that war with Germany had broken out, experienced 'The Battle of the Atlantic' and joined a convoy in which his ship survived when six were sunk when attacked by German U-boats.

* was posted to Bombay at the age of 21 in 1942 and spent two years with the 'Mogul Line', crewing auxiliary vessels for the Royal Indian Navy across the Bay of Bengal, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf and started, what he hoped might be a literary career, writing articles and short stories, published in the 'Sind Gazette' and the 'Egyptian Mail' newspapers, then transferred to the Mediterranean, landed troops at Port Augusta during the Allied Invasion of Sicily in 1943 and three months later, at Taranto during the Allied invasion of Italy.

* in 1944 his ship was attacked by the Luftwaffe en route to Alexandria, lost a propeller and was towed to Port Sudan where he contacted paratyphoid and convalesced in hospital in Karachi, India, then worked his passage back home via Durban and New York in the year that his first and only novel, 'Open Skies and Lost Cargoes', was published by Thacker & Co in Bombay.

* finally, returning home at the end of the War at the age of 24 in 1945 found that he : "came back home to Amhurst Road, Hackney to hugs and kisses. My mother went out to make some tea and my Dad said, "The bastards are back – Mosley and his Blackshirts"" "They’d been marching down the streets, chanting : ‘We’re going to get rid of the yids’, they attacked synagogues. My mother and the neighbours were afraid to go out at night”.

* tried unsuccessfully to renew his studies in engineering, but instead, turned to writing short stories with a sister providing financial support, but was distracted, having returned from the War thinking fascism was buried and was sickened to find Oswald Mosley released from internment reviving the 'British Union of Fascists,' which he'd seen flourish in Jewish areas in the East End when he was a boy before the War and compounded by the cinema newsreels revealing the horrors of Auschwitz.

* recalled that in February 1946 : "We saw this fascist meeting. There were big union jacks flying in the wind; British League of Ex Servicemen and Women; a fellow who'd been interned for two years, Jeffrey Hamm, one of Moseley's top men on the platform preaching and there were four young fascist thugs, protecting the platform and Len walked up to these two fascists sitting on the end selling 'Britain Awake' and he said : "I can't stand the bleeding Jews myself, I'm going to buy one of those magazines" and as they leant forward his hands came up and he banged their heads together. They went down poleaxed. I saw the platform flying backwards and Jeffrey Hamm falling on the ground and Gerry was knocking hell out of them."

* later said : "I went up to mine. 'Play football', I thought, so I kneed him in a vital place and I did hurt him. He went down."

* continued : "We went back to the Maccabi House. We told the fellas what had happened. We were on a high. They listened to us. They said :"Right well, no one's going to stop them. We'll bloody well stop them." Half a dozen of us went to see Members of Parliament and the MP's were very sympathetic towards us and they did ask questions of Chuter Eve, the Home Secretary and there was a Labour Government in power at the time and yet the Government did nothing."

*  "I joined AJEX at the time, Associated Jewish Ex-Servicemen and they were putting up platforms. They had some very good speakers and these speakers went out, castigating the Government for permitting the fascist's outrageous obscenity to occur on London streets."

* "And I came to the conclusion that with all the best speakers in the world they would not convert one single fascist from being anti-Semitic. It wasn't working." "and we decided to form an organisation and launch an all-out, non-stop attack on the emergent fascist party. Our aim and object was to expose it and then to destroy it. We formed the '43 Group' and within two months it had enrolled 300 ex-servicemen and we never walked towards fascists. We ran at them"  'We decided as trained troops we would 'out fascist' the fascists.'

* "We found once we knocked over the platform the meeting was closed down. We started forming flying wedges of hard cases. If you had a wedge of ten very hard cases, they'd walk up, push through the crowd, they'd get close to the front and suddenly go at a very fast pace, in a wedge at the platform. They knocked the fascist stewards aside. They were unstoppable. Really hard men and of course the platforms would go flying." 

was an active member of the '43 Group' from the time it was formed in April 1946, working with a 'Battle of Britain' Ace, a Victoria Cross winner and Vidal Sassoon, but also took part in peaceful activities like addressing an anti-fascist meeting in Bethnal Green, East London, in 1947 (right).

* saw the Group's numbers swell to over 1,000 members, all war veterans, in London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle, the toughest, former Royal Marines, paratroops and Guards became the 'commandos', on call day and night to disrupt meetings and carry out raids with a network of London black-cab drivers provided eyes, ears and transport and supported by 100 women and a network of gentile spies who infiltrated fascist organisations.

* saw money flood in from prominent Jews such as the boxing promoter, Jack Solomons and the businessman, Sir Charles Clore and a monthly £30 cheque from Bud Flanagan, born Reuben Weintrop and a member of the 'Crazy Gang' Comedy Quartet, with a note saying 'Good work, boys' and also saw the Group's philosophy of the ‘3 D's’ - 'Discuss, Decide and Do it', bear fruit by closing down two-thirds of all fascist activity in Britain before its demise as a political force in Britain when he was 29 in 1950.

 tried his hand at several businesses and eventually went into partnership with John David Gold to manufacture men's clothes, opening their first factory in Crawley in 1952 and saw the firm steadily expand, at one time having several factories in the Britain and one in Malta, then in his mid fifties, in 1975, faced with increasingly cheap imports from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, saw the company go into liquidation and then started further small-scale businesses in the same trade before retiring to turn his hand, once again, to writing in the 1980s.

* focussed on his life in the Merchant Navy and the 43 Group and "dutifully ploughed through fascist newspapers and magazines in various libraries and archives and even read Mosley's book. What I read was an endless unbroken desert of malevolence and ethnic hatred. Sometimes in the Hendon Library I had to break off for a coffee and a smoke before continuing. After a session I would feel dirty, tainted. But, I learned to know the enemy well."
* published 'The 43 Group : Untold Story of Their Fight Against Fascism' at the age of 72 in 1993, 'The Hackney Crucible' and 'Atlantic Roulette : A Merchantman at War. June 1940 : Running the Gauntlet', three years later, followed by 'The Jewish Brigade : An Army With Two Masters' in 1999 and finally 'Flying the Red Duster :  A Merchant Seaman's First Voyage into the Battle of the Atlantic 1940' and in addition, lectured in Britain, Germany, Holland and Ireland to groups interested in the fight against fascism.

* in 2010 at the age of 89, publicly lent support to the 'Unite Against Fascism' Group's event, 'We are Bradford', in which their aim was to show 'our opposition to the racist EDL – which has links to the British National Party and other fascist groups – and calling instead for unity in the community. We want to celebrate our diversity and show that we are all united against the racists.'

* after his passing, had David Cesarani, Research Professor in History at Royal Holloway, University of London, say of him : “Morris was an extraordinary man who combined physical toughness with intellectual agility, a naturally gifted writer who was equally at home with a pair of boxing gloves as he was with a typewriter. Words poured out of him in the form of diaries, novels, historical narratives or impromptu speeches over a cup of tea. He taught generations that if you care about liberty, tolerance and democratic politics, sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and take on their enemies.”

* reflecting on the '43 Group' at the age of 69 in 1990 said :

"Looking back there can never be another organisation like it. We had loads of energy, loads of initiative, loads of ideas and looking back, the fascists didn't stand a chance."