Obituary: Roger Morley (C2 1935-40)

ROGER was born on 3rd October 1921 in Rothwell, Northamptonshire. He was the sixth of seven children born to John Arthur Malcolmson Morley (known as Arthur) and to Ruth, known as Mums, whom he adored.

His father was the local Church of England vicar. Shortly after the birth of his younger brother, David, the family moved to South Lawn, Ston Easton in Somerset. Here Roger discovered the delights of the countryside – a passion that was to live with him throughout his life. He ran free across the fields, fished and swam in Emborough Lake; cycled along numerous lanes and delighted in studying the birds and wildlife. Summer holidays were spent in Ireland in much the same vein.

He attended prep school in Haywards Heath and gained a scholarship to Marlborough College alongside three of his four brothers. He was at Marlborough between 1935-40 and was both a School Prefect and Head of House. Mr Jennings his housemaster remained a lifelong friend.

Roger studied classics but as he says his last year of school was more focused upon war than study. In 1940 he enlisted in the Royal Artillery and was commissioned in 1941. As part of the Eighth Indian Division he took part in the North African campaign at El Alamein and Tobruk and then as part of the Middle East Strategic Reserve he served in Iraq and Lebanon. He said that Lebanon was possibly the most beautiful country he ever visited. Between 1943 and 1945 he took part in the Italian Campaign. The Eighth Army fought its way up Italy on the eastern flank of the Allied forces and was present at the successful fourth battle of Monte Cassino before marching on to the Gothic line and then the River Po and then to Austria. Roger was mentioned in Despatches. He was demobilised in 1946 with the rank of Captain.

All seven Morley children survived the war and lived to old age.

Roger didn’t feel the need to go to university – he said in later years knowing that half his 15 classmates had been killed – made him want to go out and do something worthwhile not study. He joined the Colonial Service in Northern Nigeria and spent 16 years there; leaving as a Senior District Officer. Whilst in Nigeria he initiated and put into practice the financial reorganisation of the Kano Districts. He was one of the few people to read the Riot Act which he did in 1953 at the Kano Riots. One man ensuring the law was maintained in front of thousands of angry people. For this he was specially commended. He organised and was in charge of carrying out the Ilorin census in 1962. He was part of a team who hosted a visit by the Queen in Nigeria in 1956. His residence was deemed the most suitable for Her Majesty to stay in. As a result a new bathroom was installed or as Roger described it “I got a new Throne”.

More importantly, Nigeria was where he met Audrey who, having graduated from Cambridge, had qualified as a teacher and been sent to Nigeria. Family lore says that his opening chat up line was “Would you like to come and see my puppies”. And the rest, as they say, is history. They were married on the 13 July 1957 (the only date free on that leave) in Salisbury and honeymooned across Europe – Audrey commenting, after the honeymoon, that they met an awful lot of women who seemed to be fond of Roger.

Roger and Audrey returned to England in 1962 and set up home in Woodbury in 1963. It was to be their family home for 40 years. Their four children were born in the sixties and Roger took a “temporary” job running a charity for the physically disabled, Hertfordshire Association for the Disabled. As with everything Roger did – he did this job 100% – until he retired at 65. He was out three or four evenings every week encouraging volunteers and local committees. Most summer Saturdays were spent at fetes either pulling a ticket or rolling three dice to win a prize – Roger had worked out the odds carefully. Roger wanted to raise money but also wanted to ensure that everyone received a prize even if it was only a balloon. Winter evenings were spent making Christmas cards and at the weekend’s playing cards – Rummy and Slippery Anne were two favourites. He walked miles for charity completing his last walk at the age of 82 accompanied by some of his grandchildren.

He raised millions of pounds. His most ambitious project was the building of Hertford House at Clacton; a purpose built holiday home to provide respite for the disabled of Hertfordshire and their carers. He also provided workshops for the disabled to work in all the key Hertfordshire towns and funded baby monitors in the local hospitals to prevent the likelihood of disability from lack of oxygen at birth. He was ahead of his time in terms of charitable funding and together with Hoare Govett the stockbrokers looked at ways of raising third party capital introducing charitable bonds.

The evenings when he wasn’t working were spent in the garden, making the clay more fertile and growing flowers and fruit and vegetables. Some years were better than others but Roger’s stand out crop was always runner beans. He also enjoyed having a bonfire and a lot of garden and household rubbish disappeared. Roger’s gardening clothes were definitely “Eau de Smoke”.

Sundays were focused around Sunday lunch where inevitably family or visitors turned up. Audrey would cook the most amazing meals using produce from the garden and the hedgerows – her pastry making skills in particular deserve mention – and Roger would polish off these meals with gusto and cheap plonk which he kept in a “cellar” in the downstairs loo. And then it would be a walk in Bury Woods or across the fields – with everyone bringing back a fallen branch for the woodpile – including the dogs. Woodbury always had open fires from September until April. Sunday evenings, for a number of years, were spent counting and recounting the church collection to ensure it added up.

In retirement Roger did not reduce his activities. He and Audrey travelled to some of the places they hadn’t seen; the Far East, Australia; Alaska and the west coast of America including the Grand Canyon. He continued to garden and welcomed the arrival of his 11 grandchildren teaching them the twin aspects of the countryside and finance. Since his early years Roger was an avid follower of the capital markets and invested wisely and well in the shares of a number of different companies. His only disappointment was the oil crisis, in the early seventies, which put some of his plans on hold. He turned on Ceefax every day, read the business pages and was very aware of any changes in the tax system. As a result his children and grandchildren can all be thankful that they do not have any debts to worry about.

He was a member of Bovingdon Care; supported Macmillan nurses, the local Hospice of St Francis and Dens Night Shelter in Hemel Hempstead. He also spent 25 years looking after the churchyard at St Lawrence Church, where he and Audrey were regular churchgoers for more than 50 years. The family spent his 90th birthday with a bonfire there.

In 2003 Roger and Audrey moved to Skinners Cottage in Bovingdon and continued to be part of village life. Runner beans and raspberries were the staple summer diet. As old age took its toll they both slowed down and Roger cared for Audrey until he too acknowledged that it was now time for them to ask for help rather than offer it.