John Morrison: I'll miss his personal friendship
Tuesday 29 August 2017
John was a remarkable chap. I was glad to have kept in touch with him well over 40 years since we joined Reuters together as graduate trainee journalists in 1971.
We worked together only briefly, first when I was drafted in from Bonn to cover the Moluccan train hijacking in North Holland in 1977 while John, as the local bureau chief, covered the related hostage-taking at a primary school. The following year he handed over to me in The Hague and my then wife and I inherited their delightful company house on the Schelpkade.
Our backgrounds and interests were very different but he was very fond of Scotland. His father hailed from Port Glasgow and on one of his trips to the area we sailed “Doon the Water” on the ocean-going steamship Waverley which not only evoked memories for him of his dad’s career on the Nile steamers but also afforded views of the ancestral town. For all their global travels one of his and his wife’s favourite holiday choices was to sail on the Majestic Line’s converted trawler around the Hebridean islands.
He and Penny were a delightful host and hostess, even if on occasion he would melt away and be seen reading a book while Penny carried on the conversation with guests as if that were the most natural thing in the world. A couple of Christmasses ago my wife Julia and I were treated to a magnificent meal - not only featuring Penny’s A-grade cooking but also John’s bread-making skills - at their Sevenoaks home amid a setting that would have done Harrods’ window dresser proud. Overnight in their home was an epic travel expedition on its own as several rooms were dedicated to different parts of the globe they knew and furnished appropriately, with relevant books to hand.
To me his self-published satire on the Tony Blair years, using impressions and insights gleaned during his years covering Downing Street and Westminster, was a revelation. Not knowing him so well at that stage I'd never have put humour at the top of his attributes but it remains one of the funniest political books I've ever read and cast him in a totally different light.
Others with far more direct experience of working with him have paid tribute to his journalistic abilities which he continued to display with his incisive theatre reviews. Ours was a personal friendship, honed mainly in our later years. He was ill at our last meeting when they gave me lunch at Sevenoaks, but stoical. Just a couple of months ago he donated, as he’d done for my other events, to a charity run I completed at the weekend.
Like so many others I'll miss him. ■