Many in Hook will have heard of the sudden collapse and death of John Morris, at the age of 62, whilst cycling near his home in Normandy on 2nd October 2004. Cycling was one of his favourite activities, so his family and friends are taking some small comfort because he died doing something he enjoyed so much.
Having declared on leaving school that he would not follow in his father’s footsteps and become a teacher, John found himself within a few years at teacher training college: Bishop Otter College, Chichester. It was here that he met his future wife, Sue. After a brief flirtation with mathematics, John settled on a specialism in art – and in teaching the primary school age range.
He came to the then Hook School as Head in 1982, following a spell as Deputy Head at Cove Junior School. Typically, having gone through the normal interview process by school governors and education authority representatives, he wouldn’t accept the post until he had also spoken with the pupils.
Massive development doubled the size of Hook in three years in the early 1980s. The challenge he so successfully took on was to manage a school that was being rebuilt and divided into Junior and Infant Schools (he was subsequently head of the Junior School) while an unpredictable number of additional pupils arrived every week.
Very often the first village contact for these new families was at the school, where John coped with all the turmoil calmly and didn’t let the temporary classrooms, the noisy building work and the reshuffling of accommodation every few weeks during the rebuilding get in the way of providing a good stable school experience for the pupils.
Kay Burke, who was school secretary alongside John, remembers :
“He was the sort of boss who encouraged his staff to develop and grow and the result of that can be seen from the number of heads, throughout Hampshire and beyond, who served under him at Hook as class teachers. The kids always looked forward to him taking a class. He had an exciting and imaginative way of presenting a subject, taking into the class a box containing articles to illustrate what he had to say, that tickled the kids’ imagination.”
Many who attended Hook Junior School recall John’s sense of humour and love of rugby, art and the environment. He continued to play rugby long after most people had given up and pupils recall placing 2p bets on which side would win an international game. At the time of the Van Gogh Sunflowers sale, for around $1m, he obtained a copy of the picture and put it up in the central area with a SOLD sign on it. He organised the first highly successful trips from the school to Calshott, Stubbington, Malvern and the New Forest, giving children the opportunity to experience what was often their first independent trip away from home.
In addition to running a school that was regarded as exceptionally excellent and being a kind, caring and considerate Head, John was also a Parish Councillor from 1984 to 1987 and a member of Hook Action Group. He always felt that the school and the community should work together and he put that into practice. The Hook logo at the head of this page is an example of this, as it was the winning entry in a competition organised by John amongst the Junior School pupils to design a new logo for the village.
In 1988 he took an active part in successfully opposing the Charles Church proposal for a huge new housing development between Hook and Rotherwick. He also brought his professional expertise to bear on the design of a number of new children’s playgrounds that were being built in Hook at that time.
In 1991 John retired from teaching and he and his wife Sue bought a farm in Normandy to set up an educational visit centre and gite, but they maintained a home in Hook and latterly in Odiham until very recently, when Sue also retired. The funeral service took place on Friday 8th October at Gorges in Normandy and was attended by many of his friends both from France and the UK. Many of those present paid tribute to John’s generosity with his own time and resources and his total dependability and supportiveness as a friend. After the service, a toast was drunk to John in the garden that he had created at his home in Normandy.
John leaves his wife Sue and children Anna and James. To them, and to all John’s family, we extend our sympathies.