Harrison was a legend in choral music, cricket and many other ways

Harrison Morrow.
Harrison Morrow.

Harrison Morrow was multi-talented – and used his wide range of abilities to serve many aspects of the Portadown.

Sport, music, ancient monuments, the prison service, church, family, the building trade – there was such a variety to the life of the 91-year-old who passed away at Lisnisky Nursing Home on Monday morning.

He was active right into his late 80s, not least in Portadown Male Voice Choir, which he served as a baritone for over 50 years – he and deputy conductor Mervyn White held the gold award from the ensemble. He was awarded his medal a few years ago when the choir visited Irish President Mary McAleese in Dublin for a special concert.

Harrison was a one-off. He was totally selfless, an excellent communicator, and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of his busy life. When he celebrated his 90th birthday last year, the men of the choir had a cake created and it was a special day for him.

Of course, his 90th birthday was primarily a family occasion, celebrated by his wife Amy, son Harry, daughter-in-law Noreen, grandchildren James, Sara and Jayne and great-grandchildren Rose and Annie. They will all miss him profoundly, for Harrison was a major part of their lives. He is also survived by sister Jean Robinson (Richhill).

Harrison’s roots are in Armagh. His earliest memories are of being a choirboy in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral – they were robed and he moved up the ranks as his voice broke and he received an expert grounding in choral music.

Recently, brother-in-law Noel Carville took his to the Primatial City to hear the current young sopranos. “He really thrilled to that,” said Noel. “He just adored choral music.”

A talented bricklayer, he started work in the building trade and his work took him to Portadown for the genesis of Killicomaine estate where he ultimately settled with Amy – their original home was at Granville Road and they laterally lived at Princess Way.

Harrison soon immersed himself in the life and times of Portadown. A staunch Church of Ireland man, he joined Seagoe CLB as an officer. His forte was teaching his young charges the nuances of table tennis and football, both of which he played in Armagh. His dad played for Portadown Reserves and they used to travel to the town by train.

His fellow officers at Seagoe included the Roneys, the Porters, Captain Mitchell and Jackie Brownlee, and the highlight of their year was the annual camp on the North Coast, which families also enjoyed.

Harrison particularly loved the male choir, and travelled with them all over the British Isles, Germany, Canada and the USA, collecting friends and festival trophies along the way. The gold medal was one of his most treasured possessions. Canada was especially precious to him – brother Jim had emigrated there and he was close to Jim’s three daughters.

He was also in the choir the night they launched ‘Ireland’s Call’ on RTE, the rugby anthem which has resounded during the current World Cup, and from which Ireland were eliminated just hours before Harrison’s death.

The choir stood in a moment’s silence at Monday night’s practice, and conductor Gordon Speers described him as “a unique character totally faithful to the choir – a real gem.”

His working career included a spell in the prison service where he was a tradesman and also a prison officer. He was especially appreciated in the Borstal sector where he had a real rapport with the boys and always listened to them – and they confided in him, appreciating his sincerity.

Harrison moved from there to the DoE Ancient Monuments as a supervisor where he and his close friend George Robinson masterminded several projects, including the Copeland windmill in North Down and many restorations in and around County Armagh – especially the historic City of Armagh.

After he retired, he and Amy set up their legendary filling station and store at Drumlin Hill, Gilford Road, which they ran for around 20 years until they reluctantly retired when it became too much for them.

His greatest love outside family and work was cricket. He was so proud of being part of the Portadown team which beat Laurelvale in the Junior Cup Final at Waringstown in 1953. Things looked bleak at the tea break when the town were three runs for two wickets. But Harrison took to the crease, doggedly stonewalled and turned things round. Jack Richards hit a superb 36, and captain Billy Martin (18 not out) smashed the winning boundary.

Harrison played cricket for many years at the Public Park, with batting and fielding his specialities. He still followed the fortunes of the game until Portadown exited cricket a few seasons ago at Chambers Park. And with the green shoots of revival on the way last year, that pleased him, for he loved and respected the game.

Harrison Morrow will be sadly missed. His funeral this afternoon (Thursday) will reflect his service to Portadown. The male choir is singing two of his favourites, and Canon Terence Cadden will reflect on his service to Seagoe Parish Church, for he and Amy attended as long as they possibly could. The service is at 12 noon, and burial will be in the adjoining churchyard, which is reserved for parishioners.

Donations are to the Neal Turkington Fund in Nepal, in memory of the young Gurkha officer murdered in 2010. Neal’s dad Ivor was Harrison’s close friend in the male choir, and he was deeply moved by the killing – typical of the compassion of Harrison Morrow.