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3rd November 1928 - 5th August 2015
On Tuesday, 19th January, 2016 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving and celebration for the life of Ken Morgan was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the bidding:-
We are here to celebrate the life and to honour the memory of Ken Morgan - a man who was much loved and respected, and who will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Saying a final farewell is always hard. But our task today is to give thanks for all that he was, and to rejoice that the world was a richer place for his presence within it.
Ken was a man who loved words, and who loved poetry. So we begin with a prayer by the priest and poet, John Donne. Let us pray:
Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house
Where shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
No noise nor silence, but one equal music;
No fears nor hopes, but one equal possession:
No ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
In the habitations of your glory and dominion,
World without end.
Listen to Address:
On behalf of the family, I would just like to thank everyone here very much indeed for coming today. We are really touched – we know that some people have travelled a long way to attend this. And we are very glad that Michelle Stanistreet, the General Secretary of the NUJ, is with us and will be speaking a little later. We are grateful to her – and to the NUJ - for providing and organising refreshments after the service in the St Bride Foundation and we do hope that you will be able to join us there afterwards.
Ken, my Dad, was born in Salford in 1928. His father was a cashier at the Manchester Ship Canal and his mother had been a dressmaker. A few years after his birth, his much-loved baby sister, Lois, was born. It was Dad’s Uncle Tom, his mother’s brother, a journalist on The Scotsman, who introduced him to the world of newspapers.
When he left school at the age of 15, Dad got his first job on one of two local papers – The Stockport Express. He soon realised that a knowledge of shorthand was going to be very useful in a newspaper office and set about acquiring this – more or less teaching himself over the next couple of years with the aid of a book, spending one or two hours most evenings working on developing this skill. It was while covering an event for his paper that he met – and fell in love with – Margaret, my mother. Mum worked on the rival local paper – The Stockport Advertiser, and the two young journalists, each reporting on happenings in the area such as council meetings and inquests, would wangle their respective office diaries to allow them to cover the same events.
Dad started National Service a month after his 18th birthday. He was commissioned as an officer and served in Egypt and Palestine in the British Army Newspaper Unit. On completion of National Service he returned to his job on the Stockport Express.
In 1950 he and Mum married. She was running the Macclesfield Advertiser, and they lived in an old tied cottage in Macclesfield that went with the job - whose front room was the editorial office. For the next few years, Dad worked for freelance news agencies, such as Exchange Telegraph Company, writing for most of the Manchester papers and some London ones – specialising in court cases and crime. He had become very active in the Stockport branch of the union – the NUJ – and was soon voted on to the National Executive Committee.
Their first child, my late sister Helen, was born in Macclesfield, as was I a little later. The family moved to London when I was three, where Dad took up a full time post as official with the NUJ. Jenny, their third daughter was born a few years after their move.
In 1970 Dad became General Secretary of the NUJ – a job he found both extremely rewarding and, at times, extremely stressful. At the end of his tenure he received the OBE for services to trades unions. I remember as a young teenager telling him that he should find something easier and less worrying to do, and he would joke that one day he planned to become a hedger and ditcher. And one day, seven years later, he did move on, not to hedging and ditching but to another very challenging role - at the Press Council where he became Joint Secretary, shortly afterwards taking over as Director – a job he remained in for 10 years, seeing the organisation safely through its metamorphosis into the Press Complaints Commission before retiring at the age of 62. Retirement brought a whole series of more and different activities. He undertook consultancy work for the British Council and the Thomson Foundation, advising foreign administrations, such as Fiji and Sierra Leone, on Press freedom and regulation and on establishing a Code of Practice for the Press. He became a Trustee of Reuters and served in this capacity for 15 years.
Outside work, his own interests and passions included: first and foremost – reading: his tastes were diverse, covering autobiographies, books about the use of words, military history and politics. But in general his preferred genres were probably the 19th Century English novel, with Anthony Trollope a particular favourite – and poetry. He seemed to know so many poems off by heart; I once asked him how he learnt them and he said “ Largely through osmosis”. Other pleasures included theatre-going and art galleries. We will have a taste today of some of the music he especially enjoyed: Gilbert and Sullivan, the songs of Flannagan and Allen, and military brass bands. The sight of Dad, sitting in front of the television and using his child-sized drum to accompany the bands playing at the Trooping of the Colour was a familiar one to us.
Always keen for new experiences, Dad was anxious to see as much of the world and its people as he could, and he and Mum did a lot of travelling in later years. At one point he developed a passion for canals and narrowboat holidays – a pleasing throw-back to his father’s time spent working for the Manchester Ship Canal – and also, as we later discovered when delving into family history, to the life of an earlier forebear who had made his living as a canal bargeman.
I believe that we – my sisters and I – were always conscious of how lucky we were to have the parents we had. Dad would make us laugh, tell us stories and read to us endlessly. He and my mum were constant companions for their almost 65 years of marriage, delighting in each other’s company.
Within the family, Dad was an important and influential figure. His passion for reading and for choosing and using words carefully and creatively has been passed down through his daughters to his six grandchildren who have all shown – and continue to show – an appreciation of the value of language and literature and of the importance of creativity.
It would be hard to find a better role model for a younger generation – a man who put so much into and got so much out of life, devoted to his family while constantly using his immense talents and skills to help improve the conduct of the profession he had chosen, as well as the conditions and therefore the lives of those working within it.
Listen to Address:
It’s a great honour to be able to pay tribute to Ken today on behalf of all members of the NUJ, across the UK and Ireland.
As a life long member, and ultimately a Member of Honour, Ken served the union in many roles – from his first role as secretary to Manchester’s freelance branch to his election as General Secretary in 1970, a position he held for 7 years. He continued to represent the union as a trustee and chairman of the Journalists’ Copyright Fund right up until three years ago when ill health led him to step down.
Ken has the distinction of being remembered as both a great journalist as well as a fine, principled trade union leader.
He was held in huge affection amongst the members he represented so well and respected even by those who disagreed with him. Indeed, his strong relationships with colleagues across the board – including those he politically differed with – underlined Ken’s own unflappable courtesy, innate kindness and good grace.
Ken led the union during a tumultuous period, with all the ingredients politically and industrially to cause headaches and challenges for anyone holding down the NUJ’s top job. Perhaps it takes a fellow NUJ general secretary – and their nearest and dearest – to appreciate what a challenging, frustrating but also weirdly fulfilling job this can be.
Stories of Ken at the infamous 1974 Wexford delegate meeting abound, and I happened to alight upon an agenda from this meeting a couple of years ago, in the run up to my last delegate meeting, attracted by the date being the year of my birth. The Wexford ADM holds a place in NUJ folklore as something of a Bacchanalian feast, of prolific drunkenness, interspersed with contentious arguments and highly charged debates, all admirably held together – I’m sure with wisdom and sobriety – by Ken as general secretary and John Bailey as president.
It was with a mixture of amusement and deja vu I read the motions debated at Wexford – financial crises, motions of censure of the National Executive Committee, Alternative plans, calls for resignations, attacks and counter attacks… all surreally reminiscent of my own recent experience as general secretary and almost an re-enactment of the blood on the walls delegate meeting I’d endured the year before. Forty years may have separated us but plus ça change!
When you talk to people in the NUJ about Ken, a picture quickly emerges. A man of integrity, a clever negotiator, hugely principled, someone who could diffuse the most heated of debates – whether with reason, patience, clear-headed intelligence, wit or pure stoicism. I’m sure Ken’s humour and ability to see the funny side kept him going – despite being sorely tested – during his NUJ years.
One anecdote that showcases Ken’s generosity of spirit, and true journalistic talent, was his reporting of Nye Bevan’s infamous speech in 1948, in which he referred to the Tories as being “lower than vermin”. His self-taught shorthand, as Sarah mentioned, was such that he was the only reporter to get an accurate note of a speech that became the major story of the day. But far from revelling in his scoop for the Exchange Telegraph, Ken immediately shared the quotes with his fellow reporters, sparing the rest of the press table’s blushes.
Ken’s ability to entertain is remembered fondly, a skill often deployed to demonstrate the union’s unique mix of principle and pragmatism. On the great debate over the ethics of advertorials, for example, Ken summed up the union’s position thus: “The NUJ has two views about advertorial. The first is that journalists should never write it. The second is that they should be paid extra when they do write it.”
Ken was also addicted to puns, and was quite prepared to take a long meander around the houses to deliver a decent one-liner. Francis Beckett told me how Ken once went way off piste in a report to the NEC, in order to point to a newspaper article with pictures of him and Lord Gibson, beneath which was the caption “Gibson and Morgan: ideologically poles apart”. He let this line hang for a moment before musing: “Now, the only ideological Pole I know is Denis MacShane.”
One final anecdote, that will lead us into the wonderful choir’s last piece, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Modern Major General. After a lunchbreak excursion during tense Fleet Street pay talks, Ken was with the NUJ negotiating team in the back of a taxi, lifting the atmosphere with an impromptu rendition of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic. He was still in the middle of his song when the cab driver drew up at the offices of the Fleet Street paper. Ken was in full flow and continued singing, word-perfect, while the cab driver drummed his fingers and looked at the clock until another member of the negotiating team ordered the taxi to go around the block again – enabling Ken to finish what he’d started, cheering up his team and receiving a round of applause to boot.
That’s how the NUJ will remember Ken – a class act.
James Brown read John 14: 1 - 6
14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
John Bailey read Naming of Parts by Henry Reed
Naming of Parts was Ken Morgan’s favourite poem.
Sarah read it beautifully at his funeral last year.
It neatly brackets his brief but important military service and his journalism – because, aptly, the poem was written by a journalist – Henry Reed – a Birmingham lad born in 1914, called up in 1941 and recruited as a Japanese translator. He was a BBC broadcaster and died in 1986.
Ken was invited – with others who prized words – to offer up a favourite poem for an anthology – and to say why. Unhesitatingly, he chose Naming of Parts – for three reasons. Conveniently, he left us a note of these:
1. “The first is purely personal,” he wrote. “I spent the gloriously warm cloudless summer of 1947 very happily as a soldier on Salisbury Plain.
“Mornings were usually devoted to drill and weapons training: afternoons, more leisurely, theoretically to map-reading but in practice to walking the Plain and downs above Tidworth reading poetry and plays, and talking.
“No other piece of writing so sharply mirrors for me mornings passed in the ritual recitation of Army phrases and afternoons spent freely speculating on life, nature, language and art.”
2. The second reason Ken calls the poem’s “antiphonal voices” – the one repeating the problems constantly; the other whispering the poetry in his head.
3. Third and last – read silently or aloud, this is probably one of the two best – and certainly one of the two most quoted – poems to have come out of the Second World War.
Naming Of Parts
Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.
This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.
This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.
And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.
They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For to-day we have naming of parts.
Jenny Hawke read Some of Ken's Words by Henry Reed
What would you say to a young person who was interested in journalism about taking it up as a profession?
It’s very commonly said that the thing to do if anyone asks you what do you think about them going into journalism is to argue against it … this on the grounds that sometimes it’s a difficult occupation to get into, it’s a diff occupation to stay in , it’s hard work while you’re doing it, and the rewards aren’t commensurate with the amount you need to put into it as a job. So the kind thing to do is to say to any boy or girl who comes to you saying “I want to be a journalist”, “Oh I shouldn’t do that if I were you!” And there’s something in that - but I’ve never been able to bring myself to follow it. What you shouldn’t do is disguise the fact that it‘s a highly competitive occupation , that it’s frequently a difficult one to enter, and it’s often in large part not as well rewarded as people think it would be. But most people in my experience who are journalists or have been journalists for a long time wouldn’t actually wish to be doing anything else. Now that may tell us something about journalism or something about the kind of people who go into it.…… I’ve found it a rewarding and interesting occupation. You’ve got to be fairly dyed in the wool dull not to be interested in the kind of thing you’re likely to be dealing with at whatever level and wherever – geographically or in society. …. So I suppose in fact I would encourage it – but never minimise the downside – the heartbreaks, there are plenty of those. The enjoyment, the meeting people, the writing about things, sometimes genuinely trying to actually do a piece of concrete good by instead of offering a trainee journalist your advice, offering the nation - if you can get it to publish it – your advice, but it’s not really that, it’s just the enjoyment…
What have been the high points of your career?
Genuinely, I’ve enjoyed each part of my career. If anyone had asked me when I was in my early teens, would you like to be General Secretary of the NUJ? I would have said “ You must be joking!”. Similarly, if someone had offered me the prospect in my early teens of being Director of the Press Council or a trustee of Reuters, I would have laughed in their face, but I enjoyed being both.
It just happens that each thing I’ve found myself doing I’ve genuinely been able to enjoy. It’s sometimes been jolly hard work, it’s sometimes been very worrying work but it’s never failed to be enjoyable.
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
In Paradisum from Requiem - Fauré
Benedictus from The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace - Karl Jenkins
The Alleluias from Exsultate, Jubilate - Mozart
Underneath the Arches - Flanagan arr. Jones
Modern Major General - Gilbert and Sullivan
The March of the British Grenadiers - Trad.
He Who Would Valiant Be
Abide With Me
Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer