Monday, 9 April 2012

Leslie Morrish

By Jack McInroy

In October last year I received an email from a certain Leslie Morrish. I had to do a double take. One of Dulwich Hamlet’s greatest ever players bore the same name. But that was eighty years ago! “Dear Jack,” the message began, “From my name you can probably guess who I am. Leslie Morrish was my uncle, the brother of my dad, Sidney. I don't know whether we may have met. I went to a match with my son Christopher at Dulwich in April 2007, and we were introduced to many people.” I don’t recall that at all, so maybe not.

Leslie had been perusing the Hamlet Historian website and noticed that the very first issue of our occasional magazine contained a brief obituary of his uncle Les. We promptly sent a copy of the original magazine to an address in north London which he visits a couple of times a year. Les now spends most of his time in South America, being a resident of Fortaleza, Brazil.

Some of you may be aware of a Facebook group called Now and Then Walworth, which boasts over three thousand members and an online collection of past and present photographs of Walworth and its surrounds. By an odd coincidence only days earlier I had mentioned the original Leslie Morrish in a post I made there. Occasionally folks in the group get to talking about a quaint old confectioners shop called Morrish's in Manor Place and the kindheartedness of the shopkeepers, two elderly brothers. Almost invariably the name of the shop is (mis)remembered as ‘Morris’s’, and pedantic old me will correct the mistake and point them in the direction of the brother, the famous Hamlet man. “Well, we always called it Morris’s!” they usually say, despite the name MORRISH writ large over the top of the shop.

“The shop at Manor Place” young Les said, “was my Uncle Harry's, though Les went into partnership with him in his later days. Les was widowed, I would guess when he was about 50, and his younger son, Christopher, who is my age (now 62), more or less became my surrogate brother, and spent a lot of time with us, so Les was like another Dad to me, and my Dad was in the same position with Chris.”

“The shop was a time warp right into, I would think, the late 70's or early 80's when it shut down. I passed there maybe four years ago, and though boarded up, it still looked unchanged from the outside. My Dad also had a shop at Lucas Road, Kennington, which no longer exists, and is buried under the big council estate that was built across the main road from the Oval after our shop was compulsorily purchased in 1954.”

The Hamlet man was one of five children – along with brothers Harry, Sid and Will and sister Ilene – several of whom were born on the other side of the world in New Zealand. “I have here on my desk in Brazil” Les said, ”a photo of the family, probably in about 1918, after their return from New Zealand, where my Dad was born in 1910.”

His uncle Les was also born in New Zealand in 1907 and on return to England following the war attended what is now John Ruskin School in Camberwell, and later won a scholarship to West Square Central near the Elephant and Castle.

William, the youngest of the siblings was born here in London. “Will worked for many years with the Goodliffe's in New Century/OCS. I don't know for sure, but I think he was probably a director. He certainly always had enough money to drive a nice Mercedes when we didn't even have a car.”

Several members of the Goodliffe family played for Dulwich Hamlet in the 1920s and 30s. The cleaning companies they owned – New Century Cleaning and Office Cleaning Services – employed quite a number of Hamlet footballers over several decades. When times became difficult for the club OCS became the landlords of the Champion Hill Stadium. This, in due course, was sold to present owners King’s College.

An outstanding winger, Les Morrish quickly worked his way up from the Dulwich Hamlet Junior team into the First team. He starred in the outstanding Hamlet side that won the FA Amateur Cup three times between 1932 and 1937. For several years he made up the right wing partnership with the legendary Edgar Kail. He also won four international caps for England Amateurs.

Morrish had exceptional ball control, and it was said about him that the ball seemed glued to his toes as he sidestepped the fullback. He could have played for any professional club in the top flight of English football but he turned them all down, choosing to remain an amateur with Dulwich instead.

Some very fond memories of the Morrish sweetshop in Manor Place – famed locally for their ice cream – have been recounted untold times in the Facebook group mentioned above. Two sisters, called Mandy and Wendy remembered how they were playfully referred to by Mr Harry Morrish as Monday and Wednesday. Here are a handful of other examples taken from the page:

“What was the name of the sweet shop opposite the Rosie O’Grady pub? Was it called Morris's? It was an old style shop run by on old bloke, they did lovely ice cream.”

“They sold the best ice cream, but mostly I remember all the jars of sweets on the shelves – what difficult choices we had back then. They also sold sherbet and peanuts by the quarter. Good times.”

“He had this board with lots of holes in, and inside the holes were tiny pieces of rolled up paper that had numbers on them. You had to push out the one you chose. I can’t remember how much a go it was, but I think you got a toy or possibly an ice cream”

“I used to get a Corgi toy every Friday from Mr Morrish's and he made the most wonderful ice cream.”

“Yes, it was a great little community, that end of Manor Place. Harry Morrish was a lovely old fellow and he had all the patience in the world where us kids were concerned.”

“They sold pea shooters, lucky dips and ice cream floats.”

“Morris’s sweet shop. I can’t forget their ice cream floats, aniseed twists, barley sugar and getting a penny back on your empty lemonade bottles. Or was it threepence?”

“They used to sell single fags in there from under the counter.”

“Morris's; an inevitable Aladdin's cave of goodies. I was a particular fan of pea shooters and his non-melting ice cream.”

“You could join the firework club in Morris’s. He used to give you a little blue or pink membership card, then come November 5th if you had saved enough money …240 one penny bangers! Now that was good value for a quid.”

“I remember Harry with affection. He had all the patience in the world where kids were concerned. This sometimes frustrated his wife, who used to tell Harry he was too soft with us. I can't imagine a shopkeeper today letting kids hang around the shop for ten minutes trying to make their mind's up what sweets to buy.”

“I have very fond memories of the Braganza Street end of Manor Place as a thriving little community. Shops such as Carter's the newsagents, Harry Morrish's sweetshop, Tozer's the butchers, Bernie Phillips's grocery shop, Davies's dairy and the Oil shop on the corner,

“I worked for Harry in the early 70s. His brother owned what we called the Oil shop on the corner of Danson Road and Manor Place. Harry’s wife Una had the shop selling groceries the same as Harry. We had delivery boys that had the bikes with the basket on the front.”

“My brother John Perkins used to work in Morrish's sweet shop when he was a boy up to the age of 17. The shop was owned by Harry and Les Morrish, they were brothers, and I am still friends with Les's son.”

Copyright: Jack McInroy © 2012


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  2. Really interesting reading this history as I used to live in Pasley Road and spent many a happy time buying sweets and ice cream in Morrish's shop. Have been trying to research to find out what happened to John Perkins after he left Morrish's - used to go to Lyceum Ballroom every Saturday night with John and his two friends - we were three girls Ann, Monica and Sandra. John attended my 18th birthday party with his friends - I am sure he will remember us girls. Would be good to find out how life is for him these days. I was amazed when I got to the end of the article and realised you are his brother. Give him my regards - us three girls still keep in touch with with another even though we are now 60 years old. Regards to John and thankyou for the enjoyable read. Ann