Much of My Autobiography, by Rev. James Morrow

History of Fr. Morrow

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A proper autobiography cannot be so circumscribed as to eliminate the people I lived and live with. But to do them justice I would have to write a biography of each one, of my mother and father, brothers and sisters, their husbands and wives, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, kindred of blood, kindred of affinity, clergy, teachers, tutors, professors, doctors, nurses, speech therapists, playmates, fellow students, prisoners, a host of pro-life collaborators and finally everyone else I ever met or wrote to or talked to or preached to, or anyone to whom I ever gave any grace or from whom I was myself sanctified. Everyone is of enormous importance, not just me.

To write all these biographies would be a tall order! I would need a big library! And of course they would not all be satisfied. They would properly have their own criticisms. In fact only the good Lord himself would be able to do it. Indeed He has already done it - everyone whose name is inscribed in the Book of Life.

So what has to be done? All I can say is a great big gigantic THANK YOU to all, close or further away. Every Holy Mass is a Mass of thanksgiving to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and then to all through whom the Father has given us life. Everyone is thanked every day in my celebrating the Holy Sacrifice.

By writing part of my autobiography I am simply attempting to give something of my pro-life apostolate, hoping that it may be of some help for others, and that they may do better than I have done, and finally put an end to the atrocity of the culture of death. Here are my origins. I was born in 1934 at Clarence Street, Paisley, my father a patternmaker and my mother of a mining family in Lanarkshire. Then one year later (unknown to me) I was taken to Belmont Rd, Gallowhill, Paisley, where I spent my childhood. God gave me five fabulous sisters and six equally wonderful brothers, namely Etta, Annie, John, Hugh, Jean, Mary, Edward, Peter, Nora, Gerald and Andrew. Their spouses (later on of course) were Dan, Harry, MarieTherese, Maimie, Neil, John, Heather, Lilian, Leo, Rena and Moyra. Many have gone to their reward. May they rest in peace.

I am among the list of names above, between Edward and Peter, with no spouse as I am a priest. I have many early confused memories, notably of Rupert the Bear in a newspaper. Mum read them for me but I was very unhappy not being able to read Rupert and other comics myself. Edward could read! I was determined to read as soon as possible. And as a result at school at St James, Shortroods, Paisley, I was able soon to read the Dandy, the Beano, and later the Wizard, the Hotspur, the Adventure and the Rover. These were my staple intellectual food, and I loved every minute.

School needed about a mile and a half to get to class, and by foot, initially with an older sister or brother. One day many were late and got the belt from the head nun. But she stopped and excused me, explaining publicly that I had a reason - I had a long way to go. Even at that tender age I knew that the good nun's reasoning was flawed. Obviously if you have a long way to go you should start earlier, walk faster, get up earlier, or even go to bed earlier. Furthermore, if length of walk is an excuse then I should be able to go late every day for six years! However, I did not have the vocabulary or the audacity to tell her this, and no doubt if I had I would have got even more for insolence. Self-preservation tempered the acumen of my logic, and, with a war on, youth would get rough justice. So I held my peace.

I do remember a time when I was about eight years old. I was detailed to wash the dishes and Mary to dry them. I did my job but Mary sat in an armchair by the fire and read a book. After about half an hour I realised that she was leaving the dishes to dry by themselves, in the atmosphere. A Theresa of Lisieux, or of Calcutta, would have put them away herself. But I was of sterner stuff. I reckoned that this situation was unfair. I had to work, and if she stayed where she was she would have nothing to do! I dealt with that. I slipped into the kitchen every twenty minutes or so and poured cold water over everything. She had to work after all. Served her right! She didn't mean to work.

Naturally, after learning to read, my horizons expanded and over the years, usually with Peter, I tasted cricket (a lot), some football, chess (a lot), walking, running, climbing (trees, not mountains), cycling (a lot), swimming, rounders, kick the can, gigs (one board and 4 wheels), monopoly (a lot), playing cards, listening to the wireless (as it was called in those days), billiards, tennis, table tennis, ice-skates, ordinary skates (though too easily worn out), running the girn (or hoop), snow fun, cowboys of course, chestnuts, konkers, stamp collecting, cubs, scouts (but with poor motivation on my part), boating at Barshaw, catching baggyminows, feeding the hens (not ours) and even feeding the horse (also not ours), feeding my budgie (until it flew away), and later camping.

With so many brothers and sisters life was very busy, and very enjoyable: marvellous fun at the Gleniffer Braes, (going, during and after), visits with all or much of the family to Gourock, Rothesay, Port Bannatyne, Largs, Saltcoats, Ayr, Girvan, Dunoon, Loch Lomond, Shotts and Auchenheath, and shows at St James's Park in summer and Kelvin Hall at Christmas time. More fun was of course going to the cinemas, where with six pence one could go to the Kelburne, La Scala, Picture House, Regal, West End, Astoria, or New Alex. Television demolished the lot.

Even spiritual matters got some share. At the age of about six I saw that nuns took the boarders on a Sunday walk, crocodile fashion, and looked splendid. I told Dad I wanted to join them. Dad said it was only for girls. Where do you go for boys? Blairs College. I divined then or later that boys at Blairs went on to become priests. Good. I wanted to go. Mum said it was still too early. Surprisingly I never changed, right up till now. I couldn't get to Blairs but worked especially on Latin in St. Mirin's Academy, Renfrew Road, Paisley. Earlier, a primary teacher taught several to become altar boys, including me, and therefore taught us to read the Latin to make the Mass responses.

I did understand my First Holy Communion, and even much about Confirmation, but was disconcerted by the absence of tongues of fire. I decided later that the Bishop must have seen them.

Questions arose re Protestants and Catholics, while still in primary. Who is right, we or they? I decided that we had the churches first and they later. So we were right. Only much later was I able to note that Paisley Abbey was built around the twelfth century, a Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation in Scotland began officially by Act of the Scots Parliament in 1560. I remember the war of course, but it ended when I was eleven and had only a child's comprehension. It was a time of much darkness at night, gas masks, shortage of sweets, rationing, occasional results of an air raid (where the most interest lay in the possibility of finding some shrapnel). Part of my domestic arrangements included deciphering the ration books, which I got to be nimble with. One brother did not cash the share of chocolate coupons until it was too late. That was regarded as a disaster.

Eventually my bishop sent me to the Scots College Rome, and the Gregorian University, fabulous privileges. After ordination to the priesthood 1st March, 1958 I had courses at University of Glasgow, and Jordanhill College of Education, thereby equipping me to teach primary and secondary schools. I taught in St. Vincent's, Langbank, Renfrewshire, a minor seminary, and later St Mary's Blairs, Aberdeen, also minor seminary. In 1980 I became parish priest of St. Andrew's, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, and in 1990 onwards I was able to campaign for unborn children full time in my centre of Humanae Vitae House, also in Braemar.

On the first of December 1998 I had a stroke, and was bereft of my vocabulary memory. Other physical maladies arrived and were dealt with in various operations. Slowly I got a lot of my memory back. When doctors are good they are very very good. My sister Nora and her husband, and others of course, nursed me back to passable health. A year later Nora died of cancer: a terrible loss. May she rest in peace

Such are the obvious essentials. Rev. James Morrow