David Morrist (Oates 1957 – 1960)

David Morrist (photographed in 2006); photo credit: Marcus GordonDavid Morrist died of pancreatic cancer in Cape Town on 9 October 2012, his wife having succumbed to the same disease in the same city a few months earlier on 11 May.

I find it extraordinary that although David had such enormous influence on his peers at Eagle School, at Falcon and at Natal University, almost none of them knows much about his life, career or achievements after he graduated from university – that he joined Anglo-American in Oranjemund, married Hestira Coetzee, became Harry Oppenheimer’s personal assistant in Johannesburg, worked for Philip Brothers in New York (the largest metal-trading firm in the world), in 1974 and 1979 had sons Andrew and James (who were schooled at Wellington College, UK), migrated to Australia in 1981 for three years to head up the Philips Brothers operation there, moved to the UK in 1984 to work as an investment banker and start his own bank in 1988, was one of the architects of Glencor’s acquisition of the Billiton Group from Dutch Royal Shell – and retired in 1995 to move between his homes in Andorra, in France and in Napier, Western Cape.

All this emanated from the foundation provided by his schooling and life in what was then Rhodesia. Many speak fondly of their time with him at Eagle before he moved to Falcon in 1957. Here, he played U14 cricket and captained the U15A XI.

The Falcon Magazine records memorable speeches he made in Debating Society meetings, his final year as a prefect in Oates, his massive input towards the drawing up of the constitution of the Mylne Society, his being awarded the prestigious Governor’s Trophy (for Notable Service to the school) – and in my opinion, the inestimable contribution he made to sportsmanship in general and to cricket in particular at Falcon, where in 1960, he captained the 2nd XI with enormous vitality and enthusiasm. Indeed, The Falcon Magazine of that year records that “under the exuberant captaincy of Morrist, this side provided stern opposition to all schools and enjoyed its games to the full, Morrist being awarded 50 Club Colours in recognition of his leadership”.

In 2011, both David and his wife were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and were told that there was nothing that could be done for them. They moved to Cape Town to be near their son, Andrew. FOBS from all over the world got to hear of their plight and many e-mailed David with wonderful messages of support.

In one of his last e-mail replies, sent out ‘en masse’ to certain FOBS, David reminisced about his life. His comment to me is worth repeating – as a reflection of his dynamism and sense of humour:

“Many thanks for your comments, Paul. Picture this – 1960 Oates v Founders on the field opposite the old San. Oates was so appalling at sport that I had played for the House 1st from my first year. Umpires DET and PDC (Founders and Oates Housemasters). So Morrist to Goldstein who leaves the first ball loosener. Second ball nips back and Freddie, who never moved his feet much (he didn’t need to since his hand/eye coordination was brilliant and his bulk did the rest) is dead and buried in front of middle and off. After an appropriately enthusiastic appeal (what an understatement! -PDC), DET – bless his soul – says NO with a wry smile: ‘doing too much, Morrist’. You can imagine my reaction; it was after all before the days of match referees, TV coverage – which would have been helpful – and fines for dissent (which would have been imposed! -PDC). No need to tell you that FSG made plenty and we lost by almost as many. Difficult enough game, playing against 11…”

David ended his email:

“Enough. I am delighted that you have all done so well with your lives. I have always enjoyed my friends’ successes – let the tall poppies grow! A little adieu to you all…”

David’s sons have decided to donate a cricket award to Falcon – to be presented annually to a boy who is not necessarily the best cricketer in the school, but is rather someone who closely embodies the cricketing qualities with which David was imbued: vitality, determination, communication, enthusiasm, optimism.

A heartfelt adieu to David Morrist.

Paul D Cannon, writing in The Falcon Magazine, 2012

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