OBITUARY: top Orangeman George Morrison

George Morrison.
George Morrison.

George Morrison rose from humble beginnings to become an Orangeman of distinction.

Born on November 23, 1924, he was unofficially adopted at an early age and raised by the Kingham family in Saintfield.

George Morrison, the former mayor of Lisburn, and Orangeman, died in October 2014

George Morrison, the former mayor of Lisburn, and Orangeman, died in October 2014

He had wanted to be a mechanic, but discovered that he could not afford the cost of an apprenticeship training.

From his mid-teens onwards he worked at Harland and Wolff, making boilers.

He married wife Emily in 1947 and moved jobs at the same time, going from the shipyard to Lagan Valley Hospital.

There he was responsible for stoking the boiler and portering duties such as transporting corpses.

He ultimately ended up as a telephonist at the hospital.

His family recall that, when asked by doctors if he smoked, he would reply that he had not lit a cigarette since the day he was married, because he could not afford to.

He was also a very hard worker, and in the 40 years he spent at the hospital before he retired, aged 65, he was off sick just once.

Even then he was absent for mere hours, and only because his boss ordered him home.

He was an Ulster Unionist, though had also become involved in the quasi-paramilitary Vanguard movement of the 1970s before becoming dissatisfied and leaving.

He served as a Lisburn councillor from 1973 to 1981, and returned again in the 1990s to become mayor.

Among his acts in the post was to confer the Freedom of Lisburn on Dame Mary Peters.

His daughter described him as a man of “humble beginnings”.

He lived in Lisburn’s Knockmore estate, and during his term as First Citizen neighbours would be treated to the sight of the plush mayoral car pulling up outside his house so could be driven to official engagements.

During his two-year- spell as mayor, he suffered a heart attack.

However, he later returned to complete his full term.

William Leathem, DUP councillor for the city, said: “He was small in stature but huge in what he delivered for his constituents.

“He was somebody who called a spade a spade, and somebody I always admired for getting things done.”

He was arguably best known for his life in the loyal orders. He had been district secretary of the Orange Order in Lisburn, County Grand Master in Antrim, deputy Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and was Honorary Deputy Grand Master of the order too.

A portrait of him still hangs in Lisburn Orange Hall (seen above).

His wife developed osteoarthritis and moved into a home about five years ago, and he would go and visit daily.

She died two years ago.

He moved to supported accommodation in Bangor earlier this year, and his health had remained generally quite good; right up until the end he could be seen zooming around town on a scooter.

He needed a hip replacement but after the operation he had a heart attack and died on October 22. He was 89.

His funeral was held in Railway Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn, on October 24, attended by Edwin Poots among others.

On the day, Lisburn’s council offices flew its flags at half mast. He was buried in Blaris.

He is survived by daughter Isobel, son Tommy, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.