Scottish amateur boxing coach and Navy gunner;
Born: November 27, 1916; Died: June 17, 2012.
Bill Morrison, who has died aged 96, was one of Edinburgh's leading amateur boxing coaches and saw wartime action as a Royal Navy gunner.
Born in Leith's long vanished Coatfield Place in a one-roomed single-end house that he shared with his parents and 10 siblings, Bill Morrison was no stranger, from an early age, to social hardship and it may have been in these unpromising circumstances that he developed his innate personal toughness.
But Edinburgh and Scotland's oldest and still extant amateur boxing club, the Leith Victoria, proved to be the salvation of Bill and his younger, boxing-mad brother, Robert, who died in the same Edinburgh hospital as Bill just two days after the former passed away on June 17.
When Bill and his younger sibling Bob joined the Leith Victoria in 1930 it was Scotland's premier boxing academy, with the first Scottish boxer to win two Lonsdale Belts at different weights – James "Tancy" Lee – in charge. Former British fly and featherweight champion Lee taught both Morrison boys well, with Bill winning an Eastern boxing championship title, at a time when ferocious competition – both in numbers and quality of opponents – made that a particularly meritorious achievement.
However, to help out his parents who were under economic pressure from the 1930s depression and the need to feed their very large family, Morrison joined the Royal Navy, where by the outbreak of war in 1939 he had become a first class gunner.
He served throughout the war and saw action on various warships including HMS President and HMS Wolf, where he was decorated for gallantry after diving into the sea to save an officer who had fallen overboard.
Similarly, proof positive that fortune does favour the brave sometimes came during the war when Bill was scheduled to be drafted to serve in the gun turrets of the battleship HMS Hood –just two months before she sailed off to be sunk, with the loss of all but three of her crew, in May 1941 by the German battleship Bismarck. However, a change of orders meant that Morrison was not in the doomed Hood's gun turret when she sailed.
Meanwhile, he did not neglect his boxing, winning a clutch of shore based Inter-Service boxing championships between 1940-45, between participating in various wartime naval actions.
The Royal Navy endowed him with another unanticipated benefit that would last a lifetime. Asked by a shipmate to deliver a message to the latter's family home because the sailor couldn't get shore leave, he duly went to his shipmate's home in the Gorgie district of Edinburgh – and promptly fell in love with his mate's sister who answered the door: Isabella Fraser, who became his wife in November 1944 after a whirlwind courtship. Their union would produce two daughters, Irene and Isabel.
Once the war was over he took a job with a Leith scrap metal merchant and then began a highly successful career as boxing coach with the Leith Victoria and then the Granton-based Buccleuch amateur boxing club.
And it was at the Buccleuch that he developed the renowned multi-titled international Scottish lightweight and welterweight champion, Malcolm McKenzie, whom widely respected boxing journalist Bill Cairns called "a dream boxer with a nightmare punch"– proof of Morrison's skills as a coach.
Among many others to profit from his wisdom at the Buccleuch club was Tom Imrie, who won 1970 Commonwealth Games light-middleweight gold in Edinburgh under his mentor's tutelage.
A much loved father and husband, he was just as renowned for being the life and soul of any social gatherings.
His own life was a catalogue of triumph over adversity where early social deprivation was transformed and transcended by hard work and devotion into a life of achievement that impinged favourably on his boxers and his family.
Bill Morrison was pre-deceased by his wife Isabella, but is survived by his daughters, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
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