Structural steel draughtsman
Structural steel draughtsman
Born: February 13, 1938; Died: September 19, 2013.
TOMMY Morris, who has died in his home in the United States aged 75, was a draughtsman from Cambuslang who studied at Coatbridge Technical College and ventured across the Atlantic as a young man, intending to make his fortune and return to Scotland.
Instead, he fell in love with an American girl, stayed on and became a highly-respected structural steel detailer, first in Canada, and later in the US. His draughtsmanship is visible in many buildings, bridges and towers in Quebec and in New England, where he spent most of his career.
During his 50-plus years on the other side of the ocean, and until his dying days, he remained a proud Glaswegian and a patriotic Scot, even though, like all of the Scots diaspora, he knew he would never be allowed to vote for or against independence.
He co-founded the St Andrew's Society in Vermont, the New England state where he retired, and he helped form the St Andrew's Pipes and Drums of Vermont, where his big bass drum often boomed through its historic streets. In Canada, he had been part of the Sons of Scotland band and he encouraged his American wife Sheila to learn Scottish Country Dance and loved nothing more, with his family, than to take part in Vermont's Highland Games, St Andrew's dinners and Burns nights. He also returned regularly to Scotland with his family to ensure they remembered their roots and invited his relatives in Scotland to the US for holidays. "Our families were kindred spirits. You would think we had known one another for ever," his wife told The Herald.
Thomas Morris was born in a "room and kitchen" at 70 Main Street Cambuslang, the fourth child of Thomas and Anne Morris (née Dawson). The three brothers shared a "hole in the wall" - a bed recess. Their sister Jessie had died as a baby and their father passed away when Tommy was only 15. His older brother Andy, who still lives in the Cambuslang area, recalled: "In 1943, during the war but after the Clydeside blitz, we moved to 34 Deans Avenue, Halfway, Cambuslang, to our gran's house. In those days, your furniture removal was an open-back lorry, always hoping it would stay dry till you got to your new house. We climbed on the back and thought that this was great fun going along Gilbertfield Road and past Dechmont Hill."
Tommy first went to Bushy Hill primary school and later Gateside secondary on Hamilton Road, Cambuslang. He became a member of the Boy's Brigade, 217 Company, at Flemington Hallside Parish Church.
For pocket money, he worked as an assistant to a local milkman. Sheila recalled: "Tommy often shared his many sweet memories of growing up in Scotland. We especially loved the story about the big Clydesdale horse, Peggy, which pulled the milk wagon through Cambuslang. When it was really cold, Tommy would put his hands next to her muzzle to warm them up enough to deliver the milk. Peggy knew the route so all Tommy had to do was run up to each house and pour fresh milk into containers on doorsteps."
Having had a penchant for maths at school, Tommy graduated from Coatbridge Technical College and joined the structural steel manufacturers and engineers Redpath, Brown & Co Ltd as an apprentice draughtsman specialising in structural steel, an expertise he would continue for the rest of his life.
More than a decade after the end of World War Two, times were still hard and he became one of many Scots to decide that the New World was the place to earn enough money to come home with pride and a nest-egg.
Having a cousin in Montreal, he set off for Quebec, where his expertise soon got him a job with the company Standard Structural Steel.
He met the love of his life, Sheila Waite from Alburgh, Vermont, who was studying in Montreal but working as a summer waitress in the Blarney Stone Inn, one of Tommy's haunts. They married in 1962.
By 1967, having had their first two children, they decided to move south to the US, worried by the Quebec separatist movement and the fact that, in Montreal, their children might have to go to French-speaking schools.
Tommy first worked for Nash Steel Corp in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, before starting his own company Struc Steel Detailers. A structural steel detailer is the draughtsman who, working with architects, engineers and contractors, prepares drawings and plans for steel constructions, mostly in large buildings, bridges or industrial plants where large amounts of steel are involved.
His wife Sheila said he was always proud of his Scottish heritage. "I loved his Scottish accent and his witty remarks," she said. "I found myself "translating" for him often to my American friends. We all loved that Scottish brogue. Tommy never stopped longing for Scotland - that is where part of his heart always remained."
He died at his home in Williston, Vermont and is survived by Sheila, children Penny, Robert and Thomas, four grandchildren and his brothers Andy (of Westburn, south-east of Glasgow) and Billy, who lives in England.
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