by Brian Allison
Hello again girls and boys.
I hope you have all been good today. You have? Then gather round and I'll tell you a story about a little boy named William. Yes Klaus, his childhood friends probably did call him little Willy, but doing that with your finger is not funny, so stop it or I won't tell you the story. Right, if we've all stopped giggling, I'll go on.
Once upon a time - 139 years ago to be exact - in 1877 in a town called Worcester, yes like the sauce Phil, Frederick and Emily Morris were delighted when a stork brought them a baby boy and told them he was called William Richard and was theirs to keep and love.
When William was 3 yrs. old the family moved to another town , this one was called Oxford. Yes Babs there is a car called the Oxford. Uncle Graham Graeme has one I think, I'll see if I can find a picture of one for you.
As William grew up he was very good, never cheeky, and always did his schoolwork as well as he possibly could, just like you all should do.
William loved playing with anything mechanical, and when he was 15 and left school he was delighted when he got a job as an apprentice to a bicycle repairer. William enjoyed fixing the bicycles but when he'd been working for a year and had not had a rise in his pay he fell out with the man who owned the repair shop and left his job.
"What are you going to do now?", his father said, "You need to be earning some money at your age.". William didn't know what to say, then looking out of the window he noticed the shed at the bottom of the back garden. "I'll start my own repair business." he said, "I'll use the shed for it."
So William started to repair bicycles in the shed. Besides repairing bicycles he also started to build them too. He bought all the parts he needed, built the bicycles, Put his own badge which showed a spoked wheel on them and sold them as "The Morris Bicycle". William sold quite a lot of bicycles, helped by the fact that he also rode them in all sorts of races from 1 mile to 50 miles long. He was very good at riding a bicycle. Yes, I know you don't need stabilisers on your bike anymore Paul, but William was very good indeed and was champion of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire at that time.
What is it, Val? Yes you are a clever boy, it does say Morris on the chain hoist in your daddy's garage, but that was made by another man called Morris who had a company called Herbert Morris and Bastert. Stop sniggering Rob. No Nigel I did not say a naughty word, Herbert Morris worked with a man called Bastert.
Anyway, back to William. He worked very hard and also started repairing motor cycles in 1901 when he was 24 yrs. old. Soon he did not have enough room in the workshop he had bought and needed somewhere bigger so he moved again to a bigger one in 1902.
William was very ambitious and when he had his new workshop he stated repairing cars too. So by then he was building and repairing bicycles, repairing motor cycles, selling and repairing cars, and running a taxi service. He was agent for Arrol - Johnson, Belize, Humber, Hupmobile, Singer , Standard and Wolseley cars. No, not a secret agent Mark, it means he sold their cars for them in Oxford.
After 8 yrs.in 1910 William had earned so much money that he could afford a really big workshop and bought one which he named The Morris Garage. That building is still there and I have a photograph of it to show you. That is a big one isn't it Tony.
With his big new workshop William decided that he wanted to make his own car, so he sat down and designed one. He knew that if he was going to build cars he would need even more room so he bought a disused army college in a place called Cowley.
The new car was called the Bullnose and William started building them in 1913, buying all the parts from other companies because he didn't have the facilities to make his own. Unfortunately he had just started making them when the First World War began in 1914. During the war only munitions could be made and he couldn't start building cars again until the war ended.
In 1919 only 400 cars were made, but William had heard about a thing called a production line which a Mr Ford was using in America. Using the same sort of system production was much quicker and his business boomed. So much so that between 1919 and 1925 he also opened plants at Abingdon and Swindon. In 1925 his works turned out 56,000 cars.
William now had so much money that when he heard in 1927 that a company called Wolseley was for sale he decided to buy it for himself rather than the company. Another man called Herbert Austin, who also built cars wanted to buy Wolseley and William had to pay £730,000 for it.
When William bought Wolseley they were in the process of developing a new car themselves which was to be a 8 Horsepower using a brand new overhead camshaft engine they had designed. Although he still owned Wolseley for himself he used this engine in his new Morris car, the Morris Minor which he started making the following year 1929.
Yes Mike, Uncle Gar has just bought a Morris Minor but not the one I mean. That came a long time before the one Izzy designed, which I suppose should really have been called the Minor mk2. Here's a photograph of that first Minor, you can see it's a lot different. The Minor was a big success and made uncle William even more money.
The next year saw the first car under the name MG which stood for Morris Garages. This was a sports version of the Minor and also sold well.
William was not a very patient man, and whilst all this was going on he was very frustrated because some of the people who supplied him with parts couldn't keep up to the orders he gave them. So in 1923, when his engine supplier, Hotchkiss couldn't keep up he bought the company and renamed it Morris Engines.
The firm who supplied his carburettors, SU, were also bought in 1926.
If you remember I told you before about my first car a Morris 10/4. This came in 1932 although the one I had was a 1934 model, the same year William was made a Lord. I've a photo of that too.
In 1938 he also bought the Riley car company and along with Wolseley he merged them with his other companies which was called the Nuffield Organisation.
Because of his success in business William collected quite a few honours. He was given a OBE in 1918, made a Baronet in 1929,and in 1934 was made a Lord as Baron Nuffield, which was promoted in 1938 to Viscount Nuffield. Further honours included a KGC (Knights Grand Cross of the British Empire)in 1941 and a CH (Companion of Honour) in 1958. So little Willy, as Klaus called him, was now, Viscount Nuffield or as most called him Lord Nuffield.
In early 1938 everyone was worried because of what was happening in Germany. A nasty little man called Adolf was running Germany and lots of people didn't like him and thought he would, sooner or later cause a big fight between Britain and Germany. They were right, but that's another story, for another time.
Because he was so successful in building cars the government asked him if he could build them aeroplanes. You've probably heard about the plane they meant, it was called the Spitfire. William said that if they let him use a new factory that was built in a place called Castle Bromwich he would build them 50 a week. Unfortunately though, after over a year, not one plane was actually finished. The government did not like this, and in May 1940 they sacked William and gave the factory to a firm called Vickers who owned the company, (Supermarine) who had designed the Spitfire. This was the only major blot on an otherwise brilliant career.
In 1952, when William was 74 yrs old he went into partnership with his old rival, the Austin Motor Company, and they formed a new company called the British Motor Corporation. He acted as Chairman of the new company for a year and then aged 75 he retired and handed over to a man called Leonard Lord. I might tell you about him sometime if you are good
William died aged 86 in 1963 he'd seen the birth of the motor car industry in Britain and played a major part in it's development and success.
He left behind him a lasting memory for everyone to see. He founded the Nuffield College at Oxford University and the Nuffield building at Birmingham. He also gave an endowment of £10 million pounds in 1943 to found the Nuffield Foundation to advance education and social welfare.
In 1938 there had been a great demand for what were called Iron Lungs; these were special machines used to help people who had trouble with their breathing. William promised to make and give one to any hospital who needed one, and kept his promise, giving over 1,700 of them to hospitals all over Britain and the Empire. He also gave generously to lots of other causes too.
Taken all round William Richard Morris was quite a remarkable man. He started with nothing apart from ambition and a talent for business and rose to the heights of a Lordship and vast wealth, but he never forgot how lucky he was and tried to help others achieve their ambitions, especially through learning.
So children, if you study hard at school and make the most of your abilities, who knows?, you might be as successful as William was.
Time to go to sleep now. Night, night, dream of your future.
Filter by Author
Filter by Month