Pastor Morris tribute: 'We don’t know what would have happened to us if it wasn’t for him'
- Credit: Courtesy of the Morris family
A legendary pastor who devoted his life to helping young Windrushers across London and the country was remembered by the many people he helped last week.
Pastor Rupert Morris ran an advice centre in Bradbury Street called Pastor Morris on Youth Affairs, a youth club in Highbury as well as many other facilities in London throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
He was an activist and writer who would attend courts across the capital, bailing young people out of jail when they had nowhere else to turn.
In later life, the pastor set up fold out beds in his one bedroom apartment and helped homeless people in need, often offering them money or a place to stay.
Colin Linton was one of the people Pastor Morris helped when he was 16 in the 1970s. He told the Gazette: "I was going through a period where life wasn’t great at home and it was even worse on the street because you weren’t liked as a Black person many places you would go."
At the time and into the 80s, Black and minority ethnic people, often young men, were targeted by the "sus" or suspected persons law - which gave police the power to stop, search and arrest people on suspicion of them being in breach of the Vagrancy Act.
Colin continued: "As a young person it was very difficult because it was hard to get into work. I fell into trouble and I didn’t have any one to turn to at the time. The pastor was doing youth work and he happened to be in the courts that day when they asked me if I had anyone to represent me.
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"I said no and he put up his hand and said he would represent me, and from that day the pastor was in my life."
Pastor Morris was described as a humble man who always looked smart, carrying his briefcase wherever he went. He never used profanities and only spoke "when he had something to say".
Monica Saunders, who helped organise the pastor's funeral service, said: "He always looked smart. He had his mac on. It was a beige mac.
"With his suit underneath, a shirt but not always a tie and his smart shoes.
"He would have his hand behind his back just walking through, side to side, just silently.
"That silent walking through, I believe that he might have been praying, praying for us to be good, praying for us to do positive things."
The pastor also set up a place for young Black men nicknamed the Happy Hostel in Tottenham in the 70s.
The men who lived there described the struggles they faced at the time, dealing with homelessness, hostile police and estranged parents.
Michael Cover spent much of his childhood in the West Indies while his parents settled in the UK. He says the pastor gave him "back his life", adding: "I could have been a wicked person in life to how I was treated in this country."
"I came from Jamaica to here and it was a big experience coming to a new family – they did not really understand or know me."
Toby Young described how he came to live at the hostel: "I grew up with my father and he had partners that would come and go.
"Some of them were really nice and I would attach myself to them and then they would go and I would be left with this crazy angry man. Eventually I became homeless.
"When I moved into 62 High Cross (Happy Hostel) I didn’t feel I could get close to anyone and the way pastor was to me.
"We all came from different parts of London, we didn’t know one another and no one really trusted anyone because we were young kids who had gone through rough stuff.
"And somehow he would slowly but surely bring us all together."
Tony says he felt like "everyone living in that house" was his brother.
He added: "It didn’t matter what happened to one, it would happen to all. We protected each other and it saved our lives.
"The guy was something else, he really was special. We won't see his likes again."
Michael described the pastor as a "man of the young people", adding: "At our time, the 70s 80s 90s, he was the leader of our community."
"All these people who come along now there was always someone before them who doesn’t get the recognition.
"There was someone before you that provided grassroots and foundation. Pastor was a founding member in that struggle."
The pastor is also remembered as a man who loved "the sound" and invested in top sound systems for his youth clubs.
Another Happy Hostel resident, Derek Lawrence, added: "He loved the sound – he loved it like we loved it. He spent money to elevate the sound to a higher level – so we could play the bigger sounds."
Though the pastor never married or had any biological children, many of the young people who he inspired and empowered say he was a father to them.
Derek said: "We don’t know what would have happened to us if it wasn’t for him."
The pastor's funeral was held on July 16. He is said to have had no material wealth when he passed because he had given everything away.
"His riches was not his money," said Michael. "His riches was in the blessing."