The story of Constable Alex Morgan: Arsenal’s singing policeman
- Credit: Archant
He never played for Arsenal, but Alex Morgan – the ‘singing policeman’ – is remembered by Gooners to this day. After he recently died aged 88, son Patrick recalls his legendary dad with the Gazette.
Like thousands of other wide-eyed young Gooners, Patrick Morgan was taken to his first Arsenal game by his dad.
Patrick’s experience, however, was unlike any other. For his dad was Constable Alex Morgan: the singing policeman.
It sounds incredible now, but for two decades from the early 1960s, the Metropolitan Police band would perform at Arsenal home games.
Five minutes before kick-off at Highbury, Pc Morgan, as the band’s singer, could be seen belting out a song in time for the players emerging from the tunnel. He would also sing at half-time.
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As announced by the club at the recent Leicester game, Pc Morgan died in June, aged 88. He suffered complications from Parkinson’s disease.
But one thing is for sure: he will never be forgotten by a legion of old-school Gooners.
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Patrick, 51, says: “I have been to away games where I’ve heard geezers saying: ‘Do you remember that singing copper at The Arsenal?’ I then say it was my dad, and they can’t believe it!”
His daughter, Teresa, said singing was Pc Morgan’s main passion. But with a family (six children) to look after, he had to take a sensible job.
He chose a career in the police force. But that didn’t stop him realising his singing ambitions. With the Met band, he sang as a soloist at venues such as the Albert Hall and Westminster Abbey.
But singing at Highbury games was his constant for two decades – made even sweeter as he was a lifelong Arsenal fan.
“When Arsenal scored,” recalls Patrick, “fans would see this lunatic policeman jumping up and down. That was my dad.
“He would sneak me into the ground, almost under his coat. We would go to the band room before the games and play snooker.
“Dad would pull up a chair, fetch me from the crowd and sit me next to him to watch the games from the front row.
“It didn’t seem that strange to me, as dad sang everywhere. He sang at big venues, and at that age I just saw it as his job.”
The band would play at the corner of the Clock End, by the East Stand.
Patrick says: “He had a little fan club in the East Stand, where it was a bit calmer. There would be old ladies smiling and waving at him.
“In all fairness, though, the Clock End was quite hooligan-based. It was partly where the away fans stood. They would be like: ‘What is that?’ Nowhere else in the country had a singing policeman!
“He would get serious abuse, especially as the band never performed music of the day. It would always be something like opera. Even Gooners, the hooligan types, would be saying: ‘What is this man making The Arsenal look like?’
“Sometimes the away fans would be stunned into silence. Other times they would clap ironically, or chant: ‘What the f****** hell was that?’ It must have looked really odd, but he didn’t care. He loved it.”
Football hooliganism truly kicked off in the 1970s, often leading to bizarre sequences of events: “He would be singing one minute,” recalls Patrick, “and dragging away a skinhead the next.”
Sadly for Pc Morgan, the band came to an end in the early 1980s. Patrick says: “I think he was devastated. There was politics in the Met hierachy, and funding was an issue.
“He just loved performing. He sang to 50,000 people every other week for 20 years, so he probably has some sort of world record.”
He did, however, return to sing one final time: for the last ever Highbury game in 2006.
“He was absolutely over the moon,” Patrick says. “He was retired and his voice was going. If it had been a couple of years later, he wouldn’t have been able to sing.
“Singing at that last game was the best feeling for him.”