THE REVD ALFRED MORRIS AND THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH AT OUDTSHOORN
On 1 Jul 1860, Revd Alfred Morris, deacon and a curate of George Town, was appointed to the charge ("Cure of Souls") of the surrounding district, "and for many years," write Lewis & Edwards,14 "his name was almost synonymous with the Oudtshoorn Church work."
The Revd Hermann Hirsch (who had converted from Judaism, ordained deacon and curate of Simons Town, 185734) had been a priest at St John the Baptist in the Wilderness, at Schoonberg, 50 km from Oudtshoorn, and was offered the charge of a new church to be set up there. He declined, but secured a site for a church, and moved to Oudtshoorn for some six months from January 1860.15 Full of energy, he determined to build a stone church of sandstone from the hills, "which no one before had made use of except for kraals and outhouses, building houses of mud or sun-dried bricks".16 Mrs Sophy Gray, the Bishop's wife and a recognised church architect, had sent plans to Mr Alexander Byrne, a local law agent and church warden. The Diocese promised 150 Pounds towards the building, and Hirsch enlisted some Scotch stone masons (there to build the gaol) to commence construction. The ground was levelled and foundations made.15 It had been an ambitious start. But difficulties lay ahead.
As Alfred Morris was to write, "Mr Walter, M.L.A., laid the corner stone early in 1860, and when the coins were placed in the cavity prepared for them, the funds left in hand for the erection of the church amounted to eight shillings!"17
When he arrived at Oudtshoorn in July, there was, but for these beginnings, no church, no rectory, no school...and above all practically no money. "Even Bishop Gray despaired of `so poor a parish being able to build a church.'"16 The walls were about 3 feet high. Four Scotch masons had been contracted, at an agreed rate per cubic foot, with an advance payment due every fortnight. To find this money was, in Alfred's words, "a perplexing matter", especially since all subscriptions had been received and paid out. "How were these stern, sturdy masons to be kept going?"17
His daughter Florence Morris recalled how he
"talked about the difficulty of getting the money to pay the workmen:...he often started out on horse-back and went from farm to farm, returning after several days with a couple of pounds, sometimes only shillings...One week there was no money and the church warden, Mr Catrill, who had no money, sold his watch to Dr O'Hare for ten pounds. (A generous act on the Doctor's part as he was a Roman Catholic). Father must have found those long rides very trying, as he was not a good horsemen. A story is told about his wanting to sell his horse - `he is rather lazy - jibs sometimes, and his knees show he has been down several times - but on the whole he is not a bad horse' (History does not recall if the sale went through!)"18
A piece in the Oudtshoorn Courant, probably contributed by his son Henry Elliott Morris, refers to "very interesting anecdotes" told by Alfred Morris "of his experiences during long rides from farm to farm through unknown regions (not knowing the Dutch language, yet always meeting with hospitality)..."19 Obtaining funds was made especially difficult by the fact that the nascent Oudtshoorn Anglican congregation had only seventeen male members, and only two of these had landed property.16Considerable assistance was given by the Dutch Reformed Church - which made its school room available in the interim for Anglican services and allowed the English church-people to be buried in its cemetery.16,* Moreover, kind individual townsmen and farmers who were members of the Dutch Reformed Church made donations, and on one occasion Alfred Morris rode over to George and was able to borrow 100 pounds from a member of the `Dutch Church' there.19,20
As the official history of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa puts it, "the young deacon by no means despaired. He went on with `the quiet persistency so characteristic of him'":16 before long the walls were built. "The first service held in the church was in September 1860," with Bishop Gray preaching.16There was as yet no roof: the planks later to support the thatch were propped up on bricks for seating; and for windows, skeleton frames with calico stretched across were the best that could be afforded for five years.17,21
"The furniture for the church came by degrees, very slowly"; seats by two's and three's as the congregation increased.17
Bishop Gray reported on "some of the newly formed districts", in the English Missionary Magazine, where:
"the efforts of the people are greater and their offering upon a larger scale than when first we began our work in this country. What is now doing at Oudtshoorn is an illustration of this...It is now a large and thriving place...The bulk of the population is Dutch or Coloured. The English are a mere handful of people, in poor worldly circumstances: an off-shoot of the congregation of George. Our poor people had, when I was there, actually completed the stone walls of one of the neatest Churches in the Colony, and are paying at the same time 100 pounds a year to their Minister. I know of no greater effort since I have been in Africa".22
For the family itself these had been hard times indeed. When Alfred first went to Oudtshoorn the family remained in George Town - but had to remove sooner than expected. Henry Elliott Morris told of how at
"About ten o'clock on July 20th  the owner of the house in which we had lived...called on my mother and told her that if she stayed there for another day she would have to pay a month's rent. She...went to consult Mr Pocock, who very generously said: `if you want to go I can let you have a pair of horses and an old "stamp kar".' She gratefully accepted his offer and as we had two horses of our own, we were ready to start at about twelve o'clock. Our departure from George was not a very dignified one, there was no crowd to see us off, and the cart was fairly well filled with luggage and in addition there were eight of us - my mother, her five little boys, Mr Young (a school master) and Harry Camm.
We came over the Montagu Pass without any misadventure and were hospitably received by Mr Raubenheimer that night. About noon next day we reached Oudtshoorn and met my father in the street. He did not know that we were coming - no telegraphs in those days - and did not know what to do with us. Good Mr George M. Johnson came to the rescue and offered to put us all up. People were very hospitable in those days.
We found Oudtshoorn ages behind George. There were about 900 inhabitants, most of the houses were built of clay and whitewashed, but in nearly every street good houses and pondoks stood side by side. There were big holes in most of the streets, and in wet weather waggons sometimes stuck in the clay."20
Henry Elliott had given an earlier account which referred to the way friends in George had:
condoled us over the thought of our going to live in such a dreadful place. The opinion which the George people had of their neighbours was not a flattering one - `The only persons who live there are those that have made other places too hot to hold them, and there are only about nine hundred altogether.' There was, however, one great difference between the two places; at George there were houses wanting occupants, at Oudtshoorn there were persons wanting houses.21
Alfred Morris was to remember how
"money was most difficult to be had at this time. The 100 Pounds of my savings brought with me had been absorbed in the work. My stipend was intensely small - one year, after my having paid the interest on the Parsonage Loan, it was 92 pounds. Of the 100 pounds a year promised by the Parish, only 67 pounds was paid. Had it not been for the help received by two school-boarders, we should have been almost reduced to dry bread. Often letters could not be posted for want of a stamp. But the worst of all seemed the inability to buy medicines for childish complaints, for whooping cough, etc".17
In September 1860, the Bishop seeing how badly they were housed ("our house being a tiny cottage," H.E. Morris records, "with clay floors and thatched roof, through which the water poured down on his Lordship's bed"19), offered to lend 500 pounds for a Parsonage. After about four years the Bishop cancelled the debt.* A further grant helped them to build a school to take the place of the converted stable which had served that purpose at the back of the cottage.*
Alfred Morris was officially licensed as curate of Oudtshoorn on 24 Sep 186034 and ordained priest at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, 26 May 1861.34 A little over a fortnight later tragedy struck the family, and Alfred returned to Oudtshoorn "to find that his son, Charles Alfred, had just died."7 "The first priestly duty performed by Alfred Morris on his return from Cape Town was to bury his son in the Bath Street cemetery."7
Oudtshoorn ceased to be a part of the Parish of George, and on 26 Sep 1863, at the consecration and dedication of St Jude's Church, Oudtshoorn, Alfred Morris was instituted as its first Rector.* In modern times St Jude has acquired popularity as `patron of hopeless cases'23 - if ever there had been a hopeless case, it was the beginnings of the Oudtshoorn parish! St Jude's has the distinction of being the only Parish in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa which is dedicated solely to St Jude.15 The Oxford Dictionary of Saints23 refers to ancient English dedications to SS Simon and Jude, "but none to either of them alone". (A mission school-cum-church dedicated to St Simon was later built in Oudtshoorn, and dedicated in 189122 - there was an earlier St Saviour's, "ready for use about the same time as St Jude's".21
Not inappropriately, it would seem, the Collect for the Feast of SS Simon and Jude (28 October)43 refers to the building of the church "upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head cornerstone." It goes on to plead, "Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto Thee." It was a Collect used by Bishop Gray in correspondence in 1871 with Dr Faure, Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, on the question of union between the churches43; II:544-7) Gray ultimately concluded it was hardly possible to look for any real approach to union with a body who reject Episcopacy - nor could "exchanging pulpits" be considered as any advance towards real unity. Nevertheless Gray's heart always yearned for Christian unity - "that all may be one". And we have reason to believe that Alfred Morris shared this fundamental oecumenical outlook, which doubtless was often a matter of practical necessity in country districts.
R.F. Morris7 recalled how "Alfred Morris and the Dutch Reformed minister of Oudtshoorn became personal friends, and assisted each other from time to time when necessary, in matters of baptisms, marriages and funerals". Alfred sometimes attempted to preach in Dutch, but according to an amusing anecdote: "one day at Calitzdorp an ouderling (elder) whispered to him during the service - 'if you would only preach to us in English we would understand you better!'"7
St Jude's Parish grew in numbers and "the worst of the struggle was then over".14 Presently the ostrich feather boom (commencing about 188024) meant that farmers were more able to support their Church.
Alfred Morris enlarged St Jude's Church through periodic additions. A visitation by Bishop Webb in 1875 refers to the approach to Oudtshoorn out of Meiring's Poort: "we were met by 12 young men on horseback besides many ladies and gentlemen in Cape carts, and with this escort we drove into the town".25 Lewis and Edwards (1934:122) record that "Here the Rev Alfred Morris had planned the church buildings round a quadrangle, and it was decided to build a chancel."25 This, and a porch, were added in 1880, with "the floor boarded, the roof covered with slates, at a cost of 1200 Pounds."26
The acquisition of a one manual pipe organ in 1883, costing 190 Pounds, must have been an occasion for rejoicing. It was first played - by Alfred Morris's own daughter Florence Amelia - for the Feast of All Saints that year. Florence (Aunt Florie, as she was later known) had contributed a musical talent upon a harmonium at St Jude's from the age of twelve. While at St Cyprian's School in Cape Town, in 1880, she had had lessons on the organ at St George's Cathedral. Thus equipped, and back in Oudtshoorn as a teacher - latterly as principal of a school attached to the church - she was to hold the office of organist at St Jude's for just short of seven decades. Despite submitting a letter of resignation in 1949, she carried on playing, her last service being the induction of Fr K.M. Wiley in 1952. Including her term at the harmonium, she had led the praises at St Jude's for all of 73 years.15,22 Fr Wiley wrote in 1954 that "in an outroom at the rectory there lies a stack of church music - evidence of a flourishing choir that existed".65 Florence Amelia Morris died in 1960, aged almost 94.
The claimed antiquity of the St Jude's organ (150 years in 196315,22) is quite certainly wrong. Unusual casing on the cantoris side of the chancel (it is shown in Edwin Harrison's plan22) points to the organ having been built for St Jude's, where it "fitted perfectly",61 and James Riadore is of the opinion it was "new in 1882".61 Built by Rushworth of Liverpool (the firm was later known as Rushworth & Dreaper), the organ was maintained by W.C. Cooper from 1907 (his diary records his first visit there, Friday 13 Sep that year).61 In 1963 Messrs Cooper, Gill and Tomkins reckoned that "to rebuild the organ as it stands and make good the wear and tear...would be an expensive job and it would still be an old instrument. We feel that the money would be better spent in modernising and enlarging the instrument using the old pipework".22 The result was that "in 1964 the organ was taken out, but all the pipes were retained and fitted into a new Laukhuff instrument, with extra pipework being supplied for the second manual".61 "What a pity!" Riadore adds.61
The story of Aunt Florie's "sweet toned"65 organ (she was, after all, organist for almost 70 of its 80 years at St Jude's) does not end here. As James Riadore relates:
"the internal works were dumped at Cooper Gill's factory in Maitland, and it was stored in the roof rafters until 1990 when I 'found' it and decided to overhaul it and try to make an instrument out of the parts that existed...so we erected it in our workshop...releathered the bellow and sound board pallets, and found as much pipework which fitted the specification as we could. It sounded very good!"61
Dismantled, it is presently (1997) stored at The Organ Builders CC, Rondebosch, Cape Town - and would welcome a new home if, as Riadore puts it, anyone should be "interested in a one manual (with history)".61
The new Laukhuff organ at St Jude's (1964) was built, with old Rushworth pipework, in the back of the church, where Cooper Gill and Tomkins believed the acoustics would be better.22
A north transept and bell tower were taken into use in 1887. A vestry built by 1863 was enlarged in 1897, when the nave was extended to complete the church as it exists a century on.15 A plan of St Jude's was measured and drawn for Alfred Morris, probably at the end of 1899, by, interestingly, the architect J. Edwin Harrison of Bloemfontein,22 and later of the great firm Stucke and Harrison of Johannesburg. Two years previously Harrison had returned to England to marry his fiance, who was none other than Alfred Morris's niece, Kate Caroline Marchant (see page***).
Arduous journeys to Cape Town by ship (from Mossel Bay) or postcart were infrequent and confined to synods or the baptisms of grandchildren.3,9
On 1 Sep 1899 Alfred and Elizabeth Morris had been married half a century and Bob Morris describes a photograph of their Golden Wedding festival, "with the Oudtshoorn brass band, in full regalia".108 He also had a photograph featuring Revd Alfred Morris "with his curate and choir boys (and men)".108
We have the District Pass issued under Martial Law during the South African War, 1901, granting Revd & Mrs Morris of Oudtshoorn "permission to travel in District riding, driving, cycling or walking at any time of day or night" - signed Capt N. Cornish-Bowden.27
Bob Morris records that the Feast of St Jude (28 October) was one, naturally, that Alfred Morris "had loved and commemorated by special services"; and there was also always on this occasion "a big gathering of all the congregation in the afternoon, white and coloured, in the Rectory garden, where games and refreshments were enjoyed by young and old".7
The patronal festival of the church Alfred Morris built up would mark, in the year 1902, a culmination of a pioneering career - for two days later, on 30 Oct 1902, the founding parish priest of St Jude's, after suffering from an illness which had left him bedridden for five months,7 died.112
"Amid universal sorrow and regret",28 Alfred Morris was buried in the Bath Street Cemetery, Oudtshoorn: the burial was recorded as the largest in the history of Oudtshoorn to that date.29
"His heart was always open to the needs of one and all. Benevolent, kind, and loving-hearted, his help in the hour of need was never sought for in vain. Whether Christian, Hebrew, or Heathen, he was ever ready to go where his Master called". 28
A parishioner quoted by Lewis & Edwards wrote that "Our beloved rector laboured for 42 years in this parish, and we shall always remember the deep reverence and earnestness with which he took the services. Everyone knew of his kind heart, his charity in deed and word, but few knew of the hours he spent in prayer for his people. His life was one of singular devotion to out Blessed Lord and Holy Church".26
John Widdicombe, who was priest at George Town for ten years, wrote of Oudtshoorn in his Memories and Musings:
"In the early 60s it consisted of a collection of mean-looking hovels of raw brick or sod, and was called Veldschoen Dorp. Its inhabitants were few and very primitive in their ways. Water was scarce so dust reigned supreme... The church was built by the efforts of Alfred Morris, who left George to begin work in what was then a very unattractive dorp. He worked there for thirty [actually 42] years, scarcely ever taking a holiday, plodding on, never losing heart, one of the most devoted and humble-minded men of the many with which South Africa has been blessed. He lived to see great changes for the better in his parish, and died in 1905 [actually 1902] much revered and loved. His work was carried on by Archdeacon Atkinson..."30
Bob Morris noted possessing a photograph of the procession at the funeral of Alfred Morris108 - adding the following anecdote:
"When the procession left St Jude's on its way to the Bath Street Cemetery, a Mrs Gericke, born in England but married to an Afrikander (sic), started off to lead the procession. She was dressed in a red dressing gown with big blobs of white cotton wool sewn onto it to resemble ermine (she believed herself to belong to the Royal Family). A wise and experienced Church Warden, on noticing what she was about, went to her and said, 'Madam! Royalty never walk to a funeral. I have ordered you a carriage.' She graciously accepted his offer and all was well."108
Of Elizabeth Elliott, his wife, relatively little is recorded. We do have it from Bob Morris that "she was not good at needlework, but made all the garments for her family, including Grandfather's suits. These usually fitted him very badly. She, however, enjoyed dressing dolls and made pretty frocks for Ethel's dolls.7
She was of a very cheerful disposition, even during the time when she used crutches. Rheumatism crippled her and she suffered much pain.7
"In spite of Elizabeth's physical disability [rheumatism] she often accompanied Alfred Morris on journeys to the country. One winter night spent on a farm on the banks of a river turned out very frosty. It rained and a nearby river came down in spate. The good farmer begged Alfred Morris to allow his [the farmer's] son to drive the couple across the boulder-strewn river-crossing. This offer, however, was refused on the grounds that the son would have to wade back through the cold water. The old couple, with more courage than skill, drove into the swollen stream, but fell out when the cart capsized. The farmer and son rescued the passengers, cart and horses. After the farmer's good lady had dried them, Alfred and Elizabeth again attempted the crossing unassisted - this time safely".7
When she left the Rectory to live in a cottage in Van der Riet Street, with her two daughters Julia and Florence, she laid out a garden consisting of two large beds. Each bed was planned in the shape of a large cross. Grass was planted on these crosses and carefully tended through the years...and after her death, by her daughters. Spaces between the crosses were filled with lovely flowers.7
The cottage was constructed of Oudtshoorn sandstone, was very picturesque and had a cosy front stoep, facing south, where guests were comfortably entertained during the heat of Oudtshoorn's summer.7
She was a cheerful, hard-working, gentle and loving wife and mother.7
Alfred and Elizabeth Morris had eight children - three of whom died under the age of twenty - and their descendants are part of the South African branch of the family that was headed by Ambrose and Mary Morris of Chippenham and Christian Malford, Wiltshire.
6993 visitors to this page since 22 December 2002
Links to Other Sites