Celebration Of The Life Of Morris Barton – Former Leader Of The IW Council
I knew Morris Barton, who died recently aged 75, long before he became the most famous person on the Isle of Wight. When he first joined the IW County Press he was an apprentice linotype operator to my late father, Roy. When dad revealed stories of work, Morris was often mentioned.
Morris became the longest serving leader of any council in the country, and I was privileged to have interviewed him three times on IW Radio, twice on television, for both TV12 and Solent TV, and for local magazines. He was a proud Islander and once told me: “They are the most friendly people I have met anywhere. We Islanders have to believe in ourselves.”
Honest comments from a man who had more than his fair share of criticism and verbal abuse during his long reign in local politics. Over the years we talked in depth about his love of pop festivals, and was involved in the trio of original gatherings. Many years later Morris was one of the prime movers in bringing back the music festivals to the Island.
He had a Che Guevara look when he attended the 1969 Dylan festival, with his flat jacket, beret, red bandana and a week’s stubble. Some of his earliest local musical influences were local bands like the Cherokees and the Shamrocks and folk singer Laurie Say.
Morris loved sport and always talked about his early days watching Portsmouth with his pals. The family tradition was to support Pompey but in later years a few eyebrows were raised when he also had a season ticket to watch their arch rivals Southampton.
Meeting his future wife, Marcia, at a Woolworth’s dance at the Grantham Hotel, Cowes, proved a milestone in his life. He went there late in the evening to pick up his mother and noticed a stunning blonde, who was there with a friend. Morris wasted no time and asked her for a dance.
When they came on my radio show I asked Marcia for her recollections of that night. With a twinkle in her eye she said: “It was late in the evening when I saw this good looking rather dark skinned guy – he’d just got back from a holiday in Spain – who I thought also had a touch of arrogance about him.”
The rest is history and he proposed to Marcia on a bus en route to friends in Wootton. It was an emotional day, in more ways than one. Morris remembered it as the actual day John F Kennedy was assassinated.
In 1964 during a frantic £19 tour of seven capitals in ten days, Morris even found time to take her on a romantic gondola in Venice. They were very much in love and during their 51 year marriage were husband and wife and best friends. Over the years they supported each other. He once told me: “I couldn’t haven’t achieved anything without Marcia’s support.”
The ‘Independence for the Island’ story dreamed up by Morris and Island journalist Mike Merrett went global – long before social media. Morris revealed: “It was amazing. I did eight TV interviews, including Japanese television, 20 worldwide radio interviews and 16 press interviews. I got the Island £2million of free advertising and we sold £35,000 worth of Ecu coins. There was even a carnival float with my name on it.”
He loved it when the laugh was on him. When Jasper Carrott and Jo Brand came to the Island for their first-ever gigs I was the mole who told them to mention Morris. It brought the house down at both concerts.
For many years Morris managed to work in the printing trade, enjoy family life and spent hours working in local government. For a Pan Estate boy he was so proud of his roots.
Many thought he would have been a brilliant MP for the Island. During our last interview he said: “I regret I did not stand for Parliament when I had the opportunity. We had small children at the time and I was financially strapped.”
Personally, it was such a pleasure to have known Morris Barton.