Parish of Leatherhead - Canon Sandy Morris, 1923-2009
Vicar of Leatherhead 1971-1989

Wedding of Ann Morris to Arnie Gabbott, 15 May 2010

A Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Sandy Morris,
who died on 14th February 2009,
took place at Leatherhead Parish Church
at noon on Thursday 26th February 2009.

source: Alison Wright





The King of love my shepherd is


John 14, Chris Morris

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. and now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

Canon David Eaton

We give thanks today for Sandy and the life he has lived among us: a varied life which included extensive Christian Ministry in this country and abroad; a life which enjoyed many interests outside of public ministry; and a life of devotion and commitment to Ann and their family.

Sandy was born in Nottinghamshire in 1923 but the family soon moved to Yorkshire and then to South Africa where Sandy’s father became curate of St Paul’s, Durban.

Sandy returned to the UK two years later to live with his grandmother. Further moves followed to Bradford, Huntingdon and then five years in Durham, 1937-1942, for the final years of his secondary education.

Sandy’s wartime service began with the War Agricultural Committee before being called up to serve in the Royal Navy. However on the Monday before he was due to sign on, he was summoned to Whitehall to meet a Colonel Tiltman, who asked him to learn Japanese for military purposes. So after Special Intelligence School in Bedford he was attached to Naval Intelligence at Bletchley Park. From there he went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), decoding and translating. [His name is on the virtual Roll of Honour maintained by the Bletchley Park Trust].

When the war ended Sandy was 22 but by this time already had a world of experience and travel under his belt, and had put his sharp intellect to good use. In 1946 he went up to Cambridge and read Classics and Theology, which lead on to his becoming a BA and MA in 1948 and 1953.

Interestingly he then worked in the steel works set up by Samuel Fox at Stocksbridge for six months, to broaden his experience even further, before training for the Ministry. He followed his father by becoming ordained and priested a year later in 1951.

He served his title at St Thomas, Wincobank, and then became senior curate at Rotherham Parish Church, both in the Sheffield Diocese. Those were the days when clergy routinely served two curacies, rather than just one as today, before an incumbency.

By this time Sandy and Ann had met and were married in 1953 in Northern Ireland, at Cairncastle, near Ballygally. Ann’s father had recently died but the wedding was a very happy occasion.

There was always something of the adventurer about Sandy, perhaps his nomadic early life shaped this and also what we would call today, his cutting edge. It was these qualities that lead him to be Priest-in-Charge at Manor Park in Sheffield when the pioneering Leslie Hunter was Bishop.

Bishop Hunter was a man ahead of his time. It was in Sheffield that Industrial Ministry got off the ground in this country. At Manor Park there was, to begin with, no church, so services took place in the vicarage, and in the local pub at Easter … where no doubt a traditional tipple for the Vicar would have gone down very well.

After a time a church was built and named after William Temple, the wartime Archbishop of Canterbury. His widow came to the opening. Sadly Sandy and Ann’s vicarage is now boarded up and on the market for just 50,000 – should anyone be interested – which is indicative of how tough a parish this was and how pioneering Sandy’s ministry must have been at that time.

It was in Sheffield that Ann celebrated her 21st birthday and it was whilst that they were at Manor Park that family life took off. Their first son Christopher was born there, followed two years later by Philip.

Another big change was about to take place when in 1959 Sandy and Ann set sail for India at the invitation of the Bishop of Bombay (Mumbai). Sandy was appointed Director of Education in the Diocese of Bombay. Poona was their home for two years and Sandy also had charge of St Paul’s Church (whether he wore a pith helmet and travelled by elephant is not recorded).

They experienced quite a culture shock on arrival in India; in those days there was little formal preparation for such a radical change of direction. One change was the huge congregations prepared to come to church, and stay. The Good Friday Three Hours saw whole families pitch-up, kids and all, and sit tight, from beginning to end.

It was in India that Sandy developed his taste for hot curries and Indian food. He loved his food (not to mention whiskey). In this he was in a long line of clerics who shared the same gastronomic concern. Notable among them was the eighteenth century James Woodforde who on October 12th 1770 recalls in his diary:

OCT. 12 1770: ... Mrs. Carr, Miss Chambers, Mr Hindley, Mr. Carr, and Sister Jane dined, supped and spent the evening with me, and we were very merry. I gave them for dinner a dish of fine Tench which I caught out of my brother's Pond in Pond Close this morning, Ham, and 3 Fowls boiled, a Plumb Pudding; a couple of Ducks rosted, a roasted neck of Pork, a Plumb Tart and an Apple Tart, Pears, Apples and Nutts after dinner; White Wine and red, Beer and Cyder. Coffee and Tea in the evening at six o'clock. Hashed Fowl and Duck and Eggs and Potatoes etc. for supper. We did not dine till four o'clock - nor supped till ten. Mr. Rice, a Welshman who is lately come to Cary and plays very well on the Triple Harp, played to us after coffee for an hour or two ... the Company did not go away till near twelve o'clock ...
The Diary of a Country Parson 1758-1802 James Woodforde (OUP 1979)

Like Sandy, they didn’t do things by halves in those days.

Of course, good dining doesn’t always have a happy outcome. In India there were visits to outlying villages where hospitality was lavish and couldn’t be refused. The advice was “don’t eat the water melons”, but to refuse meant you’d be insulting your hosts, whatever the risk. Health was always an issue. Sandy and Ann had hepatitis during their time in India. Sandy liked a challenge and this appointment was at times another tough call in his ministry.

Cathy was born in India before the family returned to the UK in 1963, when Sandy became Vicar of Bexley in the Rochester Diocese. It was here that Richard was born and completed their family.

Eight years later Sandy was appointed by the Dean and Chapter of Rochester to be Vicar of Leatherhead, where as we know, Sandy and Ann remained until his retirement in 1989.

And now some family memories.

Richard recalls:
My father lived life to the full, he enjoyed travel, good food and wine, the odd whiskey and his pipe and he was passionate about sport, especially supporting Huddersfield Town football team. My abiding memories as a child were of our annual farm holidays. One year, on a farm in Scotland we brought home a Collie dog called Meg that was being ill-treated by the farmer and who became a faithful friend to my dad. This was the start of three generations of Collies that gave dad a lot of pleasure. The Collies were always considered part of our family, so much so that dad would occasionally call us by the dog's name!

Cathy recalls:
Dad was a passionate reader and liked his debates and was a very good listener. He was always there for me when I needed advice.

Philip recalls:
Dad was a warm, tactile, loving and caring father who was supportive in everything we decided to do. Whilst we all as children had a Christian, church going up-bringing, he never sought unduly to influence or pressurise us in any particular direction in life and left us to make up our own minds on matters of faith, morals, career and other key life decisions. He was always there to offer advice and support when needed.

He lived life to the full and was a great mentor for the whole family. He was able to laugh at himself (like when he managed to hit the head green keeper in the stomach with an errant drive the one and only time I managed, as a teenager, to coax him to give up a very foggy Tuesday day-off to play golf at Tyrrells Wood [DE - I hope the green-keeper laughed too]. He was a stickler for time keeping and of routine – lunch at one, dinner at six – BBC TV, good – ITV, never on. This only added to our sense of security when growing up. I am proud to be his son and like all the family will miss him terribly. He will stay in our hearts forever.

Sandy was very proud of his family and they of him. It now includes seven grandchildren: Thomas, Nicola, Sophie, Samuel, Georgina, Finlay and Lucy.

Anyone who visited Sandy couldn’t but notice the two oars displayed on the sitting room walls. He had earned these whilst rowing for Jesus College Cambridge: Head of Heats in 1947 and Head of River in 1948. He also sang at Cambridge and music was something that meant a great deal throughout his life. In retirement he sang with Dorking Choral Society and some members of that Choir join our own church choir today, as well as from St Martin’s Dorking where Sandy served in retirement. All the music at this service has been chosen by Sandy and reflects his taste. The family were promised that if we sang Crimond today he would come back and haunt them. Too many funerals. So we’re not.

With his interests in music and rowing and sport in general we see that Sandy wasn’t a priest narrowly focussed on ‘religion’ or ‘church’ but embraced all of life with relish and interest.

He also had a keen sense of social concern and responsibility. In retirement in Dorking he was chair of Age Concern. Before that, whilst Vicar here, he had chaired the Diocesan Board for Social Responsibility. He was made a Canon of Guildford Cathedral in 1986. He preached a social gospel. He had a keen sense of history. He looked at God’s involvement in our lives from a social and historical perspective. He lived out his social awareness in the places he chose to minister.

But he wasn’t a head-in-the-clouds social theorist either. He had a warm heart and affection for people as people. He was attentive to personal need. It was sandy who introduced here shaking hands at the door after service. And, whereas The Peace in Communion had been an exchange of glances, and at best a smile of recognition, it became under his ministry, a moment to actually greet and press the flesh; from where it has advanced to the free for all barn dance and jamboree that we know and love today …

He nurtured ministry in other people. Carol Coslett and Robert Jenkins were Readers here under Sandy’s ministry and are now ordained and incumbents of their own parishes. Robert recalls how it could be a dangerous thing to say to Sandy that you wanted to get more involved. A tentative “Can I help?” on Thursday of one week lead to Robert starting on a Readers’ Course the following Wednesday.

Sandy had high standards, in worship and liturgy; don’t you dare be late even if you are a bride; he brought the church into the community; he developed the church as a community so that there was a greater sense of being a family and of being welcome.

Following Sandy here as an incumbent I was particularly grateful for the foundation he had laid, and for his sensitivity to my ministry. He didn’t look over my shoulder and gave me space. A good example I intend to follow myself.

So, we give thanks today for Sandy: for his life and for his ministry. The reading he chose for today is full of hope and reassurance for the future. Jesus says:

“I will not leave you bereft. I am coming back to you; he who loved me will be loved by my father. Peace is my particular gift to you; set your troubled hearts at rest.”

Any parting from those we love is a source of great sadness. Jesus’ words give hope of both: a life yet to come beyond what we presently see and know; and also of peace for our own hearts when left behind with uncertainty and emptiness.

Our eternal hopes are not best expressed in any scientific or matter of fact way. Another clerical diarist, Francis Kilvert, offers us a picture and metaphor in words that speak eloquently of resurrection and new life. He wrote this on the Sunday next before Lent, which this year was last Sunday, but when Kilvert wrote was March 3rd and the year 1878:

Quinquagesima Sunday, 3 March 1878
As I walked in the Churchyard this morning the fresh sweet sunny air was full of the singing of the birds and the brightness and gladness of the Spring. Some of the graves were as white as snow with snowdrops. The southern side of the Churchyard was crowded with a multitude of tombstones. They stood thick together, some taller, some shorter, some looking over the shoulders of others, and as they stood up all looking one way and facing the morning sun they looked like a crowd of men, and it seemed as if the morning of the Resurrection had come and the sleepers had arisen from their graves and were standing upon their feet silent and solemn, all looking toward the East to meet the Rising of the Sun. The whole air was melodious with the distant indefinite sound of sweet bells that seemed to be ringing from every quarter by turns, now from the hill, now from the valley, now from the deer forest, now from the river. The chimes rose and fell, swelled and grew faint again.
Kilvert's Diary 1870-1879 - A Selection Edited and Introduced by William Plomer
(Penguin, 1982)

A picture of Spring in a country churchyard, a picture to us of new life beyond the grave that Sandy preached and lived.

We commit him today to his eternal rest. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.


concluding with

Chorale 68, St John's Passion
(Ah Lord, when comes that final day)

O Jesus I have promised



Later in the day there was a short funeral service at the Leatherhead Crematorium

Ann and family invited those present at the Service of Thanksgiving to join them to share memories and refreshments at the Parish Church Hall.

Donations if desired to the PSP Association (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) or c/o L Hawkins & Sons Ltd, Highlands Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8ND.

The Parish Church Choir was augmented by members of the choir of St Martin’s Dorking and of Dorking Choral Society.
The organist was Peter Holt.
Canon David Eaton was assisted by Rev Mike Stewart.

from the April 2009 Parish magazine
Thank you
Ann Morris and family would like to express their heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the many kind messages of condolence and support received following Sandy's death. It has been a great source of comfort to the whole family as was seeing so many of his friends from Leatherhead and Dorking at the wonderful and uplifting Service of Thanksgiving at the Parish Church on Thursday 26 February.

from the June 2009 Parish magazine
A note from Ann Morris I thought you might like to know that the Crematorium has dedicated a new small Garden of Remembrance in Sandy's memory. It is the first little garden with a water fountain on the left as you go into the big walled garden. If you are ever down that way, please have a look. Sandy would have been very pleased as are all the family – they are also putting his name in the Book of Remembrance.


after a Haslam christening

with David Eaton and Briony Martin after preaching
on 29/9/02, the 50th anniversary of Sandy's priesting

with some of the family after preaching
on the 50th anniversary of Sandy's priesting

see also on this website Old Friends

26 Feb 09 Frank Haslam: Sandy baptised our three sons and he was a good friend in time of need. Mind you, you knew something was up, probably you, if you got 'that look' over his glasses.

from the April 2009 Parish magazine
Canon A D Morris - 'Sandy' us
After 18 years as Vicar of Leatherhead, Sandy retired just 20 years ago and, with his wife Ann, moved to Dorking. But a couple of years ago they returned to live in Stenning Court just opposite his old church. So it was here that his funeral was held, and his family and those who remembered him were able to give thanks for his long life and devoted service to God and God's people.

A clergy son, Sandy was brought up in the North of England. He belonged to the generation that served in World War II, and, in the Royal Navy, had worked in Ceylon, among other places. He read Classics and Theology at Cambridge but also worked in industry before he was ordained. After some years in parish ministry he was recruited by the Bishop of Bombay as education adviser in his diocese. When he returned to England he was Vicar of Bexley, Kent, for seven years. So when he came to Leatherhead, Sandy had had a wide range of experience, both at home and abroad.

It was a time of change: he introduced the nave altar, and then came the Alternative Service Book, the first official successor to the 1662 Prayer Book. Sandy welcomed the use of modern English and carefully familiarised us with the new patterns. He not only started the habit of shaking hands with the congregation after the morning service, but also persuaded us to shake hands with each other at the Peace.

With just one main service on Sunday mornings the Church members got to know each other and became more of a community. We had a Stewardship campaign. And Sandy was a convinced supporter of ordination for women. He appointed our first ever woman Churchwarden, Pauline Smith, who eventually was among the first women to be ordained in the Guildford diocese. All Saints' had a makeover, creating a separate small chapel at the East end allowed the main body of the church to be used as a hall and this has ultimately provided the premises for the BFree Youth Cafe.

Beside the daily and often hidden work of a parish priest, taking services, preparing his excellent sermons, Sandy was chaplain to our local hospital and had responsibility for the two church schools. And there was so much else, for he put his heart into working for the local community as well as for the Church in the world.

He frequently attended Leatherhead Football Club matches, and on at least one occasion he travelled with the team to an away match.

With the Leatherhead Council of Churches (now Churches Together) he was one of the founders of the Night Hostel, and made some of the first moves towards the Covenant with Christ Church and the Methodist Church that actually came into being only a few years ago. One of his last appointments was of Church Army Captain Mike Gardner to work in North Leatherhead.

He was an enthusiastic supporter of Father Walter de Mello and the work of Prideaux House in Hackney, and he led the first parish visit there. He also tried to foster links with the Church in Sheffield in a time of recession.

Sandy was chairman of the Missionary Committee, which he once told us was his favourite committee, and he was actively involved in supporting and publicising the church's overseas missions. Indeed, the first of what has become our annual Autumn Market was held in aid of the work of a Bishop in Nigeria. He hosted many visits from African and other nationals as well as missionary representatives to raise our awareness of Christians in other parts of the world.

Sandy was a good friend to many of us and we are happy that several members of his family are still living in the area.
Christine Bryant

Wedding of Ann Morris to Arnie Gabbott, 15 May 2010

The Morris and Gabbott families have been friends for very many years. When both Ann and Arnie were widowed their friends were delighted when eventually the couple decided to get married.

Parish news-sheet 9 May 2010: WEDDING of Ann Morris & Arnie Gabbott Saturday 15 May at 11.30am Parish Church Ann Morris and Arnie Gabbott will be married on Saturday 15 May at 11.30am. They would be so pleased to have you with them at this celebration.

The wedding was conducted by curate Rev Mike Stewart, whose own wedding was conducted by Ann's late husband, Canon Sandy Morris.

The vows

The hymns were:
O Praise ye the Lord
King of glory, king of peace
Love divine, all loves excelling

The reading, by Mark, was Ephesians chapter 3 v14 onwards.

During the signing of the Register the choir sang Jesu Joy of Man's desiring

Walking down the aisle

At the West door


from the July 2010 Parish Magazine
Dear Friends Ann and I were married on 15 May and we write to thank all who made our day so lovely. The Flower arrangers, Organist, Bell ringers, Choir and Verger all gave of their time and skills whilst Mike Stewart officiated and led us gently through the responses. Thanks too for the excellent photos incorporated into the parish web pages.

When we chose the date we had no idea that this would also be a very busy day in the Church calendar. We apologise, but also thank all the congregation who, in spite of this, arrived to support us. Christine and Ken also recommended an excellent taverna for our visit to Paphos in Cyprus. We searched without success; yet assure all you special people of being well toasted in fine Cypriot wine. With thanks and blessings.
Ann and Arnie Gabbott

If you have more photos of Sandy or further remembrance to add, please contact Frank Haslam, the editor of these pages.

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page created 26 Feb 2009: last updated 17 Oct 11: 14 Mar 15