John Peattie Morris and James Hunter Morris


This post was written by Victoria Doran.

John and James Morris were brothers from a family deeply involved with the early history of golf professionalism and Championship golf courses, being related to both ‘Old’ Tom Morris and John Ball.

Morris JH & JP grave E 2 3.jpg

Morris family gave in Holy Trinity churchyard, Hoylake

The Morris family’s involvement with golf as a means of earning a livelihood started with ‘Old’ Tom Morris (Thomas Mitchell Morris (1821-1908)) of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. The son of a handloom weaver of woollens, Tom was apprenticed at the age of 14 to Allan Robertson, generally acknowledged to be the world’s first professional golfer, who ‘ran’ the course at St Andrews.  Tom learnt how to make both golf clubs and golf balls, to maintain golf courses and to play to the highest standard. He married and had 4 children who survived to adulthood. In 1851 he was fired by Robertson as he made clear that he thought (correctly) that the new gutta percha balls would supersede the old featheries. He moved his family to Prestwick, Ayrshire where he designed and laid out the course for the new club, and then remained to run golf in Prestwick. He named his 2nd surviving son James Ogilvy Fairlie Morris (1856-1906) after the Major who persuaded the Prestwick committee to employ him. He returned to St Andrews in 1865 at the club’s request as the club professional.


‘Old’ Tom Morris in old age from wikipedia

He won the Open Championship 4 times, holds the record for being the oldest winner, and another for coming second to his own eldest son ‘Young’ Tom. Sadly ‘Young’ Tom died very young. ‘Old’ Tom became the world expert in designing and laying out golf courses. He truly earned the sobriquet ‘Old’ by outliving all his children.

In 1869 the group of mainly expatriate Scots who decided to found what is now the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, asked ‘Old’ Tom to come down south and build them a golf course. He declined but sent his brother George Morris (1819-1888). George is not really well known, but he must also have been involved with golf from early in life. In 1853 he took the job as Superintendent at Carnoustie Golf Club (then in Forfarshire, now in Angus). In 1858 he gave up that job in favour of running the Golf Inn nearby. In 1865 the Carnoustie course required a rebuild due to the new railway line’s impact. ‘Old’ Tom arrived (no doubt staying with George and family) and did the necessary work. This must be when George learnt how to do the job.

When George arrived in Hoylake he was accompanied by his eldest son John ‘Jack’ Morris (1847-1929) as assistant. When young Jack indicated his intention to remain in Hoylake, his father prophesied that he would be back in Scotland very soon. However George was wrong. Hoylake is the only golf course ever designed by George Morris.

Jack Morris remained in Hoylake for the rest of his life, working first as a golf club maker, then becoming the club professional at the Royal Liverpool. Although he will have been brought up in the Church of Scotland, he changed to the Church of England on his marriage. On 17 September 1877 he married Margaret Jane Smith (1853-1934) by licence at Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales.

John Morris & Margaret Jane smith marriage jpg.jpg

It is unclear why they were married in Llangollen, but the witnesses all came from Hoylake so it was presumably a well organised wedding.

Margaret Jane was the daughter of William Smith (1820-1885) and Esther Ball (1830-1919). William was a flour dealer and sometime grocer in Hoylake, but originally came from Neston. Esther Ball provides the link to another golfing phenomenon, namely John Ball, one of the triumvirate of Hoylake golfers who dominated world golf for many years. Another member of the trio was John Graham also commemorated on this website.

Esther’s father was  John Ball (1804-1877), whose son John Ball (1834-1905) was the father of John Ball (1861-1940) the internationally renowned golfer who, with 2 unmarried sisters, also ran the Royal Hotel in Stanley Road, Hoylake.  So Margaret Jane Smith was golfer John Ball’s first cousin. All Esther Ball’s forebears for many generations lived in north west Wirral. Most were farmers and some blacksmiths. However all aspired to farm and even the famous golfer described himself as a farmer on the 1891 census when he was aged 30 and already well known in golfing circles.

Jack and Margaret Jane had 4 sons and 6 daughters. They took family traditions seriously when naming their children. Their eldest son was another Thomas Morris (1881-???). He became a professional golfer, emigrating to the USA in 1908. The second son was named George Morris (1888-1985) after his father. He too emigrated to the USA (in 1913) and worked as a professional golfer. In 1929 he jointly designed a golf course at West Shore Country Club, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania before designing one on his own at Blue Ridge Country Club, Harrisburg in the same state. He spent the rest of his working life in Harrisburg, but actually died in Miami, Florida.

The eldest girl was Agnes Morris (1879-1969), named for her paternal grandmother Agnes Peattie (1821-1893); the second Esther (1882-1934) was named for her maternal grandmother Esther Ball; the third Margaret Smith Morris (1883-1962) was named for her mother; the fourth Jane Bruce Morris (1885-1962) for her paternal great grandmother Jean Bruce (1778-1841) – Jane being the English equivalent of Jean; the fifth Marion (1890-1975) and sixth Dorothy (1892-1971) finally introduced new names into the family.

Jack did sufficiently well out of his decision to remain in Hoylake to bring up his family in middle class comfort. When he died in 1929 he left the equivalent of nearly £900,000 at 2016 values.


Liverpool Pals JPG.jpg

Liverpool Pals cap badge

John Peattie Morris was born in Hoylake in September 1887 and baptised at Holy Trinity church the same month. He was educated at Calday Grange Grammar School before becoming a shipping clerk.

John was named for his paternal grandmother’s father, John Peattie (1791-???) a tailor from St Andrews.

He was still living at home at 37 Church Road, Hoylake when war broke out. He was one of those, like George Eyton Houldsworth, who answered Lord Derby’s call for volunteers in August 1914 and became a Liverpool Pal.

He enlisted on 31st August to become Private 16981 in the 18th (Pals) Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment. He was 26 years old and 5ft 10 in tall. He will have gone to the old watch factory at Prescot initially. On 1 November 1915 he was promoted to Corporal, before landing in France with the battalion 6 days later.

Although they were in the trenches much earlier, the first battle for the 17th King’s Liverpool was the Battle of the Somme. On the first day, 1 July 1916, they bore the brunt of the battle suffering around 500 casualties on the day, amongst them 6 local men (Samuel Frank Barnes; James Redfern Johnston; Douglas Wall Kemp; John Albert Smith; Harry Sparrow; Richard Waters) that day, and a further 2 from injuries (Albert Henshaw; Basil Stott) in the following 8 days. As they had been together for  some 22 months by then, John will have known all these men well.

The 17th (Pals) were then withdrawn to reform, recuperate. and receive reinforcements. John was in No. 24 General Hospital at Etaples, France from 1 August with bronchitis and a suppurating foot. He returned to his battalion on 24 September 1916.

On 18 October 1916 the battalion was once more thrown into the fray on the last day of the Battle of Le Transloy. Progress had been made by the allies during September, so they were crossing land that had been fought over many times in dreadful conditions, whilst the Germans were retreating across relatively untouched territory.  The rain, mist and mud meant the men slipped and fell and their weapons were clogged, so effectively they were only armed with hand grenades and bayonets. With the 2nd Wiltshires they attacked the Gird Line, but the wire was uncut on the right and they were enfiladed from the left. Most of the Wiltshires died, and John was one of somewhat fewer casualties among the Pals.

The British high command had wanted to stop the attack for the winter at the end of September, but the French insisted on carrying on. Overall this was probably the correct decision as it drew German forces from Verdun, allowing the French to finally win that portion of the war.

John was buried in Warlencourt British Cemetery.

Warlencourt British Cemetery jpg.jpg

Warlencourt British Cemetery

John left £377, probably to his sister Agnes who received his soldier’s effects and was his executor.

Birth: Sep 1887 at Hoylake
Death: 18 Oct 1916 near Le Transloy, Pas de Calais, France
Addresses: Valentia Road, Hoylake (91); 20 Cable Road, Hoylake (01) (11); 37 Church Road (now Trinity Road), Hoylake (14)
Occupation: shipping clerk
Unit: 17th (Pals) Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 16981; Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory & British War
Buried & Commemorated: Warlencourt British Cemetery, near Warlencourt, Pas de Calais, France; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; Holy Trinity church yard, Hoylake; Holy Trinity Church (now in St Hildeburgh)
Sources: CWGC, MC, SR, DA, Census: 91, 01, 11, BR, Prob, PR, H, CG, CGB, RSE


Liverpool Rifles cap badge jpg.jpg

Liverpool Rifles cap badge

James was born in the summer of 1894 in Hoylake and baptised at Holy Trinity church on 9 September of the same year. He was the youngest of the 4 brothers, and two of his sisters were younger. He was named James Hunter Morris after James Hunter (1848-1886) who was the husband of ‘Old’ Tom’s daughter Elizabeth Morris (1852-1898).

James Hunter was a very successful timber merchant with many wharfs along the coast of the southern United States. He must have crossed the Atlantic many times before his untimely death at Mobile, Alabama as all but the first of his 5 children were born in Scotland. The first child died aged 2 months in Georgia, and after that it seems that Elizabeth returned permanently to Scotland. James Hunter was from Prestwick, where Elizabeth was born and brought up, and ‘Old’ Tom was succeeded as greenkeeper there by James’ cousin Charles Hunter. James Hunter was an inveterate golfer who introduced golf wherever he found himself.

Like his brother John, James was educated at Calday Grange Grammar School. Like him he also initially became a clerk – in his case for a corn merchant. However James soon decided that a clerk’s life was not for him, and by the age of 17 in 1912 he was a golf club maker, presumably working for his father.

On 6 May 1912 he arrived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada accompanied by his eldest sister Agnes. They were en route to Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA where his eldest brother Tom was employed as a golf instructor. Agnes returned to Britain 2 months or so later, but James stayed for 6 months. When he returned on the White Star Lines’ Adriatic he described himself as a golf professional.

He then obtained employment as a professional golfer at Castletown, Isle of Man working at a club where his great uncle ‘Old’ Tom had designed the course in 1892.

He remained there until December 1915. With conscription looming, he enlisted as Rifleman 241194 in the 2nd/6th (Liverpool Rifles) Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. This was one of the Second Line battalions in the KLR which ‘matched’ the original peace time battalions. He will have trained at Canterbury, Kent and, from July 1916 at Aldershot, Surrey. By February 1917 the battalion was deemed ready for the front line and they landed at Le Havre , France on the 14th, and were in the trenches on the 25th.

Fortunately for James they were posted to the Artois section of the Western Front near Armentières, near the Belgian border. They were part of the 171st Brigade of the 57th Division. This section of the front line was static from 1915 to April 1918. The Australians described it as a ‘nursery’, a place to initiate new recruits gently. However there was still a continuous toll of casualties as the two sides regularly shelled each other, and sometimes carried out minor raids on one another’s trenches. As the trenches were static, conditions were much better than in other places on the Western Front.

James ran out of luck on 15 July 1917 as he was in a gun pit with 2 companions when it was hit by a German shell. All 3 were killed instantly.

James was buried in Cité Bonjean Military Cemetery at Armentières. This was the normal burial place for the 57th Division casualties at the time, so he and his companions were in consecutive graves, together with a fourth Rifleman who died the same day.

Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery jpg.jpg

Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery

His soldier’s effects of about £20 were left to his father, but he did not leave enough to warrant probate.

Birth: Jul 1894 at Hoylake
Death: 15 Jul 1917 near Armentieres, Nord, France
Addresses: 20 Cable Road, Hoylake (01) (11)
Occupation: professional golfer
Unit: 2nd/6th (Liverpool Rifles) Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 241194; Rifleman
Medals: Victory & British War
Buried & Commemorated: Cité Bonjean MilitaryCemetery, Armentières, Nord, France; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; Holy Trinity church yard, Hoylake; Holy Trinity Church (now in St Hildeburgh)
Sources: CWGC, MC, DA, Census: 01, 11, BR, Prob, PR, H, CG, CGB, RSE, passenger lists


4 thoughts on “John Peattie Morris and James Hunter Morris

    • Very good. I visited Armentières this time last year. I was staying with friends in Laventie. They are members of the Carnforth/Sailly Sur La Lys Twinning Association. At this moment they are here in England. We are planning a joint research project about Carnforth and the Sailly area during the Great War. Would you like to join us?

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