Hat-TrickBiography, Nostalgia | June 3, 2015
By Logan J. Farrell
Inclement weather wreaked havoc with the tables outside the café in Main Street Mornington but it did little to dampen the enthusiasm of Ian Morrison. Rugged up against the elements he strode into our meeting with a swag of assorted hats slung over his shoulder and proceeded to ask me what I thought of his two dollar boots, his one dollar jeans and his four dollar beret. ‘I’ve been to the Op-Shop’ he said, lamenting the expense of the beret. Nonetheless he reflected that he ‘just had to have it’; it seems that Ian and hats fit well together. He went on to suggest he may write a book about the merits of Op-shopping and how to survive on a pension. I got the distinct impression that this irrepressible senior would somehow find the time to fit that into his agenda.
In choosing the café for our meeting, Ian had told me the staff were used to his eccentricities: this became clear when they carried on regardless as he warmed his vocal chords with some mock scales as soon as I produced my phone to record our interview. ‘I have music on my mind’ he said and as he spoke about his colourful life and his passion for helping others, it was clear that music played a big part.
Ian and his family are long-term residents of the Peninsula; starting off in North Frankston and ending up in Mornington with Karingal and Mt Eliza slotted in between. During their North Frankston and Karingal years, Ian was a candidate for the local council. Although never elected he felt that it provided the opportunity for his family ‘to become part of the community’s fabric’. It was through community work and contacts made at this time that he was offered the Honorary Position of Mornington Town Crier; a position that drove terror into the hearts of some of his shyer colleagues.
Ian is no shrinking violet and clearly relished the role. A ‘political incident’ ended his official capacity at Mornington some years ago, however the robes of community service sat comfortably on his shoulders so he now acts unofficially as a ‘consensual’ Town Crier for Melbourne City Council. The multicultural people’s parade and fundraising events associated with the Lady Mayoress’ charities are among his regular gigs. He has also been summoned to don his robes and conduct charity auctions and attend High Tea gatherings in the ballroom at the Windsor Hotel.
Ian began his professional life as a teacher at a prestigious boys school however a few years later he tossed off his Mortar Board and spent 30 years in the public system. How many hats he has worn since he tossed that first one off so many years ago is hard to estimate. Retirement has allowed him more time to continue his charitable passions, particularly the Red Cross, where he is following in the footsteps of his mother who devoted 30 years to the cause.
One of his favourites annual events occurs on Good Friday. When Victorians dig deep for the Royal Children’s hospital appeal, Ian can be found down on the docks, on the deck of the Polly Woodside, spinning the blarney, walking the plank and singing pirate ditties with young disabled singers. And yes, as you would expect, he has a suitable pirate hat for the occasion.
The pirate hat is also aired when Ian performs in a busking band he has formed with some of the vision impaired and disabled students he meets through his charity work. He happily does most of the singing but says the kids have learnt to put in the suitable ‘Aaargh’ sound effects—at the right intervals—and are now whistling along, joining in the chorus and even playing harmonicas.
As a passionate believer in community diversity, Ian has spread his wings past the Peninsula and put his experience to good use teaching at Chinese and Cambodian language schools in the Dandenong area. Back home, he is a voice for local Mornington Peninsula citizens at council meetings and enjoys driving young disabled and vision impaired students to fundraising events in the city. He is also back in his old stomping ground of North Frankston as a Red Cross transport driver ferrying sick and elderly patients to their chemotherapy and eye surgery appointments.
He regularly attends Chinese cultural parades, has a keen involvement with the Dutch community and (despite being born in Sussex), puts on his best brogue and presents the Morrison Clan tartan at the annual ‘kirking of the tartan’ at Melbourne’s Scots Church. Another of his main passions these days is organising concerts for and singing with a number of Welsh choirs.
His schedule is enough to make you dizzy, yet it doesn’t stop there! He is now making regular trips to Southern China to develop ‘boot camps for environmentalists on a budget’, facilitating visits to useful environmental sites in China and Hong Kong as part of an awareness scheme.
As we wrapped up our meeting, he added that he and his wife were leaving the following week for a trip to the UK to visit his wife’s family. Unsurprisingly, in the next breath, he happened to mention that it was probably a good opportunity to source some prospective venues for an upcoming tour for his welsh choir.
I suspect that book may have to wait a little longer.