Friday, 12 September 2014

Three cheers for Morrison!

When I became a Proprietor of the Leeds Library forty years ago I straightaway sought out the shelves containing the Leeds items. There I discovered Morrison’s Leeds Blue Book and City Record. These slim volumes, each containing some 150 thin pages, are a goldmine of information on the city’s social and political life. I had not come across them before but they swiftly became my constant companion over succeeding years, particularly as I needed a great deal of historical information in studying for my MPhil - at Bradford University! - on transition in Leeds City Government in the first thirty years of the twentieth century.

There are twenty-eight editions of Morrison’s annual tome, running from 1904 to 1931, when it mysteriously stops. They are very elusive on the market – in forty years I have managed to find only three editions. There was no other similar publication until the Yorkshire Post published the first of its four year books in 1936. Morrison brings together a mass of statistical information on the city, including financial, educational and social information, and a whole section on the work of the Leeds Corporation, plus listings of Mayors and Lord Mayors, Town Clerks, clubs, political associations, religious associations and even members of burial boards! Best of all, for politicians, was the complete local election results from the beginning of the town council in 1835, and the results of Board of Guardian and School Board elections! Clearly Morrison was what we would today call an “anorak” or even a “nerd”!

In fact Nathan Morrison was very much an aspiring Leeds politician. By trade he was a newsagent, publisher and stationer, with premises in Bishopgate Street, from where he also ran an advertising agency. He unsuccessfully contested the area around his shop, the Mill Hill ward, as a Liberal candidate for the City Council in 1907 and 1908 before finally winning it in 1911. He was re-elected at four successive elections until in 1926 he was one of a number of leading Liberals who were enticed by Sir Charles Wilson into defecting to the Conservative party. It may be mere coincidence that he had failed by just one vote to get the Liberal nomination for Lord Mayor in 1924!

After becoming a Conservative, preferment certainly followed. He held Mill Hill ward once more in 1927 but became an Alderman in 1930, having been Lord Mayor in 1929. He was also made a Magistrate in 1930. He died in 1933 at the age of 74. Leeds historians urgently need another Morrison!
Michael Meadowcroft
14 March 2013