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Morris Aubrey

Aubrey Morris

Morris was born on 20th May 1919. The family name of Putajevski was also the name of the baker's business started by Aubrey’s grandfather, an immigrant from Russia. The family changed the name to Morris because it fitted in better; it was a name Aubrey liked, because he was an admirer of William Morris. Aubrey played football for Bethnal Green boys and even Leyton (then Clapton) Orient reserves. But he left school at 14 in 1933, already able to drive the family baker's van, he was helping his father deliver bread door to door.

Despite this security, he had witnessed first hand the poverty of many east London families and saw the seemingly inexorable rise of home-grown fascism.  He was actually born in Cable Street, but left there when he was about 10 years old to go to Bethnal Green. It was there that he became radicalised.

 

The area brimmed with sweatshops and Morris recalls seeing people with missing fingers that had been sliced off by dangerous machines and streets full of destitute families and the maimed from the First World War. His first glimpse of the rising tide of fascism was in the form of two adult sons of Italian neighbours strutting along the street in full Italian fascist uniforms.

 

When the Battle of Cable Street took place, Morris was a member of the Labour League of Youth. His Uncle Isaac, an enormous man, had a fish and chip shop and he battled through the already gathering crowds to his stable where he kept his horse and cart to bring it out to form part of the barricades! Aubrey married Lily Weinberg, whom he first met during the Cable Street battles, in February 1940.

 

When the Second World War came, Morris was in the army for seven years in which he achieved the rank of sergeant instructor.After the war, his first job was as a long-distance lorry driver. But pay and conditions were poor, so he became a taxi cab driver in 1951. He played a role in organising tenants on the estate he lived in and stood as a local candidate in local council and London council elections and, finally, as Communist Party parliamentary candidate in May 1955 in the Stoke Newington and Hackney North constituency.

 

That year, he took his family abroad on holiday, using his taxi, an extraordinary thing to do and this set him off on the foreign travel bug. He set up his own company, Riviera Holidays, which prospered. It did not change Morris’ view that there has to be a better way of running society and this must be possible to be more egalitarian.

 

With the help of Joe Morrison, a former school friend who had become an accountant, Aubrey set up a company to provide cheap holidays at European resorts for working families. He launched the first air travel package company transporting football fans to Europe in support of their teams playing against the big clubs there. His own team was Tottenham Hotspur. In 1961, they organised a fleet of 33 planes to carry Spurs supporters from Gatwick, Luton and Southend airports to see their team play in Rotterdam. The scheme developed so rapidly and profitably that it was bought out in April 1965 by Thomson Holidays, perhaps liberating Aubrey, who was a reluctant capitalist.

Although he left the Party in the late 1950s, by the 1980s he was returning to old themes and would go on the finance publications such as Seven Days, Red Pepper, and arange of artistic and theatrical ventures. He was supportive of the Morning Star in his last years. Perhaps most ambitious of all was his creation of the Anjou Lunch Club, named after the restaurant in north London where it was launched in 1989 before it moved to its regular haunt, the famed Soho restaurant the Gay Hussar. The Hussar was a one-time Bevanite congress point, and there Aubrey conducted monthly seminars on socialism.

In his eighties, he released his memoirs, `An Unfinished Journey’, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the anti-fascist victory at the Battle of Cable Street.

 

Aubrey Morris died on 18th December 2008 aged 89.

 

Sources: Morning Star October 11th 2006; Guardian Tuesday 13th January 2009