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Ossie Morris 1906 - 1968

Oswald John Morris was born at 173 Water Street in Port Talbot On 18th July 1906, His parents were Edward and Agnes Morris and he had two sisters May and Megan. Ossie’s Father, known as Teddy was a big player with the Afan and District Operatic Society. Ossie himself appeared in The Mikado in 1919 alongside his father. He was to follow this up with key roles in The Vagabond King, The Desert Song and his favourite part, as Blinkie Bill in The Belle Of New York. A ten-year-old Ossie excelled at bird whistles and mimicry – his later catchphrase became “Hush! I must ‘ave ush!” Followed by an ear-piercing whistle. His first job was again alongside his father, at The Burrows Tin-plate works in Aberavon. At the age of nineteen he found himself performing at local Liberal clubs in the area, and his talent was actually providing an income almost as much as his day job.   On the 9th December 1929 he married Lilian Maude Williams, the daughter of a well-known bus proprietor from Cwmavon called David Rhys Williams. They had two children, both boys, Ronald was born in 1930 followed by John in 1935 and the family home became 20 Gladys Street, in Port Talbot. Around about this time he teamed up with Lew Thomas and Evan John and would perform together as The Versatile Three. They blended Comedy and Music and were a great success locally and audiences of the time would be enchanted by Ossie’s Baritone voice and comedy, alongside Lew Thomas and his musical saw and Evan John’s Harmonica playing (he was billed as the Welsh Larry Adler). The Trio’s haunting intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana was climaxed with Ossie Morris’s whistling impression of a nightingale in full song. Ossie would also embark on solo performances at local theatres, indeed in a cinema in Gorseinon he appeared on the bill as a Bird Mimic. In 1937 the trio joined a very fine concert party called the Coronation Revellers – named because of the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. After the outbreak of World War II the party renamed themselves the Western Revellers, increased in size and became the most sought after entertainment party in Wales, bringing a little ray of sunshine into the lives of many people threatened by the hazards and deprivation of War. After the War Ossie’s big break came at the age of 43 when he appeared on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks programme and his exposure to a wider audience attracted the attention of Bryan Michie – who famously had given Morecambe and Wise their break at The Empire Theatre, Swansea in 1940. Brian invited Ossie to be a guest on his show at The New Theatre in Cardiff. He was a great success, the one time £8 a week Steelworker had arrived. Between shows however Ossie was a Betterware salesman selling door to door to the people of Port Talbot, trying to provide for his young family. At the end of 1949 Mair Jones the producer of Welsh Rarebit approached Ossie and invited him onto the show. He slotted in beautifully and after just nine appearances was appointed resident Comedian on the show. He was now a full time entertainer and his Betterware case was closed for good. Mai Jones was such an admirer that she rated his chances of national recognition greater than that of Harry Secombe. He was soon sharing top billing all over the country with likes of Dorothy Squires and Wilson, Keppel and Betty. In 1950 when “Red Riding Hood” was put on as the Pantomime at Swansea Grand Theatre, Ossie was invited to play alongside Maudie Edwards, Rita Page and Stan Stennett. His brand of humour was perfect for Pantomime and he went on to play a further 3 Pantomimes at Swansea Grand and one at Swansea Empire in 1956/57, in fact he performed at the last ever show at Swansea Empire, the pantomime "Jack and the Beanstalk" before it was closed in February of 1957. He also performed his own show “I Must Have Hush” at Swansea Grand in 1951. Ossie was truly a son of Port Talbot and loved to be home in Gladys Street, and for 21 straight years he would perform for the patients of Port Talbot General Hospital. He was at the top of his profession when he topped the bill in 1954 at The Shakespeare Theatre Of Varieties in Liverpool and was in demand constantly. A naturally funny man off stage, there is a story of w hen he went to visit his newborn Grandson outside the scheduled visiting hours at a Watford Maternity hospital. Having charmed a rather strict Matron into allowing him to view the baby, he added that there was no need for the nurse to show him the baby as he would just hold a five-pound note up into the air, the child who raised its hand would be his Grandson.In early 1956 he travelled to the Middle East to entertain the forces with The Crazy Capers Combined Services Entertainment Show and upon his return received a congratulatory letter from Major General C.E.A. Firth, The Director of personal Services at The Ware Office in London. Outlining Ossie’s special appeal. At the wedding of his eldest son Ronald, Ossie was called upon to sing. He gave a beautiful rendition of the popular song “If I loved You” he went down a storm and one of the guests piped up that he should have sung in the church as well. Ossie replied “I would have but they wouldn’t pay me enough”In 1964 after a performance at a South Wales club Ossie had a Heart Attack, he was just 58. He suffered further attacks, which weakened the constitution of this strong man. Throughout his illness he kept a diary that graphically illustrated his torment and the depression that his illness caused. Many of his showbiz colleagues would rally round to his home to offer support. Sadly just a few years later in March 1968 he suffered a Brain Haemorrhage and was admitted to Port Talbot General Hospital, the scene of many previous performances. This visit was however his curtain call as just two weeks later on April 7th 1968 and aged just 61 Ossie Morris Passed Away, surrounded by the family he loved and in his beloved hometown of Port Talbot.

Poster for the last pantomime staged at Swansea Empire Theatre in 1956/57