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News > Memories > Track and field record breakers at Oswestry School in the 1960s : Roger Morgan.

Track and field record breakers at Oswestry School in the 1960s : Roger Morgan.

Athlete, businessman, adventurer, and thrill-seeker, Roger Morgan was amongst my circle of friends at School House during the late fifties and 1960
4 Sep 2023
Written by David Pickup
Memories

He is pictured in the main photo in the school library along with the spoils of success as we celebrated Oswald's Victory on Sports Day 1960 (L-R: Greves, Sharples, David Pickup, Roger Morgan, Bernard Pickup, Parslew).

Roger was a determined athlete and although younger than me, and not yet in his prime, he was a constant thorn in my side as we battled up the lung-bursting Mole Hill and along Pen-y-Llan Lane at the end of the Steeplechase Final in 1960. I managed to finish in front of him, coming in second place behind Tony (RA) Hughes, but Roger reversed our positions in the Final Triangle. As reported in The Oswestrian, Oswald ''did particularly well", and out of a total of 171 runners all the boys in the above photograph were among the first 13 to finish.


Extract from The Oswestrian, Lent 1960

What a difference a year makes, and Sports Day 1961 saw Roger claim the coveted Victor Ludorum, performing at his very best as he stormed to victory in four track events, along with places in two field events. His recollection is that he broke several school records and, although this is not made clear in the programme report and results of the meeting, Headmaster Frankland said that thirteen school records had been broken in an exceptional year for athletics. 


Sports Day report, taken from Lent 1961 edition of The Oswestrian (archive, p. 14, blue cover)

Even at school the signs were there that Roger would lead a life which included adventure and adrenaline, and on more than one occasion he could be spotted practising fire drill by climbing out from the top-right hand dormitory window and clambering down the rope ladder to the quadrangle below.  


Diary entry for 29 May, 1961

I can never quite be sure whether Roger Morgan courted trouble or if trouble followed him around, but his activities regularly brought him to the attention of the powers that be and he had the unique record of being expelled from Oswestry not once, but twice, during the turbulent reign of Headmaster Major Frankland. He is mentioned regularly in my Diary of the time, and the episode touched on below is one of several such incidents in the life of this interesting maverick. Some of us had been caught out of bounds playing tennis at the hospital across the road, but Roger had been found with a girl, playing a different game on a cricket cradle, and they were not honing up their catching skills! According to my Diary he and others were caught again the following week in the company of more girls from the Girls' High School, and expulsions were threatened along with other restrictions. I called Roger a clot at the time, but we were all in secret admiration of this cool character, and envious of his acts of derring-do.


Diary entry for 11 July 1960

In a Diary entry written on July 28th, see below, shortly after I had left school, I asked myself semi-jokingly how long it would be before he and his brother, Bruce, would end up in the guard house at Kinmel Park during the CCF trip of 1960. Such were my feelings at the time, knowing that a storm was brewing at School House. The now legendary insurrection came to a head in the summer of 1961 when members of School House raised to the ground the infamous outside open-air toilets, and the rebellious boys can be seen celebrating in the photograph below. Is it more than coincidence that Head Boy Roger Morgan and his brother were leading figures at School House when the insurrection took place? 


Extract from my Diary, 28 July, 1960

 


The insurrectionists gather together

For a short time after leaving Oswestry Roger kept up his running but eventually aother activities took over and he became a keen climber and mountaineer.

Roger's passion for climbing, which he developed after leaving school, was a pursuit that took him far and wide, often in the company of OOs David Lloyd Hughes and Martyn Bracegirdle, and only recently, quite by accident, i came across a letter posted in The Oswestrian Magazine by David L Hughes which describes a wintry Christmas Day ascent of Mount Snowdon in 1963 in the company of Roger Morgan.



Once Upon a Morning: Christmas Day on Snowdon (archive, p. 46, Lent 1963)

To say that Roger Morgan is a globetrotter is no overstatement as his business interests and adventures have taken him all over the world to 164 of the 193 countries recognised by the UN, and he told me that the only countries he still wishes to visit are Mali and Iraq. 

In 2002 the lure of climbing took Roger to the land-locked mountainous country of Tajikistan where he believes that he was the first, or one of the first British climbers, to summit Mt Tchmtaga; his most difficult but not the highest mountain he has climbed.

The following year this wanderlust and thirst for adventure led him to the Himalayan country of Tibet, a largely unexplored autonomous region lying within China along its south-western border. This turned out to be a decision Roger would regret as it was, in his words, "An adventure too far", and he was soon thrown out of Tibet by the Chinese authorities. In Tibet there are very few places you can visit, and it must be in the company of an official guide. Other areas looked much more interesting to Roger so, needless to say, the curious Old Oswestrian decided to explore off piste in defiance of authority, and found himself in hot water. After interrogation by the suspicious local authority, who decided that he was up to no good, Roger was requested not to return and put on a flight to China the very next day.

In his mid-sixties the intrepid explorer took a calculated risk by going climbing in Iran with fellow Old Oswestrian Martyn Bracegirdle at a time when anti Western feelings were running very high. Hatred of the West meant that few Westerners ventured into the country and during several expeditions they did not meet a single person from the West.Together, Roger and Martyn scaled many of the highest peaks in Iran including the tallest which stood at a majestic height of 19,000 feet.

Roger has spent all his working life in manufacturing, and his last position was Vice President of a large US company where he was responsible for Africa, Middle East, Central America and the Caribbean.

A craving for fun and excitement has always been part of this Old Oswestrian's DNA, and recent exploits have been an exhilarating flight in a small aircraft, and on a trip to the Caribbean Roger hitched a kilometre-long ride on the longest Zip Wire in the world. Starting at a take off height of 700 feet with the cruise ship pictured in the background, the spectacular ride came to a halt at sea level, but Roger's best recent memory was free falling (at the tender age of 78) from a height of three miles, at 125mph!




 

Day long hikes through the New Forest and elsewhere are a regular feature in Roger's fitness regime and I believe that he will never lose his spirit of adventure. Watch this space for his next project.


Roger today, pictured with his brother Bruce at a gathering of Old Oswestrians in 2022

 

 

 

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