Obituary: Christine Morrison

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The Independent Culture
A FOUNDING Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford, Christine Morrison all her long life remained confident in her choice of issues - the role of women in education and intellectual leadership, the environment and religious tolerance and freedom.

She was born in India in 1903, in "Ooty" (Ootacamund), in the hills above Madras, where her father was Principal of Newington College, a school for the education of sons of rajahs. When three years old, she was brought to Scotland, later to be educated at St Leonard's School, St Andrews. In 1923, she came to Oxford to read English at the Society of Oxford Home Students, a non-collegiate foundation.

Non-collegiate women living in "digs" experienced discrimination as their presence challenged the prevailing assumptions about the role of women. One early disappointment for "Kirstie" Morrison was the refusal of the Oxford University Dramatic Society to accept women members. This was an affront long remembered by Morrison, who shared Samuel Johnson's vision for the development of literature in an associated role with the theatre.

Her tutor Margaret Lee set a standard which heralded the outstanding development of literary talents accompanying the growth of the Home Students into the College of St Anne 30 years later (they became St Anne's Society in 1942 and were incorporated as a college in 1952). On the strength of an outstanding First, after two years teaching at Bradford High School, she was appointed tutor in English and remained to spend the rest of her life in Oxford, 40 years of which was occupied in formal teaching. After her retirement in 1970, as Fellow Emeritus of St Anne's, she spent almost three decades as a lively mentor, ever ready in her hospitable home to stimulate new talent and to give encouragement to old and new pupils across the world.

With her colleagues she was the centre of intellectual ferment associated with the "Inklings", exploring the impact of language and literature on the mind. She treasured her friendships with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord David Cecil who, with others, accepted her Home Students for tutorials. She was always on the look-out for stimuli for literary appreciation to be derived from other art forms. In the 1960s, with the collaboration of her students, she undertook a series of illustrated lectures depicting the relationship between literature and art, notably Hogarth and the links with the social satirists.

Her work as an Oxford don was carried out in the face of a continual battle for personal health, confining her to teaching rather than writing. The tutorial system was the heart of her work. The recipients of her stimulating tuition, such as Sister Wendy Beckett, continue publicly to express their indebtedness to her and this method of instruction. Her teaching was motivated by an enjoyment in seeing talent flourish. She withdrew from any atmosphere of reflected credit, recognising that their achievement was the creation of the industry and gifts of her charges.

She lived in an era of gigantic social change where teachers and taught could only dimly see their future. Only on reflection does one discern more clearly the value of the wholeness of an Oxford life as lived by Kirstie Morrison. A creative zest, rooted in the highest standards of excellence, contrasted with 20th-century blues and the vigorous efforts of Communists and Fascists to mobilise disillusionment.

From the 1970s to the end of her life she was an active sponsor of a programme of exchanges between Arab and British university students. An astonishing range of students from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine passed through her home and experienced her hospitality.

The stereotype of "dreaming spires" infuriated her. Her Oxford was deeply involved in the issues of the accelerating pace of change. A demeanour of high seriousness in intellectual matters accommodated comic relief and a good joke. She sought a belief dynamic enough to change the underlying injustice which was eliciting false remedies. Literature and life found unity in her faith. To her Scottish ear the cadences of Robert Burns harmonised with the Christian apologetics of Henry Drummond to validate her choice to identify with the emerging Oxford Group and its global successor - Moral Re-Armament. A recent volume of The History of the University of Oxford was of especial importance to her, as it noted that the Oxford Group by the end of the1930s "had become a world-wide movement of considerable influence".

In the post-war years Morrison developed a seasoned world view, in part through the experiences of her Oxford friends active in Moral Re-Armament in work centred on issues of Franco- German unity, peace in Tunisia and Morocco, rehabilitation of relations between Japan and her Asian neighbours and later a peace settlement in Zimbabwe.

Christine Latto Morrison, English scholar: born Ootacamund, India 12 July 1903; Assistant Tutor, Society of Oxford Home Students 1930-32, Fellow 1932-42; Fellow, St Anne's Society, Oxford 1942-52, St Anne's College 1952-70 (Emeritus); died Oxford 4 August 1998.

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