Talks and Reflections by Brian Boobbyer

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Kirstie Morrison

(photo: Dr Hazel Rossetti,
property of
St Anne’s College, Oxford)

For 70 years Kirstie was associated with St Anne's College, Oxford, where she was a founding fellow and tutor in English. The following piece was Brian's address at her funeral on August 13, 1998.

Kirstie loved her childhood. Born in India, she spent three years there before the family came back to Scotland. She talked of the 'deep well of a happy childhood', quoting the poet Vaughan:

Happy those early days when I
Shined in my angel-infancy.

Reminiscing, she said: 'Walking in the Highlands; the splendour of childhood; the sea at St Andrews; the hills at Edzell, in Forfar, mountains and hills. I want to be a shepherd, and live forever on the hills. My parents said I must finish my schooling first!'

In the last years, Kirstie's mind has been constantly on those hills.

A passionate love of Scotland. She was a devotee of Robert Louis Stevenson. Her grandfather met him. Stevenson said: 'I must meet a man who can laugh like that.'

Love of literature. Kirstie called it 'the great nourisher'.

When asked what was best to read on ambition she replied immediately Macbeth, then added Richard III, and Kenilworth by Walter Scott.

I told her I'd just read Weir of Hermiston, the last novel of Stevenson. She recited at once the first paragraph.

She specially hated jargon, and strongly recommended to people the chapter on jargon in Arthur Quiller-Couch's book, The Art of Writing (1916).

She was a genius at conversation. She had the art of the great tutor. She drew you out, and you hardly realised it was happening.

She used to say that nothing good was ever created by a committee. 'With one exception,' she said, 'the Authorised Version of the Bible.' It was put together in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, by forty-seven people over seven years, 1604-11. 'The greatest book in the English language,' said Kirstie.

She initiated a conversation on the theme 'worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness'. 'What do you mean by "holy"?' she asked. In matters of faith she was always exploring, always questing. She was a believer, profoundly so - but did not find God easy.

Her journey of faith was quickened in the 1930s by her meeting with the Oxford Group, including theologians like Canon B H Streeter, Provost of Queens' College, and Julian Thornton-Duesbery, Principal of Wycliff Hall and later Master of St Peter's College. Streeter warned Kirstie against overwork. She replied: 'Don't worry. I'm as strong as an ox.' Streeter added: 'But you mustn't make the ox an ass.'

Kirstie loved Oxford, loved the university motto Dominus illuminatio mea - God is my light.

She loved her pupils and her family with intense pride.

She loved the words of St Paul: 'Whatsoever things are pure and lovely, think on these things.'

The world passed through her home - 12 Norham Road, Oxford - for sixty-five years, and found conversation, common sense, faith and vision.

Dear Kirstie, what a journey it has been, and it's only just begun. The second innings never ends. Goodbye for now, abundant gratitude, and we'll see you there.

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