Canon the Rev Robert Harman Morgan, OBE
Priest & Politician
Bob Morgan never expected to attend the County School in Aberdare, indeed he did not even live in Aberdare until his parents’ house in Cardiff took a direct hit in a wartime bombing raid. He was transferred from Howard Gardens High School for Boys in Cardiff and started in Aberdare in April, 1941 living in lodgings initially at 125 Fforchaman Road, and then in Park View, both in Cwmaman. He then stayed at the County School for the whole of his secondary education, leaving with his School Certificate in July 1945. Whilst in Cwmaman, he became a server at St Joseph’s Church.
Bob Morgan was born 28 October 1928, the son of a carpenter, and was brought up on a council estate in Tremorfa in Cardiff. he returned to his home town after the war and then did his national service in the RAF. Following this he was employed as a clerk, and in his spare time worked at the YMCA. He had also become a competent athlete and represented Wales as a middle-distance runner.
Wanting to train as a social worker, he successfully studied for two A levels and then entered UC Cardiff, later graduating with a degree in Politics & Economics. He then entered Mirfield Theological College in Yorkshire and by 1957, he was ordained as a curate at St Augustine’s Church in Penarth.
He returned to Cardiff in 1961 as a curate at The Church of the Resurrection, in Ely. Then in 1967 he was appointed as vicar there. He was an immensely popular member of the community and ran an open-house at the vicarage. Known as Father Bob to those in the parish, he became legendary during the thirty-plus years he worked in Ely - not least for the weekly discos he organised at the Church. The Ely housing estate was an area with significant social problems, as well as a high unemployment rate, which together created an urgent need for Bob’s pastoral skills. The respect and affection which the citizens of Ely felt for Bob was a measure of the success he was able to bring to his pastoral duties.
In 1974 he was encouraged to take up politics, and was elected to represent Ely on both the Cardiff City and the South Glamorgan County Councils. In 1977, he became leader of the Labour group which formed the opposition in the county council. In 1982 Labour gained control and Bob stayed in post until 1989, and was instrumental in the onerous task of regenerating the County following the previous loss of several industries. In 1993, at the age of 65, he stepped down from politics to concentrate on his duties in the parish. He was awarded the OBE in the New Years Honours in 1994 for services to the community in South Glamorgan; and, in the same year, he became an honorary canon of Llandaff Cathedral.
He spent the final years of his retirement living at St David’s in Pembrokeshire, where he attended daily Eucharist at the cathedral and enjoyed conducting tours there.
Bob Morgan died on 23 November 2011 at Morriston Hospital, Swansea aged 83. A Requiem Mass funeral service was held at St David’s Cathedral, on Tuesday Nov 29; and a memorial service at The Church of the Resurrection, in Ely on 21 Jan 2012. He is survived by his wife Elaine, four children and seven grandchildren. His daughter, Mair Eluned Morgan, is Baroness Morgan of Ely and is a former member of the European Parliament for the Labour Party for Wales, in the period 1994 to 2009.
Obituary, The Telegraph, 08 Jan 2012
The Church Times, 16 December 2011.