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Colin Morris: Ex-president of Methodist Church and BBC controller 'one of the good guys'

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The Rev Dr Colin Morris - a former president of the Methodist Conference and ex-BBC head of religious broadcasting, as well as controller of BBC Northern Ireland from 1987 to 1991 - has died aged 89.

Rev Roy Cooper, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said: "Dr Morris preached with integrity and spoke truth to power. In his passing the world has lost a fearless proclaimer of the good news, through his writings and preachings."

Rev Canon Gareth Powell, secretary of the Methodist Conference, said: "In Colin, Methodism was faithfully and passionately represented, but more than that, the Gospel was proclaimed with integrity."

Dr Morris was born into a mining family in a village near Bolton in 1929. After ordination he served with the Methodist Church in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia). He became a close friend of the then leader of Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, and was involved with the formation of the United Church there.

Back in the UK he held top posts in British Methodism, and eventually became general secretary of the overseas division. He was president of the Methodist Conference from 1976-77.

Dr Morris was a gifted writer and speaker, and a regular broadcaster with the BBC.

In 1978 he became head of BBC television religious programmes, later an adviser to the director-general, and latterly controller of BBC Northern Ireland. From 1991-96 he was director of the Centre for Religious Communication in Oxford. Most of his published work reflected his experience as a missionary in Africa and as an ordained minister working as a professional broadcaster.

Rosemary Kelly, a former senior staff member with BBC Northern Ireland, worked closely with Dr Morris.

"He had many happy memories of his time in Zambia where he enjoyed a lasting friendship with our own rugby hero Jack Kyle. He told me of how he would look forward to going to Jack's house on a Wednesday evening where they would eat an Ulster fry and watch High Chaparral on television," she said.

"He was very much a child of his upbringing in an English mining village. He would speak with emotion about the hard work of his mother toiling over a washboard and sink to wash the household sheets, and then her distress if the wind was in a certain direction because they would be covered in coal dust.

"Colin also had a great lightness of touch and a warm, infectious sense of humour - often against himself.

"He never properly got his head around our geography, though he flew extensively across Africa as a pilot when he lived in Zambia.

"He was one of the good guys. Full of integrity and wisdom, but with a great appetite for fun."

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