Belfast Telegraph

Home News Obituaries

Northern Ireland-born Harrow teacher who influenced Curtis and Cumberbatch

Obituary

James Morwood, the Belfast-born internationally distinguished Classics teacher and scholar, has died suddenly after a morning swim in Greece. He was 73.

During his career he inspired leading film and theatrical figures including acclaimed screenwriter, producer and film director Richard Curtis - known for films including Four Weddings And A Funeral and Bridget Jones' Diary, as well as hit television series such as Blackadder, Mr Bean and The Vicar Of Dibley.

Curtis said that Morwood, who had been his Classics teacher at top public school Harrow, had inspired him to become a film writer and creator of comedies.

Another pupil inspired by Morwood during his 30 years at Harrow is the TV, film and stage actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

James Henry Weldon Morwood was born in Belfast in 1943.

He was the second son of James and Kathleen Morwood, who in 1939 met in New York, where they were married

His father was a doctor from Belfast, his Californian mother a graduate of UCLA.

They came to Belfast by boat after the start of Second World War, and moved to England when the war ended. Morwood spent his early childhood in Belfast before moving to Oxford with his parents, and studied Greek from the age of 11.

He won a scholarship to St John's School, Leatherhead, and then took a degree at Peterhouse, Cambridge.

This was followed by a Diploma of Education at Merton College, Oxford.

He joined Harrow as a teacher in 1966, and became head of classics, a post he held for 17 years.

He was deeply involved in the school's journalism and drama activities, during which he came into contact with Curtis and Cumberbatch. Curtis told The Times: "Everything I do now started with James.

"He let me know that it was all right to push boundaries and to be funny.

"People used to think that if you were serious and scholastic - which I was - then you couldn't be funny as well.

"James was absolutely key in helping me to square that circle."

After retiring from Harrow in 1996 Morwood moved to Oxford University, where he became a lecturer with the role of teaching Classics to beginners.

He became a Fellow, and then Dean of Wadham College, and later on he continued to teach Classics, with English literature, at Madingley Hall in Cambridge.

He wrote and published some 30 books, mainly about the Classics, and his last work,on Virgil, with the Oxford Latin Professor Stephen Heyworth, was published earlier this year.

Morwood once said that by the time he died the study of Classics would have ceased in Britain, but experts claim that the opposite is the case, due in large part to his lifetime work.

He never married, and is survived by his brother Bryan and by the wider family and his many friends.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph