Dr Regi­nald Mor­ris

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries - LYN­D­SEY POS­NER

ARES­I­DENT OF Ei­lat for over 54 years, Dr Regi­nald Mor­ris was re­spon­si­ble for the cre­ation and de­vel­op­ment of the Ei­lat Hospi­tal, and was renowned through­out Is­rael for his English­ness. He ran the hospi­tal with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion un­til 1973. He also in­sti­tuted Ei­lat’s public health ser­vices and had ju­ris­dic­tion over the port med­i­cal mat­ters.

His school days gave a clear in­di­ca­tion of the fu­ture. At Manch­ester Cen­tral Gram­mar School he be­came head boy and won his rugby colours. Af­ter a year at Brazenose Col­lege, Ox­ford, he qual­i­fied in medicine at Univer­sity Col­lege, London. Dur­ing the war he joined the RAF as a med­i­cal of­fi­cer. He was posted to Burma, where he served in a small med­i­cal unit at ad­vanced air­fields fre­quently un­der fire. Some­times dropped by para­chute be­hind Ja­panese lines to treat and res­cue in­jured air­crew, Reg was men­tioned in Dis­patches. Af­ter the war, he stayed in the Far East, and served as Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer for Thai­land.

In 1957 he mar­ried Fay El­lis from Birm­ing­ham. They took a year off to travel across Europe in a camper­van and then to Is­rael, where they joined the World Jewish Med­i­cal Con­fer­ence. In Au­gust 1958, they braved the long and vir­tu­ally un­known jour­ney south across the desert to Ei­lat. They de­cided to stay – as Reg joked – be­cause they could park the camper­van on the beach!

Af­ter the 1967 Six Day War, when the Be­douin in the Si­nai came un­der Is­raeli rule, Reg be­came their doc­tor, driv­ing alone into the Si­nai in his white Range Rover to treat them. He de­vel­oped a spe­cial un­der­stand­ing with the Be­douin, who looked for­ward to his vis­its, and who would travel hun­dreds of miles to his clinic in his Ei­lat home.

The house was widely known as “the house with the crocodile”, thus named be­cause of Clarence, the 3 me­tre long crocodile, who has resided in the gar- den since Reg brought him back from Aswan in his lug­gage. Reg trav­elled the world in­clud­ing to Ethiopia, where he helped Ethiopian Jews es­cape to Is­rael and, alone at the age of 80, to Syria.

The Range Rover was not the only in­di­ca­tion of Reg’s roots. He in­sisted on plant­ing a lawn at the hospi­tal and the flagstaff flew the Union Jack. Even in the height of sum­mer when tem­per­a­tures reached 40c, Reg could be seen strid­ing through Ei­lat in a shirt, tie and tweed jacket.

In later years, when he be­came doc­tor to the ho­tels in Ei­lat, sick guests would be as­ton­ished when a hand­some English­man with a deep boom­ing voice, more suit­ably dressed for an English au­tumn, would ap­pear with his doc­tor’s bag. In 1963, on meet­ing an English lawyer from Birm­ing­ham, Ben Gu­rion asked, with great re­spect and af­fec­tion, if he knew the “mad English doc­tor in Ei­lat” .

As well as be­ing a bril­liant doc­tor, he was a gifted elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer. His stereo speak­ers could be heard as far as Aqaba.

Reg was di­ag­nosed with mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease at the age of 88. Through­out his ill­ness he main­tained his amaz­ing sense of hu­mour and dig­nity. Three days be­fore he died, his son An­drew filmed him declar­ing his sat­is­fac­tion with his life and his love of his fam­ily. He is sur­vived by his wife Fay, his chil­dren Dolly, Uni and An­drew, and nine grand­chil­dren.

Dr Reg Mor­ris: Is­rael’s very own Bri­tish Crocodile Dundee

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