Morrow, Addie (Adam James) (1928–2012), community activist and politician, was born on 17 July 1928 at the family farm, Hill House, Ballyhanwood, Gilnahirk, Dundonald, Co. Down, eldest of five children (three sons and two daughters) of a dairy farmer; his mother's maiden name was Watson. The family was influenced by the presbyterian tenant-farmer liberal tradition of north and east Down going back to the United Irishmen; the Morrows' paternal grandfather was a home ruler, and in old age Addie Morrow claimed: 'My background was never unionist. It comes from home rule' (Eggins, 226). Educated locally, he farmed dairy cattle on the family lands (which he eventually inherited). In later years he diversified by establishing one of the first farms in Northern Ireland open to visitors. Active in the Ulster Farmers' Union (latterly holding office) and in community work, notably as secretary and leader of Comber Young Farmers' Club, he regularly appeared on radio farming programmes.
A committed presbyterian, like his brother John (see below) he developed a strong interest in ecumenism and intercommunal reconciliation. In 1964 both brothers were founding members of what became the interdenominational Corrymeela Community. Addie saw his subsequent political involvement as embodying his Christian commitment, and addressed gatherings such as the inter-church Social Study Conference in 1981 on the farmer as Christian in the workplace. However, he strongly opposed state enforcement of certain aspects of specifically Christian morality (such as the DUP's 'save Ulster from sodomy' campaign for the maintenance of a legal ban on homosexual acts) as divisive and repressive.
Morrow was a member of the New Ulster Movement and joined the centrist Alliance Party (which grew out of the NUM) on its foundation in 1970. (Several founding members of Alliance had also been active in Corrymeela). In the 1973 local government elections he was one of five Alliance candidates elected to Castlereagh council. After the 1977 local elections, Alliance, with seven seats, became the largest party on the council and Morrow became an alderman; he also served for five years as a council representative on the local educational and library board. He contributed council reports and articles on agricultural matters to the party newspaper.
Becoming party spokesman on agriculture in 1978, Morrow retained this position for most of the 1980s. In 1979 he was elected vice-chairman of the Association of Alliance Councillors. He was re-elected as a Castlereagh councillor in 1981 and shortly afterwards became deputy mayor (in a pact with the UUP). The growing strength on the council of the DUP (led by its deputy leader, Peter Robinson) led to increasing tensions over such issues as Sunday closing of business premises and an Alliance-supported proposal to build an interdenominational school.
In October 1982, Morrow was elected (on the last count in Belfast East) to the Northern Ireland Assembly established by James Prior. He served on the agriculture and education committees, where he had one of the highest attendance records and made a considerable impression through his expert interventions on agricultural matters and his ability to work across party lines on common concerns (even working with DUP leader Ian Paisley (qv) to produce reports on agricultural topics). Morrow's high profile in the NI Assembly was probably decisive for his appointment as deputy to the newly elected Alliance leader, John Cushnahan (October 1984); they displayed considerable mutual respect.
Morrow (like many Alliance members) was critical of some aspects of the 1985 Anglo–Irish agreement, but endorsed it as a necessary move towards accommodating the nationalist minority. (Morrow greatly admired Garret FitzGerald (qv) and saw his unsuccessful attempt to introduce divorce in the Republic in 1986 as embodying statesmanlike commitment to pluralism.) He regretted the closure of the NI Assembly in 1986 but attributed it to unionist intransigence. He was outspokenly critical of loyalist rioting over the re-routing of Orange parades in Portadown, and successfully sued to compel Castlereagh unionist councillors to resume normal business, despite threats that if he lost he might lose his farm to meet legal costs. (Alliance members of Belfast and Lisburn councils brought similar actions.) During this period, he was subjected to even more threats and intimidation than usual.
When Cushnahan left Northern Ireland politics in 1987, some commentators expected Morrow to contest the party leadership, but he chose not to do so because of his age and the unlikelihood that devolved administration would be re-established in the near future. He ceased to be deputy leader on the election of John Alderdice, remaining agriculture spokesman.
Morrow stood down from Castlereagh council at the 1989 local election. He was elected party vice-chairman (c.1991) and chairman (1992–3), and took part in Alliance delegations to a number of fora, most notably the 'Brooke–Mayhew talks' of 1991–2. Morrow blamed the breakdown of these talks on the SDLP leader, John Hume, whom he publicly accused of blocking promising moves towards UUP–SDLP rapprochement and of repeatedly insulting Alliance members as 'brown people', neither orange nor green, with no legitimate role in the peace process. These disagreements culminated in a stand-up row between Hume and Morrow (Ir. Independent, 16 November 1992).
In 1983 Morrow was Alliance candidate for the new Westminster seat of Strangford, coming third with 15.8 per cent of the vote; in 1987 he came second against an agreed unionist candidate in the same constituency with 20.3 per cent. His last Westminster contest was in Down North at the 1992 general election (third, 14.7 per cent). In April 1993 he resigned as party chairman. He became party president (c.1996), and for the rest of his life remained active in Alliance as an 'elder statesman', speaking on agricultural matters and the developing peace process.
Addie Morrow died at Hill House from cancer on 30 March 2012, and was buried in the churchyard of Gilnahirk presbyterian church, east Belfast. He was survived by his wife, Nancy (d. 2017), one daughter and two sons, of whom Tim became an Alliance councillor in Castlereagh.
Addie's brother John Watson Morrow (1931–2009), presbyterian minister, ecumenist and community activist, was the second child in the family, born 28 June 1931. Educated at his local primary school, at Cabin Hill Preparatory School, and at Campbell College, he won an agricultural scholarship to QUB, where he studied agriculture and science. He was briefly involved with the Northern Ireland Liberal Party, but thereafter supported the Northern Ireland Labour Party until its disintegration. He also became involved in the Student Christian Movement (SCM), which helped him move from biblical literalism to a theologically liberal faith that could coexist with scientific awareness; the experience of breaking boundaries and transcending traditional understandings for a wider comprehension remained central to his moral and spiritual makeup. SCM brought him into contact with George MacLeod (1895–1991), founder of the interdenominational Iona Community, whose experiences of the first world war and of ministry in interwar Glasgow slums led him to conclude that the church overemphasised a moralistic view of individual salvation and allowed religion to be confined to a 'churchy' subculture irrelevant to the wider society.
While working as a plant breeder for the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, John Morrow became active in the Iona Community's work. In 1955 he began to study for the presbyterian ministry at Assembly's College, Belfast, but found the atmosphere uncongenial because of the activities of a fundamentalist section of theological students, and spent his second year in New College, Edinburgh. He returned to Belfast for his final year, where he met and admired the aged J. Ernest Davey (qv), the bête noire of Ulster fundamentalists. Morrow was licensed in 1958 by the presbytery of Comber, after which he spent some months training in Scotland for full membership of the Iona Community and two years assisting in the working-class parish of Craigmillar in Edinburgh.
In July 1960 Morrow was ordained as assistant minister for church extension work in the nascent congregations of Lambeg and Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, both growing working-class suburbs in southern Greater Belfast, and on 2 December 1962 was installed as minister of Seymour Hill after the separation of the two congregations. His period as minister was marked by efforts (with limited success) to develop interdenominational community facilities and by conflict with Free Presbyterian followers of Ian Paisley, whose denunciations of ministers who attempted to develop better relations with catholics Morrow compared to fascism.
Morrow's involvement with the group of about forty persons (led by Ray Davey (qv)) who founded what became the Corrymeela Community (modelled on Iona and similar communities) was driven by a sense of the growth of the ecumenical movement in the 1960s and by the promise of social and economic modernisation in Northern Ireland under Terence O'Neill (qv). Initially, the community (whose centre near Ballycastle opened in October 1965) mainly involved middle-class, liberal protestants.
In 1967 Morrow became chaplain to overseas students at the University of Glasgow, which gave him further experience of the need to cross racial and religious barriers. He became chaplain to presbyterian students in Dublin (mostly in TCD, but also in UCD and some other institutions) in 1971. His family lived in Ballymun and became active in the developing ecumenical movement and in the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Co. Wicklow. Morrow began research on the role of the churches in peacemaking and reconciliation, later submitted to QUB as a Ph.D. dissertation. He also became more expressly pacifist under the influence of the anti-Vietnam war protest movement and of anabaptist theology, and began a lengthy involvement with Irish CND. In regular letters to newspapers he criticised the conservative attitudes of the catholic hierarchy on such issues as contraception and what he regarded as simplistic 'tribalist' views of the Northern Ireland situation promoted by nationalists. He developed strong admiration for Paddy Harte (1931-2018), Garret FitzGerald and Conor Cruise O'Brien (qv) for their outspoken analysis of the Northern situation and the response required from the Republic, but regretted O'Brien's later alignment with hard-core unionists.
Morrow continued to work in Corrymeela, whose character had been transformed by an increasing number of catholic members after 1969 (about 25 per cent by 1983) and by a massive shift (particularly after the upsurge of violence following internment in August 1971) towards programmes designed to assist and build trust among members of working-class communities affected by the violence. Although Morrow was concerned that the group's initial focus on inter-church relations had been overwhelmed by these urgent issues, he particularly admired, as exemplars to the organised churches, groups associated with Corrymeela consisting of individuals bereaved by the troubles (the Cross Group) and of partners in religiously mixed marriages (Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association). At the end of 1975 he returned to Northern Ireland as presbyterian chaplain at QUB. The ex-loyalist and former fundamentalist Roy Garland was one student who paid tribute to Morrow's intellectual openness and willingness to admit uncertainty; in subsequent years Garland participated in many of Morrow's initiatives. Morrow was active in the Peace People movement and became an outspoken voice in the presbyterian general assembly on such issues as integrated education, membership of the World Council of Churches, and the perceived identification of presbyterianism with unionism.
He succeeded Davey as leader of the Corrymeela Community (1980–93), a period marked by initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue between opposed extremes: at Corrymeela, loyalists such as John McMichael (qv) might meet both Jesuits and Sinn Féin activists. (Such activities were not without risk, as political divisions sometimes appeared within the community.) Cahal Daly (qv) was a regular Corrymeela visitor, and in 1990 Morrow attended his installation as catholic archbishop of Armagh. Morrow preached in churches across Britain and Ireland, often on 'Corrymeela Sunday' (the Sunday before St Patrick's Day).
In addition to the centre, Corrymeela maintained an office and social workers in Belfast and was involved with a wide range of community groups (including Conway Mill on the Falls, widely accused of being an IRA front) and justice campaigns. He also participated in the foundation of the Committee for the Administration of Justice, and called for the release of those he believed had been wrongly imprisoned for terrorist crimes.
In publications such as his pamphlet The captivity of the Irish churches (1975), Morrow complained that Irish denominations had sacrificed their prophetic mission in order to gain mass support by identifying with the tribal political agendas of their congregations, still trapped in outmoded nineteenth-century theology. At the same time, he complained that clergy of all denominations – particularly fundamentalist presbyterians and conservative catholics – were unwilling to recognise the demise of a state-sponsored 'Christendom', allow a greater role for the laity, expand their definition of ministry, or recognise the need for a wholesale sacrifice of outmoded traditions in pursuit of the biblical imperative of reconciliation. In 1984 Morrow was appointed to a twelve-member 'peace and justice' group formed by the four main churches; in succeeding years, the group produced numerous reports and statements on a variety of topical issues, endorsing the Anglo–Irish agreement (1985) and the Belfast agreement (1998).
After stepping down from the leadership of Corrymeela in 1993, Morrow became a director of the Irish School of Ecumenics and coordinator of its Northern Ireland adult education programme. This involved travelling round the province to supervise courses and discussions in a variety of educational outreach centres, leading to the award of a diploma in ecumenics. He also encouraged the peace group Evangelical Commitment on Northern Ireland, and published Journey of hope: sources of the Corrymeela vision (1995). Retiring in 2001, he published a memoir, On the road of reconciliation (2003). With his wife Shirley, a dental assistant whom he met through the Iona Community and married (c.1960), he had three sons and one daughter. John Morrow died in Belfast on 1 January 2009.
The political and religious views of the Morrow brothers were not always identical (John took a more favourable view of John Hume than did Addie), but their background and careers can be cited in support of the theory that the 'orange' and 'green' divide in Northern Ireland is moderated by a centrist 'third tradition' with historic roots in nineteenth-century liberalism. Some religious conservatives regarded John as throwing out the baby of faith with the bathwater of tribalism, and some (especially in the political arena) regarded them as self-righteously middle class; but the struggles of both brothers to come to grips with the darker aspects of the province and achieve peace through communal reconciliation involved considerable self-sacrifice and some personal risk.