Obituary: Philip Morris, businessman and fund-raiser

Philip Morris, who has died at 88, was a businessman who had been on the board of Harrogate Synagogue for 50 years and announced his retirement only a few weeks ago. He was also a director of the Harrogate NHS Trust between 1990 and 1995 and held countless other positions in a lifetime of public service.

Philip Morris

He had taken up the cause of heart research following the death in 1961 of his father, Max, who suffered a heart attack at the age of 58. He established the Harrogate Branch of the British Heart Foundation and initiated a raft of fund-raising activities, including a second hand shop and annual flag days in the town centre. These contributed towards the purchase of several life-saving defibrillators, which are placed throughout the town.

He also raised the funds for a “British heart nurse” in Harrogate, under the supervision of Professor Stephen Ball, Leeds University’s cardiovascular chair. It was a concept replicated around the country.

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At the Harrogate Hebrew Congregation, he led the preparations for a the 100th anniversary of the local Jewish community, which was attended by the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. He also took it upon himself to promote Holocaust Memorial Day, both in the Jewish and wider community, and took part in the first Holocaust memorial service at Ripon Cathedral.

His other roles included serving as a trustee of the Audrey and Stanley Burton Charitable Trust, which took a leading role in funding and supporting the arts in Yorkshire. He was awarded an MBE in the 2004 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Born in Bradford in 1932, he was educated at Rugby School and volunteered for Army service before going up to Oxford to study law. He joined the Royal Artillery, rising through the ranks to Captain, and was stationed in Paderborn, West Germany, where he learned to ski – a sport he continued to pursue well into his 70s. Later he served in the Territorial Army.

His business career began at his father’s raincoat factory, before he branched out on his own and established Suedecraft, a suede and leather clothing factory in Otley. It became a fashionable brand in the 1960s, and he built a chain of retail outlets across the UK before eventually selling the business.

Working from an office at home, he then established Unimerge, which specialised in mergers and acquisitions, and Chartclose, a business development consultancy. He projects took in the building industry, computer software development and a residential home in Harrogate, amongst others. 

He is survived by his wife, Ann, whom he married in 1959, children Katie, Michael and David, 15 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren.