Ian Moore-Morrans,loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, musician, author, raconteur, master machinist and craftsman, Scottish to the core, and all-around larger-than-life character, died suddenly at Misericordia Health Centre, Winnipeg on Friday, February 22, 2019 at the age of 86. Born in Glasgow, Scotland on May 2, 1932, Ian Morrans was raised, along with his elder brother Archie, by their mother “Wee Chrissie” and grandmother Maggie in a one-room attic slum in Campbeltown, a small, picturesque fishing-and-whisky-brewing town on Scotland’s Kintyre Peninsula. His formative years as part of the poorest family in town were spent trying to get enough to eat and stay warm during the years of the Great Depression and World War II. Ian enjoyed and did well during his school years, though his formal education concluded when he was 14. During adolescence as a blacksmith’s apprentice, Ian also began a lifelong love affair with music making while wavering between the strictures of the Salvation Army and the “worldly pleasures” of the outside world where he excelled at ballroom and Scottish country dancing.
Life began to improve when Ian joined the Royal Air Force at age 18 in 1950. He served five years as an aircraft engine mechanic and bandsman in the United Kingdom and then Egypt. In the latter, he experienced the consequences of the Arab “walkouts” that eventually led to the Suez Canal crisis. Ian was one of those chosen few who were selected to learn how to make palatable water for the British troops. He went on to supervise water filtration plants in isolated desert assignments while on loan to the British Army.
Finally returned to the RAF and back to Britain in 1954, Ian met Mary Fraser from Motherwell, Scotland, who had become his pen pal during the Egypt years. They were married on December 29, 1954. Ian completed five years of military service in 1955 and then began civilian life in the Glasgow area (though for a few years also part of the Territorial Army, i.e., a “weekend warrior”), first as a bill collector and a tram conductor followed by jobs related to his military training: machine-fitter, industrial mechanic, overhead crane operator and eventually shift scheduler at a steel mill.
Two daughters were born to Mary and Ian: Audrey in 1956 and Shirley in 1958. In addition, Ian and Mary cared for Mary’s elderly mother, Susan Fraser. After her death, Ian got “itchy feet” and began to think of emigrating. Misled by the inflated promises of an unscrupulous Government of Ontario official to choose Canada over Australia, Ian, Mary and the girls endured a winter sailing over the Atlantic in 1965, including a collision in the St. Lawrence Seaway. They soon found Ian’s promised machinist’s job hadn’t materialized and the cost of buying a house had been enormously downplayed. Misadventures in finding and keeping jobs and a suitable place to live in Canada led Ian to conclude that he had only moved “from poverty to poverty.” It took them five years to finally obtain the level of affluence they had reached in Scotland before emigrating.
Ian never did completely take off his “traveling shoes”! His working years in Canada, 1965-1997, found him at many different machining jobs and residences in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, including four times in Winnipeg, where he eventually retired on his 65thbirthday in 1997. Besides many small machine shops, Ian worked for significant lengths of time for Douglas Aircraft, Northwest Industries, the Royal Canadian Mint and Burrard Iron Works. Occasionally, when machining jobs were unavailable, he found work as a building superintendent, driving his own delivery truck, teaching metal machining in an adult night school program, or even delivering pizzas. Recessions in Canada contributed to many lay offs and moves to seek work. Other times, moves were made for a better job or climate, family considerations, or just to satisfy the soul of a nomad. Despite the extreme climate, however, family ultimately drew him back to Winnipeg. (It was there, at age 44, Ian gained his “Grade 12” certificate through the G.E.D. program.)
After retirement, Ian and Mary moved north to the Flin Flon MB/Creighton SK area. There, Ian dove into his creative side big time: joining the Community Choir; performing in a community revue; organizing and soloing in both Robbie Burns’ and St. Patrick’s celebrations; acting in the play, Tom Jones; and joining the local writer’s guild.
In 2000, Mary and Ian returned to Britain, exploring retirement in the Old Country. However, they had become too “Canadianized” to stay, so relocated to Nova Scotia – a touch of Scotland and halfway between Britain and Manitoba (where their growing Canadian family was located). Ian relished his two years there, entertaining in many Scottish celebrations and ceilidhs while living in New Glasgow and then Pictou. Mary was unhappy away from the daughters and grandchildren though, so returned to Audrey’s in Winnipeg while Ian attempted to sell their house. Ian moved back to Winnipeg (5thtime) in October 2002. One week later, Mary, tragically and unexpectedly, died.
Though mourning, Ian vowed to get on with life while he still was able. He proceeded to write with abandon, attend seniors’ dances and explore the dating scene. In June 2003, Ian met a much-younger widow, Gayle Moore Johannesson, whom he quickly considered his soul mate. They were married on September 7ththat year at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, combining their birth family names to form a new one: Moore-Morrans. After Gayle retired in July 2004, they moved out of the country to explore “RVing” and retirement in Mexico.
Ian had always wanted to write, but had never found the time until, at age 63, he started to record some of the stories he had been telling for years and creating new ones. He felt Providence had a hand in his meeting Gayle, who was then working as a magazine and program editor. As he put it: “Every writer needs an editor!” Their sojourn in Mexico cemented their collaboration as Ian continued to write and perfect his craft, while Gayle began to edit his growing pile of writings. They settled into the world’s largest English-speaking expatriate community on the north shore of Lake Chapala and joined the local writers’ group. During the years that ensued, they formed a publishing team: Moomor Publishing. To date, they have published four books: Metal Machining Made Easy(a DIY book); Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie(a time-travel, Scottish adventure story); From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada(a memoir, 1932-1970); and Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie(a chapter book about a boy and two birds). Gayle began collaborating on the writing as Ian’s health deteriorated. She maintains a website for their writings at ianmooremorrans.com. Caring for Ian in his later years has taken a toll on editing the rest of his writings but she hopes to soon finish editing Ian’s second memoir: Came to Canada, Eh? Memoirs of a Scottish Nomad (1970-2004).
Ian’s passion was music-making. With a beautiful tenor voice, he loved to perform. During his teenage years in the Salvation Army in Campbeltown, he readily got up to sing whenever called upon. Highlights in his adult life included soloing at a concert in Abertillery, Rhonda Valley, Wales and, years later, at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in The Pas, Manitoba. With his trumpet, cornet or trombone he was much more of a team player, starting his training at age 14 and going on for the next over-50 years in church and military brass bands, concert, dance and community bands and small combos in Scotland, England, Wales, Egypt and Canada. When he wasn’t singing or tooting a horn, he could be found whistling a merry tune, even at work from his machinist’s bench. In his later years in Canada and for two years in Mexico, Ian performed at various Robbie Burns’, St. Andrew’s or St. Patrick’s functions, church suppers, house parties, Winnipeg’s Folklorama Scottish Pavilion and other Celtic ceilidhs. In his mid-40s, Ian competed in an annual talent contest sponsored by the Associated Canadian Travellers. After several rounds in a variety of Alberta towns, he won First Place in the Variety Division, over 363 original solo contestants. In his 70s while living in Mexico, Ian encouraged Gayle to join him in entertaining. They both sang in the Los Cantates del Lagochoir and spent many evenings perfecting their Scottish duet style.
By 2007 they had moved back to Canada (British Columbia) where they became known as “Okanagan’s Mr. Scotland and His Bonnie Lassie.” For the first year, spent in Penticton, Ian continued his “full-steam-ahead” pace. Then, shortly after they had moved to Vernon, he was felled by a severe illness in August of 2008. BOOP (Bronchialitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia) nearly took his life and resulted in over five years of ill health before finally burning itself out in February 2013. By that time, he no longer wrote or used the computer. His vibrant personality only occasionally showed itself and he was much quieter than anyone who knew him before could imagine. Initially his health began to improve, though his memory started to diminish with an eventual diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.
In Summer 2015, they returned to Winnipeg (6thtime) to Fred Douglas Place, a seniors’ residence in downtown Winnipeg. By September 2017, Ian was diagnosed with an inoperable rectal cancer and continued breathing problems from lingering heart and lung issues, in addition to dementia. After a year and a half on palliative care at home, Ian was hospitalized just before Christmas 2018. He spent his final days at Misericordia Health Centre Interim Care, still proclaiming love for his “wee wifey” and family, his appreciation of Canada and his enduring attachment to anything Scottish. Though his voice was greatly diminished, he kept on singing to the end.
Ian was predeceased by Mary, his wife of almost 48 years; his mother, Christina, and stepfather, Irishman Bill Moorhead of Campbeltown, Scotland; and his brother, Archibald Morrans of Peterborough, England. He leaves these loved ones to mourn his passing and celebrate his life well and truly lived: his wife of 15 years, Gayle Moore-Morrans; daughter Audrey German (Eugene/Carl) of Winnipeg; daughter Shirley Lee (Brien) of Flin Flon; five grandchildren: Tammy German (Brad Falk) of Calgary; Calan German (Lisa) and Ainsley German (Phil) of Winnipeg; Ian Lee (Debbie) of Creighton, SK and Tiffany Falk (Chad) of Flin Flon; nine great-grandchildren: Leland, Hannah, Caleigh, Logan and Madison German, Lexi and Alex Lee, Brayden and Haylee Falk; three nephews in the U.K. and in-laws in the U.K., the U.S.A. and Norway.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, Tudor Crescent and London Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, at 2 pm on March 23, 2019. Memorials are welcomed to SPLC Memorial Fund, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, the Salvation Army, Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart & Lung Association, Alzheimer Manitoba or another charity.
“So I’ll cherish the Old Rugged Cross, ‘til my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross and exchange it some day for a crown.”