This post is an expanded and adapted version of HVM Society Morton Family History Note – No.11, by Peter Devenish, originally circulated in 2012.
Chester Square, Ashton-under-Lyne (The Mortons’ house is shown
fourth from the right of the row houses.)
Today, the 26th of July, marks the 128th anniversary of the birth of HV Morton, indisputably one of the greatest journalists in the English-speaking world and the most popular travel writer of his time.
Henry Canova Vollam Morton (Harry) was the first-born child of Joseph Thomas Vollam Morton, a journalist born in India, and his wife Marguerite (Margaret) May Constance McClean Ewart from Invergordon in Scotland. Baby Harry was delivered on 26 July 1892 in one of the large row houses at 17 Chester Square, next to the Ashley Arms pub, in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, England. He died at his home in South Africa on 17 June 1979. The house in which Morton was born has long since been demolished for redevelopment of the area.
Harry’s sister, Marguerite Ann Morton, was born at the same house in Ashton on 14 August 1895 and she survived Harry by two years. There were no other children from the marriage of Joseph and Margaret.
Joseph & Margaret Morton
Much has been written elsewhere (not least in many HVM Society bulletins) about Morton’s outstanding career in journalism and his pre-eminent position as a travel writer but a brief summary might be of interest here.
After being inspired by a small Egyptian statue in Birmingham Art Gallery, Morton wrote an article about it which to his delight was published in The Connoisseur magazine in 1914, earning him two guineas. Following this early success, to use Morton’s own words his fate was cast, and he went on to become the best-selling travel writer of his day, selling millions of copies of his books and producing uncountable numbers of newspaper and magazine articles. His writings between the wars and in the immediate aftermath of the second world war brought comfort and hope to millions of readers during times of great hardship. Even now he is referred to in many a modern book or essay on the subject of travel in Britain, the Middle East and elsewhere and he continues to be celebrated today by the HV Morton Society.
A blue plaque acknowledging the town’s distinguished son was unveiled at Ashton-Under-Lyne on 21 May 2004. Because the Morton home had long been demolished for redevelopment of the area, the plaque was subsequently mounted on a marble base in the up-market renovation now known as Henry Square, 100 metres from the site of Morton’s birth.
The blue plaque in recognition of HV Morton
On this special day I and countless others give thanks for the many hours of pleasure that HV Morton has given and continues to give through his writing.