CHEROKEE VILLAGE There are people who have led interesting lives. Then there’s Royston Morris.
The Cherokee Village retiree was born in Bristol, England, in 1928. Among his posts of employment, Morris worked for the British War Office, was a London limousine driver, trained in anti-terrorist defensive driving as a personal chauffeur, did some male modeling, was a bullion and precious gems courier and masqueraded as an English butler. He was also a landscape designer and a hospital security administrator. Now in retirement, he makes Faberge-style eggs using real eggs.
During World War II, the English Channel port of Bristol was a target of German Luftwaffe bombs.
“I remember many nights the sirens would go off,” Morris said. “We would grab our dinner from the table, run down the garden path and jump into the air-raid shelter. When a house three houses down got blasted, I went down the garden path, and boom. I was blown 300 yards, landed full on my face and woke up in the hospital with most of the skin off my face.”
For a time, Morris and his younger brother were evacuated to a country village out of harm’s way.
In 1943, he lied about his age to join the army and served in Egypt and Palestine. After the war, he was assigned to Gen. Montgomery’s staff at the London War Office. His duties included work with military intelligence and with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, a part of NATO.
Morris left the service because he “came into some money” and decided to take a rest.
“I started ordering limousines to take me to see shows, museums, to the seaside,” Morris said. “‘I just had a ball,’ as they say over here.”
Six months later, he bought a half share in the limousine service that had been chauffeuring him about. His partner emptied the business’s bank account and disappeared 18 months later.
“It took me 18 months to clear it up,” Morris said.
He hired out as a limo driver in London. Driving Bentleys, a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and the Austin Princess began his love affair with luxury automobiles.
In 1963, he became the personal chauffeur to a man who owned a new Mercedes. He had Morris drive the car to a magazine photo shoot.
“That doesn’t look right,” Morris commented to the photographer. “The chauffeur should be carrying that luggage.”
“You’re right,” the man replied. “Get over there.”
Morris was called back, without the car, for several more photo shoots.
Another executive he chauffeured wouldn’t let him drive his Aston Martin until Morris passed the British advanced-motorist test.
“The Aston Martin is the finest car you can ever drive,” Morris said. “How it holds the road, the sensitivity of the handling; the fastest I ever drove it was 124 mph.”
Then a lady friend introduced Morris to a transport company.
“I became a courier, transporting millions in gold, platinum and diamonds,” he said. “I was one of only 15 men authorized by Scotland Yard to carry a firearm.”
His largest consignment was driving 12 tons of gold bars by armored car from a Russian aircraft at Heathrow Airport to the Bank of England.
In 1971, Morris began making diamond deliveries to merchants in Manhattan. On a 1974 trip, friends took him on a blind date, where he met his third wife, Carol. The couple married the following year. He moved to the United States but was unable to get a green card.
“So I advertised myself as ‘The English Butler,’” Morris said.
In white tie and tails, he worked private parties.
“I would put on the British accent and greet guests at the door with ‘Good evenin’, ma’am. Good evenin’, sar.’ I served drinks, lit cigarettes, whatever the host wanted.”
Living in New Jersey, Morris also started a lawn-mowing and gardening service and later did landscape design. In 1980, he became chauffeur for the chairman of Warner Lambert Pharmaceuticals. The company sent him for anti-terrorist defensive-driving training at the Texas World Speedway.
“The instructors were professional racing drivers,” Morris said. “We learned chasing at high speeds, reversing at 60 or 70 miles an hour, spinning the vehicle around.”
In 1985, Morris and his wife moved to Florida, where he did security work.
“I helped establish the command center to monitor the alarms, security cameras and certain procedures in a large hospital.”
When he developed bladder cancer at age 79, Morris decided to retire. He read a magazine article touting Mountain Home as one of the best places to retire. On a visit to the area, he learned that Cherokee Village had seven lakes, two golf courses and a river.
“I’m a fisherman and a golfer,” he said.
The couple moved to Cherokee Village in 2006, but his wife died two years later.
With the excitement of war, fast cars and modeling behind him, Morris has taken to a much calmer hobby in retirement.
On a visit to England in 2001, Morris was introduced to egg art by his sister Catherine. Having painted portraits and landscapes since he was a child, he was intrigued. Back home, he sent off for instruction books and supplies. After “breaking quite a few eggs,” he said, he mastered the technique.
Morris creates his own designs, mostly using goose eggs, but also quail, emu, ostrich, swan, pigeon and others. After coating the egg with a special paste to harden it, he draws a design on the egg and cuts it out.
“I have a compressor that runs a tool similar to a dentist drill,” he said.
Then comes the decorating, which can include paint, decoupage, gold fittings, glitter, jewels and more.
“I usually put a surprise in each egg,” Morris said.
His collection includes a lighthouse that lights up inside an egg, pullet Easter eggs in an ostrich-egg basket and eggs that rotate on music boxes. Many of his eggs open on hinges to reveal an angel, a leprechaun, a ring, a photograph or other items.
He gives some eggs as gifts or donates them to charities. One of his egg creations sold for $1,200 at a charity auction. He displays his “egg art” and gives talks at various local organizations. Morris can be contacted at (870) 257-2017 or at rbgtmorris@Gmail.com.
Morris has learned that his cancer may have returned. With that in mind, he offered a reflection on his life: “By the grace of God, I go on living. You have to think positive all the time. I thank God every day that I’m alive.”