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Captain Nigel Morgan
Late Irish Guards
by Captain Dai Prichard
formerly Welsh Guards

Telling his Commanding Officer that he ‘couldn’t command a tea trolley’ was just one of Nigel Morgan’s unsuccessful tactics to avoid the five-year service commitment of his university bursary. He had joined the Irish Guards in 1974, the regiment of his idolised older brother Malcolm, who was killed in a motorbike crash very young, a tragedy which blighted Nigel’s life. He couldn’t bear authority and convention, and he kicked vigorously and rudely against it all his life. He was intermittently pursued by the black dog and had a great talent for making unshakeable friends and implacable enemies.

Highly intelligent, Nigel studied politics at Durham, where he became President of the Union. Returning to the Micks with a new ambition, he campaigned to leave the Army, making himself determinedly objectionable to his commanders when they refused. He was eventually sent to the Grenadiers in Munster for rehabilitation; they were kind to him, if bemused.

During his last months of service back in London, he became involved with the intellectuals underpinning early Thatcherism. Once, on peremptorily leaving a duty at RHQ having been ordered to stay, a Guardsman was detailed to follow him; he walked straight to Downing Street and into No 10, which much strengthened his hand at Birdcage Walk. On another occasion he was on Queen’s Guard when he was called to the stairs by the Mess Sergeant to meet some ‘visitors’, who turned out to be Military Police. They had been told he was consorting with extreme right-wing factions and wanted to interview him. ‘Not a problem’ said Nigel and asked them to accompany him to the terrace where he was entertaining various members of the No 10 Staff including John Hoskyns, Head of Mrs Thatcher’s Policy Unit.

Leaving the Army, he went to work at the new Centre for Policy Studies under director Sir Alfred Sherman; they matched each other for certainty and belligerence, and the CPS had great influence in establishing Thatcherism.

Nigel’s mother Pamela was loving, but scatty and often depressed; she abandoned the family after Malcolm was killed. His father, Ronan ‘Bowlegs’ Morgan, youngest of 10 children, was a publisher, manly and undemonstrative with his affection, who treated Nigel robustly. Nigel hated prep school and kept running away but was mercilessly returned by his father despite promises not to, which shook Nigel’s faith in adults badly. As young officers we became very familiar with the hard-drinking crew accompanying Bowlegs, including Brendan Quirke, Brian McConnell and Nigel’s uncle Cliff Morgan, the famous rugby figure. The first three of these were once famously in a taxi heading down The Mall from a long lunch in El Vino’s to the Irish Club in Eaton Square, when Princess Anne’s Rolls Royce in front of them was shot up. The Irish party tumbled out and confronted the gunman, who had already shot the Princess’s detective and driver.  Bowlegs had his trilby shot off; Quirke escaped unharmed; McConnell was shot in the belly charging the gunman and was later awarded the QGM. We were very proud of them.

Nigel didn’t marry. He didn’t really understand women, but his brains, forcefulness and tremendous gusto for jokes meant that during his life he had several very glamorous and aristocratic girlfriends. These relationships were characterised by deep affection and bantering hostility, often disguised as real hostility.

Childless, Nigel was much loved by his nieces, Godchildren and the children of his friends, who instinctively trusted his sweary, rugged truthfulness and benefited from his fitful generosity. His appearance, barrel-shaped, orange-haired and with a bright red swollen face, inspired his several affectionate nicknames: Football Face, Nosher, Pig.

He moved to deepest Herefordshire in the late 80s, rescued an old farmhouse and settled to the rural life for a few years, riding the terrifying 17-hand bolter Fred over the hills, and holding debauched parties dedicated to the notorious rake, Squire Mytton, in his barn. Like his father, Nigel was a prodigious drinker.

He was, oddly, a very spiritual man and, riven by his complicated motivations, went from Hereford to train as a Jesuit in Birmingham. He stuck it for almost a year, but after a row with the abbot about the lefty liberation theology of many Jesuits he rang his former butler Sgt Barton, ex-IG, who drove up in the old Land Rover, the only possession Nigel had not given to charity, to spring him that same night.

He tried the life of a gold prospector in the Yukon with a Scots Guards friend, and later a disastrous alluvial gold-buying venture in up-country Liberia with Julian Ramos, ex-IG, in which he lost $1m of investors’ money buying gold-coated brass.

He moved permanently to South Africa, where he spent his last 25 years. He became an expert in sub-Saharan affairs, befriending leading politicians and intelligence figures everywhere, and writing trenchant political and commercial analysis for multi-nationals and risk management companies in London.

He was very good friends with the figures involved in the Equatorial Guinea ‘Wonga Coup’, but his closeness to South African intelligence led to never quite bottomed-out accusations of betrayal; it was all much more complicated than a short summary can hint at. He started a specialist security company, and at one stage his all-too-successful plugging of leaks in a diamond mine in the Congo led to his almost-fatal poisoning with a rare lizard saliva by the badly hit local chiefs and ministers; he had to be airlifted to Johannesburg, spent several days in an induced coma, but somehow recovered. His company was eventually stolen from him by a fraudulent employee, leaving him penniless, but with his astonishing resilience he built a second successful regional security company. When he was cut out of this company too, by the people he trusted most, he went on a terminal bender. Collapsing, he was for the second time in his life put into an induced coma. He resurfaced sufficiently to leave hospital, thin, damaged and depressed but still very thirsty.

In the end, he couldn’t recover from the accumulated damage of a life of heavy drinking, cigar smoking and poisoning, the combination of which finally destroyed his liver.  A few months later he died in hospital in Harrismith, attended by loyal friends and his much-loved sister Nicky. There is now a big, round, red-faced hole in our lives.

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