Forever England

A British couple – and their pet crocodile – live an idyllic life in their verdant home in Eilat.

Crocodile at home in Eilat 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Crocodile at home in Eilat 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
The last time I wrote about Fay and Reggie Morris of Eilat, they were just off to England for Fay to receive her MBE from Queen Elizabeth.
That was in June 1995, and I ended that article with these words: “As long as Fay and Reginald Morris are there, there’s one corner of that torrid port that is forever England.”
I didn’t realize just how much until I visited the house they have lived in since 1966, complete with chintz covers, a lawn that would be the joy of anyone living in England’s green and pleasant land, and a portrait of Her Majesty taking pride of place on the living-room wall.
But naturally, this being Eilat, the house has its exotic side, too, most notably in the person of Clarence the crocodile, who lives in a cage with a prime view of the aforementioned lawn in his sights.
Before getting on to the house, perhaps some background would be in order for those who not have heard of the Morris family in Eilat.
Fay and Reginald arrived there in 1958 soon after they married. She was born in Birmingham and graduated from Manchester University with a degree in art history. He was an established doctor and expert in tropical diseases who had seen action during the war in Burma.
“We met at a WIZO dance,” Fay recalls.
“Because we couldn’t find a house after we got married, we decided to take a year off and travel.”
They drove through France, Spain and Turkey, and when they got to Israel they decided to take a look at Eilat. There were no hotels in 1958, so they parked on the sand and slept in the car.
The decision to stay was an easy one.
“It was like paradise. The beach was totally deserted, the palms waving in the gentle breeze, the red mountains behind and the clear blue sea stretching for miles,” she says.
There were about 3,000 inhabitants in the town, and the maternity hospital was just about to be expanded into a general hospital. Dr. Morris was welcomed with open arms and set about establishing complete medical services which the growing town needed, including motherand- baby clinics and school medical services.
After 1967 he also became doctor to all the Beduin in the area.
Fay meanwhile started a local English-speaking WIZO group, which is still going strong.
Later she was for many years the honorary British consul – hence the MBE – and saw far more of the courts, hospital and local jail than she would have liked, bringing her materteral (feminine of “avuncular”) solace to a variety of holidaying Brits in trouble.
Clarence was a gift to Reginald when he made a trip to Egypt in 1981.
“Reginald was going through a village and was stopped by a peasant, who presented him with a little woven basket,” says Fay. “Inside were two baby crocs. One escaped, but Clarence has been with us ever since.”
He’s a local tourist attraction, but then so are the Morrises, who extend a standing invitation to any visiting Anglos to pop in for a cup of tea and one of Fay’s famous egg sandwiches.
IF THE weather is fine, which it usually is in Eilat, tea will be taken in the living room, which was created when they closed in and roofed what was the patio. It’s furnished with chintz chairs and looks like the conservatory of an English country home. The two couches were made in Cyprus, where their son-in-law had served as honorary consul. When their daughter and her husband came back to Israel, they decided the couches were too heavy and passed them on to Fay and Reginald. An antique rocking chair from England completes the seating arrangement.
The dining room has two identical sets of chairs and tables, with the chairs upholstered to match the lounge suite. A sliding glass door connects the two rooms for big events like parties and family gatherings. Reginald, who is also an electronic engineer, built all the bookshelves and was very handy around the house.
“I’ve never had to bring in a workman in my life,” says Fay.
He made the examination couch in his clinic, whose walls are lined with photos of him treating some of his Beduin patients.
The sword collection over the sliding glass door belongs to Reginald, who is nearly 95. One of the swords is a genuine samurai, which he acquired during his war service in Burma.
Finally, I am curious to find out from Fay how the encounter was with the queen, which she had been anticipating the last time I spoke to her.
She says she was presented to Her Majesty with the words “This is Fay Morris, the honorary consul of Eilat,” without having the country specified.
The queen would have none of it.
“Where exactly is that?” the queen asked.
Fay answered, “Israel.”
“Oh, I’ve been to Aqaba,” the queen responded.
Fay promptly invited Her Majesty to Israel, and she answered, “That would be nice.”
If she ever does take up the invitation, she will be sure of a warm welcome at the Morris home in Eilat, Israel.
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