BUSINESSES in Saltaire are planning to fund a ‘chatting bench’ in memory of a popular villager.

Iain Morris, an artist and Telegraph & Argus letter writer for many years, has died aged 73 at his home in Caroline Street, Saltaire.

Born in Sussex in 1947, Iain and his family emigrated to Australia in 1950, setting up home in the coal mining town of Wallsend, New South Wales.

His father worked for a mining conglomerate and in 1952 the family moved to Malaysia, where a terrorist insurgency was in place.

Iain was sent to school with other expatriate community children, convoyed through the jungle by Ghurkha soldiers with RAF Hunter Hawk fighters patrolling the skies.

The family later returned to Britain, moving to Bradford in 1954 where they lived above a shoe shop on Manningham Lane.

After establishing a civil engineering business the family moved to Eldwick.

Iain attended Eldwick Primary School then Fulneck School in Pudsey as a boarder.

Said Iain’s brother Sean: “It was here that his talent as an artist was spotted and nurtured and he went on to study Fine Art at the University of Hull. He progressed towards becoming an art teacher but his experiences during teaching practice in Manchester were not good.

“After one lesson an assessor told him the school janitor could have made a better job of it, to which Iain responded that the janitor was welcome to the job!

“Iain subsequently worked in Salts Mill. He was delighted when Salts Mill was converted into an art gallery by a little boy he’d befriended in Manningham many years earlier - Jonathan Silver.”

Iain has two younger brothers, one a Judge and the other a retired Royal Navy Commander, and a sister who lives in Somerset. “He was blessed with many friends in Saltaire who were always there for him,” said Rod. “Iain treated people with the dignity and respect that was deserving of anyone. He will be remembered for his good humour and kindness.”

Catherine Kenworthy, manager of Salts Village bakery, said: “Iain was very much a part of Saltaire life, everyone liked him. He had a house full of paintings and used to give them out to people. He had no TV or internet, but had a wealth of knowledge about all kinds of things. He used to come to the bakery every day. People have been coming in to ask about him.

“Iain’s character and humanity were huge and he will be greatly missed by young and old alike.”

Catherine and other villagers, including Stefni Regan and Diana Pickering, who own R.P’s cafe in Saltaire, are aiming to install a ‘chatting bench’ with a plaque dedicated to Iain. “These benches have become popular in lockdown - somewhere people are encouraged to talk to whoever they’re sitting with. It would be nice to have somewhere to sit and talk, because that’s what Iain liked to do,” said Catherine. “A lot of local people, and the cafes and shops, have been saying they will donate to it.”

Added Stefni: “It would be perfect in his memory. Iain was a lovely man, he always went out of his way to make a conversation. He loved Bradford City, reading and art and had a million stories to tell of his life, they filled so many people with joy. He was such a talented artist, I was blessed with a canvas he painted. He will be sadly missed.”

Iain's funeral is at Nab Wood Crematorium on February 26.