Fred Hilton Morgan
A FAIR stint at the top of any sporting tree would be about twenty years and in many sports — like soccer, cricket and rugby — that would be a most generous allotment.
It is in this light that the remarkable career of Fred Hilton Morgan, MBE — Rhodesia's greatest Bisley marksman — must be considered. He won notable success on the range over an incredible span of fifty-four years, from the time he visited Britain in 1909 representing the Transvaal School Cadets through to 1963 when, at the age of sixty-nine, he won Rhodesia's (now Zimbabwe's) premier shoot, the Governor's Cup for the eighth time over almost a forty-year period (he first won it in 1924).
The high point of his shooting career, however, came when he was still a South African, as a member of the fifteen-man Springbok team which competed at the 1920 Olympic Games at Antwerp and then at the famous British Bisley. The team won second place in the world long-range championship at the Olympics after shooting off three times with America for the Gold Medal.
Then came the Imperial Prize Meeting at Bisley, a small village in Surrey, where the most prestigious event is always the Queen's (or King's) Prize — the blue riband of British and Commonwealth Bisley shooting. The 1920 winner is recorded as Sergeant F. Morgan of South Africa.
"I used a rifle I hired from the London Middlesex Rifle Club for ten bob," he recalled. "It had cobwebs in the barrel... and that's the truth. The day after I won the King's Prize I asked for the barrel to be tested for gauge. The famous Arthur Fulton tested it and his 304 gauge went right through... so did the 305,306 and 307 gauges. 'That thing's no use to you,' he told me, and he wouldn't believe I had just won the King's Prize with it and had never had a bad shot You can never tell by the look of a rifle."
The South African team, captained by Robert Bodley, won the coveted Kolapore Cup with a record score of 1111 and Bodley won five individual competitions at Bisley.
Freddie Morgan was born at Johannesburg and started shooting at the age of ten, competing in his first Bisley when he was twelve. In 1909, at the age of fifteen — "the rifle was level with my mouth" — he was sent to England by the Transvaal Government (before the Union of South Africa came into being). He was selected to represent the Transvaal School Cadets to accompany the senior Transvaal team at the English Bisley and the English cadet Bisley. He won the aggregate for cadets and the South Africa Cup for rapid shooting at 200 yards.
He got down to the more serious business of the Great War from 1914-18, then in 1920 enjoyed his golden year as a marksman when he became the supreme shot of the Commonwealth and also the first marksman from Africa to win the King's Prize. The feat was next achieved in 1939 by another South African, Sergeant Busschan. Both he and Mr. Morgan were from the same regiment the Witwatersrand Rifles.
On his return from overseas in 1921, Freddie Morgan settled in Rhodesia and continued his winning ways with a rifle. Between 1924 and 1963, besides winning the Governors Cup (now the President's Cup) eight times, he won the Queen's Medal five times and the Grand Aggregate on several occasions. As a Rhodesian, 1930 and 1935 were his vintage years. Apart from winning the Governor's Cup for the fourth time in seven years he also took the premier award in South Africa, the Governor-General's Cup (now the State President's Trophy). That, he reckons, was the best shooting he ever did. "There was an eight right to a fifteen left mirage," he recalled, "and it was impossible to read the weather, so it had to be rapid fire."
In 1935 at the South African Bisley at the Booysens Range at Johannesburg, Morgan made almost a clean sweep, winning six major prizes including the South African championships and the short-range aggregate. This confirmed that he was one of the supreme marksmen of Southern Africa.
After his first appearance at a British Bisley as a cadet in 1909 Freddie Morgan was to make his farewell appearance there fifty-one years later in 1960 as a member of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland rifle team. From a total of 1700 competitors he emerged winner of the Queen's Veteran Cup, the Wednesday Aggregate Challenge Cup, the Loader Challenge Cup, the Eric Fraser Challenge Shield, plus several silver medals in other competitions.
By 1963, he had decided to retire from top competition, but was a late entry that year for the Governor's Cup at Bulawayo. He had gone as a coach, but at the last moment filled in for the Gwelo Rifle Club team ... and amazingly won the country's premier trophy for the eighth time. "I didn't even bring a rifle," he said. "I had to borrow one from the armourer."
The nation's grand old man of shooting had proved he could still 'squint and squeeze' with the best but that was to mark the close of his shooting career. He had tasted victory in innumerable major shoots and had represented the country five times at the British Bisley. He had continued to be a champion over half a century, often beating men less than half his years in a sport which demands keen eyes and steady hands. He demonstrated that a man who keeps fit can remain young, even with advancing years and he was deservedly honoured with the MBE in the 1963 New Year's Honours List.
He also found time to represent Rhodesia at soccer (1922 and 1923) and cricket (1923 and 1924) and to win the novices section in the old Durban to Johannesburg motor cycle race. In 1945, when he was in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), he was a member of the Broken Hill Railways Bowling Club team which won the national fours championship, his colleagues being H. Summers, D. B. McLean and J. Tetley. But it was as a Bisley marksman that he lit the spark for a long line of champions to follow. The history of competitive shooting in Zimbabwe dates back to the days of the Pioneers — the Salisbury Rifle Club was formed in 1895 and the national association in 1908 — and Freddie Morgan can claim to have been one of its most illustrious members.
By 1980, when he had turned eighty-six, he had moved from Gwelo and was living with his wife Ellaline at Bulawayo. He died on 29 July 1980.
Hilton, their son, also brought honour to the Morgan name by gaining his Rhodesian and Springbok hockey colours and Rhodesian soccer colours. He was voted the country's Sportsman of the Year in 1957.
After Freddie Morgan, the most outstanding Bisley men in this country have been A. A. G. Cracknell (1955-74), D. Hollingworth (1954-79), F. Littleton (1936-63), K. H. Seager (1956-74) and J. S. Stoole (1950-74).
Other notable marksmen, with the years they were awarded national colours, have included:
W. F. Smith (1925), N. A. Fereday (1929), O. H. Templar (1929), L M McBean (1930), W. E. C. Owen (1930), A. M. Cumming (1933), D. Devine (1934), W. L Smith (1934), A. M. Butcher (1936), A. J. Branch (1937), L Fereday (1938) R O Blair (1948), W. R. Buchanan (1949), M. T. Heathcote (1950), S. J. G. Muir (1950), R. M. Amm (1953), W. D. Cook (1955), G. A. Smith (1958), E. A. Webb (1959), J. D. Waterworth (1960), E. J. Rosenfels (1962), W. Tarr (1963), M. Rosenfels (1965), R. A. Bone (1966), J. Edington (1969).
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