Ballyclare High Achievers Q&A with Paul Morrow (Class of ’73)

By Ballyclare High School on 20 October, 2021

Name: Paul Morrow
Years at BHS: 1963-66 prep school. 1966-73 senior school.
Current location: North Oxfordshire, England
Occupation: Company Chairman (UK) and Group Technical Director

Q. What have you been up to since leaving Ballyclare High School?
A. Firstly, the University of Leeds. BSc Comb Hons in Biochemistry and Microbiology. Then 40+years in the food industry, mostly in bakery ingredient manufacturing. Initially in operations and commercial roles then general management. Working for current employer for the last 27 years, firstly as UK MD then as a Group Executive Committee member. This has involved four years as regional director for Latin America and current responsibility for our companies in Russia and India, together with the Group role as technical director.

Q. Do you travel back to Northern Ireland often?
A. Occasionally on business but on a personal basis usually every August for our wedding anniversary. My wife and I returned from England to get married in her family church in Glengormley in 1978. The Merchant is one of our favourite Hotels.

Q. What is your favourite memory from Ballyclare High?
A. Difficult to select one. I enjoyed feeling very grown up moving from the prep department to the senior school. But living in the reflected glory of the 1973 Schools Cup winning rugby team must be right up there.

Q. Who were your favourite teachers at BHS?
A. Mr Thompson, English and Mr Bell, Chemistry. Both had a clear passion for their subjects.

Q. How would your teachers have described you?
A. I still have an exam report in which the then Headmaster, Mr Millar, wrote “Paul is a careless untidy, lazy pupil capable of much better work.” I took great pleasure in quoting that in a speech made in the Mansion House in London, attended by 330 people, including the Lord Mayor. I suggested Mr Millar was correct, I was capable of better work!

Q. What were your favourite and least favourite subjects?
A. Favourite – English literature and chemistry. I caused a timetable problem by choosing to study at A level chemistry, biology, and English literature.
Least favourite, French. I was allowed to drop it one year early, no doubt to the great relief of my teacher, Mr Wilson, otherwise known as “Big Jim”.

Q. Who were your best friends at school?
A. I have to say my wife! Jacqueline nee Artt. For time we were in the same class, but she left in 1971 after O levels to attend secretarial college in Belfast. Also, my best man, five years after leaving Ballyclare, was a former class mate, Simon Finch.

Q. What did you want to be when you were younger?
A. I don’t recall any particular ambition until I left university. Then I soon set the goal of running a company, which I achieved at 39.

Q. What is your proudest achievement?
A. Becoming the first person from NI to be elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Bakers. The WCB is the second oldest livery company in the City of London, whose first written record dates to 1155. It was also involved in the Plantation of Ulster, investing in 1608 £720 in the settlement at Dungiven. Among the many events I was invited to attend as Master Baker was a Royal Garden Party at Castle Coole, Co Fermanagh, attended by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. I was also permitted to hold a private dinner in Hillsborough Castle, attended by fellow members of the WCB, many of whom were making their first visit to the Province. They were very impressed!

Q. Who would attend your fantasy dinner party? (5 dead or alive)
A. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, John Harvey-Jones, Willie John McBride, Van Morrison, Francis Robinson. (politics, business, sport, music and wine – should make for interesting conversation!)

Q. What are the best and worst purchases you have ever made?
A. Best – an apartment in Malta bought in 2004. Worst, in my wife’s opinion, an 11 metre yacht based in Malta.

Q. Tell us something that not many people know about you?
A. In my final year at university, I reached the semi finals of the British Universities’ Karate championship, controversially beaten by the eventual champion!

Q. What advice would you give to your younger self?
A. Think before you speak

Q. What would be a good theme song for your life?
A. “Stir it up” (Bob Marley)

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