Name: Walter Burton HARRIS
Given Name: Walter Burton
Birth: 29 Aug 1866 in Upper Norwood,Surrey,England
Death: 4 Apr 1933 in Malta
The Times, Apr 05, 1933; pg. 16; Issue 46411; col B
Change Date: 23 Sep 2006 at 01:00:00
Mr. Walter Harris Morroco Correspondent Of "The Times"
Full Text: Copyright 1933 The Times
Mr. Walter Harris
OF "THE TIMES".
We announce with much regret that Mr. Walter Harris, for many years Correspondent of The Ti mes in
Morocco, died at Malta yesterday morning at the age of 66.
Walter Burton Harris was born on August 29 1866, the second son of Mr. Frederick W. Harris, o f Messrs.
Harris and Dixon, shipowners, London, a well-known member of the Society of Friends. His elde r brother was the late Right Hon. Frederick Leverton Harris, M.P., and his younger brothers w ere Sir Austin Edward Harris and Clement Harris, who died young as a captive in a Turkish hos pital during the Greeco-Turkish war of 1897. Walter was educated at Harrow, The Grove (Mr. E . E. Bowen's house), and at an unusually early age his brother
Clement and he began to travel together. Already at 18 Walter had been round the world when i n 1887 he first went to Morocco, accompanying the mission of Sir William Kirby-Green to Marra kesh. Besides speaking French and Spanish he acquired a fluent command of Moorish colloquia l Arabic.
Harris's exploits as a traveller in the primitive, largely closed, fanatical Morocco of thos e days aroused highest admiration among those qualified to judge. In one art, that of disguis e, he was unexcelled, with the exception of de Foucauld, in Morocco these 50 years. Nature ha d favoured him as to eyes (hazel), complexion, and features and still more, in a gait which w as not that of a person habitually wearing heeled shoes. to these he added talk, gestures, de portment, and, above all, dress to the life. His favourite disguise, that of a Riff, "Shilha " speaking people, diverted attention from anything strange in his Arabic. In that disguise h e was the complete fanatical looking type, with shaven head but for a foot long lock hangin g from the crown, red guncase for turban, short brown jehab, bare reddish tanned neck and leg s, carrying a long native musket, and glancing furtively as he went, just as men from home do .
These early exploits, such as his ride to Sheshouan and his journey over the Atlas to Tafilel t, were undoubtedly the foundation of that singular popularity which Harris came to enjoy amo ng all classes of the Moors, humblest to highest. Their interest was instantly excited and he ld for life by a man (at first also so very young a man) who had visited so many of their ow n venerated, but distant and dangerous, places and famous fellow Moslems, and who discourse d on all this so readily and amusingly. His generosity to the poor was large and unostentatio us. His easy circumstances, moreover, in the beautiful Moorish home and garden which he buil t for himself in those years on the east side of Tangier Bay, enabled him to return much of t he kindness and hospitality he received. Whether to European or to Moor, a more genial host w ould be difficult to imagine.
As a connoisseur and exponent of Moorish architecture and arts generally Harris will always b e remembered together with the late Baron d'Erlanger of Tunis. He interested himself very muc h in the restoration of old Moorish houses. One of the first he took in hand is now the centr e of a large pleasure resort, a short distance from Tangier, called Villa Harris. He personal ly supervised the planning of its many acres of gardens, which contain numerous trees which h e imported from Belgium. It was in this villa that two guests were murdered by bandits, and H arris himself had a miraculous escape. Another Moorish house which he restored is now occupie d by Prince de Croy, the Belgian Consul-General. Some years ago he acquired a very old hous e in the heart of the Moorish quarter of Tangier, attached to which is a mosque; Harris was t he only Englishman allowed to enter it. since he took it over he had three Moors-craftsmen hi ghly trained in mosaic work-constantly engaged in the work of restoration. His furniture wa s half Moorish and half Chinese art which he had collected on his various travels.
Harris's first contributions appeared in The Times in 1887, and the long association then beg un was fortunate both for this journal and for the nation, which received early and trustwort hy information all through the years when Morocco was a storm-centre of European politics. I n June 1894, the Sultan Mulai Hassan died while on one of his military migrations. No fixed l aw of succession existed, and the Sultan's death was kept secret, even from the Army, until t he Court was near Rabat, when one of his younger sons, Mulai Abdul Aziz, then 13 years old, w as proclaimed. By arrangement with the British Minister, Mr. (afterwards Sir Ernest) Satow, H arris undertook to visit both Wazzan and Fez, where rival candidates for the throne were livi ng. This dangerous mission he accomplished, being peaceably acknowledged, and he received th e thanks of the British Minister and a cheque for L100.
In 1895 the Sultan returned from Fez to Marakesh, where he remained for upwards of six years , until the death of the Grand Vizier, Buhamad, in whose hands all real power had lain. Harri s was attached to the special mission of Sir Arthur Nicolson (afterwards Lord Carnock) to th e new Sultan, with whom he was soon on excellent terms and to whom he paid long visits. By th e prolonged immobility of the Court in the South the seeds were then sown of those disorder s which ended in the collapse of the old Moorish Government and its coming under the French , Spanish and international regimes now exising. Of these eventful years the history was chro nicled in The Times by Harris's telegrams and articles with such sparkling wit as not only t o seize the attention of the reader but to excite the liveliest interest in the personality a nd doings of the writer.
The inhabitants of Tangier, labouring under an international administration which the workin g was continually nullified by the jealousies of the Powers and of their local representative s, owed Harris a special debt of gratitude. For he was wont to describe the ludicrous inciden ts that were constantly occuring in such a way that the serious side of them, as illustratin g an impracticable regime, was never obscured by their absurdity.
In 1903 Harris was captured by Raisuli, the celebrated cheiftain, who was no ordinary brigan d but an inordubately ambitious man carrying on a private war. The chief's stronghold was a t Zinat, about 12 miles from Tangier, which had been attacked by the Sultan's troops, and the re Harris, having fallen into an ambush, spent nine miserable days in a dark and verminous ro om. Raisuli brough him food and was polite, but said that he would immediately be killed in t he event of a further attack. It was agreed to exchange him for a dozen prisoners, and ultima tely he was carried off by his friends of the Anjera tribe and brought back to Tangier, wher e an informal exchange took place. In the following year Harris narrowly escaped a second cap ture, this time in his own villa. A few years later Raisuli nearly captured a picnic party co nsisting of Harris, Sir Gerard Lowther, then British Minister, M. amd Mme. de Beaumarchais, o f the French Legion, and Mr. Christopher Lowther, son of Lord Ullswater. They escaped throug h an elaborate piece of deception on Harris's part, but the incident in no way impaired the f riendship between him and Raisuli.
Some of his adventures were related by Harris in "The Land of an African Sultan", "Tafilet" t he narrative of a journey of exploration in the Atlas mountains and oases of the North-West S ahara, "Modern Morocco" (with the late Lord Cozens-Hardy) and "Morocco That Was". He also co ntributed to the "Proceedings" of the Royal Geographical Society.
Besides his literary gifts and his wit and perennial gaiety, Harris had other qualities whic h account for his success. However many friends he gained, he never made enemies. To say tha t he never offended or upset anybody would be an exaggeration, but deep or lasting ill-feeli ng towards him was impossible. His financial disinterestedness, a common enough virtue in man y countries, was much rarer and respect-compelling in the loose, corrupt Morocco of those day s. Also, although most sensitive, he was without rancour. Few men could, for example, have be en treated so odiously by the Moorish authoraties at Tafilelt, or by Raisuli near Tangier, a s he was, and have lost all resentment and been good friends with them again so soon. Anothe r trait was his unconcern about consistency. His famous jest about the armies of Mulai Abdu l Aziz and Mulai Hafid being composed chiefly of deserters from each other will be remembered . But had anyone twitted him for having himself changed sides, he would simply have laughed , or thought the saying stupid.
After 1912, when Morocco ceased to be the cynosure of Europe, Harris's telegrams and articles , though of less political importance, were as witty and entertaining as ever. But he was abl e to travel in Egypt and the Near East, and in 1930 in the Far East, and he published "France , Spain, and the Rif" and "The East for Pleasure". Our readers will remember also the humorou s letters which he addressed to the Editor from time to time. There was no subject which he c ould not adorn, an unwanted umbrella which kept on returning to him; handshaking, pyjamas o n board liners, a Berber chieftain's innocent request for a machine to translate all wireles s into Arabic, and currency and credit among the simple Yap islanders of the Pacific.
I looked his books up at Abebooks.com. Tafilet is about $350.00. Land of an African Sultan i s available reasonably cheaply (25.00) in a reprint of 2007. Modern Morocco comes up at 50.0 0. Morocco That Was has been reprinted, also in 2007, and is available for 12.00. Sadly for m e, Tafilet is the one I want.
Father: Frederick William HARRIS b: 1 Aug 1833 in Saint Mary,Stoke Newington,Middlesex,England
Mother: Eilzabeth Rachel WYLIE b: 1834 in Barnsburry Park,Middlesex,England