Michael Harrison sadly passed away on 1 September 2017. The following words were shared with us by Michael’s friend and fellow OW Michael Archer:
Michael Harrison was a Headington boy who made his career managing major retail stores, helped launch the careers of three world-famous designers and lived out his final fifteen years in Paphos, Cyprus.
The quirk of his birth on February 29, 1940 reduced his birthdays to 19 in his 77 years and fate also decreed that he would die on his 55th wedding anniversary. Michael’s father was an Inspector in the CID and his mother a nurse. As a Headington boy, he was automatically in Wilkinson house and became an important member of the house teams in cricket, hockey and athletics, as well as representing the school in all three. He played in the only cricket match MCS had against the formidable touring side from Bradford Grammar School in the late 1950s.
He was pictured in The Oxford Mail, walking out to field alongside skipper John Baxter and wicketkeeper Tommy North – the prelude to a conclusive hammering by the visitors. Michael was a middle-order batsman who could contribute important runs as well as pinning down opposing batsmen with his accurate medium-paced bowling. In the hockey team he was an elegant and industrious wing half in the days before midfield players had been invented and he earned his place in the school athletics team as a javelin thrower – not so much for his raw power as for the rare ability to make the projectile stick in the ground on landing!
Michael went straight into business after leaving Magdalen, beginning as a trainee manager at what was then Elliston & Cavell’s department store and later became Debenhams. It was here that he met ‘a young and stunning Revlon girl’ destined to become his wife. He married Jayne on September 1, 1962. Their daughter Sarah was born in August 1964 and son Miles in May 1966. Sarah, now married to attorney Bob Bright, lives in Southern California and has a son Connor and a daughter Mia. Miles, married to Ashley, lives in Sydney, Australia.
Michael’s management career took him from Elliston’s to stores in Cardiff and Richmond, before he became a director of the distinguished family-owned furnishing store Heal’s in Tottenham Court Road, London. After several years in charge there, he moved into the fashion industry and became a valued consultant to three iconic designers: John Galliano, Tomasz Starzewski and the legendary footwear designer, Jimmy Choo, who was just launching when their paths crossed in the 1990s. At one point, Jimmy Choo personally hand-measured and made shoes for Jayne and Sarah. “I had him kneeling at my feet”, says Sarah who, not realising how ‘big’ he would become tossed the shoes away when they became a bit too worn! The Jimmy Choo brand sold recently for £900 million!
In accordance with Michael’s final wishes, he was repatriated back to the UK and his funeral service was held at South Oxfordshire Crematorium, Abingdon. It was conducted by Pastor Nigel Carter, who was a fellow management trainee with Michael at Ellistons’. The introductory music –Land of My Fathers sung by the Morriston Orpheus Choir – was an acknowledgment of Michael’s Welsh connection on his mother’s side and his love of Welsh Rugby. The ‘Exit’ music –My Way, sung by Frank Sinatra – reflected the individuality of a proud and much-loved husband, father, grandfather, gentleman and Old Waynflete. Michael wore an ‘old-style’ striped OW tie to his cremation and his ashes were subsequently scattered on the edge of the School Field where he will be serenaded by the peal of the Magdalen Tower bells and the seasonal crack of ball on willow.