Living With Eagles: Marcus Morris, Priest and Publisher

By Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood

The biography of Marcus Morris, the priest, bon-viveur and journalist who founded the Eagle children’s magazine, read by millions throughout the 1950s and 60s.

ISBN: 9780718829827


Eagles seemed to dominate Marcus Morris’s life. As a clergyman’s son, he grew up with the eagle of the church lectern; as a priest himself he had his own lecterns. A brass inkwell topped by a flying eagle became the symbol of the most famous eagle of all – the children’s magazine that influenced a generation.

Eagle and its sister papers Girl, Swift and Robin were read by millions throughout the 1950s and ’60s. They offered excitement in the adventures of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, brilliantly drawn by Frank Hampson; of PC49, Riders of the Range, Tommy Walls, Luck of the Legion, Harris Tweed and Captain Pugwash. Small boys were fascinated by the cutaway drawings of modern wonders like the first jet airliner, by features on science, history and nature, and by the adventures of a roving Special Investigator. The religious and moral framework was strong, though not overstated, with Bible stories and lives of missionaries and saints featured regularly, and young readers were encouraged to become good citizens.

David Hockney and Gerald Scarfe had their teenage drawings published in Eagle (the first published work for Scarfe), and many of the original illustrators of the magazine are well-known today – some have contributed cartoons drawn especially for this book.

Each issue of Eagle had an Editor’s Letter, signed by Marcus Morris, a name as widely known to his young readers as any modern pop idol. The fascinating story of this extraordinary man is now told for the first time.

Morris was a radical priest, continually at odds with the Church establishment. His desire to spread the word of Christianity led him into journalism, and his Lancashire parish magazine was read throughout Britain and as far afield as Australia. This magazine was a commercial failure, but its literary success made Morris determined to spread its ethos to children. Eagle was the immensely successful outcome.

Morris was a man of contrasts. His clerical status did not prevent him, or his beautiful and successful actress wife, from indulging in extramarital affairs. The success of Eagle and his other magazines brought him no substantial wealth, and his way of life was funded by a generous expense account. After arguments with new masters in Fleet Street he left the company and spent the rest of his working life with the fourth eagle in his life, the symbol of the National Magazine Company which he made one of the most successful publishers in Britain. Though he became disillusioned with the Church, he remained a priest, and in spite of being happily married until his death, he continued to enjoy liaisons with beautiful women. Although a legendary drinker and lover of good living, he was greatly respected, loved, and mourned by employees, parishioners, and his many friends.

Prof Stephen Hawking, when asked what influence Dan Dare had on him:
“Why am I in cosmology?”

Kenny Everett, on Eagle:
“Marcus made my childhood a lot easier to bear. Every week this divine colour magazine came through the letter box with lots of fab colour adventures; it was glossy and other worldly … You don’t know what this magazine meant to me. It saved me.”

With a Foreword by Sir Tim Rice.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 320
Illustrations b&w and colour

Trade Information LGEN

About the Author

Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood are the daughters of Marcus Morris. Sally is a former freelance journalist while Jan is a former newspaper music critic.


List of Illustrations
Foreword by Sir Tim Rice

Chapters One to Twenty



Endorsements and Reviews

… for those nostalgic for Dan Dare, this is an interesting read, but … also … a history of UK magazine publishing in the second half of the 20th century …

… detailed, interesting and highly readable … a fascinating insight into the heady world of lifestyle magazine publishing … To anyone who grew up with Eagle, this book is indispensable. To the rest of us, it is a fascinating account of the life of a remarkable man …
SFX Magazine

… celebrates one of the most exciting post-war publishing ventures and its creator editor …
Mary Loudon, in The Times

[Marcus Morris] well deserves a biography … The authors present [his] strong taste for the physical pleasures of life without censure or embarrassment, which is to their credit … This biography has all the merits and flaws of a close-up view of its subject. Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood are devoted chroniclers … but this will do very well.
Philip Pullman, in The Times Educational Supplement

… a formidable and fascinating life story … this book tells it all … this is a truly remarkable book, about a truly remarkable man.
Best of British

As an account of what it was like to live through the launch of Eagle … it’s invaluable, and the numerous anecdotes culled from survivors of those years are quite gripping; comics historians and archivists will find it absolutely indispensable, and most people with even a slight knowledge of the period will find something of interest.
Comics Forum

Marcus Morris deserved a biography. The story of the parish priest who became a magazine mogul (but still remained in holy orders) is one of the weirdest chansons de geste in twentieth-century journalism. … you feel sure the authors cannot have censored much. … as a whole, the book is extremely well researched, very open, very fair and capably written.
The Spectator

… clearly and sensibly written … for anyone who feels that his early life was formed by the Eagle and its moral message, it will prove a well of information about the stories, the ideas behind them, those who conceived them and the writers and illustrators who put them on the page.
Contemporary Review

… long overdue … Sally and Jan have done a grand job in putting together so much of the background to Marcus’ life and career … The book is an eve-opener and was hard to put down.
Eagle Times

a book of accurate memories
Oxford Times

well described in this generously illustrated book.
Books for Keeps

Morris comes across as a fascinating character. This is a remarkably frank portrayal of a remarkable man.

… pulls few punches. It portrays the man ‘warts and all.’ … all sides of the story are presented here. The book is a must if you are interested in the subject.
Peter Leeming, in The European Christian Bookstore Journal

Living With Eagles is all that I hoped it would be. … three hundred fact-packed pages … this is a book that I will not only read from cover to cover but one to which I will return again and again. Another joy … is the section of colour illustrations … a fascinating and informative book that should be on the bookshelf of everyone who has more than a passing interest in Eagle or the British comic scene of the 1950s. It is also an excellent biographical study.
Norman Wright, in Collectors Digest

… clearly and sensibly written … for anyone who feels that his early life was formed by the Eagle and its moral message, it will prove a well of information about the stories, the ideas behind them, those who conceived them and the writers and illustrators who put them on the page.
George Wedd, in Contemporary Review

This biography has been written by two of Morris’s daughters, Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood, who seem to have researched their theme very thoroughly and lovingly.
Monica Furlong, in The Times Literary Supplement, 25 September 1998