In Memoriam: Jim Morrison



JIM MORRISON 1954 - 2017 

Jim Morrison was a founder member of Signal Arts Centre. From the very beginning he was the key figure who ensured the survival and continued growth of Signal over nearly three decades.

Jim was a native of Newbridge, County Kildare, and was of proud peasant farmer stock. He moved to Bray in 1988 and initially lived on Putland Road. In the early 1990s he settled in Ardee Street in Little Bray and lived there for the rest of his life. He knew everyone in the area around Ardee Street and was a great neighbour.

In February 2001 Jim's beloved daughter Brigid was born. He was a devoted father, and her care and wellbeing were of the utmost importance to him. When Jim was working at his painting she rarely left his side. Her hobbies, friends and school life were as much a part of his life as her own.


A Kildare man foremost; Jim was an Irishman to his bones. He loved the language, the folklore and the songs. He spoke Irish freely in Brigid's schools Gaelscoil Uí Chéadaigh and Coláiste Ráithín, and to anyone who enjoyed the "cúpla focal".

Jim was very hospitable. His door was always open, and he was a loyal friend. Many people came to him for help and advice, which he gave willingly. He had great insights into people and was the guy to go to in a crisis, steering many through dark nights of the soul.

As well as his passion for art he had a myriad of other interests. He had a wide eclectic taste in music and was quite the HiFi magpie. Jim was in his element when having a good debate on a wide range of topics especially politics!

His head was full of exceptional knowledge – philosophy, science to name but two. A self-proclaimed anarchist, Jim loved politics but believed foremost in the People. He loved election nights; excited as a child at Christmas, he stocked up on tea and sandwiches to pull an all-nighter. Friends said of him that although a provocateur planting seeds in peoples’ minds, he was forever calm and constant.

Jim was playful too, amusing and witty. A lovely singer, he had a beautiful irresistible voice which was rich and resonating. He was often pressed into last-minute speeches which he didn’t seem to mind at all. A maternal man with his Christmas cake, puddings, trifle and marmalade, all were made the only way, the Kildare way.

In the words of Jim's friend Donal O'Shea "Jim will be missed, remembered and loved by those of us lucky enough to spend time in his company. All of us are better for that time spent together. In Newbridge he helped our group to conceive a world of greater wonder through his curiosity, perspectives and most of all through being Jim. We're all better for Jim being among us."

Jim was exceptionally talented at drawing from an early age. As a schoolboy, his fellow students, teachers and friends were enthralled by his talents. In Jim's drawings they could see themselves transformed, as he skilfully blended humour and sarcasm with keen observation that amazed them.


After leaving school Jim studied accountancy and went on to work in Dublin. However, he soon realised accountancy was not for him and headed off to London. He spent some months travelling around Europe where he found his true calling. He returned to Ireland to study Art at the National College of Art and Design, graduating with a B.A. in Fine Art Painting in 1983.

As an artist Jim had a very detailed, meticulously executed realist style. He exhibited in the RHA annual exhibition and group shows in Dublin and Bray to name but a few. He founded the Annual “Signal Open” exhibition, the first of which took place in August 2013.


Jim was a master heraldic artist, painting much sought-after family crests. He was also a skilled designer, turning his hand to painting on glass and mould casting. Heavily involved in community arts, he painted many murals and he also worked on various projects in schools such as Sunbeam House, Marino and Bray School Project. Nothing pleased him more than a bunch of enthusiastic children, some brushes and a few pots of paint!

Jim taught Art at the Bray Institute of Further Education, in Signal Arts Centre and to the Holy Redeemer Active Retirement Group in Bray. He related to all people in the community in a welcoming inclusive way, opening a door into the arts for everyone. He easily overcame any perceptions of the arts as being “exclusive” with his warm-hearted and direct approach.

Jim Morrison’s role in Signal Arts Centre

In 1989 the Artists’ Association of Ireland were promoting the idea of FÁS-funded and artist-led Social Employment Schemes, where artists could work at their own Art and on community arts projects. Jim was the catalyst in the setting up of Signal, because when he saw the opportunity to set up a SES scheme for artists in Bray he acted on it and organised a series of meetings. In 1990 Jim met officials of the Bray Vocational Education Committee with Bray artists Douglas Ross and Brian Maguire, both of whom were members of the Artists’ Association of Ireland. The VEC agreed to act as sponsor to facilitate the establishment of an SES scheme led by artists in Bray, and Signal Arts Centre was founded in 1990 at Albert Walk.

As a founder member and as a long-term member of the board, Jim Morrison’s commitment to Signal Arts Centre was total. He believed that artists needed to be paid and recognised for their work as well as having a secure place in which to work at and develop their art. He often pressed these points. He kept a watchful eye on Signal, visiting the centre regularly, and over cups of tea he championed Signal’s artistic aims and cultivated the social life of the centre. He steered Signal on a steady course through all its important developments and was helped greatly in his work for Signal by his late friend, fellow artist and Signal Board member Noel Cleary.

Because of Jim’s training as an accountant he understood about long-term budgeting and organised the purchase of the building on Albert Avenue which was important in keeping Signal afloat. He knew how to negotiate with State agencies so that the centre was adequately funded but not swamped by bureaucracy. He was also politically savvy and knew how to put pressure on local politicians. For example, when the SES (FÁS) schemes were being dismantled countrywide around 2003, he started a local campaign in Bray. In a highly unusual way and against all the odds, the scheme continued. A senior FÁS official confided to Jim "Well you know how it is Mr. Morrison, the squeaky wheel gets the grease."

Jim Morrison was the bedrock upon which Signal flourished over the course of nearly three decades. He planted the seeds of an arts community. He gathered people around him who believed in creating a centre where artists could work at and develop their own work, and which would also act as a resource making the arts more accessible to the wider community. This inclusive view mirrored his politics. The best thing that all Jim’s friends could do to safeguard his legacy would be to support the development of Signal as an artist-focussed arts centre in Bray.

Jim Morrison was one of a kind; a truly singular man. A man who is sadly missed by his daughter Brigid, his family, many friends, fellow artists and many among the wider Bray community.

Many thanks to Jim's friend Johnny Hughes for putting together this memoir.

Contributors: Michelle Fullam, Oona McFarland, Clare Stephens, Marcia Nicholson, Aoife Fitzgerald, Conleth Gent, Maeve Stafford and Donal O'Shea.

A special thanks to Brigid Morrison for sharing her memories of her loving father which helped greatly in the writing of this memoir.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

(People live in each other’s shadows. i.e. no person is an island)







    Web Page by James Nolan - Signal April 2015 - May 2018 - 'Rest easy Jim'