‘I was born in the North-East of England, in the far north, within hearing distance of the bells of Durham Cathedral. My father, who was a miner, worked in a small colliery a few miles out of Durham. I always think I had the best of three worlds: the world of the pit village with its strikes, lockouts, evictions and accidents, and the warm company of a close-knit neighbourly community; the world of the beautiful medieval city of Durham, where I went to school, a city of fine architecture and novel traditions of piety and erudition; and the world of the austerely beautiful and unspoilt countryside that encircled the colliery village, merging into the lonely dales to the west and the borderland moors of Northumberland to the north.’
Fred graduated with a first in English from King’s College, London, qualified as a teacher from Hatfield College, Durham and was teaching English at a grammar school in Wingate when he was called up into the RAF and posted as an aircraftsman to a small mobile radar unit in North Africa. War’s Nomads is a unique contemporaneous account of life as a mobile radar operator in 1942 -3 during the Western Desert Campaign. Fred spent the rest of the war as an officer in the Education Corps based at Eastleigh near Nairobi.
In 1946 Fred and his family moved south to enable him to take up a post as Lecturer in English at the newly-established Worcester Emergency Teacher Training College (now University of Worcester). By the time he retired he was Head of English, was a popular extramural lecturer, a well-known poet and author of 20 children’s books, the best known of which is The Bonny Pit Laddie. In retirement he developed a research interest in the diarist Francis Kilvert which culminated in the publication of Francis Kilvert and his World shortly before Fred’s sudden death. A prolific diarist himself, Fred was preparing a memoir drawn from his own diaries; his selections form the basis of the two books edited by his daughter and son-in-law, War’s Nomads and The Handkerchief Tree.
The Bonny Pit Laddie was runner-up for the Carnegie Medal in 1961.
The Bonny Pit Laddie, which had been translated into German, was chosen by the Austrian Ministry for Education to be included in the Honours List for Children’s Literature in 1968.
Fred was the winner of The Other Award for the body of his children’s work in 1977.