President of The Sole Society
By Tony and Maureen Storey
This article was published in the December 2014 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
Most of us came to know Fred through The Sole Society, but to think of him only in regard to his achievements in family history would lead to a merely one-dimensional view of a multi-faceted man.
Fred was born and brought up in the fenland town of Whittlesey, about 6 miles east of Peterborough. He never knew his father, who died 5 months before Fred was born, and the dominant influences in his early life were his mother and grandmother.
On leaving school Fred became an apprentice with the International Tea Company, which ran a grocery shop in Whittlesey. He joined the Army Cadet Force and when trying out for the cadet band he discovered that he had a talent for drumming. Music was to become one of the lasting passions of his life. As well as playing with the cadets, Fred and some friends formed a dance band, which toured the local halls.
Fred left the army cadets in late 1944 and early the following year joined the Black Watch. He was sent to Northern Ireland for basic training, impressing his superiors to the extent that at the end of the course he became an instructor. Reorganisation of the army at the end of the war led to Fred becoming became a stores clerk, a job that left him with time to join his unit’s dance band.
After he was demobbed in 1948 Fred worked in the motor supplies trade for several years, playing in dance bands at weekends. It was during this period that he met June Thompson. The couple married on 3 Oct 1953 and their first child, Christine, was born just over a year later.
Family life meant that Fred’s drumming activities were curtailed and in September 1954 he rented a small shop in Whittlesey. Fred and his friend John Lofts started a bicycle sales and repair business in the shop, while he and June set up home in the flat above. John worked in the shop during the day, and Fred did the paperwork and generally helped out in his spare time.
In 1957, Fred joined the Post Office, a step which he later described as the turning point of his working life. His potential was soon spotted by the Whittlesey postmaster but the resultant promotion meant that Fred and his family had to move to Evesham. They stayed in Worcestershire for 8 years, during which time sons Martin and David were born, and Fred was elected Branch Secretary and then District Officer of the Union of Post Office Workers.
In 1968 a major reorganisation of the Post Office resulted in Fred moving back to Peterborough, where his duties included training sub-postmasters and auditing sub-post offices.
In 1970 he transferred to Post Office Telephones, where his role was to advise businesses on telecommunications systems. This was a job that Fred thoroughly enjoyed. However, he became disillusioned after the privatisation of British Telecom and when the opportunity for early retirement arose in 1984 he gratefully took it.
During his retirement Fred and June became interested in family history. Fred had little difficulty in tracing his Sole family back to a William Sole, who became a Chelsea Pensioner in 1813 after having served with the 30th Regiment of Foot, but was unable to get back any further. It was his efforts to find William’s birth that led to him meeting Don Steel, who was also researching a Sole family. Fred was thinking of setting up a Sole one-name study, but Don suggested that instead they should set up a one-name society and in 1991 The Sole Society came into being. Although very much involved with the Society in its first few years, by 1996 ill-health meant that Fred had to take more of a back seat, although he continued to attend as many Society meetings as possible and maintained an active interest in its progress. However, handing over his Sole Society responsibilities had left the irrepressible Fred with time on his hands and his response was to start a one-name study for his mother’s family, the Overalls.
Above all, Fred was a family man and he and June celebrated their golden wedding in 2013 with a party for family and friends, and a card from the Queen.
The Sole Society owes its existence to Fred’s hard work and attention to detail. Always helpful and generous with his time, Fred earned the affection and respect of all who knew him. He is sadly missed and will be long remembered.
Ed: An article Fred wrote for the Sole Society journal in 1993 detailing his family is reproduced on page 24 along with an update on more recent research he has conducted taking his family back to the 1500s. We have also been enjoying ‘Fred’s Memory Rambles’ which has been serialised in the journal over the last few issues. The next instalment will be in the April issue.