Fred Mortimer

Fred Mortimer   Conductor

Born 22nd Nov 1880    Died  20th June 1953

On the 17th of December 1924 Tom Hynes the Bandmaster and conductor of Foden's resigned after ten year’s in charge of the band. By Christmas that year Fred Mortimer was spending his time flitting between conducting the Luton Band and to Sandbach where the Foden family had purchased a house for Mr Mortimer and his family to reside in. The house in Clifton Road housed Fred, his wife Sarah, their sons Alex and Rex along with their sisters Marion, Nellie and Louise.

At first the Foden band resented the fact that they hadn't been consulted about the appointment of their new conductor or the way the departure of Tom Hynes had been dealt with but after a while they came to respect the whole Mortimer family and the band moved into a new fruitful era.

Fred had been born on the 22nd of November 1880 (St Cecilia’s Day, the Patron Saint of Musicians) at HebdenBridge, Yorkshire. He learnt to play the cornet at home along with his father who at the time was playing the Baritone with the Wyke Temperance band. Fred would listen not only to his Fathers band but also the Black Dyke Mills band and paid particular attention to conductor, John Gladney.

Aged 17 Fred started conducting the Hebden Bridge Band leaning the trade from William Rimmer.

At the age of 21 Fred became bandmaster of the band.

Fred Married Sarah Midgeley a ‘mender’ in a Fustian mill (Which made corduroy) where by 1902 Fred was a corduroy maker in the same mill in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire and his first son Harry Mortimer was born. Fred’s job at the mill involved walking a mile a day up and down a long shed making the ridges in the cloth.

In 1911 Fred Mortimer decided to take a job with the Luton Red Cross Band taking his family with him.

In 1923 the Luton Red Cross Band won the National Championship with the tune “Oliver Cromwell” after which the Mortimer’s named their house.

In 1924 Fred’s son Alex made the move to Sandbach and the Foden Motor Works Band with his father and the rest of the family following on some months later.

After his appointment in December 1924 with Fodens, Fred made his debut with the Band at the Victoria Hall, Hanley on the 11 January 1925, along with the Potteries Choral Society. This was followed three weeks later with a concert at SandbachTown Hall.

Fred and Sarah moved into Clifton Road in 1924 along with Harry when he came to join the band, with Harry staying until 1927 when he married Annie Bullock.

Fred became known as the “Wizard of the Baton” and by his two sons he was affectionately given the name “The Wagabond King”. 

Rehearsals with Fodens were overseen by E.R Foden who sat in the background behind a cloud of cigar smoke. In would walk Fred Mortimer at the appointed time, having previously arranged with the librarian what they were going to rehearse. He would then walk up to the rostrum and give a peremptory rap on it with his baton and the band would strike up the first note on cue not having spent any time greeting the band members.

If a member of the band played a wrong note the offending player was awarded an ancient putty medal.

The style of the band changed with Fred’s influence moving from the Marching band sound to a more orchestral or symphonic sound which other bands soon started to copy.

The announcement about Fred's death was made while the band were playing in London along with Rex and Harry Mortimer his son's. The band were playing in a set of concerts at Hyde Park, London as part of the Queen's Coronation celebrations and it was while they were there that the news came through of Fred’s death. Principal Cornet player Teddy (Ted) Gray had to find a replacement conductor for the rest of the days concerts as Harry (Conductor) and his brother (Rex - Bandmaster) returned home to console their mother. The immediate stop gap was Bob Shepley the 3rd Cornet player in the band.


Stewart Green

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