Uncle Fred

Uncle Fred

Meet my (Great) Uncle Fred.

Uncle Fred was born 100 years ago today. He had a birthday card from my mate the Queen to prove it. He's an amazing old man.

Fred has lived his entire life in the town I grew up in: Bromborough on the Wirral. Only it wasn't really that much of a town when Fred was born: he was brought up in a house with a mud floor, which apparently wasn't all that unusual.

Fred once told me about a young lad who went to the local grammar school many years ago. He was a bit of a trouble-maker, having a reputation for making people fall off their bicycles by shoving sticks through their spokes. The young lad's name was Harold Wilson. They always knew he'd turn into a bad 'un.

Fred also told me how he and a friend used to go fishing by placing calcium carbide from their carbide bicycle lamps into pop bottles. They would weigh the bottles down then throw them (uncorked) into local ponds. This would cause a small explosion which would stun the fish, which would then float to the surface.

During the Second World War, Fred was in the Home Guard. He spent many a night on guard duty in a bunker next to the first green at Bromborough Golf Course. It was from here that, one night, he saw German bombers flying over to bomb Liverpool.

Throughout his working life, Fred was a plumber. This gave him incredibly strong hands. When I was a kid, he would offer me his hand and let me try to crush it—which I never could, of course—then he would give me a gentle squeeze back, and I would recoil in agony.

We shook hands again today, and Fred gave my hand another gentle squeeze. It still hurt. I told him that I hoped I would make it to 100 one day. "It's not the years that are important; it's what you do with them," replied Fred.

Wise man.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. I play guitar & sing at our local psychiatric hospital: People of all ages come & join in. One night, an elderly man (looking not unlike your uncle) spent the whole evening talking over me & interrupting, much to the annoyance of the others.
    At one point he announced 'I'm 83'. I could have answered in many ways, but what lead me to reply 'not long now then!' I will never know. Pins could be heard dropping all round the room.
    Strangely enough, the following night we were called to attend an incident where an old man had dropped dead with a heart attack. Stranger still...it wasn't the same man!! & that's how the zebra got its spots!

  2. Holy crap, this is truly spooky: I am very fond of telling the story of how, when I was at university in 1985, I had a sudden premonition that something had happened to Uncle Fred's wife (my Great Aunt Lucy). So convinced was I that something had happened that I rang home…

    She was absolutely fine.

    You seldom hear premonition stories that turned out to be wrong because they're just not interesting. Which is one reason why so many people believe in mumbo-jumbo.

  3. Richard, my dear boy: stating 'that's how the zebra got its spots' is similar to the expression 'that's as true as I am sitting here on this camel'. Meaning that the preceeding statement is a bare faced lie. (assuming, of course that there are no camels present at the time of writing, and that if there was, one was not actually sitting on it!).
    I love reading patient notes (just as well, really. Got lots of 'em here)
    A colleague of mine once wrote...'in the bath at time of writing'. & then added in brackets 'the patient, that is'

  4. My absolute favourite was 'The patient refused an autopsy'!
    The image that cunjours up is priceless.

  5. Nite Owl - sarcasm is wasted on Richard - or was his reply ultra-sarcastic?

    Wait a minute - "Uncle Fred's wife (my Great Aunt Lucy)" - have you just let the family Oedipus complex out of the bag, Richard? Although I suppose Fred could have married a brother or sister-in-law's Aunt Lucy, but I'm curious just how inbred the Wirral Carter's are.

    My paternal grandfather died a few years ago aged 93, and I was talking to my maternal Great Aunty Mary (now aged 98) at the funeral and was astonished to learn they had dated briefly while teenagers. That probably says something about the small ex-pat Irish commune up in the Pennines where I grew up.

  6. Leo, if you read the first sentence of my article very carefully, you'll find that Uncle Fred is actually my great uncle. A small ex-pat Irish commune up in the Pennines, eh? Sounds like Jen's family. And, no, I wasn't being sarcastic; it was using my dry wit.

  7. Leo - as I am sure you are well aware, the definition of a virgin in the Wirral is a girl who can run faster than her (great) uncle!

  8. I'm from Consett, Co. Durham - where all the virgins have an annual meeting in a phone box.

  9. Apparently, they're going to use the same box for the Gruts contributors convention this year.....Meow!

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