Fred was the first child of Willie Tony Clarke (1892-1955) and Ethel Mary (Queenie) Haskins (1896-1968).
Fred was born 13 months before the end of WWI, at his grandparents' home at 4 Cleveland Road, Southsea, probably with the help of a midwife. We think that his father Willie Tony was a Sergeant in the Hampshire Regiment 3rd (Training) Battalion and stationed not far away. But there are a lot of things about Willie Tony we're not quite sure about. Anyway, we assume Fred's mother Queenie was there.
He attended Bramble Road school, a 200 yd walk away, then St. Judes' Marmion Rd at age 8-9 (which had big impact on the rest of his life), and New Rd, Copnor at age 12-14. His best subject was Art and handicraft. Tony remembers that one of the few trips they had from school was around historic Old Porstmouth with a composition required naturally afterwards. Fred and 'Gussy' White who was also good at sketching did produce some views from the walk.
At 13, after watching the Schneider Trophy Race from the Southsea waterfront in September 1931, Fred made a small model from a block of wood of the winner. (That was the Supermarine S6.B, the embryo "Spitfire").
Until his voice broke he was a choir boy in St. Judes' Church at the end of Marmion Rd. Opposite the school was a church building with a billiard table, table tennis and various games including 'shove ha'penny'. Fred made one that he and Tony played on at home. The Club was turned over to the Bible Class who ran it every night. Fred made wooden shields around a foot or so for play-offs with the winners painted in around the edges. All very professional looking.
The Club ran football and cricket teams in a Saturday League and with public courts available arranged tennis during the long summer evenings. Fred played centre-half (the old 'W' formation--5 forwards as the 'W', 3 half backs and 2 backs). He batted left-handed and bowled right-handed - or was it the other way. It was at this time he suffered a bitter disappointment. He had been picked to play at Fratton Park, where all our Pompey heroes played, but due to one of his accidents had to drop out.
It was the Depression, and Fred left school as soon as he could. 15 was nominally the earliest allowed age; so this occurred not before 16 Oct 1932. He went into ticket-writing initially (back then, there were hand-written price-signs in Department stores).
Fred and May met in their mid-teens through 'Bible Class' at St Judes c. 1932. They stayed together whereas most people swapped around (then as now).
Fred (cello), May (piano) and his younger brother Tony (who says he was a poor violinist) amused themselves at home as a trio, and occasionally a very good violinist came to make a more successful quartet. Tony can recall trying to scrape out the second fiddle part of the first movement of 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik'.
Fred was 'damaged', first playing soccer, and then wicket-keeping. It was a finger-injury, on the hand that he needed for ticket-writing, so he got pushed out of his ticket-writing apprenticeship. So he switched to sign-writing. (Did the brush need less dexterity in the fingers? Or did the nearly-ambidextrous Fred pretend he was a right-hander for a while?). Tony remembers riding past a sign Fred did over a greengrocer's shop in Albert Rd on the way to St Jude's (c. 1934?). It had flowers one end in a little triangle, and the name in the middle, and vegetables in a little triangle on the other end.
Tony watched how he did it one day (a Wednesday afternoon half-day? Saturday? Tony left school at 15, at the beginning of 1935, so maybe he was still at school when he saw this). Fred roughly chalked the letters out along the sign. But he didn't bother to correct the chalk to get the sizing right. He simply painted the letters slightly wider as he went along, to balance it out by the end. Then the sign-writer packed up and retired, ignoring the fact that he had a part-completed apprentice depending on him.
So Fred went into the building trade (c. 1936?). Then his employer went bankrupt. Although (showing that things haven't changed all that much in the last 70 years) apparently all the money was in his wife's name, so they were alright after all. (Maybe that's where the idea of a superannuation fund came from). By this stage (1937-38, at 20?), Fred may have been starting to get a bit of a chip on his shoulder about things not quite working out.
Then he went to the Dockyards. Finally, the job and the employer lasted long enough that he actually got a trade qualification, as a cabinet-maker.
Fred married Mabel (May) De Prose in early 1939. She was born many, many miles away, well maybe 10 (at Hamble SE of Southampton?) on 7 May 1918. Fred's younger brother Tony was Best Man. They moved to Grayshott Rd, very close to Pompey's home ground, Fratton Park. Then again, everything in Southsea/Fratton, and even as far as The Dockyards is within a long walk / short cycle. (The satellite image of HMS Victory is quite remarkable).
Things were looking up. So along came Mr Hitler.
Fred was refused permission to enlist because he was in a prescribed category of employment. (The Portsmouth Dockyards were the single most important set of workshops in the entire RN, and the battleship HMS Hood was in the midst of being re-fitted. He could easily have been on it in May 1940, when the Bismarck sank it off Iceland with all but a handful of the 1,000 on board lost).
Tony was home on leave with his parents at 69 Hayling Avenue, after Dunkirk (Apr-May 1940) and before he was shipped to North Africa in Dec 1940. (See Tony's WWII Timeline). There was a big afternoon raid on the Dockyards on the Saturday of that week (Sep/Oct 1940?). In daylight. There wasn't much of RAF Fighter Command left at that stage.
After Tony and the rest of the family came out of the air-raid shelter in Hayling Ave (towards the far end of the island), he rode across to Grayshott Rd to check how May was. While Tony was there, Fred came in, looking bedraggled and with blood on him. He'd been in one air-raid shelter in the Dockyards, and another one had been hit. It was the one that his Dad, Willy Tony, was normally in. As he helped drag people (and presumably bodies) out, he wasn't sure whether the next one he found might be his father. In fact, it was Willy Tony's Saturday off (1 in 4), so he'd been at Hayling Ave. Tony went back to duty 7km outside Cardiff, protecting the city from an imaginary landing by Germans on the west coast of Wales, thinking it was a lot safer there than it was at home in Portsmouth. Fred kept working in the Dockyards, nursing his frustration.
Michael was born in 1941, and Anne in 1944.
On 29 Jan 1948, Fred, May and the two children sailed from Tilbury on the Orient Line's Ormonde, and migrated to Kingaroy in South Queensland, where they were to spend the next 40 years.
Fred worked as a builder, and a cabinet-maker, and at one stage ran a grocery store (where Roger remembers 'breaking bulk' during a visit, i.e. packing 2lb bags of sugar and suchlike from sacks). At one stage, Fred made what turned out to be an unfortunate investment in a chicken-raising business.
While Fred's brother Tony and his wife Rene were living in Kingaroy (1951-54), they sang as a quartet, with Rene (sop.), Fred (bass), Tony (tenor) and May (con.). May transposed down while playing and singing, to help Tony's range (because, although he was a very accomplished singer, he was actually a baritone). Tony says they enjoyed a singsong and even sang in a local concert.
May was a prominent music-teacher, and was awarded the MBE. Both were active in music throughout their lives, and May continues to play the piano (in public as well as for pleasure).
Tony says that May's Dad was a good bowler and May picked up his skill and often came home with little trophies (china ornaments, he recalls).
They had Paul in 1953, and Peter in 1954. Grandchildren began raining down from 1966 onwards.
(In the late 1980s?), they retired to Maryborough, then Bundaberg (until after their son Michael's death), and then back to Maryborough. Fred passed away on 30 Jan 2004, at 86.
More information is on May's page.
Their children are listed on their shared entry, and details of their children's families are accessible from there.
This draws very heavily on notes by Fred's brother Edward Anthony (Tony), b. 29 Dec 1919.
This a page within Roger Clarke's Family Web-Site
Contact: Roger Clarke
Created: 4 March 2008; Last Amended: 31 March 2010