Fred Spencer was in his nineties when he made his last sponsored walk.
It was during the pandemic and the walk consisted of laps up and down the driveway of Richard’s home in Askham to raise money for Martin House Hospice.
His daughter Julie, a magazine editor, called him every day to find out how many laps he had done.
“He would say ‘at least 15!’ she recalled.
It was her dad through it all, Julie said. “He was a live wire – the most important person I ever knew. He never did anything!”
Fred, who died on December 28 aged 97, was chief photographer at the Yorkshire Evening Press for many years – from the late 1950s to the 1970s.
Julie said he was a newspaper man who always carried his beloved Hasselblad camera with him wherever he went.
He photographed the wedding of Catherine Worsley to the Duke of Kent, high under the ceiling of York Cathedral in June 1961. Kodak gave him some early color films especially for the occasion – and the resulting photographs were exhibited in London and even sent to the Queen.
He also photographed many celebrities while working for the Evening Press. When Geoff Boycott scored his hundredth first-class hundred in a Test match against Australia at Headingley on 11 August 1977, Fred was there to capture the occasion.
He photographed the great Louis Armstrong at the Batley Variety Club and singer Bing Crosby at the York Races. Fred placed it on the little steps he always carried with him, and when the people in the crowd realized who the singer was, someone shouted, “Give us a song, Bing.” The singer broke into a rendition of “Where The Blue Of The Night (Meets The Gold Of The Day).”
On another occasion, Fred took a picture of Marcambo and Wise on the banks of the River Ouse in Coney Street. The couple chattered, and Ernie Wise hemmed his pants. A passing policeman recognized Fred, realized what he was doing, and shouted, “You know what you called that man, Fred: the one with the short, fat, hairy legs”!
However, Julie said her father was more than just a photographer: he cared about people.
He was once sent to photograph a Hungarian refugee who had fled the rebellion in his country and come to York. The man was welcomed by the Lord Mayor and other dignitaries. But when they left, he was left standing alone.
Fred asked him what he was going to do next, and the man said he had nowhere to go.
“So Dad took him home – much to Mom’s surprise!” Julie said.
Fred trained a number of talented young photographers at The Press – among them Keith Massey, who went on to become a well-known TV cameraman; legendary Press Association photographer John Giles; and Martin Oates, himself a picture editor at The Press for many years.
Keith made lifelong friends with the man who took him as a student in 1960. And Martin fondly remembered him as a “good boss” who always looked after his staff.
Fred was born in Bradford. He served as RAF ground crew during the war but always wanted to be a photographer. After the war, he began taking photographs on a freelance basis for Bradford’s The Telegraph and Argus – and was soon offered a job.
He married Shipley girl Betty and the couple moved to York in the late 1950s when Fred became chief photographer for the Yorkshire Evening Press. He remained with the paper until he retired, but even then continued to do freelance photography and also worked as the official photographer for York Racecourse.
For many years he and his wife lived in Askham Richard. Betty died a couple of years ago and Fred moved to a nursing home, first in York and then in Wetherby.
He died on December 28, leaving behind a son, David, a daughter, Julie, and two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
His funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church, Askham Richard at 2pm on Wednesday 25th January.