Part 2. In Memory of sportsman ‘Gentle Giant’ Fred Kempster, who played football, cricket and darts. Died 1918, aged 29.
FRED Kempster, former goalkeeper, darts and cricket enthusiast, became great pals with a girl, whose dad was the owner of a Ford car.
With the hood down, Fred was able to relax in the back of the car, during leisurely cruises around the villages. A Mr Bathe recollected: “I remember the car rides.
“Mr Lawes putting the hood down, so that Fred could sit up-straight.”
A basket maker by occupation, it dawned on Fred that he could make a lot of more money – being a ‘giant’.
And, in the ‘Parade of Giants’ that formed part of George V’s 1911 Coronation celebrations in London, Fred was the star attraction
Fred, who could light cigars, from a street lamp!, became a ‘professional giant’ performing in circuses, deemed freaks, among their acts, in the early 20th Century.
Fred was in Germany in 1914 -starring in a circus with 8ft German giantess, Brunhilde, when war broke out.
In 1917, during the height of the Great War, it is claimed negotiations for two German dwarfs – both under 2ft – were to be returned to the Fatherland from Britain, in exchange for Fred.
The New York Times in September, 1914, reported: “Teddy Bobs was last heard of in Essen. He has an enormous appetite and is expected to aid his country, by reducing Germany’s food bank.”
In the Daily Mail in September, 1914, they reported Fred was in Germany, as a member of a touring theatrical company.
“With us were a giantess, midgets and a legless dwarf. We played cards and dominoes, and occasionally the police lieutenant brought his wife and children to see us,” said Fred.
After a month they were released and made their way home, via Holland. The reason they were allowed to go, said Fred: “Was our inability to bear arms.”
Fred, who wore size 22 1/2 boots, continued on the circus circuit, touring Britain in 1917, in Blackburn.
It was while in Lancashire, Fred contracted flu, which developed into pneumonia.
It took eight men to lift him from his hotel bed and convey him to an ambulance, in a fire brigade jump sheet.
In the ambulance, Fred had to lie with his knees drawn-up – so they could shut the door.
The hospital corridor wasn’t wide enough, so he was lifted up the fire escape – by an army of porters – before being tipped onto two connecting beds.
Tragically, Fred died on April 15, 1918, aged 29.
It was while in Blackburn hospital Fred ate all the Ward’s dinner one day, after the food trolley was left at the side of his bed, mistakenly thinking it was for himself!
Fred was placed in a solid oak coffin, 9ft long and 20in deep.
It took ten men to lower it down into a grave, which involved the excavation of ten tons of soil.
Fred Kempster’s gravestone, reads: ‘Fred a likeable, kind hearted chap who coped well with his affliction – The British Giant’.