FAMILY ROOTS: The man who could play any instrument

MUSIC MAN: How the Northern Daily Mail reported the achievements of Hartlepool musician Fred Hill in 1957
MUSIC MAN: How the Northern Daily Mail reported the achievements of Hartlepool musician Fred Hill in 1957

ANYONE who is the founder of an orchestra must have quite a talent.

Fred Hill went further and founded two in Hartlepool, including one which kept going for decades after he started it.

Fred set up the Hartlepool Symphony Orchestra which eventually disbanded and then the West Hartlepool Grammar School Orchestra which was even more popular.

Our report from 1957 said: “He is known as a man of many parts. Not only is he an accomplished pianist and organist, there are few instruments he can not play and does not possess.

“In a spacious music room at his Stockton Road home, there are two pianos, numerous other instruments and a cabinet crammed with hundreds of pieces of music.”

He had an interesting way of teaching the children at the grammar school orchestra. He would learn to play every musical instrument involved in each piece himself before he imparted his knowledge onto the students.

But it was not just children that he taught.

At the time of our 1957 interview, he was also the conductor of Durham County Constabulary Male Voice Choir which gave concerts all over the county including Hartlepool.

He was also conductor and former secretary of the Hartlepools String Orchestra for many years. We are sure there are people out there who will remember him.

Get in touch.

His links with the law came through his role as a special constable which saw him do duties such as traffic matters, and road safety quizzes.

Founding orchestras were not his only forte. He also composed the Elwick Road School song which decades of Hartlepool families sung.

And he was the organist at both St Aidan’s and Stranton Churches and deputised as an organist at St Paul’s and St Luke’s when the need arose.

It was quite apt that we reported on his achievements as he was also the music critic for the Northern Daily Mail for a while.

He was born in Leeds but came to Hartlepool as a small child. His earliest music lessons at Elwick Road school - the same place where he would teach later. Our report at the time said: “Mr Hill recalls with a smile that his father would sit by his side at the piano, watch in hand, to ensure that not one minute’s practice time was lost.”

He was a student teacher at Lister Street School, went to Durham University and taught for four years at Elwick Road before he became music master at the grammar school. He then became headmaster of Seaton School and was still holding the post in 1957.

In a long and varied career, he taught everything from maths to music for children from infants to sixth formers.

We would love to hear from people who can tell us more about this man of music. Get in touch with your memories and how Fred influenced your life. Contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk