by John & Katie Howson
This article in our series of portraits of singers and musicians from East Anglia is written by John and Katie Howson, co-founders of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, who first met singer Hubert Freeman in the 1980s. Hubert died, aged 81, in June 2007, followed only a few days later by his wife, Violet.
Hubert was born in Ashfield in 1925, and moved to Monk Soham as child. At twenty-three he married Violet and moved to Bedingfield where he worked for most of his life as a farm manager.
He came from a family of singers: his father and mother both had songs, as did his uncle ‘Hack’ who used to keep the Bedfield Dog, where Hubert used to sing sometimes, as well as at parties and other social gatherings. He sang One Fine Morning Early in the Spring which his mother used to sing, and in later years made a point of singing the songs he remembered from his old friends, such as The Baby Boy, Do Let Me Have Another One Georgie and The Wireless Song from Gordon Woods of Framsden (See Personal Portrait no. 27). As a younger man, he had often been in the company of the blind cobbler and melodeon player Walter Read from Bedfield and when folksong collector Keith Summers discovered a tape recording of Walter, Hubert asked whether his favourite song was on it. ‘Feeding the ducks on the pond’ was indeed on the recording, and within days of getting a copy, Hubert was regaling us with it.
He had a wicked sense of humour, and was good company on the numerous pub sessions and outings that we shared with him over the last twenty and more years. It wasn’t long before the saucy stories he told became regular features of Old Hat Music Nights at Stradbroke Queen’s Head and other pubs and village halls, and many audiences, once they’d managed to interpret Hubert’s rich accent, will remember him for his tales and jokes.
Abiding memories of Hubert will be when he gamely dressed as a rather lugubrious Father Christmas in an inflatable suit for the EATMT Christmas party a couple of years ago, and also of taking him up to Gateshead with the Old Hat Concert Party in 1990, when two locals were heard to say “That Suffolk chap was good wasn’t he?” “Yes, very funny … couldn’t understand a word!”
Click here for a “Personal Portrait” of the Old Hat Concert Party.
Photos: John Howson