Fred Matthias 1933 - 2004 by Alan Whalley
MUSICAL legend Fred Matthias has died, aged 74, after a brave and prolonged battle with increasingly painful and debilitating illness. But the spirit of the former Royal Marines bandsman will live on among several generations of local musicians who came under his expert tuition.
As recently as last year, Fred still had four local school bands under his baton - representing the latest in a succession of youngsters who first learned how to purse lips on mouthpieces of brass and silver instruments as Fred lent an educated ear and dispensed advice in his quiet, measured way.
Fred was brought up in the Daubhill district of Bolton but always regarded St Helens, where he had lived for decades, as his real home. And St Helens, especially within its social and musical circles, was a grateful beneficiary.
Always keen to unearth, nurture and promote the musically gifted, bachelor Fred selflessly volunteered his services with judging panels at countless talent shows, including Theatre Royal events and the St Helens Star's own youth competitions, culminating in on-stage appearances at the St Helens Town Show.
Fred, from Stainton Close, Moss Bank, was also well known for his weekly Band Call column which appeared in the St Helens Star for a number of years
Many will recall seeing Fred - of the clipped military moustache and shock of swept-back hair - immaculately attired and with baton skilfully whisking the air as his St Helens Concert Band performed at various local functions. These included legendary charity garden parties staged by the late Lady Mavis Pilkington, and various fetes, parades and concerts held in and around St Helens.
Chairman of St Helens Concert Band, John Henderson said: "This is most certainly the end of an era now that Fred has gone. He was a real character, who had a hand in everything."
Recognition of his musical talent led to a Europe-wide network of friends whom he used to regularly visit up to recent times. But St Helens was his real oyster and Fred was especially proud to be closely associated with the Citadel arts centre and with local ex-Servicemen's groups who benefited from his enthusiasm and organisational skills.
Fred Matthias' tune may have ended...but the melody still lingers on.