Fred Broadhurst: 5 February 1928 - 1 October 2009
Frederick Munro Broadhurst, always known as Fred, was born in Withington, Manchester, an only child for parents May and Fred. Fred spent his childhood and early adulthood in Burnage where he attended the local primary school, known as The Acacias and later in 1939, the William Hulme School.
In 1946, at the age of 18, Fred volunteered to become a ‘Bevin Boy’ at Bradford Colliery in east Manchester. Working underground, managing the coal trucks and transport of the coal to the surface, inspired his love of geology (especially the Coal Measures.) He decided to further his education and whilst working down the pit he attended day release and night school at Stockport College, studying science subjects to enable him to gain entry to university to study geology full time. In 1948 he left the pit and with the help of the ex-serviceman’s grant, he attended Manchester University to study geology.
In 1951 Fred graduated with a First Class Honours degree and became an Assistant Lecturer, then soon after a Lecturer, going on to gain his MSc in 1953 and his PhD in 1956. He subsequently became a Senior Lecturer, and PhD supervisor.
One highlight of Fred’s career was the discovery in 1960 of the near-complete skeleton of a 14ft plesiosaur. The remains were found at Ravenscar (Alum Shales of the Upper Lias) on a field trip with his students and caused great excitement at the time. Later, Fred returned with his students and spent ten days excavating the reptile. For many years it was displayed in a large purpose-built showcase outside the Geology Departmental library (1970-90), and is now in the Manchester Museum.
Over thirty years ago I arranged for Fred's rough sketch of the plesiosaur (with baby added!) to be used on the Association card. It is now the Association's logo. At the time many knew of the logo's origin although unfortunately no official note was made. So it is appropriate that MGA members, should be told or reminded of the origin of their logo. It's Fred's!
Hundreds if not thousands of people all over our region knew Fred from his wonderful WEA, Extra-Mural (later CCE) and Wimslow Guild classes, day courses, field excursions and visits abroad. You could not meet any person interested in geology who did not know Fred. His passing leaves a gap that will never be filled. The success of his teaching was a result of his boundless enthusiasm for his subject, his patience and courtesy in dealing with everyone he met and how he made those with little knowledge of the subject feel just as important as the knowledgeable ones, so that no-one felt left out. I spent most of my career in liberal adult education and I can say that Fred was the greatest adult educator I ever met. I have never known a person so universally appreciated and admired. So, how appropriate that in 2000 he should receive a national award as Adult Tutor of the Year in North West England at the 'Dome' in London.
Fred also contributed greatly to the summer school held at Bangor University which was held jointly by the WEA and the Extra-Mural Department each year. Ian Foster and Fred worked together to deliver a weekend course there as recently as 1996, combining their specialities as ‘Rocks and Rails’.
In 1990, Fred retired from Manchester University to concentrate on his work with the WEA and CCE lecturing at many day and night classes and organizing foreign geological trips with the Wilmslow Guild. With Paul Selden, he was leader and guide writer for visits to places such as Norway, the western USA and New Zealand (1993-2000). The work involved in the academic preparation and infrastructure of each course was immense, but the huge ability and attention to detail of Fred and Paul ensured some memorable trips.
A 'professional' appreciation of Fred and his career will appear elsewhere. Suffice to say that he published over 50 articles often in association with other eminent geologists and in journals of international repute. In 1982, he was awarded the prestigious John Phillips Medal of Yorkshire Geological Society for major contributions to our knowledge of the geology of Northern England, and later was awarded the Silver Medal of Liverpool Geological Society. Despite his academic eminence, it was very easy to discuss with him any aspect of the subject. But members will more likely know of his more general writing - the popular 'Rocky Rambles in the Peak District' (which brought out his skill as an illustrator), the guide to the building stones of the Trafford Centre, and the recent superb revision of the 'Guide to the Building Stones of Central Manchester (with Morven Simpson).This last book, first published in 1975, was a pioneer in opening a new field in the teaching of geology, and over the next few years a plethora of town and city guides for the UK appeared. The work involved in drawing up these guides shows Fred at his best (along with Morven), tracking down architects and stone masons and discovering the names of the often unusual rock types. Such work could involve delicate negotiation (eg arranging with management for students to be allowed to crawl around the floors of the Trafford Centre!), something that Fred was excellent at.
I first met Fred just forty years ago leading a geology trail in Lyme Park, and I still have my notes. Over the succeeding years we met many times and I benefited so much from his knowledge and expertise imparted with much generosity; always up to date, of course, with the latest developments and theories, and this continued into his 'retirement'. The last walk I went with him was with the MGA group at Styal in July 2009. It lasted an hour and a half, with Fred going at his usual 150mph. At the end when we were all looking forward to a cup of tea, Fred said he must be off to take a second group around. What more can one say?
He had a lovely sense of humour. My favourite example (worth repeating for those who may not already know of it) was when we were in Dublin, thirty years ago, with the Palaeontological Association. We both came across a bus stop sign which said – 'The following buses do not stop here'. We both fell about laughing and took a slide each. No doubt his will still be there among the many thousand others. What a treasure trove there must be amongst those?
It's only a few months ago since we were emailing each other about re-arranging his talk to the New Mills Local History Society ('New Mills 300m years ago' !) and getting down to finishing a trail on the Torrs gorge. What is shocking is that such a seemingly indestructible person should be taken so quickly in this way. When we lose someone like Fred, it reminds us all of our own mortality.
Despite his enormous commitments, Fred was a wonderful family man. Having met Rosemary at a University Union dance, they married in 1958, and had a son and daugher. Now, there are also four grandchildren. Fred took great delight in his children and grandchildren and had a fantastic relationship with them. He had a real love of mountains and walking in the Peak District and as a family they all loved it too, and this continued until summer of this year when he started to feel poorly. At the wonderfully simple ceremony, the grandchildren each gave a moving appreciation of their 'inspirational' grandfather. His presence will be missed but the 'Fred Effect' will pass on for generations to come.
Derek Brumhead PhD OBE (MGA Archivist)