Remembering Canadian man who fell in love with Suffolk
- Credit: Family of Frederick Henry Atkinson
A Canadian man who made a home for himself in the Suffolk countryside has died on his birthday, aged 85.
While he spent most of his life on the other side of the world, there remained a special place for Suffolk in Frederick Henry Atkinson’s heart, after he emigrated to our sleepy corner of the world in 1995, becoming a popular manager at the Red House pub in Stanningfield.
He was known for his cheeky, mischievous nature, and was full of stories – such as the time he got to be an extra in an episode of ‘The X-Files,' which just so happened to include a scene set in a pub.
Born in the bustling city of Montreal, Fred was the youngest child and only son of British parents. His father, Frederick Atkinson, was from St Pancras in London, while his mother, Irene Atwill, hailed from Portsmouth.
Both had emigrated during the 1910s, before meeting and marrying in 1927. Daughters Doris and Vera soon arrived, before Fred came along in 1937, completing the family.
Fred spent his childhood in Montreal and Saint Lambert, in Quebec, a French-speaking province of Canada, where he enjoyed an active childhood, and was very happy as a member of the Boy Scouts.
As an adult, Fred lived in various parts of Canada, moving first to Calgary, then to British Columbia, before settling down in Richmond to raise a family with his wife, Karen. The couple went on to have three children, Kelly, Jason and Brandi.
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Much of his working life was spent in the shipping industry in Vancouver, which was how he came to be involved in the Solidarity crisis which hit Poland in the 1980s.
Solidarity was a Polish trade union that was founded in 1980, a significant event as this was the first independent labour union to be established in a country part of the then-Soviet bloc, countries which were heavily controlled by the former Soviet Union, and the government did all they could to suppress the movement.
Fred looked back at this time with pride, as he, and others in the shipping community, did all they could to assist the stranded Polish sailors, who were caught between the union and the might of the Polish military.
Fred himself went above and beyond to help, and even opened the doors to the Atkinson home to one such sailor, Eugene. Eugene would remain with the family for a number of years, and Fred helped him to establish himself in Canada. Eugene was later joined by his wife and daughters.
In 1995, Fred obtained his British citizenship, and set sail for England, having retired from the shipping industry.
His friends, Tom and Lindsay Anderson, had relocated to Suffolk earlier that year. Fred was very close with them, and godfather to their first daughter.
After time spent first in Suffolk, then in Norfolk, Fred settled in the village of Stanningfield in West Suffolk, where he managed the Red House pub.
In his family’s words, Fred “quickly fell in love with the people and lifestyle of the English countryside.” The locals warmed to his Canadian charm, and he made many lifelong friends during his time here.
Sadly, poor health forced Fred to leave Suffolk sooner than he would have liked, and he returned to Victoria on the West Coast, where he became well known for racing about town on his scooter.
Fred’s cheerful attitude prevailed despite his health concerns, and he was a much-loved presence in his local pub - “his second home,” as his family called it.
The last few years of Fred’s life were spent at the Sunset Lodge residential home, where he was, his family say, “caught on more than one occasion trying to stockpile ‘beverages’ in his room.”
Fred died peacefully on his birthday, February 18, aged 85.
He is survived by his children, Kelly, Jason and Brandi, and grandchildren, Jaden and Mae.