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Fred Buller MBE Tribute - 17/03/16


Frederick Buller MBE



"See that he changes at Templecombe"


Frederick Buller, MBE, researcher, scientist, angler and writer of distinction made his final journey on 16th February 2016. Aged 89, he died peacefully after a long illness and the man who we had come to know as a friend was lost to us.  Thankfully, the legacy he has left to angling  history will undoubtedly endure.  He was Patron of Angling Heritage (UK) which was founded in Fred J. Taylor's memory on the 9th February 2009 and in his generosity, donated the world's first carbon fibre rod to the Trust.


But back to the beginning of our friendship.  Keith and I first met Fred B. after being introduced by Fred J. Taylor, MBE.  On meeting both men, I was fascinated by their history and wanted to preserve some of their memories.  With no previous experience of such a venture and no idea of where it would lead, I persuaded both to allow me to record some of their precious stories and 'The Recollections of Frederick Buller and Fred J. Taylor, MBE' was the result.  (Fred B. was later be awarded an MBE for his services to angling).


On the day of the recording there was much laughter and lots of funny tales which I 'saw' in cartoon form.  Later,  I commissioned the very talented artist, Ted Andrews to produce drawings for inclusion in Recollections I.  My absolute favourite illustration of Fred B's stories is 'See that he changes at Templecombe.' Society has changed so much in the intervening years and such behaviour would now be unthinkable but one must remember that Fred and Fred ('Big Fritz' and 'Little Fritz' - their nicknames for each other) lived in very different times.  It is hoped that those who purchased the special edition of the book will not mind if I quote a short extract which was Fred's response when asked about his school holidays.


"Yes, it was an opening up of a dream world and I remember the very first trip, being taken by my adopted cousins - they were sort of 15 and 16 and I would be seven/eight, and they took me up towards Bryanston Public School water, and all I did was to hang over the side of the boat and see the fish going underneath - shoals of perch; shoals of roach; big chub; here and there a big pike.  As you can imagine, that was the turning point in my life.  From then on every minute of my holiday time was spent on the Dorset Stour.  To such an extent that my parents - they'd get locked up for this these days! - used to take me to the station in London, pin a note to my back: 'See that he changes at Templecombe.'  So I'd get off the train at Templecombe, get on the train to Bournemouth that went through Blandford and an aunt was waiting for me there and I was taken off, and as soon as I got in the house, it was out with the rod and down to the river.  It was paradise!  I've never, never known the like since."


Now, the absolute joy in revisiting the book and recording is being able to hear both men telling their stories and as one enthusiastic listener said of Fred J. "it's like having him in the room.  I so enjoyed hearing him again."  That is the real beauty of oral history and the reason why I believe it is so worthwhile to preserve memories in this way.

On one occasion and some time after the recording, Fred and Margaret visited us at our bookshop, River Reads in Torrington.  He had already donated his favourite fishing hat to my growing collection of hats from the great and good and our son Lee had worn it on our way home after collecting Fred's fantastic cased pike caught from the River Aille.


We had arranged to meet Fred J. and his very good friend Alec Martin at the carrier on the Test once leased by the Moncrieff Rod Development Company a company formed by Leslie Moncrieff and Fred Buller who were later joined by Dick Walker and Fred J. Taylor.  Although not well enough to join in, Fred J. looked on as Keith and Lee fished.  Much to our delight, Fred B's hat proved very lucky for Lee who  managed to catch a pristine pike on a fly!


On the day of their visit to the bookshop, Fred had a new hat.  Margaret asked if we'd noticed he wasn't wearing it and told us that he'd left it in the car as he was sure I would want to add it to the collection!


I am sure that in the months and years to come, many, better qualified than I will write of Fred's literary output and of his magnificent skills as an angler and his extraordinary intellect as a scientist researcher but I cannot think of Fred without remembering the last time we met and it is this memory and music which will stay with me forever.


Keith and I had travelled from the West Country especially to see Fred.  We knew he was unwell, but didn't realise the full extent of his illness.  He was in good spirits and on reflection, that  now makes our visit even more poignant.  We chatted away to Fred and his wife Margaret, sipped wine and talked of many things, including my attempts to play the guitar and love of folk music.  Fred asked if we knew the Irish folk song 'The Fields of Athenry.'  It's one of my favourites and on hearing that, he produced a cd whilst recounting the tale of how he and Margaret were walking along a street when they heard the sound of steel drums (pans).  As many will know, as a young fishery scientist, Fred spent some time in the Caribbean and so loved the sound of steel drums.  On that day, he couldn't resist tracing the source of the music back to a street entertainer by the name of 'Mighty Jamma'.  Fred bought his cd 'Cool Evenings 2' and much to his delight, Track 14 is Jamma's version of 'The Fields of Athenry'. Fred loved it and said it reminded him of his time spent fishing in Ireland.  During our visit we listened and watched with beaming smiles as Fred beat time on his 'air pans' and we sang loudly in accompaniment.  It was a hugely enjoyable visit and we were delighted when, a few weeks later Jamma's cd arrived in the post.  Fred had bought it for us and as I write, I'm listening to the song and smiling with pleasure at the memory of that day.


My final conversation with Fred was by 'phone just a few weeks before he died.  I hadn't realised that he was so close to the end of his life, and he gave no indication as we chatted about the forthcoming Angling Heritage journal.  I am grateful to have had the chance to speak to him one last time.


Emotionally, it was so difficult to attend Fred's funeral but of course, our thoughts were with Margaret and the family.  At the end of the service, we watched as the beautifully crafted wicker casket was carried out of the packed church at Little Missenden and felt an overwhelming sorrow to have to say a final farewell.  Like so many, we have enduringly fond memories of Fred and thanks to Recollections, we can listen to him in the future when the sadness has eased.  We will always remember him as a truly gentle man whose smile, charm and zest for life were utterly endearing.  Without doubt, our lives were greatly enriched by his friendship for he was a truly remarkable man and one who made such a huge contribution to the world of angling and its history.  Long may he be remembered for all that he achieved.


Sandra Armishaw