JAMES, Mr Frederick (Fred)

1911 - 1994

James Frederick - Creswick Historical SocietyBorn in 1911, Fred James spent his whole life in Creswick, much of it in the family home on the corner of Victoria and Cambridge Street. He was the son of Scottish immigrant Solomon James and grandson of Noah James who had a hay and corn store on the site of the Bridge Garage in Castlemaine Road.

He married in 1934, and he and his wife Martha (always known as Wardie), raised three lovely daughters, Enid, Ivy and Coral.

The James family were Methodists and were closely associated with the building and life of the Wesleyan Church in Victoria Street. One of the projects of the church was assisting with the establishment and construction of the Adekate Camp, proposed by the Ballarat Methodists. Many working bees were held and the James family were prominent, among many from the Creswick congregation, in volunteering. At one working bee Fred fell from the roof where he was working and broke his leg, but undeterred, the next week he was back, sitting on a chair, his leg in plaster, painting the weatherboards.

In earlier years he had acquired the position of apprentice to Charles Pringle Howie, Master Plumber of Albert Street, Creswick, the fourteenth and last apprentice taken on. On starting, he found that his work would include splitting firewood and keeping the wood box full. He had not been apprenticed long when he caught the middle finger of his right hand in the cogs of the corrugated iron machine while greasing it. Luckily, Dr Strachan, who had been a medical man with the Australians in WW1, did a beautiful job on Fred’s finger and he completed his apprenticeship with Mr Howie, taking the business from horse power to motor trucks off his own bat.

Eventually Fred James took over both the premises and the Tank and General Plumbing business from Mr Howie and ran it from there until the start of WW2.

In WW2, Fred served in Egypt with the 2nd/3rd Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, 9th Division, 2nd AIF. He was one of the “Rats of Tobruk” and was at El Alamein, but after the desert campaign he was sent to the mud and steaming forest of New Guinea where he completed his service and returned with the rank of Corporal.

He left the Army after six years’ service and on returning home joined the RSL in 1945, and was elected President of the Creswick Branch the following year. He held that post for 18 years to become the Branch’s longest serving president when he retired in the 1960s. The League first met in the old bank chambers but the current RSL was built under his direction as building officer.

“We got a brick machine and made the bricks ourselves and eighty percent of the building work was done by working bees” he told the Creswick Advertiser.

Up to 1963, when Legacy stepped in, Mr James did much of the RSL pension and welfare work, particularly with war widows, whom he continued to assist whenever they needed help. Fred also did hospital and sick visiting. He put his heart and all the spare time he had into his work for the RSL. He was a pioneer with some of his ideas; for example in initiating the RSL Youngerset, a first in Victoria and a great help in raising building funds. He was also responsible for Creswick’s inaugural Dawn Service at the Cross of Remembrance on Anzac Day and the soldier’s grave block at the Creswick cemetery

As RSL president he held many official positions on several League boards and committees and in 1968 Fred was awarded Life Membership at the RSL. In 1984 he was awarded the RSL Meritorious Medal by the RSL National Congress in a ceremony at the Dallas Brookes Hall. This is the RSL’s highest distinction, in appreciation of outstanding service.

In addition to his RSL work, Fred held many other posts in community organisations including:

  • Twelve years in the Creswick Fire Brigade
  • Foundation member of the Band committee
  • Vice-president of the Creswick Shire Council centenary celebrations
  • Creswick Progress Association member
  • Senior Circuit Steward for the Victoria Street Methodist Church and Trustee of the Church committee
  • President of the Creswick Amateur Swimming Club
  • Committeeman of the Creswick Institute for the Blind appeal
  • Committeeman of the Old Creswickian Association
  • Red Cross appeal volunteer
  • Life Governor of the Creswick District Hospital, on the Board of which he served for twelve years, two of which as President
  • Some-time President of the Creswick ANA branch

Fred James’ life after WW2 was one of giving - of his time, expertise and compassion. He and Wardie had over fifty years of marriage and of service to the community. Fred passed away on 25th May, 1994 in Creswick.

Learn More About our Society

  • Family History
  • Creswick & District
  • Migration
  • Honour Roll
  • Membership

Contact Creswick and District Historical Society today. We would love to hear from you!