Club stalwart dies aged 92

Northiam 75 stalwart Fred Francis has died aged 92
Northiam 75 stalwart Fred Francis has died aged 92

A very well-known stalwart of Northiam 75 Football Club has passed away at the grand age of 92.

Fred Francis, who was one of the original founding members of the club 38 years ago, held numerous positions - including secretary for the past 35 years, as well as life vice-president of the ADA East Sussex Football League.

Francis was born in Hastings in 1921 and spent his early years living in the flat above the White Rock Theatre where his father worked.

He went on to participate at the D-Day landings as part of a bomb disposal and mine clearance unit. However, shortly after being deployed in the French port town of Le Harve, he fell victim to heavy shell-fire and sustained traumatic head injuries.

While still in a coma, Francis was taken to Dunfermline in Scotland for initial treatment before being moved to Edinburgh Castle.

Following his recovery, Francis returned to Northiam where he took up jobs as a postman and pulling pints at the Crown & Thistle. Then in 1975, Francis formed what was to become the village’s football club with the help of several others.

Alongside secretarial duties, the World War II veteran was often found making teas, marking the pitch and cleaning the kits in preparation for matchdays.

Furthermore, he raised funds for St Michael’s Hospice for more than 20 years through charity drives and raffles held at the club, and was an active member of the Normandy Veterans’ Association (NVA).

Northiam 75 chairman and close friend Graham Ormston said: “He was a hugely popular figure around the club and community, and will be sadly missed.

“He was very helpful with the club and also charity work. He was always on the go and never stood still - a very active member of village life who was always up to something.

“You always knew it was him coming as he called everyone ‘cocker’ - he was always trying to have a laugh with people. Everyone in Northiam recognises him as he was that kind of figure, humbly trying to help people when he could.”

Francis is survived by his wife of just shy of 60 years, Rose, as well as children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be held at St Andrew’s Church in Fairlight on Monday (December 23) from 2.30pm. For those who wish to make a donation in Francis’s memory, St Michael’s Hospice is the preferred choice following his work for the charity.