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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Respected Barrow writer and TV presenter dies at 77

A RESPECTED writer and TV presenter from Barrow who chronicled the town's wartime role has died.

Ron Freethy wrote more than 100 books, many about local history – including Cumbria at War – but also including books about the industries of his adopted Lancashire home and wildlife walks.

Mr Freethy, who died aged 77, was born in Barrow in 1936. His home in Ancaster Street was bombed when he was five and the family moved to Askam. He was brought up in Furnace Place, Askam, and went into national service before studying to become a biologist.

He taught in Bolton and Burnley and has appeared on both the BBC, where he was involved in documentaries on natural history, and Granada, where he made programmes about rivers and presented children’s TV show The 8.15 From Manchester in the 1980s.

His first book was published in 1979 and he became a prolific author. Cumbria at War was published in 2009 and included not only Mr Freethy's memories of the period but the memories of others who give vivid accounts of the conflict.

In 1939 the area was already gearing up for war, Vickers was building warships as quickly as it could and a Sunderland Flying Boat factory was set up on the banks on Windermere at Whitecross Bay. Patterson gliders were made locally and were used to deliver secret agents into German-occupied Europe.

The opening chapter of the book described how the German Zeppelin, Hindenburg, flew over Barrow in the mid 1930s on what was described as a “courtesy visit”. The book also tells how the town received a sudden influx of German “tourists” during the 1930s.

Talking about Cumbria at War from his home at Roughlee, between Burnley and Clitheroe, in 2009 Mr Freethy said: “It’s been developing over years. I was born in Barrow, bombed out in 1941, moved to Askam and lived their until I was 22 or 23. I experienced Cumbria at war from being a child and I picked up little bits of snippets.”

The book included many fascinating bits of information about Barrow's wartime history, including that the Barrow-built midget submarines used engines out of London buses and the fact Barnes Wallis – famous for developing the bouncing bomb used to destroy German dams – was an apprentice at Vickers in Barrow and made airships. Mr Freethy is survived by his wife Marlene, who he married in 1962, son Paul, and a grandson.

Have your say

rest in peace ron and thank you for all the happy memories when we were kids taking us down the shore and showing us the different plants and animals and how not to ruin their habbitat long will you be remembered in askam folk lore you were a saint

Posted by bob baker on 3 December 2013 at 21:27

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