Carnival King

When my grandfather died in 1966 the local paper announced Andover’s “Carnival King” dies suddenlyFred collapsed and died while working in the garden of his home in Micheldever Road, Andover.  He was aged 74 and had lived in the town since the age of two and had been associated with Andover Carnival since its inception in1924.  He became overall chairman of the Carnival Committee from 1955 until 1963.  He had worked with enthusiasm to keep the carnival an annual event in the town and was unceasing in his efforts for charity.  The event continues to this day – http://www.andovercarnival.org/.

I was reminded of Fred’s association with this event by another old postcard.  Mixed in with Charlie’s collection (see earlier posts) was this:

Freddie Mills

Dear Fred – sorry cannot make Andover Carnival on Aug 12 owing to holiday. Best Wishes & success to Carnival
Freddie Mills

Freddie Mills was world light heavyweight champion from 1948 to 1950 and quite a celebrity in his day.  The postcard is dated 30th June 1949 when Freddie was at the height of his powers.  When he retired he had walk on parts in a number of films including Carry on Constable and Carry on Regardless, he appeared quite regularly on the BBC and then became a nightclub owner where he fell in with the notorious Kray twins.  He had the look of a boxer and street fighter and came to an almost predictable end; heavily in debt to a crime syndicate, depressed and in fear of his life, on 24th July 1965 he was found in a car behind his nightclub, shot in the head.  The coroner’s inquest concluded that he had committed suicide.

If acquiring the services of such a celebrity seemed optimistic, Fred’s endeavours were amply rewarded a few years later when Moira Shearer, the ballet dancer and film star, made a guest appearance.  The picture of my sister presenting the bouquet was probably taken in 1952 when Moira Shearer’s fame was at its height, having fairly recently completed her defining role as Vicky in the Powell and Pressburger ballet-themed film, The Red Shoes.

Andover Carnival - Moira ShearerDame Moira Shearer and Freddie Mills offer a strange juxtaposition of personalities, background and talents but dig a little beneath the surface and their worlds were not so far apart.  In 1950 Dame Moira married Ludovic Kennedy, the journalist, broadcaster and lifelong campaigner for justice.  Kennedy was the cousin of Lord Boothby who infamously had a sleazy relationship with Ronnie Kray, the younger of the twins.  It was the Krays who ran the Soho protection racket that contributed to Freddie Mills’ debts, depression and ultimate suicide.  Somehow we think the world has deteriorated these last sixty years, it seems more likely it has stayed much the same; just a different set of characters in a different play; the good, the bad, the rich, the poor, the loveliest and the best.

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