Memory Lane: Fred made Lights famous

Illuminations Director Fred Field, who re-introduced the Illuminations to Blackpool in the 1920s, after the First World War
Illuminations Director Fred Field, who re-introduced the Illuminations to Blackpool in the 1920s, after the First World War
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AS the Lights are over for another year, this is a pertinent time to put in the spotlight the man acknowledged as the pioneer of Blackpool Illuminations.

Frederick William Field, who died in 1951, aged 71, was largely responsible for making the Lights nationally famous.

When he retired in 1946, after 47 years service with Blackpool Corporation, Fred, as he was known to everyone, could take much of the credit for the development of the autumn attraction, from the original display in front of the Town Hall to what was hailed as “seven miles of brilliance”.

So much so that just three years after his retirement, he was coaxed back to organise the first post-war Blackpool Illuminations in 1949, which were switched on by actress Anna Neagle.

Blackburn-born Fred joined Blackpool Corporation as a student under electrical engineer R C Quin.

Apart from undertaking his ordinary duties, he had private instructions from Mr Quin carrying out experiments on the “cut out” on the electricity system.

At the corporation’s electricity works, he gained an all-round experience, being in the public lighting, meter and switchboard departments, and also the drawing office.

Fred took part in the changeover from the conduit to the overhead system for the trams, and took charge of the reconstruction and re-electrification of the Fleetwood tramline.

But it was in the field of illuminations that Fred’s creative genius was seen by the public, and he was in charge of them from 1925 until 1938 – the last display of that decade because of the outbreak of the Second World War the following year.

It was Fred who created the famous nursery rhyme tableaux on the Cliffs at North Shore.

As The Gazette and Herald reported back in 1937: “It is largely due to his initiative and skill that the scheme has developed on such modern and attractive lines.”

During the Second World War, he was responsible for the tableaux in front of the Town Hall in the wartime special savings weeks.

The first Illuminations – not counting the “artificial sunshine” arc lamps from 1879 – were a small effort on the front of the Town Hall consisting of Blackpool’s coat of arms, a few stars and a festoon.

They then illuminated Princess Parade, before a bigger scheme saw the Lights extended south to the Manchester Hotel.

Later they went to South Pier and, for several seasons, a few lights were introduced at Bispham tram station.

The Cat and the Fiddle was the groundbreaking tableau on the Cliffs, and was so popular that new nursery rhymes were added each year.