A Tribute to Freddie Harrison – a real Community Champion

Earlier today we said good bye to our great friend, and director of The Big Lemon, Fred Harrison.

Fred, also known to his friends as ‘Steady Freddie’, has been involved in The Big Lemon since almost the very beginning, as a volunteer, director and Chair of the Board of Directors between 2014 and 2018.

Fred and Tom collecting waste cooking oil from Beacon Bingo in Moulsecoomb – the first oil collection job The Big Lemon ever did

Fred was a big part of The Big Lemon. Having joined as a volunteer in 2008, Fred got stuck in, helping Tom with every aspect of running the business, from collecting waste cooking oil for use in The Big Lemon’s buses to planning funding campaigns for our transition to electric buses.

The first of our new fleet of Higer STEED buses has been named ‘Freddie Harrison’ in Fred’s honour

Fred lived in Hove with his wife Miriam and daughter Mia. A kind, gentle and incredibly generous man, Fred was a big part of The Big Lemon and made a huge impact over many years. He always had a smile on his face and was well-loved by all who knew him.

Friends and family gather for a tribute photo outside his house in Hove. Fred was a massive football fan and the bus was decorated in his honour with Spurs flags – the team he’s supported all his life

“I remember when Tom called me and told me about Fred’s offer to help with building The Big Lemon. We both couldn’t quite believe that this unassuming gentleman had landed at the doorstep with a willingness and quiet enthusiasm to help with anything to grow The Big Lemon.

“That act of kindness was Fred’s personal trademark. Everywhere he went in life he touched people with uncanny acts of generosity that helped them feel special. Fred stood for everything the Big Lemon is about – that people and the community are at the core of life. Farewell Fred .. we love you”

Ron Tanner, Chair, The Big Lemon
Tom and Ron with Fred’s bus outside the chapel.

In a personal tribute, The Big Lemon’s founder and CEO, Tom Druitt, made the following address at Fred’s funeral earlier today:

I’d like to say a few words about Fred, to honour him and thank him for his contribution to The Big Lemon and his support for me over many years.

It’s no exaggeration, as we all know, to say that Fred was one of the kindest, most generous and good-natured people one could ever have the good fortune to meet. When he retired from Glencore he got in touch and offered his help at The Big Lemon on a voluntary basis. We were a fledgling organisation at the time, not even a year old, and were hopelessly overwhelmed with the amount of work we had to do. 

Fred came over to the office once a week and helped me get on top of things; he was happy doing absolutely anything, from counting cash fares and banking, to sourcing equipment and parts for the buses, to observing our services on the road and recording punctuality data. Everything Fred did was done with a smile, wholehearted support, and his trademark graciousness that we all know and love. 

I sometimes wondered what he got out of it in the early days. He never asked for anything in return. He was happy to give advice when asked, but resisted offering it unless he was asked. He never said no to anything, and was always there at the end of the phone if I needed to chat about something. I grew to rely on him a lot, and he helped us make the business into (almost!) a proper business. 

Recently Fred and I chatted about these early days, and the penny dropped. Fred had worked in a haulage firm when he left school, and the owner of the company had given him a lot of responsibility, including leaving 16 year old Fred in charge of a fleet of trucks running the up and down the country, while he went on holiday for two weeks. Fred had enjoyed that, and seen how it had helped him in life, and now Fred wanted to give back. Fred was a huge support for us all at The Big Lemon, but I noticed how he had a special interest in our young people and their development in the business and in the industry.

Fred was a very committed and very loyal person. He joined our board of directors, then became our Chairman, and when he popped in he always took the time to say hello to everyone and tell them what a great job they were doing. He stood by me and our whole team through thick and thin, celebrating our successes and supporting us when times were difficult. We have had a few scrapes over the years, but Fred has always been there, no matter how large or small the problem, with a friendly face and a solution. Again, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the business would not exist as it does today without Fred’s involvement, his help and his support.

Good bye Fred; our community has lost one of its greats. Your kindness and generosity, and your impact on your community, will never be forgotten. You were one of a kind, a true hero, and I’ll miss you very much.

Frederick John Harrison: June 1951 – July 2021

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