Brother Freddie Fowles: faithful member of Oldham Branch

by Sylvia (Mills) Whalley Cornell

When I was a child of six attending the Church’s branch located in Neville Street, Oldham, Freddie Fowles was brought to it in his invalid carriage.   I used to think the carriage looked like a coffin on wheels.  He and his family lived in a house up a very high and steep hill off Middleton Road, about half a mile from the Chapel.  His relatives, true Saints, pushed him to the Chapel and back up again twice every Sunday, once for Sunday School and once for the Sacrament Service.  I would marvel at how this could be done.

Jessie Withington, one of Freddie’s relatives, was my ‘Primary Mother’ at Church. This title was used for many years prior to the use of the current title, ‘Primary President’.  Jessie, who married Brother Harry Withington, was one of the relatives who weekly brought Freddie to Church.  Another relative was Joan Ormston, sister to Jessie, also a member of the Church who attended the Neville Street Chapel.

Freddie had a hard life as he could only move his arms and hands, but since he could see, he was able to make jewellery by setting everything out on his chest.  With this ability he helped his family financially, as people were impoverished and there was no national benefits system at that time.  Nor, as far as I know, was the Church’s welfare system established in Northern England at that time.

Another serious health challenge was about to overtake Freddie.  It was discovered that he was going blind. This would have been a total disaster for his jewellery work, which had allowed him to earn a small amount of money to support himself.  Members and other friends of Freddie bought his jewellery at cost, and even that was difficult for them to do because none were rich.

When Freddie’s diagnosis of impending blindness became known to the membership of the Neville Street Chapel, the Branch’s priesthood was called upon.  My father, Samuel Mills, along with other brethren from the branch, administered to Brother Freddie; the Lord saw fit to allow him to keep his sight, and he was able to continue to support himself.

A group photo outside the Neville Street Chapel
A group photo outside the Neville Street Chapel with Brother Freddie Fowles in the foreground lying in his carriage. I am the smallest child in the front row.

A Reunion with Freddie’s Family

After many years of fund raising by the members attending the Neville Street ‘Tin Mission’, as the LDS chapel in Oldham was known, new premises were bought and the Oldham Branch moved into Copster Hall on Copster Hill Road, on Sunday September 22nd, 1957.

The first marriage to be performed there was my own.  I married my non-member husband Derek Whalley in January 1958.  With Derek being in the army we moved to various locations across the world, and during this time he became a member of the Church.  In October 1965 we attended the London Temple to receive our endowments, temple marriage and sealing to our five children.  Unbeknown to us, my former Primary Mother Jessie Withington, and her sister Joan Ormston, were there.  We were reunited in the Celestial Room of the London Temple. What an exceptional blessing it was to be together again with people who shared such precious memories.