'I will miss it': Popular Northampton poppy seller reluctantly calls it a day after 53 years

Fred Barrick (Photo: Darrin Stevens)
Fred Barrick (Photo: Darrin Stevens)

Fred Barrick has been selling poppies for the Royal British Legion for more than five decades but this year will be different because due to ill health he's reluctantly had to stop.

Most people will know Fred, 88, from his patch at the Sainsbury's off Weedon Road where he first started collecting for the Legion 20 years ago.

So popular is Fred with the staff and members of the public that he's given endless cups of tea, huge fruitcakes and a food hamper.

He's also not paid for a pint at his local, the Melbourne Arms, in a long time.

"Sainsbury's have really looked after me," said Fred.

"I've had 20 years of happiness there so will I miss it? Yes, I will," he added, breaking into tears.

But Fred may never have had his spot at Sainsbury's were it not for a little rulebreaking - something Darrin Stevens, the PAO of the Duston branch of the Legion, says Fred is accustomed to.

Because when Fred first turned up outside the supermarket he didn't have permission to collect on the premises but he persisted and eventually edged his way inside and soon became a fixture there.

That persistence and determination are typical of Fred, who even after a fall recently was adamant he would take part in this year's Poppy Appeal, only to be advised not by his doctor.

"It's something I look back on and think: 'Why did I go down there?" said Fred, who would turn up at 7am every day with the poppies after walking from his home in Orchard Way.

"I could've stayed at home or gone to my allotment but something said to me 'pick up that tin and get down there'."

As well as raising thousands of pounds for the Legion, Fred also saved the Duston branch from folding.

Fred, who cut holidays short to collect, said had he not taken up the chairman role from Captain Kevin Fogg the branch would have folded; since then it has raised around £300,000.

One story Fred remembers from his time collecting at Sainsbury's happened shortly after a millionaire's chauffeur paid £100 for 20 poppies.

"A homeless man came up and asked 'can I have a poppy?'"

Fred handed him one and told the man he didn't have to make a contribution, but he refused to take the poppy for free.

"He stood up to attention and searched all his pockets and took all the pennies he had and put them in the tin.

"So which of the men gave more; the chauffeur or the homeless man?" asked Fred.

The Poppy Appeal launches nationally today (October 27) and many shoppers turning up to Sainsbury's will likely ask 'where's Fred?'

"He's got to an age now where it's our job to look after him," said Darrin.

"Fred is at home getting well and being looking after by his branch."

"A massive thank you to all the people who have looked after him over the years," he added.

Fred worked at British Timken before getting the Army call-up at 21. He was stationed at Bicester garrison as part of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

When he returned, he married his sweetheart Eileen at Great Doddington Church.