Posted on 17th June 2008

Fred Burton - 72 Years Working for Latimer Hinks Fred Steps Down

Fred Burton is an institution defined in Websters Dictionary as someone firmly associated with a place nothing could be more true when considering Freds relationship with and place within Latimer Hinks! Googling the name Fred Burton one discovers that a Fred Burton is a counter-terrorism agent (could this be our Fred Burton, as during the long time he was part of the Litigation Department he was known as a Litigation Rottweiler?); another Fred Burton is a well-known author (could this be our Fred Burton, as he penned many a statement, many a letter and perhaps has commenced his memoirs?); another Fred Burton is an artist (well, our Fred Burton was an artiste a valued member of the Kay Players, and no mean pianist); and yet another Fred Burton is an expert on Blue Iguanas (our Fred Burton is an expert on cats!!!). Fred joined the firm of J.F. Latimer Hinks in 1936 yes, 72 years ago, and long before any of the rest of us were born! In fact, he didnt actually start his law career with J.F. Latimer Hinks, but with Steavensons, Plant and Park following his leaving school at age 14!! As was the way in those days, his first appointment was as an office boy, and as part of his duties he had to deliver local letters: in doing this he became friendly with another office boy who worked at J.F. Latimer and Hinks, and he told Fred that he was leaving and if Fred wanted his job he should contact the then managing clerk, Mr. C.N. Walton (the father of Stanley N. Walton who in turn and later practised in partnership with John Hardy as Stanley N. Walton Hardy). Believing that J.F. Latimer Hinks was the firm to work for Fred applied to Mr. Walton, who agreed to take him on if Steavensons, Plant and Park agreed to release him, which they did. Freds future career and reputation may well have made them regret that decision, but Steavensons loss was Latimers gain. The move was certainly advantageous as Fred had an immediate pay rise from 5 shillings a week to 12 shillings and 6 pence!! Three years on, in 1937, when Fred was 16 years of age, he was told by a colleague named Arthur Snowdon that he, Arthur, was going to leave, and that Fred would be well advised to learn shorthand and typing. This he did, by taking private lessons, and as a result by the time he was 18 years of age he was Charles Hinks secretary. Fred would be the first to admit Charles Hinks reputation and skills, and he learned a lot from him. In future years when Fred had secretaries of his own they found him very efficient, easy to work for, fantastically organized, his files in perfect order a legacy from the training he had as a secretary. World War II then intervened, and Fred enlisted for pilot training. Due to a shortage of instructors that training did not happen, and he agreed to transfer to radar training again through a shortage of instructors he transferred to general duties. Taking exams at Dishforth he was posted to the Middle East, to Egypt. It was there, on leave in Cairo, that he bumped into SticksGibling whom he had met on the boat taking them out to their posting. Before the war Sticks had been a drummer in the BBC Variety Orchestra, and was aware that Fred played the piano. Strings were pulled, and Fred was posted to Cairo to entertain the troops! years later he entertained the Latimers Troops at many an office party. Fred found that his Commanding Officer was none other than Walter Hammond the famous cricketer. Cricket was another of Freds accomplishments he played for Darlington and such was his reputation that he was known in cricketing circles as the Mighty Atom. After the War, Fred returned to J.F. Latimer Hinks and became a very valued member of the Litigation Department who can forget the statuette always in place on his desk entitled Sue the Bastards!!! That statuette is still within the office somewhere. As already mentioned, Fred was a gem to work for, and over the years he was, amongst others served by Christine Howe (the daughter of another Latimer Hinks legend, Ronnie Howe), Wendy Falla, and Maureen Grainger (still on the staff). Maureen remembers that Fred frequently asked for a nice cup of tea it is much more refreshing. Fred was assisted over the years in the day to day work by a series of assistants, most of whom moved on to other firms having had an excellent grounding from a good man. There are many memories over the years the time when Fred became 50 years of age and was presented with champagne by the then senior partner, Tony Little (who insisted on calling Fred Freddie); there was the time when a cat became trapped at the rear of the building and became quite wild it was tamed by Fred, himself a great cat-lover, rescued and taken home; there were the times when clients and firms rang up and asked to speak to the man who signs his letters with a figure 8 the way Fred signed his initials appeared as such; all the office parties where he entertained and orchestrated the singalongs. Fred continued working in litigation long after the time when he could have retired like many of his contemporaries in the preceding years Charles Hinks, Max Singleton, Mary Coward, Ronnie Howe Latimers was a second home and a way of life. Fortunately for the firm, as Fred became older, he agreed to continue to come into the office and for many years has maintained, catalogued, and supervised the not inconsiderable library of reference books. Priestgate will never be the same again! Freds presence in the office has been a constant and he will be greatly missed not only for keeping us on our toes in his search for books, but for his character, his humour, and his personality. All Freds colleagues, past and present, and especially the partners of the firm, wish him well, and happy times with Dorothy and the family. May the sun always shine for them and Fred, if there is a cloud in the sky any day, call in and see us, check up on us and see whether things are being done correctly!