Freddy Hoult, one of the moving industry’s greatest characters, died peacefully at home aged 80.
Freddy joined the family removals business in 1960 and became the managing director of Hoults Ltd in Newcastle on Tyne aged 24, succeeding his own father, Fred. He oversaw expansion of the firm to become a top five removals firm, with three European offices and five UK depots. He became the youngest ever president of the British Association of Removers in 1976.
The business was sold to Pickfords in 1983, but Freddy retained 10-acre Hoults Yard in Byker, the site of the former Malings Pottery, and developed it into a business village. With the help and support of his long-time friend and property consultant Eric Morgan, Freddy supported many growing businesses in the city.
Following the sale of the removals business, Freddy became more active in public service. He was a High Sherriff of Tyne and Wear, then Vice Lord Lieutenant, a magistrate for three decades, served on the Tax Commission for more than 20 years and was the first chair of Freeman Hospital Trust where his chief executive was Sir Len Fenwick.
Freddy’s involvement with the NHS had led him to complain to the then Health Minister Virginia Bottomley about the inefficiencies of the health service’s supply chain. As a result, he spent several years as deputy chair of NHS Supplies. He was also a governor at Newcastle Prep School and chaired Mowden Hall School.
Freddy stood down as chair of Hoults Ltd in 2014, making way for the fourth generation of the family to drive the business forward. His daughter Anabel, Chief Executive of Which? Consumers Association, is now chair.
His son, Charlie, who now runs Hoults Yard, said that his father had always been forthcoming with sage advice and was a man of many passions and interests. His last day was spent with his family playing Fats Waller and telling stories. “He was fully ‘with-it’ checking the company figures beside his bed and filing his expenses until he fell asleep,” said Charlie. “We congratulated him, in absentia, at our scheduled quarterly Board meeting for unstinting service over 60 years and leaving everything in order. A P45 has been issued.”
Charlie said that Freddy was always keen to give people a chance. “In the 1960s, his Secretary Paula Bell went on maternity and begged that her unemployed husband Tommy be trialled as her replacement. He went on to become managing director.”
Another of his trainees, Bob Wiper, started as a school leaver from Wallsend. In the 1970s, Bob was promoted to be a manager of Hoults Removals’ London branch, but came back two weeks later complaining he wanted to return home. Fred refused to accept this and sent him back ‘with a flea in his ear’. Bob went on to become the chief executive of National Express Group plc, then Stanley Leisure.
Bob said: “He, in a huge way, shaped my entire life more than any other colleague. I owe him a debt of gratitude and I hope he realised how much I loved and admired him. Truly a great man with a big heart.”
Charlie added: “He had more than 60 years with his tennis crew and his playing partner, Ponteland solicitor Iain Nicholson, told me he believed Dad invented the call ‘Yours’ as he delegated so many shots to others - not necessarily any easier for them to cover! He’s certainly done that to us at Hoults by passing the baton to the next generation. We are on court and on our own for the first time in our lives, leaving us a big gap on the frontline - but we are all well drilled and ready for the challenges ahead without our coach.”
Freddy was recognised for his contribution to the region’s business world and for his community service with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Entrepreneur’s Forum in 2017. He leaves his wife Peta, daughters Louise and Anabel, son Charlie and nine grandchildren. His funeral was held on 24 May, 2019.
Photo: Freddy Hoult