Master manipulator Fred calls it a day

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HE has treated film stars, dignitaries, farmers and fishermen, but after half a decade in the industry, physiotherapist Fred Dyson has closed the doors on his consulting room.

Fred arrived in Alnwick on Good Friday, 1959, taking over a physiotherapy practice on Bondgate Without with his wife Sheila, just six months after they married.

Now, 52 years and 20,000 patients later, Fred, 78, has treated his last client.

“Thirty years ago I would never have thought that I would have been going for his length of time,” he said.

“To carry on manipulating backs, necks, knees and God knows what, I never thought I would last. I never elected to be the back and neck man of the Scottish borders, but that is what I became and I found it was a privilege.

“Thirty years ago I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it but it was a job. Then I realised that it was quite a special job.

“Nobody else has actually done it to this extent in this area.”

Fred has been blind since the age of 12 after a brain condition led to surgery and total blindness.

Born and brought up in West Yorkshire, his early schooling was finished when he was unable to see.

“Life was very uncertain for a long, long time,” he said.

For three years he had no orthodox schooling, but learnt how to type and how to read Braille – learning how to read and write.

He ended up at a school for blind boys in Worcester. At the time it was the only school in Britain where blind people could get the right education to go to university.

Fred went on to train as a qualified physiotherapist and met Sheila while they were working together at hospitals in Aylesbury.

But they were looking for a place to settle down and, despite knowing no one and nothing about Alnwick and the surrounding areas, they settled in the town and fell in love with it.

He said: “We knew nothing of the Scottish borders and their history, but were quickly and deeply interested in the sparsely-populated area between the Tyne and the Forth. It seemed that we were able to gain the rental of a house in Alnwick, from the Northumberland Estates, from which an earlier tenant had tried to achieve similar ambitions with little success.

“How could we resist an address such as Bondgate Without and the stonework of which this town is built?

“We had a few sticks of furniture and some useful professional equipment.

“We found that the RNIB and our professional organisations were keen to inform, enlighten and help a little.

“We immediately liked the look of the area and decided we were young enough, flexible enough, with nothing to lose to take some risk.

“We arrived and began what turned out eventually, after very much exploring, to be a lifetime’s intelligent adventure, when we came to live happily surrounded by friends, from a rich variety of backgrounds.”

They moved to their current home, Percy House, where they ran their practice, in 1969, and it was there that Fred treated his last patient last year.

Now the couple are planning on moving house, but staying in Alnwick, “within walking distance of the John Bull,” said Fred.

“I will continue to find other fulfilling ways to occupy my ever-curious consciousness, with an immense thank you to Northumberland and its people, who have supported us so generously for so long.”

He added: “We have enjoyed being part of this town and its varied life. We still enjoy being here.”

Over the years the couple both worked part-time at the then Cottage Hospital in Rothbury and Fred was also involved with Alnwick Music Society. He still writes reviews of concerts.