words: Leanne Gichard/images: supplied
There are those in life who challenge conventional thinking, who are determined to leave the world a better place than they found it, who follow their dreams and hope to make a difference in society. Fred Coldicott was one of those people and this is his story.
Frederick (Fred) Arthur Coldicott was born in Rakaia on 12 March 1892 to parents William and Ann Coldicott, who were farmers. and had 10 siblings. As a young man he had a love of music and played a cornet in a band. He became a painter and wallpaper hanger by trade and moved to the North Island where he met his bride-to-be, Edith Boyd. Edith and Fred married in Hastings and had five children – Ruth, Cyril, Margaret (Peg), Noel and Joyce (Joy). Tragically, Fred and Edith lost two of their children as young adults; Cyril died aged 24 while serving in the Royal New Zealand Airforce and Ruth died aged 35 of a blood clot, leaving behind three daughters and her husband, Jim.
Joy, Fred and Edith’s daughter, now 88 years of age, recalls fondly her father and mother and their sacrifices when she was a child.
“Ruth, my sister, was a sickly child and conventional medicine did not seem to provide a solution, so Dad started looking into alternative therapies, which seemed to help her to regain full health,” says Joy.
Fred was a forward-thinking man, who was not afraid to look beyond the square and his research into alternative treatments led him to study chiropractic and osteopathy in America in 1921. This required much sacrifice, both on Edith and Fred’s part. Twice he travelled to America to live and study, being there for four years in total. “I think Mum was really brave. To be without her husband for so long was very difficult, especially with children. She lived with Fred’s parents for a time and also with her brother Alf, and his wife Edie, in Oamaru,” explains Joy. Fred took on any work he could, including washing dishes and sweeping snow, to finance his studies while in America.
Fred returned to Ashburton where he set up his Chiropractic clinic, initially at 108 Cox Street, after which the clinic was subsequently relocated to the family home at 123 Havelock Street, Ashburton. Joy remembers it vividly. “The clinic was at the front of the house and the family lived at the rear. We had to be careful not to be noisy during clinic times and to make sure we kept to the back of the house,” Joy recalls. “Dad also used to travel to Timaru by train one day per week to treat his patients and another day per week was spent in the Methven/Lyndhurst area.”
Being one of the first Chiropractors and Osteopaths in Ashburton, Fred encountered some cynicism and opposition from those who were either averse to, or suspicious of alternative therapies, but found an ally in local GP, Doctor Horan and they referred patients to each other, as they saw fit.
Fred worked very hard and often saw patients in the evenings. His outlet to relax was photography, which was a great passion. He was involved with setting up the first photography club in Ashburton, along with Sam Cullimore and others. Joy recollects that they used to meet in the Supper Room of the Orange Hall. These were the days of black and white film, so Fred developed his own photos and spent many hours hand-colouring them. He also loved making home and travel videos. Joy remembers her husband-to-be, Ivan, getting up at 4am one morning to travel to Mt Cook so that her father could capture images of the Alps in the right light. These images are stunning. Joy adds, “When the Queen visited New Zealand in 1953, my father followed the Royal train and took many photos and movies. He has quite an archive really of film from that era.”
Fred was civic-minded and cared deeply about Ashburton and the community and served as an Ashburton Borough Councillor for many years. During this time he had the opportunity to meet Sir Bernard Freyberg (the 7th Governor General of New Zealand), The Queen, Sir Edmund Hillary, and many other dignitaries.
Ultimately his career choice also led to his death. The risk of x-rays was not fully understood, and it was only in later years that Fred made a lead screen to stand behind when taking x-rays. Unfortunately, it was too late to save him, as the damage had already been done and he died as a result of over-exposure to radiation on 5 August 1956. He was just 64 years of age. He was survived by his wife, Edith, who went on to live until she was 91 years old and three of his children, Peg, Noel and Joy. Peg and Noel have since also passed away.
Joy continues, “We were all very proud of Dad. He helped so many people and was really a pioneer in his chosen field. Chiropractic and Osteopathy work was very revolutionary in the 1920s.”