Freddie Anderson was born in County Monaghan, Ireland, in 1922 and was brought up in the village of Ballybay. At school in Ballybay, he excelled at writing and composition and when he attended the Cistercian secondary school at Roscrea, Tipperary, Ireland, he developed these skills further. It therefore came as some surprise when he went on to University College, Dublin, to study architecture.
In 1942, Freddy joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) at a time when some Irishmen signed up out of idealism, but more joined in order to send money home to struggling families. He was posted to a radar station at Crossmaglen, County Armagh, Ireland but also worked in India and Burma. Around this time, he met his wife, Isobel, whom he married in 1951. Upon demobilisation in 1946, he moved to her native Glasgow, Scotland, a city he took to instantly although his work continued to be influenced by his beloved County Monaghan. The RAF secured Freddie a job as a museum attendant in Glasgow, a job that lasted only days as Freddy popped out for cigarettes and a picture was stolen in his absence. Thereafter, a period followed during which Freddy successively became, amongst other occupations, a lamplighter, tram conductor, book barrow salesman, night porter, hoistman, labourer, telephone operator, garage clerk and dyker. These experiences informed his drift towards theatre and in 1947 he joined Glasgow Unity Theatre, effectively launching a career which saw him become a valuable player in Glasgow’s left-wing artistic life. His first play, Thirty Three Years, was produced by the Unity Theatre in the late 1940s .
His plays were also performed by various community groups, including a pantomime called Wee Willie Winkie based on Glasgow’s coat-of-arms; a dramatic 18th century chronicle The Calton Weavers; and the biography of the life of John McLean entitled Krassivy. The latter work won him an Edinburgh Festival Fringe First. His literary work in the Easterhouse community in Glasgow where he lived was also recognised by and Irish Post award and he was also involved in the community as secretary of the Garthamlock Community Council and as a fundraiser for hospital benefits.
Freddy became well known on the Glasgow political/socialist/Scottish/Irish/International Republican scene. His poetry, stories, plays and songs all reflected his Celtic charm, blending Scottish and Irish history and culture in an anti-sectarian manner. As a poet of the oral tradition, his work could sometimes lapse into sentimentality but at his best his lyrics had the same insight as other fellow Monaghan poets such as Patrick Kavanagh. Freddy’s radical, humorous political songs were numerous, with many local and national politicians falling foul of Freddy’s wit and barb in what became known as a "Holy Wullie’s Prayer". Politically, Freddy was a socialist who detested mainstream labour politicians who he regarded as having sold out principle for power. He lampooned those who received honours from the establishment mercilessly, referring to them as "squibs".
Late in life he produced a book which drew together all his attributes, Oiney Hoy, a tale of the wanderings of a "green fool". The book toys with Ireland’s myths, stereotypes, pretensions, and foibles, and is a gentle but effective satire which was translated to the Edinburgh Fringe stage after its premiere in the Great Eastern Hotel, Glasgow. It was later performed in Easterhouse by the Easterhouse Festival Society who also produced a number of Freddy’s other plays. For all his success, Freddy was never recognised by the established arts councils or grants givers, and spent much of his life living in poverty. However, he was awarded a Millennium Prize for his 18 page illustrated brochure The Burns Trial in Glasgow: 1787-1788.
In his later life, Freddy was preparing the further adventures of Oiney as well as an autobiography but these were never completed and he died in a Glasgow nursing home in 2001, 2 years after the death of his wife and companion, Isobel.
Sources: James Freeman. "Freddy Anderson" The Herald (13 December 2001); Donald Anderson "Freddie Anderson" [sic] Scottish Republican Socialist Movement website [last viewed at http://srsm.port5.com/srsm/obituary.htm on 18 November 2002]