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Fred Matthias Cubbon

Epithet: Priest, patriot and philanthropist (1902-1980)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

The Reverend Fred, as he was widely known, was universally regarded as a character. He certainly looked the part, being short in stature, slightly chubby, with a twinkle in his eye and a cheeky grin. He had a refined sense of dress, always dapper and usually sporting a fine bloom in his lapel. He was also universally regarded as one of the great benefactors of the Island.

Fred was born in 1902, son of Captain J.H. Cubbon of 4 Finch Road, Douglas. He attended school at St Thomas's, Douglas Grammar School and King William's College. Later he was to say that he owed everything to his Christian upbringing and to King William's.

After a few years in the family plumbing business in Finch Road he went to St Aidan's Theological College and was ordained in 1931. He served his curacy at Sedbergh and then held two successive livings in Fewston-with-Blubberhouses and Chorleton-in-Craven. He was Chaplain to the Forces during World War II and was invalided out after four years service.

Following the deaths of his two uncles and his consequent inheritances, Fred returned to the Island in 1947 a very rich man, and began a life of deep involvement in local educational, cultural, sporting and charitable affairs. It was said that he was involved in over 130 organisations of different sorts and at different times, and he was fiercely loyal to the Island and its traditions, history and people. Amongst his major benefactions were those that resulted in the Thomas Cubbon Wing at Noble's Hospital, named after an uncle, and also the chapel at the hospital, the latter being the realisation of a long-held dream. He provided funds for the Cubbon Residential Home and the Cubbon Music School at King Williams. He presented the chains of office for the chairmen of the commissioners of Castletown, Peel and Ramsey. Four times he led the Manx team to the Commonwealth Games as honorary commandant, at his own expense, and as president of the Isle of Man Branch of the Red Cross Society he was instrumental in securing the new headquarters in Derby Road, Douglas. He was a trustee of the Manx Museum and chairman of the Friends, president of the Isle of Man Rifle Association and for many years a trustee of both the Buchan School and King William's College. He chaired the Executive Committee of the latter for sixteen years. He was a great supporter of the Manx Music Festival and instituted a Lieder Class by providing a fine rose-bowl for competition. For some years he chaired the Licensed Victuallers' Association at their annual banquet.

Although much of his generosity had a high profile, much of it was done in private, even secretly, and the full extent of his munificence will never be known. His appointment to OBE for his charitable work was entirely fitting.

As is often the case with colourful, prominent and wealthy people, Fred had his critics. His flamboyant lifestyle and lavish entertaining were regarded by some as not fitting for a clergyman. Certainly he loved good food, wine and company and his birthday parties were notable events with over 100 guests attending. At one of the last of these celebrations he declared that he had enjoyed life, had not gone around miserable, and would continue to give money away as long as he could.

Fred's first loyalty, however, was to the Church of England and all it stands for, and he was devoted to St Matthew's, Douglas. His fondness for high-church vestments and ceremonial made him a target for further unkind criticism, and even a figure of fun in what was, and still is, a low-church diocese, but he appeared quite unmoved by gossip and critical comment. Bishop Pollard made him his chaplain in 1955, but his intention to appoint Fred to a canonry caused an outcry from some of his fellow clergy who felt that this was quite inappropriate for someone who had never held a parochial living in the diocese. Fred, who shortly before the invitation was made had presented the diocese with a very fine silver crozier for the use of the bishop and his successors, wisely declined this honour. He was, however, a Canon of the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, an international charitable organisation.

To dwell on Fred's alleged idiosyncrasies and foibles would be seriously to underestimate the man. Although he did have a streak of the showman in him, he was no mere figurehead in his multitude of public roles. He took his responsibilities and duties with the utmost seriousness and, as a chairman, he was well-informed, shrewd and wise. In these capacities he gave good advice and led from the front, also undertaking innumerable unrecorded acts of kindness and generosity towards individuals.

His funeral on 16th February 1980 was a memorable event. St Matthew's Church was packed for the Requiem Mass held in the presence of Governor Sir John Paul, the Lord Bishop, clergy and a host of representatives and friends. Groups of people gathered on the quayside to pay their respects. Fred had requested 'a good do with no gloomy faces' and he got it. He had also ordered that his coffin be placed not in the chancel, but in the nave aisle of the church, 'amongst his friends'. Bishop Nicholls spoke of Fred's life of service and friendship and affirmed that Fred's mainspring was at the altar in the House of God. He was laid to rest in St George's Churchyard.

The Reverend Fred's will reflected his widespread generosity in life and included substantial bequests to the Cathedral of St German and to King William's College. He had enormous affection for his old school and the memorial plaque in its Chapel of St Thomas describes him simply as 'Priest, Patriot and Philanthropist'. And so he was.

Biography written by Paul Bregazzi.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.149-50.)

Culture Vannin


Gender: Male

Date of birth: 1902

Date of death: 1980

Name Variant: Revd Fred Matthias Cubbon


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