On 2 January 2020 about 350 people packed the St Stephens Parish Church, Southmead, Bristol for the funeral of my best friend Freddie Gallichan who has died at the age of 88. The ‘Open Air’ and ‘Old Peoples Home’ gospel singing ministry of Freddie and Anne Gallichan has touched so many lives in their community.
The evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in his life was his relentless evangelistic endeavour and his caring compassionate concern for everyone around him. He used his musical gift to create a rapport with people so he could tell them about his wonderful saviour Jesus Christ. Everyone would be offered a gospel tract or a compact disc of their latest Biblical ministry. These CDs featured Anne reading Bible passages relevant to a theme and Freddie playing piano, or accordion and singing hymns of praise and worship to God. A Bible text notice would front their ministry. There was always a Bible text on their front door and window for the residents of Southmead to read. Southmead, one of the poorer areas of Bristol, has been enriched with such love of God.
Freddie was born at St Helier, Jersey on 23rd March 1931. He lost his mother when he was 3 years old. As a child Freddie had TB of the hip and was in a plaster cast for 6 years. The love of the Matron of the convalescent home, Miss Violet Mitchell, resulted in Freddie at the age of 14 going to St Nicholas College, Canterbury where he was looked after by the Queen’s Master of Choristers. At the age of 34 Freddie was born again of the Holy Spirit after a lady talked to him about faith in Jesus Christ while she was in his fish and chip shop in Watford. Freddie said he knew he “was rubbish”. And he had realised that he couldn’t love others. That all changed when he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and saviour.
Freddie taught scripture and choruses in their Bible clubs for girls and boys in Withywood and Hartcliffe and then in Southmead, Bristol. He was often seen preaching and playing the accordion in the open air with support from Anne and their children, Hannah and Jonathan, in Hartcliffe, Southmead and Keynsham. I met Freddie and Anne in the 1980s while doing evangelism in Cornwall. It was in 1996 that Freddie asked me to help his family who had a ‘Statutory Nuisance Notice’ served on them by Bristol City Council. This ‘Notice’ alleged that a 10 watt Peavy amplifier, also used by his wife Anne and two young children to sing hymns and choruses to shoppers outside Southmead shops, was “Injurious to Public Health”. They had 21 days to appeal otherwise the ‘Notice’ would apparently continue for ever. When I arrived Freddie was depressed about it. I used my engineering experience to do a noise survey. We used this crisis for more evangelism. Every house in Southmead was visited three times with the issue and the Gospel message. Freddie did a petition to the City Council and the Queen. Eventually Jeremy Paxman on BBC TV interviewed them. They were nicknamed the ‘Bristol Von Trapp Family’ being likened to the singing family in ‘The Sound of Music’ musical. Live from their front room they were on Coast to Coast radio in Canada. And on Sky television seen in the Far East, with Zippy their dog. Millions heard the Gospel and Southmead supported them. The Council removed the ‘Notice’ and paid towards Freddie’s legal costs. Victory speeches were televised outside the council offices.
For 25 years from 1993 to 2018 Freddie and Anne ran monthly Christian services and sing-alongs in about 20 elderly peoples nursing home in and around Bristol. Every year Freddie displayed the Ten Commandments and many Bible texts on his car in the Gloucester carnival procession as we read the ‘Bible Salvation Verses’ to about 30,000 people. Freddie was in pain for much of all of this, from his fixed hip and one leg being much longer than the other, and recently following a knee operation left infected without cure. Freddie was an excellent piano tuner and restorer, who loved his work. He retired aged 85. Freddie had cancer in his bladder in the year 1999. He said a total change of diet (Speak to Anne) helped him have 20 more years of life because the Cancer left him. His last mission was to the people at Southmead Hospital. Freddie would ask hospital staff, “Do you know how special you are?” Everyone got the Gospel. He often played the grand piano at the hospital.
As Freddie’s final days arrived he just went faster and faster. With a fervent twinkle in his eye, Freddie said to me, “At harvest time every minute is important. The Lord has got it all worked out for us. People have got to know that someone loves them, and experience ‘The Potter’s Hand'”. Freddie also said, “The NIV (Nearest Incorrect Version) is doing a lot of damage among Christians. Christians need repentance and the fear of God, not dancing up and down. Christians need to hear from God. And ask “What did He say to me today? What is the Lord doing? We need to enter into the plan the Lord is doing”. Freddie died at 5am on Saturday 30th November 2019. Anne and the children surrounded Freddie at his home in Southmead. How greatly have the children and grandchildren, and we, been loved by Freddie Gallichan. He was buried at Canford Cemetery, Westbury-on-Trym.
Roland R. Parsons.