Fred Risk talks about his father
Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 13th March 2012 by Liam Physick
Fred Risk recalls how his father, Joseph, worked as a detective for the Railway Police - before nationalisation (which took place when Fred was 19 years old), the Big Four all had their own police forces: after it, the British Transport Police was created, with jurisdiction over all railways in Great Britain. Fred remembers some of the incidents his father was involved in, including one where he arrested a man who had stolen plums, but gave him the option of eating the fruit to destroy the evidence! Apparently it worked: the man never stole anything else in his life!
He also adopted an interesting tactic when he worked on the Garston Docks and caught anyone smoking: he would approach the guilty person, who would conceal the cigarette in their pocket, and he would talk to them until they were forced to pull the cigarette out and throw it away!
On another occasion, Sgt. J. Risk met Queen Elizabeth II at Lime Street just after she had returned from a visit to Canada, while Fred himself had a photograph taken of himself in Canada, surrounded by the famous mounted police, on Canada Day, 1st July, which celebrates the anniversary of the Constitution Act 1867 (originally called the British North America Act), which created the country by the unification of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec). See image below.
Joseph also suffered the loss of Fred’s elder sister, Ethel, at the age of 13, and fought in the First World War, when he was sent to relieve General Charles Townsend during the siege of Kut Al Amara (now in Iraq) in 1915-16, when Ottoman Empire forces besieged a city defended by British and Indian troops: however, the city surrendered before the relief force arrived, and Joseph took the surrender message on his heliograph.
Interviewee: Fred Risk
Interviewee Gender: Male
Date of Interview: 16th February 2012
Fred: My father came here, I think he, it was as a detective in here, and he used to have to go out to the different stations, when they had problems, heâ€™d go and investigate things like that, but there was, he, he told a story that there used to be a hansom cab who used to park outside the station, and the old cabby used to fall asleep, and somebody changed the horse round in the shafts, so when he woke up, the horse was looking at him! (Jenny laughs) Another time my father, another time my father said that he caught, he caught a chap stealing plums because, just across the way was the fruit, where all the fruit vans came in, so he said, he gave him the option of swallowing the, swallowing the plums, and then they wouldnâ€™t have any evidence (Jenny laughs), or heâ€™d have to arrest him, and all his mates said, â€śGo on, have go!â€ť (Jenny laughs), so he tried, he, he, he did do it and he met my father years later and he said to him, â€śI never stole another thingâ€ť (Jenny laughs), so it obviously worked, so, that was one good thing, but my dad was, was quite fair with the, with a lot of the people that he dealt with. On, on Garston Docks when he was there, as a sergeant, they werenâ€™t allowed to smoke on the docks, and if heâ€™d, heâ€™d catch someone smoking, and heâ€™d go up and theyâ€™d, theyâ€™d put the cigarette in, in their pocket, hold it in their fingers, and he used to keep talking to them til in the end they had to pull the cigarette out and throw it, and heâ€™d say, â€śNow, youâ€™re not supposed to smoke on the Docks, you knowâ€ť (Jenny laughs), so, he was quite, quite a fair-minded man, as far as Iâ€™m concerned, with the people he dealt with, I mean, so, thatâ€™s, thatâ€™s the sort of thing (coughs), I, thatâ€™s what I can remember of the, of the area.
Jenny: And, how long was your dad in, is, what is it the Railway Police, then?
Fred: The Railway Police, yeah . . .
Fred: . . . he, he retired when he was 65, from the Railway Police, he, he lived to be about 76, I think. He had, he met the Queen, he, he used to go on duty to Aintree, when the Queen was coming in, and the Aintree races, they, theyâ€™d have to go out to, to duty on the station, and he met the, I got a photograph of him talking to the two mounted police who escorted Elizabeth back when they, she, after her visit to Canada, and they were on Lime Street station, heâ€™s talking to them . . .
Jenny: Oh, right!
Fred: . . . the mounted police in all their uniform . . .
Jenny: Yeah, yeah.
Fred: . . . either side of him, you know. Itâ€™s strange, I had a photograph taken in Canada, with a police, mounted policemen either side of me out there (Jenny laughs), I went to a replica village there, and it was on Canada Day, the, the mounties were there and . . .
Jenny: Oh, wow!
Fred: . . . so I had the photograph taken! (laughs) A bit more of history going back!
Jenny: Yeah, gone full circle! (laughs)
Fred: Yeah, yeah. So . . .
Jenny: What was your fatherâ€™s name?
Fred: Joseph. Joseph Risk, yeah.
Jenny: (in a whisper) Joseph.
Fred: He, he, he, he was a character because he, he always, he used to, heâ€™d always losing umbrellas, so he used to pick up an umbrella from the Lost Property Office, and invariably they were damaged ones or ones with holes in, but he always walked with this umbrella, when he was in plain clothes, and they used to say to him, â€śWhy donâ€™t you put your umbrella up, Joe?â€ť, and he said, â€śI canâ€™t, itâ€™s full of holesâ€ť! (he and Jenny laugh) But, he used to walk the full length of the Docks on, on night duty when he was checking on the PCs around the dock stations . . .
Jenny: Oh, yeah.
Fred: . . . cos they came under the Railway Police as well.
Jenny: Was that because of the Overhead Railway, or . . . ?
Fred: The Overhead Railway was there, then, you know. He used to walk underneath there, you know, the full way, and my mother said to him one time, â€śWerenâ€™t you ever afraid of walking along there on your own?â€ť, he said, â€śNo, not so long as Ethelâ€™s holding my handâ€ť, Ethel was my elder sister, she died of diphtheria when she was 13 (Jenny tuts), so he, you know, heâ€™d been through the War, and it, it was strange that a man felt that way after seeing what heâ€™d seen in the War, and he was decorated with a DCM, he, heâ€™d been always near the front line, cos he was a spotter for the artillery during the War, during the First World War. Oh yeah, and he was, he was on the column to relieve General Townsend in Mesopotamia when he was surrounded in Kut Al Amara (Jenny sounds intrigued), and me dad took his first, last message on the heliograph, cos he didnâ€™t get to him in time, it, he took the surrender message from General Townsend on his heliograph, Iâ€™ve got a copy of it in the house, you know, his original, you know.
Jenny: Thatâ€™s amazing.
Fred: So, he was, he was a gentleman, my dad, I thought the world of him.
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