Grimsby mourns fish processing entrepreneur Frank Flear OBE

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 20 Mar 2019

One of Grimsby’s greatest seafood processing pioneers, Frank Flear OBE, has died aged 84.

Described as an enigmatic entrepreneur, of the like we may never see again, he expanded the legacy of the town’s fishing industry, creating factories that continue to thrive today.

From joining Ross Group as a buyer in 1951, he went on to found Bluecrest and later Seachill, helping to soften the blow of the demise of the middle-distance fleet in the home town he held so dear.  

Mr Flear was also the original chairman of Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises Ltd, steering the development of the modern market in the early-Nineties, with Ken Beeken, Derek Young and Martyn Boyers. He remained a director until he passed.

Mr Boyers, chief executive of GFDE, said: “He was very entrepreneurial, very intelligent and very knowledgeable about the industry. He was very enigmatic, always held in high esteem and always commanded respect of people. I don’t think we will see the likes of him again, he was a unique character.”

Read more: US ambassador could be heading to the Humber to talk fish trade

Survived by wife of 62 years Marion, daughter Penny and son David, in retirement he was a familiar figure around Cleethorpes, where he lived in one of the seafront-facing apartments, wholeheartedly embracing new eras as he did in work. 

Mr Flear, left, and Mr Boyers, celebrate Grimsby Fish Market's 20th anniversary.

Steve Norton, former chief executive of Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association, said: “He was one of the last great entrepreneurs, in the same mould as John Carl Ross. He was one of the fresh, post-war people who had real ambition about them, and it was a great, innovative period. 

“He created lots of opportunities in the seafood industry and many people in the industry today, and a good many retired, have him to thank for businesses he created.”

A Worshipful Fellow of the Company of Fishmongers and Freeman of the City of London, Mr Flear also served as High Sheriff of Humberside in 1995, immediately prior to the county being disbanded.

Three industry icons: Mr Flear with Derek Young and the Dock Tower.

Daughter Penny said: “He was a wonderful, warm, generous man – very family orientated. We all spent a lot of time together, we were very close. 

“We had discussions all the time about current affairs, politics – Brexit was exercising him greatly!”

Read more: Seafood chief: ‘There’s a £1bn opportunity we can all share in’

She said his time as High Sheriff was a particularly proud period. “He bucked the trend a little as they tended to be from farming, he was delighted and very honoured to do that; he had a wonderful year, a very busy year.”

A grandfather, he went on to become a deputy lieutenant of Lincolnshire, and was awarded the OBE in 1998. 

Born in the resort in October 1934, and one of a family of eight, he was educated at Brigg Grammar School, but the incentive to start earning was clear. 

Nice to see you - after 57 years... Frank Flear  and John Morton, second right, both from Grimsby, are pictured with the Very Rev. David Leaning, recently retired as Dean of Southwark Cathedral, at the 30th annual dinner of the Briggensians' Association at Elsham Golf Club. With them is Scunthorpe lawyer Robin Sumpter, a former head boy. All were at Brigg Grammar School in the Forties.

He joined the town giant, learning the business as he went along. At 23 he was given charge of a curing factory, before heading across the Humber to Hull, to help develop Ross’s expanding frozen food operation. 

In 1977, aged 42, he left and set up Bluecrest.

The business blossomed, opening the factory in Ladysmith Road recently expanded by Young’s, of which it is now a legacy company, producing for the supermarket own label business, as well as for the retail and catering trade.

He remained at the helm through two buy-outs, creating jobs by the hundreds, and eventually buying RossFish. 

From top left, Mr Flear welcomes Commander-in-Chief Fleet, Sir Nigel Essenhigh, opens Jubilee Gardens at Leas Infants School, Waltham, and shows the market to chairman Peter Luff and MP Andrew George,  Fisheries Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, left. 

In the late Nineties he helped bring forward Seachill with a group of former Bluecrest executives - a controversial move at the time as it took Tesco work with it. And it grew with the supermarket, sowing the seeds of a business now hot on the heels of Young’s, vying for the pride of ‘position number one’ in Grimsby. 

A long-term member of the FMA, in 1991 he accepted an invitation to join the board and helped prepare the way for fish dock modernisation, with the ‘new’ £15 million market opened in 1996. 

Despite leaving education after O-levels, he was made an honorary fellow of Lincoln University and Grimsby Institute, attending as many graduation services as his diary would allow.  

Details of funeral arrangements will follow. A minute's silence in Mr Flear's memory will take place ahead of the fish auction on the markey at 7am tomorrow, Thursday, March 21. 

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