A Foster Miscellany of Stories


What follows here is a miscellany of stories by and about these Fosters over the years. They are shown in chronological order of the times and the events that they described.


800-1200. Foster Ancestry

- from The Foster Family of Flanders, England, and America by Dr. Billie Glen Foster

During the Middle Ages, the Foster clan was one of many who lived primarily on the Anglo-Scottish border. The name derived from Forster or Forrster, which itself derived from Forester or Forrester.  The first man of that name was Sir Richard Forester, whose sister, Matilda or Maud of Flanders, was married to William the Conqueror.  Sir Richard was the son of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders.  The Baldwins descended from Baldwin I, the son of Anarcher, the Great Forester of Flanders, who died in the year 837.   

The accepted Foster coat of arms is a silver colored shield with a green chevron and three hunter's horns. Above the shield is a helmet with an arm, in armor, bent, holding a lance.  The lance is broken.  The Latin scroll at the bottom reads si fractus fortis, "if broken, still strong."

1200’s. The Doctor Foster Nursery Rhyme

The origins of "Doctor Foster" are reputedly  lie in English history dating back to the Plantagenet  monarchy of the 13th century when King Edward 1 ("Doctor Foster") was thought to have visited Gloucester and fell from his horse into a large muddy puddle!

“Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain. 
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again!”

King Edward 1 was a powerful man - over six foot tall - hence his nickname of Longshanks.  He is said to have been so humiliated by this experience that he refused to ever visit Gloucester again!

However, some have said that the Doctor Foster rhyme did not come until later.  Royalist forces were besieging Gloucester in 1642 during the Civil War.  But because of the bad weather they failed in their attempt and had to retreat.
 

1200's-1600's. The Line of Northumberland Forsters

In 1191, Sir John Forster rode with King Richard I the Lion Heart to Palestine.  He saved the life of the king at Acre.  He was knighted and, as a reward, made Governor of Bamburgh Castle on Farm Island off the rugged coast of Northumberland.

The following was the line of success
Sir John was succeeded by his heir and son Randolph

Sir Randolph died in 1256 and was succeeded by his son Alfred

Sir Alfred died in 1284 and was succeeded by his son Reginald
Sir Reginald was succeeded by his son Richard
Sir Richard died in 1371 and was succeeded by his son William
Sir William died in 1422 and was succeeded by his son Thomas
who was then followed by five Sir Thomas's in a row, all Governors of Bamburgh

the fifth Sir Thomas died in 1589, succeeded by his brother John
Sir John died in 1602 and was succeeded by his eldest son Nicholas (born out of wedlock)
Sir Nicholas died and was succeeded by his son Claudius
Sir Claudius died in 1623 and was succeeded by his brother John


1590.  Sir John Forster's Letter to His Cousin


"Dear Cousin,

After right hearty commendations unto you, ye shall understand I have received your letter wherein you desire to know of your pedigree.  Your grandfather, as ye have learned, was descended out of the house of Etherstone - whether he was the elder, second, or third, or fourth brother – and fled the country of Northumberland.

I assure you I can truly satisfy you therein.  Your grandfather, called Roger Foster, was my great uncle.  His father was called Thomas Forster and his mother's name was Featherstonehaugh.  His eldest son was called Thomas Forster, my great-grandfather.

It happened that four of the said brethren had been at a-hunting and were riding homeward through a town called Newham.  They and a company of Scottish Kerrs fell out and there began bloodshed and feuds which continued until there was but one Kerr living. 

During this time my grandfather and yours and another brother of theirs called Nicholas Forster (mine being twenty years old, yours 17 years, and Nicholas, a child of 14) being a-hunting - were waited upon by one of the Kerrs and two of their alliance called Too and King.  They set upon the three brothers and were thought to have slain them at a place near Branton where a cross still stands. 

Two were slain there and Kerr fled.  After the slaughter my grandfather fled to Ridsdale in the county because he was safe there and yours fled to southern parts.”

At my house near Alnwick, 17th April 1590, your loving cousin,

John Forster." 

This letter was written to Thomas Foster, later Judge Sir Thomas Foster, in Hertfordshire.


John Forster himself was a strong and forceful man who never did anything by halves.  He was a hard-headed businessman who profited from Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and
gained more wealth and influence by assisting the defeat of the northern uprisings in 1569–70.  He was then appointed Warden of the Middle Marches of the Border, a powerful and tough position which he held for thirty seven years.  And he had wives and mistresses, legitimate and illegitimate children.  On his death at the grand old age of 85, he blew one third of his estate on a wildly expensive pre-arranged funeral feast. 
 


1640's-1650's.  Nicholas Foster in Barbados

In the 1640's, while the Civil War in England was raging, Nicholas Foster left London for a new life as a sugar planter in Barbados.  On his arrival there, he puchased land for a plantation in St. Philip's parish.

However, the Civil War also came to Barbados.  After the King was executed, many Royalist supporters had fled there.  As Foster wrote in his account of those times, "a generation of young cavees have come over from England, complaining that Parliament had sequestered their estates."  Foster, a Parliiament supporter, had in fact to flee the island in 1650.

His own private life at the time was messy.  He had married Elizabeth Remnont in London in 1639; but had not brought her to Barbados.  There he took a second wife, Mary Barbour.  When he had to flee Barbados for England, he learnt that Elizabeth his first wife, who had heard about his marriage in Barbados, had married again.  However, her husband was away in the East Indies and Nicholas moved in with her.  When Mary in Barbados found this out, she too hastened back to England.  Her ship was lost at sea.  Nicholas then sought out another woman and proposed marriage to her.

All of these shenanigans were reported back to his Puritan masters in London.  They were not amused.  He lost his chance of a sinecure at the Admiralty and returned to sugar planting in Barbados.  The 1673 register of landowners shows his family owning a 300 acre plantation there. 


1635-1665.  The Richard Fosters of Virginia

A Richard Foster sailed from London on August 10, 1635 on the ship Safety and arrived with Bartholomew Hoskins in Jamestown that fall.  He was but sixteen years old.  Another Richard Foster, not much older, received 300 acres of land granted on the north side of the east branch of the Elizabeth river in Lower Norfolk, Virginia in May 1637.  He later married Dorcas Hoskins, daughter of Bartholomew and Dorcas Foster Hoskins.  As a result, the first Richard Foster was a stepson of Bartholomew Hoskins, the second a son-in-law.  These Fosters, however, remained confused.  A Captain Richard Foster, referred to in 1653 legal documents, could have been either of these two men.

There is more confusion as another Richard Foster is to be found in Virginia from 1638.  And the Richard Foster who sold his land in Lower Norfolk and moved to Gloucester County could have been any one of these men or possibly an entirely new Richard Foster.

One of these Richard Fosters is the forebear of Robert Foster, born in Gloucester County, who set up a plantation on 200 acres of land in Essex County in 1692.  But which one?



1663.  The Will of Thomas Foster

“My will is that my son Thomas shall have that mare that is at Nissaquake and if the child that my wife now bears shall live, then that child shall have a share of it.  My children are to be taught to read English and my son to write when they come of age.  And if my wife should marry or remain as she is and not teach the children as aforesaid, then my will is that two cows more be laid out for the end to give the children learning.”

Thomas Foster, Rustdorp (Jamaica), Long Island.”

In 1671, his widow and Joseph Thurston, whom she had subsequently married, were confirmed as executors of his will.


1692.  Ann Foster and the Salem Witch Trial

Ann was forty years younger than her husband Andrew when they left England in 1635 for a new life in America.  They settled in Andover, Massachusetts.  Andrew did live to a remarkable 106 years of age.  But when he eventually died in 1685, she was 65 years old and her life began to fall apart.  Four years later, her daughter Hannah was slain by her husband during a drunken rage (for which crime he was hanged).  Around the same time, an avaricious neighbor, Joseph Ballard, had designs on her land and helped implicate her in witchcraft.

In 1692, when Joseph Ballard's wife, Elizabeth, came down with a fever that baffled doctors, witchcraft was suspected and a search for the responsible witch began. Two afflicted girls of Salem village, Ann Putnam and Mary Walcott, were taken to Andover to seek out the witch, and, at the sight of Ann Foster, the girls fell into fits.  Ann, then 72, was subsequently arrested and taken to Salem prison.

A careful reading of the trial transcripts reveals that Ann resisted confessing to the 'crimes' she was accused of having committed, despite being "put to the question" (i.e. tortured) multiple times over a period of days.  However, her resolve broke when her daughter, similarly accused of witchcraft, accused her own mother of the crime in order to save herself and her child.  The transcripts reveal the anguish of a mother attempting to shield her child and grandchild by taking the burden of guilt upon herself.  Convicted, Ann died in jail in the winter of 1693 before the trials were discredited and ended.


1716.  Wanted - Thomas Forster
- from The London Gazette, April 10, 1716


"Thomas Forster, late of the county of Northumberland, is a person of middle stature, inclined to be fat, well shaped, except the he stoops at the shoulders, fair complexioned, his mouth wide, his nose large, his eyes grey.  He speaks in a northern dialect and is about 35 years of age.

He was lately apprehended and committed to Newgate jail for high treason for levying war against the realm.  But last Tuesday he escaped.

We therefore have sought fit, with the advice of our Privy Council, to issue this royal proclamation, hereby requiring and commanding our loving subjects to use their best endeavor to discover and apprehend the said Thomas Forster.

And for the encouragement of all persons to be diligent and artful in discovering him, we do hereby further declare that whosoever shall apprehend and bring Thomas Forster before a Justice of the Peace shall have and receive as reward the sum of one thousand pounds which the Lord Chancellor is hereby required and ordered to pay accordingly.”

The “official” story of his escape is that Tom Forster was having drinks with the prison governor when Tom asked to be excused to go to the toilet.  Tom had been gone for a long time.  When the governor investigated, he found only Tom’s nightgown, which he had apparently been wearing over his clothes, lying on the stairs.  In the lock of the side door was a false key and in a small room downstairs the governor found his own servant who said he had been locked in by Tom Forster’s man servant.

The governor may have been bribed by Tom’s sister, Dorothy.  She had made the journey down from Northumberland to London on horseback, accompanied by the village blacksmith.  The journey was atrocious, with deep snow and ice, and probably took them three to four weeks.  But she did arrive with sufficient time to befriend the governor. 


Tom and Dorothy Forster were the last in the line of Northumberland Forsters.  Tom had been one of the ringleaders of the 1715 Jacobite Revolt.  For this he had almost paid with his life.  He escaped to France where he died in 1738.  Dorothy married a local blacksmith.  She died in 1767 and is buried besides those of her earlier kin in the Forster crypt under St. Aidan’s Church in Bamburgh. 
  


1767.  Dorothy Forster and Her Ghostly Spirit

The portrait of Dorothy Forster, the last of the Northumbrian Forsters, hangs in a tower of the Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland.  This used to be the Forsters’ manor house and was later the home of Dorothy’s aunt and uncle, Lady Dorothy and Lord Nathaniel Crewe.

Dorothy’s spirit is still believed to haunt one wing of the Lord Crewe Arms.  There have been many claims of ghostly sightings, particularly in what is referred to as “Dorothy Forster’s Sitting Room.”  The ghost is described by those who have seen it is that of a russet or auburn red-haired beautiful young woman or teenage girl who seems to be sadly searching for something or someone.  Some say that the object of her search is a new-born baby which appears to have been born out of wedlock and was taken away by her family to avoid a scandal.  

The russet-hair coloring is worthy of comment, insofar as red-brown hair, although not so powerful today as it once was, is a genetic trait of the Forster clan. 


1782-1824.  Lady Elizabeth Foster Has Her Way

Like Diana, the Devonshires’ marriage was “crowded.”  The third party was Lady Elizabeth Foster, nee Hervey, and known as Bess.  Somehow, in 1782, when the Devonshires were in Bath, she managed to insinuate her way into their lives, offering to both a never-ending stream of tea and sympathy.  Bess was said by Burney to possess “all of the wickedness of the Herveys."  She was deeply loathed, particularly by Georgiana’s children.

Yet all three lived together and eventually became dependent on each other.  Once underway, the twists and turns in the relationship of these three people would leave an outsider in amazement.  To the duke, Bess offered tender comfort and her bed (along with an illegitimate child); to Georgiana, who wrote to her as “my dearest, dearest, dearest angelic love,” seemingly permanent adoration.  They never seemed to see through her, even though Bess had a succession of lovers – working hard to become the Duchess of Richmond.

At root, Bess envied Georgiana.  When the duchess died, she at last got what she probably wanted most, the duke.  The Cavendish family was horrified to be landed with her.  When the duke died, she moved to Rome, ending her days as a cardinal’s mistress.



1788-1827.  Prince Among Slaves

Prince Among Slaves is the film being made by Unity Productions Foundation and starring the hip-hop artist Mos Def which narrates the story of Abdul Rahman Ibrahima.  It recounts:


1830's-1850's.  Sinah Foster Runs The Show

John and Sinah Foster were saddle makers in Smith Fork Creek, near Liberty Tennessee.  John loved his dram.  One night when drinking, he was exposed to the cold, contracted pneumonia, and died.   After John’s death she had to raise their twelve children all by herself and teach the saddle making trade to each of her eight sons.

She was a very industrious woman.  In 1837 she contracted to build a section of the turnpike up Snow’s Hill between Liberty and Smithville.  And she oversaw her sons and employees doing the job so that the stretch of road was completed to a very high standard.  Later, she bought and sold several large tracts of land on Smith Fork Creek and several lots in the town of Smithville.  She also had a one third interest with two of her sons in a 750 acre tract of land in Cumberland County at Grassy Cove.

Sinah Foster was a tall woman with a keen mind, a good cook, a gardener (working at her garden at 90), running everything about her.  She was both commanding and gentle.   Yet even though she seems to have been very smart business woman, she could neither read nor write.  All the documents that have been found have had "her X mark" for her signature and then witnessed.



1850’s.  Mill Owner Buys Castle


One of the best known and biggest worsted mills in Yorkshire was John Foster & Son Ltd, whose Black Dyke Mills lay on a hilltop village midway between Bradford and Halifax.  Its founder John Foster came from nearby Clayton. 

He began by putting yarn out to be woven, collecting the finished pieces and selling them in Halifax.  Later he built a warehouse in Queensbury.  The warehouse became a mill, the mill expanded, and John Foster prospered so much so that he bought Hornby Castle as his family home.

After the purchase he wandered into an inn on his new estate.  John Foster was famous for affecting the dress and manner of an ordinary working man.  The landlord, who was engaged in conversation with some of his customers of the “better class,” ordered Foster into the taproom.  He joined him later and condescended to share his woes with him.

"The estate's been bought by one of them Yorkshire mill owners," he said.  "I've a new landlord."

"Aye, that's right," John Foster replied.  "It's me."


1866.  The Ballad of Tom Dooley

A young happy-go-lucky confederate soldier, Tom Dooley, returned to his home on the Yadkin River in Wilkes County, North Carolina after the Civil War.  He became a very popular man with the young ladies, in particular with Laura Foster and her cousin Ann Foster who competed for his attention. 

One night Laura took what clothes she could carry on horseback and left home for a rendezvous with Tom.  She disappeared.  Her family searched for her, but for no avail.  After about three weeks, her horse returned, gaunt and with a broken halter. 

Some time later, Ann got into a public argument with her sister Perline.  As they argued, Perline got scared and broke down.  She said that Tom Dooley had killed Laura and that Ann had taken her to the site of the grave.  Perline then directed a search party to the place.   They started digging and found her body.  Laura’s legs had been broken and what appeared to be a stab wound was found in her breast.  Also found was the small bag of Laura's clothing.  There was no doubt.  It was Laura.

Then weeks after the body had been found, a bunch of riders rode into town.  Bob Grayson was in the lead, followed by Tom Dooley with his hands shackled behind his back and Jack Keaton with his hands tied. 

Grayson told the onlookers that Tom Dooley had murdered Laura and that Keaton and Ann Foster had helped him. 

It was on the first day of May 1866, that Tom Dooley rode through the streets of Statesville with his banjo on his knee.  He joked as the rope was placed around his neck.  And thus the song came into being which started as follows:  

“Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry
Killed poor Laura Foster
You know you're bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry (ah-uh-eye)
Hang down your head Tom Dooley
Poor boy you're bound to die (ah well now boy).”



1860's-1880's.  The Strange Phenomenon of Charles Foster


Charles Foster was born in Salem, Massachusetts where they once had witchcraft trials.  Perhaps that is what made him strange.

He could be a convivial character who would enjoy drinking alcohol and smoking long cigars in barrooms with companions as much as he did transmitting messages from the dead.  His biographer noted:

"He was extravagantly dual.  He was not only Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but he represented half-a-dozen different Jekylls and Hydes.  He was an unbalanced genius, and at times, I should say, insane.  He wore out many of his friends.  He seemed impervious to the opinions of others and apparently yielded to every desire."

Some of Foster's strangest phenomena, like skin writing, appear to have been involuntary.  During Foster's tour of England in 1861, Dr. John Ashburner was called to Foster's bedside by one of his companions who stated that Foster was near death.  Ashburner found him in a drunken stupor following a night of unrestrained drinking with friends.  After Ashburner examined the medium, then in a drunken torpor, an extraordinary phenomenon occurred, as Ashburner later narrated:

"Suddenly the bedclothes were tightly rolled downwards as far as his groin.  The shirt was then rolled tightly, like a cord, exposing to our view the skin of the chest and abdomen.  Soon there appeared in large red letters raised on the surface the word 'DEVELOPMENT,' which extended from the right groin to the left shoulder, dividing the surface into two triangular compartments.  These were filled up with sprigs of flowers, resembling fleur-de-lys.  The phenomenon lasted nearly ten minutes, when the shirt and bedclothes were unrolled gently and replaced as they were at first."

In his later years Foster became addicted to alcohol.  In 1881, at the age of 48, he was taken to Danvers insane asylum, suffering, according to reports, from advanced alcoholism and softening of the brain.  For the last four years of his life he apparently lived a vegetable existence under the care of an aunt, simply staring into space most of the time.



1874.  The Short Life of Charles Ffrench Blake-Forster


Charles Ffrench Blake-Forster was born in Forster House, Forster Street Galway in 1850.  He was proud of his long lineage on the Blake-Forster and Ffrench sides and was blessed with a gifted mind and outstanding intellect.  He used both in the pursuit of learning.

He was very conscious of Galway’s past.  At 21, he published The Irish Chieftains, a historical study of South Galway and North Clare in the late eighteen and nineteenth centuries.  He also wrote a historical novel about the events surrounding the battle of Aughrim which was fought with savage fury in east Galway in 1691.

He was as well, in 1874, high sheriff for the town of Galway, charged with administering justice and keeping the peace of the city.  However, on September 9, 1874 at the age of 24, he died of a brain haemorrhage, brought on by overwork, at his father’s house in Forster Street.  Had he lived there is no doubt but we would have now a history of Galway which would do the city full justice and honor.  Indeed he had in manuscript form at his death, The Annals of Galway, which alas has been lost to us.

1900.  The Death of Vere Foster

Vere Foster, the son of the diplomat Sir Augustus Foster, came from the English privileged class.  But a visit to Ireland in 1847 so opened his eyes to the suffering of the people during the potato famine that he devoted the rest of his life to their social improvement.

He founded the Irish Female Emigration Fund in 1852 and helped many young women emigrate to Canada.  Concerned by reports of the terrible conditions by those using them, Foster travelled on an emigrant ship to New York and, contracting fever, remained in hospital there for months.  His subsequent campaign in the US and Britain led to improved conditions for passengers being imposed on the shipping companies.  Later, he turned his attention to the improvement of education in Ireland.  Largely at his own expense, he provided free furniture for 1,300 national schools.

He died on Christmas Eve 1900 in Belfast.  Just a handful of mourners formed the small cortege to bury an old man who had died in penury in a Belfast garret.  Few realized that it was the final journey of Vere Foster.



1916.  William Foster & Co and Their Tank


William Foster had begun his business career in Lincolnshire as a flour miller.  In 1856 he took the decision to convert his premises into a foundry and engineering shop.  Foster began by producing grinding mills but soon expanded his product range to include thrashing machines, chaff cutters and portable steam engines.  William Foster himself died of typhoid in 1876.  But the company he founded continued to prosper.

Before the Great War, the company had begun to experiment with a caterpillar tracked vehicle for difficult terrain.  When war broke out, Foster’s heavy Daimler tractors were used to haul massive howitzer guns and heavy equipment.  As a result their engineering pedigree was well known to the Admiralty Landships Committee.

During the war, the opposing forces had quickly got bogged down on the battlefields.  Infantry and cavalry were useless against the mud and the enemy machine guns.  Casualties were running at horrific levels and there was no sign of a breakthrough.  That was the problem put before the Landships Committee, the group charged with developing an armored fighting vehicle that could cross the trenches and barbed wire and deliver an attack capable of breaking the stalemate.

Foster’s factory had already been heavily involved in the war effort.  But the development of a new fighting vehicle likely to have a major effect on the conflict required an element of secrecy.  The workforce was thus told that they were working on "watercarriers for Mesopotamia."  From this somewhat awkward title the workers came up with their own simpler name - the tank.



1951.  The Creation of Bananas Foster

In the 1950's, New Orleans was a majot port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America.  Owen Brennan challenged his chef, Paul Blange, to include bananas in a new culinary creation.  Chef Paul created Bananas Foster.  The dessert was named for Richard Foster who served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission, a civic effort to clean up the French Quarter.  Richard Foster, owner of the Foster Awning Company, was a frequent customer at Brennan's and a good friend of Owen's.

Bananas Foster
quarter cup (half a stick) of butter
one cup brown sugar
half teaspoon cinnamon
quarter cup banana liqueur
four bananas cut in half lengthwise then halved
quarter cup dark rum
four scoops vanilla ice cream

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambe pan or skillet.  Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan.  When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum.  Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum.  When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream.  Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.



1985.  Bill Foster's New England Clambake

In 1951, Bill Foster of York Harbor, Maine, offered the use of his land to the Civic Club of York for a sportsmen's show.  As part of the agreement, he also put on an old-fashioned Maine clambake to help the club earn money.  And from this Foster’s Downeast Clambake was born

Bill’s catering success stemmed from developing a traditional method that was also portable.  As news of his sumptuous New England clambakes spread, Foster’s was asked in 1961 to put on a New England clambake for General Mills Foods that was featured in their Betty Crocker's Outdoor Cookbook.  This national exposure introduced the nation to both Foster’s and the traditional New England clambake.

Today, Foster’s Downeast Clambake is run by Kevin Tacy who bought the business and worked alongside Bill during his first year to learn all the techniques that have made Foster’s a New England tradition.



1995.  Margaret Forster and Hidden Lives


This memoir begins in late 19th century Carlisle.  A mystery surrounds Margaret Ann, the grandmother of the author.  Her own mother had died when Margaret Ann was only two years old and a void then seems to have been purposely created.  From 1871 to 1893 this baby disappears from all records.  But she, unlike her mother, can be found and described even if there are gaps, gaps which she went at great lenghs to keep empty.  During her lifetime she managed to conceal everything she wished to conceal.

She was a domestic servant before she married a butcher and settled down to have a family.  Their eldest daughter, Lily, was a bright child able to go to the Higher Grade School and get a good job as a clerk.  But when she married she was obliged to relinquish this career.  When her daughter Margaret's time came, she was able to take advantage of the changing times, to go to High School, to Oxford University, and to move away from Carlisle to establish her writing career and family in the south.

Three different women, three different lives.



2000.  Norman Foster and the Thames Bridge


It is no great surprise that the prestigious task of designing the first bridge across the River Thames in more than a century fell to Norman Foster.

His style is seen as very much that of the new millennium - clean, unfettered and environmentally-aware.  The philosophy statement of his company Foster and Partners - which employs 500 people at studios in London, Berlin and Hong Kong - says that in recognition of architecture being a public art, each project "is sensitive to the culture and climate of its place."  It also says that architecture is generated by the material and spiritual needs of people.

Norman Foster has come a long way.  He told the Christian Science Monitor:

"I come from a working-class neighborhood in Manchester.  In Britain the idea one could go from blue-collar beginnings to the university was so far out, it was quite unthinkable.   I took a variety of jobs to pay for tuition, from ice-cream salesman to night-club bouncer.  Whatever earned the most money in the least time."

He then went to the US on a fellowship to Yale University, where he gained his masters in architecture.  He established Foster Associates - later to become Foster and Partners - in 1967.


2007.  Fred Foster on Monument

Fred Foster, now 75, owned independent record label Monument, whose roster included Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson.  This was how he reflected on those times:

"It's a gift, being able to sense something unique in somebody, and that's what I aimed for, always.  Anybody that dropped a needle on a groove of a Monument record, I wanted them to immediately know, `oh, that's Dolly Parton,' or `that's Roy Orbison.'  It had to be unique."

That was the reason Foster pushed Kristofferson - who sought a career as a songwriter - to record his own work.

"I asked him to sing me four songs.  By the second one, I thought, `My God, I must be hallucinating.  There's no way anyone can write songs like this.' 

After the fourth song, I said, `I'll agree to this on one condition: You have to make an album for Monument."'  When Kristofferson pointed out that he sang "like a frog," Foster said he replied, "Yeah, but a frog that can communicate."


Foster sold Monument in the 1980s, selling the label's catalog of country and pop to CBS.  Today, he's regarded as one of Nashville music's visionaries.