Fred was born in April 1874 in Gloucester, the son of a dock labourer. As a boy he lived at 20, Mill Street and then at 5, Old Row, Millbrook Street, Barton St Mary. In 1890, he signed up for seven years of active service in the Army followed by five years in the Army Reserve. He declared himself to be a labourer aged 18 yrs 2 mths, when in fact he was only 16 yrs 7 mths. At this time he was 5 ft 5 ½ ins tall and weighed 8 st 12 lbs, and described as of fresh complexion with grey eyes and brown hair. He served as a soldier in India, and remained in the Gloucestershire Regiment until 1897, when he returned to Gloucester, and worked for the County Council, although remaining in the Army Reserve.
On returning to Gloucester, he joined the Rugby Club, and earned a place in the 1st XV pack immediately, making his debut in the first game of the season against Clifton on 18th September 1897. He ended up playing in 27 of the 35 fixtures that season. He scored his first try for the Club against Old Edwardians on 9th October 1897. In the Citizen, WB declared the season to be “a memorable one, and one that may very well be regarded as among the most brilliant in the history of the Club” whilst also claiming that “Gloucester is the only team in England unbeaten by an English club; whilst another fact of which Gloucestrians might well be proud is the retention for another year of the club championship of the County”. Of Fred and the rest of the pack, he wrote: With regard to the forwards, Gloucester have had a grand pack – one of the best possessed by the Club. In one important point – getting the ball in the scrum – they have had to acknowledge the superiority of opponents more than once, but in almost every other department – in the loose and line-outs especially – the City front rank have generally held the trump card. Six of the players [including Fred Goulding] assisted the county, and the successes gained for Gloucestershire have been attributed largely to the inclusion of the members of the City team.”
In 1898-99, Fred played in 23 of the 34 fixtures, and scored a try in the first match of the season on 17th September at Kingsholm in an 18-0 defeat of Clifton, although that was to be his only try of the season. The team enjoyed a very successful season, the record being won 27, lost 6, drawn 1, with points for 300 and against 116. WB summarised it as “a brilliantly successful season, and one which will form one of the brightest chapters in the history of the Club”. Of the pack and Fred himself, WB wrote that: “The play of the forwards has again been one of the great features of the season. Last year Gloucester got together a splendid pack, and all the players were available when the season opened. The form, however, did not reach the standard exhibited in 1897-98, though in a few games – notably against Blackheath – the men did splendidly. In the Christmas matches the forwards went so very rocky that it was deemed advisable to introduce some young blood. This was done in the return match with Coventry early in January, and experiment was attended with excellent results. Improvement was noticeable in every succeeding match, and it is not too much to say that for a period of nine or ten weeks the City forwards were simply irresistible. In the last two or three games the players began to feel the effects of the heavy demands made upon them, but the displays against Llanelly, Swansea, Cardiff and Newport will ever be remembered amongst the finest things accomplished by a Gloucester pack. In selecting Fred Goulding as the best all-round forward of the season, we think our opinion will be shared by the large majority of the club’s supporters. A splendid worker in the scrum, fast and clever in the open and a keen tackler, Goulding was always in evidence. His abilities were so far recognised as to gain him his South cap, but unless we are very much mistaken he will go further than this next year.”
After that England trial, playing for the South against the North, and Fred’s marriage to Mary Keane in 1899 (they set up home at 3, Daventry Terrace, Brook Street, Gloucester), it must have felt as though everything was going Fred’s way. But his life was about to take a very different direction.
Fred played 8 games at the start of the 1899-1900 season, scoring two tries against Clifton in the opening match of the season, and another against Old Edwardians, but was then called up for military service and went off to fight in the Boer War. He played in the Boxing Day fixture against Old Merchant Taylors at Kingsholm, won 16-3, and left for Aldershot the next day en route to South Africa. WB commented that “The loss of Fred Goulding was severely felt by the Club, for he was playing in grand form when ordered to the front.”
He rejoined the Gloucestershire Regiment, and arrived in South Africa in January 1900. He was severely wounded at Dreifontein and later captured at Dewetsdorp, but was released, and discharged in November 1902. He remained in the Army Reserve until 1908.
On his return to Gloucester, he rejoined the Rugby Club, and started the 1902-03 season with a bang. He scored in the first two games of the season against Old Edwardians and Clifton, and played in 13 matches before deciding to retire. As WB put it in the Citizen: “Goulding showed grand form up to the time of his unfortunate accident, and his enforced retirement was a great loss to the club.”
Fortunately he was able to resume for the 1903-04 season, and played in 27 of the Club’s 34 fixtures, scoring tries against Bristol and Northampton. WB recognised that amongst the forwards “Parham, Goulding, Hawker and Smith formed a strong quartette”. He also appeared for Gloucestershire against Somerset and Cornwall.
Fred turned out for a further 6 games in 1904-05, his last being against Cardiff on 5th November 1904, before he finally retired, having made 104 appearances and scored 9 tries for Gloucester.
In 1909, his wife, Mary, died. In 1911 he remarried to Florence Beatrice Edmonds in Gloucester, but she too died in 1918 (of Spanish Flu, along with two of their children). In 1920 Fred married for a third time to Adeline Victoria Ethel Keates in Northwich.
In August 1914, Fred was recalled to the Gloucestershire Regiment aged 40, when he was described as 5ft 9 ¾ ins, 12 st 4 lbs, with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He went to France in February 1915, was wounded in June, promoted to Lance Corporal in July, and sent to civilian work in a munitions factory in Northwich in 1916. Discharged from the Army in 1918, he remained in Northwich for the rest of his life, and died there in 1945, aged 71.
[I am grateful to Chris Collier for the career statistics, and to Martin Davies for the military and family history information, contained in this profile.]