Some of you will know Freddy as the author of Fool's Gold, a novel (published by Silverfish) based on his own experiences as an officer in the Colonial Service in Malaya, and may have met him at the first KL Literary Festival.
I met Freddy through my friends Jean and Barry who also have a house in Rye, in Sussex.
He really is a fascinating storyteller and I loved hearing about how things were here "back then", particularly when he took my head on a virtual tour of KL in the fifties and I saw the skyscrapers dissolve and the mansions along Jalan Ampang swim back into view.
But the best story and the one I told him really must be written was his account of how he - an Englishman - was actually the person who lead the crowds in the rousing call "Merdeka!" on that auspicious day.
Freddy had been enlisted as a member of the committee that organised the Independence Day celebrations:
At midnight, Aug 30, 1957, Tunku Abdul Rahman delivered his independence message to the people. "A new star has risen in the eastern sky, a star of freedom for yet another Asian people." From his drawer, Lees pulls out a bound copy of cyclostyled sheets, the schedule of events on the morning of Saturday, Aug 31.
Everything was timed exactly as it should have happened. "At 7.36 HRH the Duke of Gloucester arrives at the stadium and greeted by Datuk Abdul Razak and Encik Abdul Rahman Talib," he reads from one page.
But not everything went to plan, the Declaration of Independence as read by the Tunku and which everyone now takes as the highlight of the event, was not read as timed in the sheets. "What happened was a bus came up to the front of the Merdeka Stadium, drove into the storm drain and could not be removed. So the whole ceremony took place one hour later," recalls Lees with a chuckle.
He also remembers another incident that still gives him great satisfaction. Lees was in the stadium’s control box with Umno’s then rising star, Syed Jaafar Albar. Just as they were studying the schedules and looking out nervously for possible glitches, "Tunku Abdul Rahman popped his head in" on his way down to the stadium grounds.
He asked Syed Jaafar to lead the crowd in cheers of "Merdeka" at the conclusion of the event. This Syed Jaafar did. "Merdeka! Merdeka!" he shouted into the microphone as the dignitaries were moving out from the specially built Merdeka platform in the stadium.
The crowd responded with equal gusto, and then, according to Lees, another hitch: Syed Jaafar lost his voice. "Syed Jaafar turned to me and said, ‘My throat’s gone, my throat’s gone. You do it!’ "I did and shouted ‘Merdeka’ into the microphone, and ‘Merdeka!’ the crowd responded. Again, ‘Merdeka’..."
In his house in the peak of Rye, at midday, in front of the landmark church of St Mary the Virgin, Lees speaks his gruff voice into an imagined microphone of 50 years ago. "Merdeka! Merdeka!" Lees proclaims to the whitewashed room of his book-lined study. He sits back with a broad smile.
"I thought then, ‘This is marvellous, it gives me tremendous satisfaction. This is why I came here.’"