Monday, 4 September 2017

Harry Nott - did he swim to Australia?

The last blogpost focused on the life of our grandfather, Harold Cooper (Harry) Nott. It noted that his arrival details in Australia had yet to be found..

I'm wondering if this may be resolved through some recent research.

We know that Harry was in England in December 1911 as he was a witness to the marriage of his brother, Stan. We also know that he was in Australia in October 1913 when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy and, at that time, he was in Western Australia.

We also know from the 1911 Census in England that Harry was listed as a Clerk in a Margarine Factory at the time the Census was taken.

I've recently found an interesting document on the National Archives of Australia website. It is the arrival of the ship "Gneisenau" from Bremen in Germany. It arrived in Fremantle on 14 August 1912.

The ship carried a Mr H. Nott in Third Class. He is described as English, aged 21 and a Clerk. 'Our' Harry fits that description exactly! His 'place of shipment' is listed as Antwerp.

So, could this be our grandfather? Did he ever mention that he had gone to Germany to catch a boat?

Questions that could easily be answered if this sort of family history investigation had started around 50 years ago!

If this isn't him, could he have swum to Australia?

Harry Nott living with his aunt and uncle in Hendon in the 1911 Census.

The passenger list of the 'Gneisenau'. Is this our grandfather?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A broken promise

You'll be familiar with William Thomas Bloxham, our almost grandfather and fiancee of our grandmother, Selina Louisa (Louie) Brodbeck, who was killed at Paschendale during the First World War.

Today seems as good a day as any to publish the letter from Will to Louie which changed the course of history - the letter where he begged to be let off the promise he made not to go to war. So, here it is .......

Upper Horton
Friday morn
My own dearest Louie

Doubtless this letter will give you much pain my darling. I want you to let me off the promise I made you some time ago about going to enlist. I promised I would not go.

Darling, I really think it’s my duty to go, they are wanting men badly and at home if the men don’t respond readily enough, I fear conscription will be enforced. As I told you in my last letter the Bingara Recruiting Association are holding a meeting here, during the interval in the Concert, think I shall mention it then. Would like to spend Xmas with you so shall tell them I cannot go until after then.

Darling I hope you don’t think me a hard hearted Brute in writing to you like this, after giving you a promise not to go too, but I can’t keep it dearest. I feel if I must, I know you will be hurt, but cheer up dearest. Oh Kiddie, I wish I could explain to you my feelings about it, but I cannot. I love you and want you darling and then duty seems to have her say.

I may not pass in the examination, in which case I shall know that I tried, shall have that satisfaction.
Ed Gainen is going to Rose Neath on Sunday afternoon to see some sheep and I shall try and get a seat in the ‘Car’ with him, we can then talk it over. Well darling, I will have to close and get Breakfast. My darling sweet kid, forgive me for causing you pain. Hoping to see you on Sunday.

Truest love my own darling.

Your ever true loving boy,


Monday, 20 March 2017

Harold Cooper Nott

Today, 20 March, marks the birthday of our grandfather, Harold Cooper Nott. So, it seems appropriate to offer a blogpost in his honour.

Harry Nott in 1920

Harry's childhood

Harold was born on 20 March 1891 at 13 Cavendish Road, Brondesbury, a suburb in the north west of London. He was the youngest child of Tom Harrington Nott and Annie Cooper, the couple having had an older son, Stanley.

His birth certificate lists his father as being a Pianoforte Action Maker. This occupation title, while it seems quite innocuous, became, in fact, a fateful factor in the lives of the Nott family.

Tom Nott had  taken over his father's business of piano manufacturing in Chalk Farm in London in the late 1880s and it is quite clear from an examination of the Piano, Organ and Music Trades Journal that the 1890s were hard times for the piano trade in London.

Many manufacturers are listed in each issue of the Journal as going bankrupt or having financial difficulties. Tom Nott was no exception. He appears as a creditor for other businesses and in August 1892, he, too is listed as being in significant financial problems.

The exact cause of his marriage breakup to Annie is not known but a downturn in business appears to have been a cause from a reading of Tom Nott's letters from the 1920s to Harry.

What is clear is that by 1895, Tom Nott had left his family in favour of the United States of America where he settled in Newcastle, Indiana and worked until the 1920s.

Harry and Meopham

What of Harry and his older brother, Stan - two little boys left without the protection of the family's breadwinner?

We know that by February 1896, the two boys were in Meopham, Kent - then a sleepy village and now a commuter suburb of London. Why the boys were sent to Meopham (pronounced Meppum) is unclear. We do know that the family of the boys' maternal grandmother, Ann Emma Huggett had originated there but the boys were raised by a lady they knew as Aunt Dalton. From research, this lady, Olivia Dalton seems to have been a distant cousin of the Huggetts.

Harry and Stan spent their boyhood in Meopham until Stan was 14 when he went to live with their aunt, Betty Thomas nee Cooper in Hendon, London. Harry seems to have stayed in Meopham though by the 1911 Census both boys were living with 'Aunt Betty' in Hendon.

Harry Nott and Australia

So what of Harry Nott and Australia? Of that we know little. The family story is that Harry joined the Royal Navy, came to Australia and then joined the Royal Australian Navy. Of this story, no evidence can be found.

Another story told by Stan's daughter, Anne is that Harry came to Australia chasing a woman. Could this be the mysterious Nellie Snape that our Mum and her sister, Auntie Bo used to rib Harry bout as being his girlfriend? Or was Nellie merely a figment of imagination and humour? We are unlikely to ever know.

What is known is that when Stan married in December 1911, Harry was still in England as he was a witness to Stan's marriage. Then, Harry appears in Western Australia enlisting in the Royal Australian Navy in October 1913.

Harry Nott and the First World War

Harry is right of centre as the Pearly King.
Harry served on several naval ships including the Cerberus, Encounter and Brisbane as part of the New Guinea campaign.  It is from this period that we have photos of Harry dressed up and performing in concerts on board that he no doubt was instrumental in organising.

It was also during his naval service that he met Ross Rowlison who took him back to a small country town familiar to Ross in north western NSW, Barraba. It is here that Harry met and eventually married our grandmother, Selina Louisa (Lou) Brodbeck on 4 January 1922.

Harlou and Ryde

The couple first settled in Payten Street, Ryde where their two daughters Betty and Shirley were born in 1923 and 1925 respectively. They named their house 'Harlou', a combination of Harry and Lou.

Harry's penchant for entertaining was as alive here as it was in the navy and we have concert programs from Putney and Ryde featuring 'Harry Nott'.

The Notts in Lismore

In the late 1920s, Harry was offered and accepted the position of manager of the newly built Memorial Baths in Lismore and the family moved north. The position of Baths Manager was held by Harry for many years until he retired in 1954.

Throughout the whole time, Harry was involved in community organisations primarily, the R.S.L and the Soldiers and Sailors Leagues. He was also ever present to encourage a growing number of grandchildren to 'do a concert' of an evening. 

When Harry passed away on 12 May 1967, there were numerous tributes extolling his charity and community work as well as his strong influence on many North Coast residents who he taught to swim. 

Harry at Lismore Memorial Baths.