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.

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