Highlands history: The energetic and talented Claude N Lee

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mittagong-based Claude N Lee was a man of many talents. Photos: BDH&FHS
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GRACEFUL: Gladys Lee (nee Stokes) playing the organ at St Judes in Bowral, 1920s.

MUSIC MAKERS: Bowral Brass Band at Farm Homes Mittagong, 1908, with young Claude Lee (back, 2nd left).

Part three of a three-part series

BY the late 1870s, stonemason Joseph Lee and his wife Louisa were well established in Mittagong and, with several sons and daughters, lived at Leslie Cottage in Queen St.

It was there in 1886 where youngest son Claude Newton was born. He would live his entire life locally and Leslie Cottage was always his home.

An incredibly energetic and capable man, he took a leading part in social, public and community activities in the district. He was described as having great vision and a love of life, daring to be different.

In 1913 he married Gladys, daughter of Joshua Stokes, a prominent Bowral businessman and alderman.

They raised a son, Robert, and two daughters, Nancy and Aloha, and their union was also incredibly fruitful in other ways.

Both had musical talent and a love of music and theatre and made their gracious home a centre for artistic endeavour.

This talent came in part through Joshua Stokes who had arrived in Bowral in 1882, aged 19, and commenced as a carrier and produce merchant.

He won considerable success in business and was always active in advancing the town.

He was deeply devoted to music, furthering the interests of the Bowral Band and the Choral Society. His talent and love of music flowed on to his children.

Gladys became an assistant organist at St Jude’s and, for some years, was accompanist for the Bowral Choral Society.

Likewise, her husband Claude was an exceptional musician who could play practically every instrument in a brass band and from a young age was a member of both the Mittagong and Bowral town bands under bandmaster George Vincent.

Claude was shire clerk for Nattai Shire Council from its inception in 1906 and from 1939 when it amalgamated with Mittagong Municipal Council, serving for almost 40 years.

He brought to the profession a unique local flair and independence. When Joshua Stokes bought the Bowral Empire Theatre in 1934 he hired son-in-law Claude to be its manager.

After Joshua’s death, Claude continued to manage the theatre until new owners took over in 1958.

It is remembered as being a particularly vibrant and vital meeting place while Claude was manager.

One of Claude’s many other interests was bushwalking and he traversed all parts of the Nattai, lower Wollondilly and Warragamba areas.

He also had a long association with district sport, mainly rugby league, and served in official capacities and as press correspondent – the local paper carried many nitty-gritty articles he wrote.

As well he was a historian and writer of hundreds of poems.

According to Haille Paine, one of his local contemporaries, as a historian Claude had a wide and intimate knowledge of the various inns, buildings and other landmarks of the district including the Fitzroy ironworks.

In 1973, just three months after the death of Gladys, his beloved wife, Claude died peacefully in his sleep at Bowral Hospital.

Their loving musical spirit passed down to their grandchildren as noted in the Southern Highland News in November 1967 under the heading ‘A musical family’.

Three grand-daughters were noted for musical accomplishment, with one, Penny Short, passing 6th grade for the trumpet with honours at the Sydney Conservatorium and Deborah Lee was cited as passing with honours on the piano in musical examinations at Mittagong.

Leslie Cottage had often resounded with music and festivity and served as the venue for family weddings and receptions.

Extracts from press coverage of two of these occasions follow here:

The Robertson Advocate of October 8, 1912:

“A very pretty wedding was celebrated at Leslie Cottage, Mittagong (the residence of the bride’s mother) on Thursday last, when Mr J J Price, of Bowral, and Miss Lulu Lee were united in the holy bonds of matrimony.

The bride was given away by her brother, Leslie Lee, and attended by her niece, little Lulu Lee. After the ceremony the happy couple and guests partook of afternoon tea.”

The Southern Mail of October 3, 1952:

“A pretty wedding was recently celebrated at St Jude’s Church, Bowral, when Betty Anne, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs Merrifield of Bowral, married Robert Stokes Lee, only son of Mr & Mrs C N Lee, of Mittagong.

The bride entered the church on the arm of her father wearing a lovely gown of lace over white satin with long sleeves and a full length train.

The reception was held at Leslie Cottage in Mittagong, the home of the bridegroom, where about 50 guests were received by the parents of the bride and bridegroom.”

This article compiled by PHILIP MORTON is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, Bowral Rd,Mittagong. Phone 4872 2169.Email [email protected]苏州美甲美睫培训学校. Web: berrimadistricthistoricalsociety.org419论坛

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