Biography

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Harry Wincott was born Alfred James Walden on 1st January 1867 at 8 South Street, Lambeth, London.  He was the son of Alfred Walden and Charlotte Walden who were married on 21st October 1865 at St Peter's Church, Walworth, London when aged 26 and 23 respectively.  Harry appears from information available on the 1881 census to be their eldest child and they had at least 4 other children at this time, namely Emily born around 1868, William born around 1971, Francis born around 1875 and Frederick born around 1878.

Harry's grandfathers were James Walden and John Phillips.

Harry's father, Alfred, like his father, James, before him was a Coach Body Maker.

After being born at 8 South Street, Lambeth Harry's next known address is on the 1871 census when the family were living at 33 Neate Street, Camberwell when he was 4 years old.

In 1881 Harry was living with his family at 79 St George's Road, Camberwell.

When Harry started work he was a ledger clerk.  He always had ambitions to be a great songwriter and although he was dismissed from his job for writing songs in the ledgers he was not worried.   At the age of 16 he managed to get an interview with a great music hall artiste of the time, 'The Great Vance', who bought one of his songs for 7 shillings and sixpence.   Harry thought he was made and invested some of this money in the paper he would need to start writing in earnest.  He struggled for a long time until one of his songs was bought for 4!  It was sung by Vesta Tilley and Harry was on the road to success.

The next time evidence of Harry's life comes from his wedding to Eliza Mary Ann Dyer.  Eliza was a tailoress who was the daughter of George Turffrey Dyer (a bookbinder by trade) and Hannah Mary Dyer.   Although Eliza, her parents and their other children were all born in London the family appeared to have moved at some point to Leeds which is where Harry and Eliza were married on 23rd March 1889.  They were both 22 when they married and Harry gave his profession as 'Songwriter' and Eliza as 'Tailoress' and they were both recorded as living at 3 Upper Elmwood Street Leeds which was the home of Eliza's parents and family at the time.

Two years later in 1891, the census records reveal Harry and Eliza living at 80 Crampton Street, Newington in London together with their son Lawrence Harry Wincott Walden who was 1 year of age.  Harry and Eliza went on to have a number of children, after Lawrence came my Grandfather Sidney Charles Wincott Walden born in May 1892, then came Frederick John Wincott Walden born about 1894, then Victoria Helena Wincott Walden born about 1897, then Ernest Wincott Walden born about 1898 but tragically died the same year, then Alfred Francis Wincott Walden born around 1900, then Edward William Wincott Walden born around 1902 and lastly, that I know of, was Irene Wincott Walden who was born around 1905.  I believe that there may have been some other children as well as Ernest who died as babies but have no documentary proof.

In 1901 Harry and his family were living at 149 County Terrace off 149 New Kent Road in Newington.  For some unknown reason on the 1901 census Harry was recorded under his professional name of Harry Wincott rather than his real name of Alfred James Walden and consequently his wife and children were also listed as Wincotts.  His profession was recorded as 'Songwriter'.

From the look of the songlist I have of Harry's songs I would say that his most prolific song writing period was between 1890 and 1920.  If what Harry has himself told members of the family and press is true then he wrote some 2000 songs in his career (I do have a letter written by him to one of his grandsons that states this figure as 20,000 but I think this is perhaps a little exaggerated!).  However Harry was never a rich man, far from it I think he led a very hand to mouth existence for most of his life, in the days of his career songs were sold for small amounts to the performers themselves who then published the work under their own names, even the songs that were published in his own name didn't make him a fortune.

Tragedy struck Harry in 1925 when his youngest child, Irene, who had married in 1924 and had a baby daughter, died in tragic circumstances when she died from burns when her dress caught fire.  Eliza, Harry's wife, was not a well woman anyway and by all accounts the grief she suffered when Irene died, hastened her death and she died in 1926 of a cyst in the lung. Harry was a broken man and he struggled professionally.  In 1927 a benefit concert for Harry was arranged by his friends in the profession which was held at the Surrey Masonic Hall in Camberwell, tickets were sold for one shilling and twopence and ticket holders were promised an All Star Programme.

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The next information I have of Harry is not until 6th March 1937 when he marries Margaret Pink at Lambeth Registry Office.  He was 70 years old and states his profession as Author and Songwriter.  His wife was a widow of 64 years old and her profession is stated as Music Hall Artiste, her stage name was Daisy Pink and she managed a troop of dancers.   Photographs of the wedding can be found on the photograph section of this website.

Shortly after their wedding Harry and Margaret moved to Yeovil in Somerset.  In 1941 Harry and Margaret were the guest artistes at a local talent show at the Odeon Cinema in Yeovil, Harry sang one of his own compositions and his wife also performed both on her own and invented and arranged the final tableau.  Harry also took part in a victory parade in Yeovil at the end of the second world war.  Harry's youngest son Edward was married in Yeovil in 1942 to a local lady.

Harry lost touch with some of his children after his marriage to 'Daisy Pink' as not all of the family were totally happy at the marriage.

Harry died in Yeovil on 20th April 1947.  He had been admitted to the local public assistance institution in Yeovil a couple of weeks before his death as there was not a spare bed at the local hospital and he died of gangrene of the legs aged 80.  He was in good spirits to the end and one of his last requests to his wife, Margaret, was for a pint of beer.

Harry was buried in Yeovil Cemetery.  Harry died a poor man and although he is not buried in a paupers grave a headstone was never erected on his grave at the time.

My research into Harry's life started in 2002.  Little was known by my immediate family of Harry, probably due to the fact that my Grandfather, Sidney Charles Wincott Walden, died at   the young age of 47 in 1940 when my father was just 13.  Family ties were gradually lost with the Walden line therefore.  Finding out about Harry's life has been a pleasure and a privilege and I am immensely proud to be descended from him.   It was by pure coincidence that a local Yeovil paper ran an article in 2004 on Harry and his unmarked grave in Yeovil Cemetery that was read by a relative of mine who knew of my research, this allowed us as his family to visit his grave and finally make sure that Harry has a properly marked grave.

Harry had what some would believe to be a hard life, he certainly never experienced the wealth that someone in his position would have today but I believe from all of the research I have done and still continue to do that Harry had a happy life.  He was once quoted as saying he did not envy the people who made the money out of his compositions, 'I'm alive and they are dead' he said.

 

 

 

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