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Western Gazette 25 April 1947

"King of Comic Songwriters"

Harry Wincott Dies at Yeovil

Harry Wincott, writer of many thousands of popular songs during his 60-odd years in Tin Pan Alley - the late Leslie Stuart called him "The King of Comic Songwriters" - died at Yeovil on Sunday.   He was 81, and his last request to his wife Mrs Margaret Walden, his real name, was for a pint of beer.

He started writing tunes when a boy and Charlie Chaplin's father was one of the first artistes to whom he sold them.   The film star Charlie was only a few weeks old then.  Harry used to sing him his latest songs and the proud father would prophesy: "That child will be a great comedian one day"..."and I'll be one of the world's greatest rag time writers" Harry would reply.  They were both right.

But there wa very little money in song writing in those days.  There were no royalties, and songs were sold direct to the artist or publisher for a guinea or so.  Harry and a few friends formed themselves into a society calling themselves "The Nibs" and managed to force the price up to two guineas.

KNEW HARD TIMES

As long as he had pen and paper Harry could make capital out of his misfortunes.  He returned to his London home one day to find the bailiffs had called and taken most of his furniture away so he sat down on an orange box and wrote "The Brokers Man".  The man who knew so many famous people and whose songs were - and still are - hummed and whistled by millions knew hard times.  He lived in cheap lodging houses or even slept out on th Embankment.

Marie Lloyd and Dan Leno liked his work and the late Harry Champion's name was synonymous with Wincott's "Boiled Beef and Carrotts" and "Any Old Iron".  Although he was paid as little as a guinea for a number, sales often ran into hundreds of thousands  "When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire" was one, while Harry Freeman received 7,000 of contracts on the halls for "Can't Stop, Can't Stop"  Wincott sold it to him outright for a guinea!

When he tried to join up in the 1914-1918 war they told him at the recruiting office "Go away and write your songs".  Three of his sons joined the army.  They wrote to him from Flanders for a song written just for them.  That song was "Mademoiselle from Armentieres".  A few weeks later Harry watched the troops marching by and singing it.  His sons went over the top with their father's song on their lips and only 37 of the Regiment came back.

He was never the same Harry Wincott after his first wife died of a broken heart when their daughter was burned to death through her party dress catching fire.  He sold up his home and for a time could neither work nor sleep.  He found happiness again when he married in London 10 years ago.  Mrs Walden, who lives in Goldcroft, had her own troupe of dancers.

He kept writing songs right up to the time of his death and used to tell his wife:  "I'm willing to bet that I'll write another winner before I turn my toes up" - but Harry Wincott never did.

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