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OBITUARY: Tribute to band leader who has died age 93

The Harold Barnett Band which shows Harold in the centre with the accordion and his sons Paul (with the guitar on the right in the photo) and Clive (with the saxophone on the left). The photo was taken in 1969.

The Harold Barnett Band which shows Harold in the centre with the accordion and his sons Paul (with the guitar on the right in the photo) and Clive (with the saxophone on the left). The photo was taken in 1969.

Harold will be remembered for his career as a senior nurse at the old St Francis Psychiatric Hospital in Haywards Heath and as leader of the Harold Barnett Dance Band that played at clubs and venues throughout Mid-Sussex from the 1950s through to the 1990s.

Harold Barnett was born just before Christmas in 1920, in a house next to the current United Services Club in Wivelsfield Road in Haywards Heath. His father, Ernie Barnett, was a professional soldier with the Royal Sussex Regiment and served in Ireland and in India during the First World War.

On return to England he married Harold’s mother Rose, who for many years was the ice-cream lady at the Perrymount Cinema in Haywards Heath.

He left the army and became a nurse at St Francis Hospital.

The family lived in Glebe Road, Cuckfield then ‘Kildare’ in Colwell Road,Haywards Heath, from 1934.

Harold attended the old Cuckfield primary school and later the original St Wilfrid’s School in Haywards Heath where the Zizzi’s Restaurant now stands.

He left school at 14 and went to work at Charlesworth orchid nursery that used to be on the Haywards Heath to Scaynes Hill road.

He helped out on their stand at the Chelsea Flower Show twice in the mid-1930s.

But when old enough Harold followed in his father’s footsteps by training to become a nurse at St Francis Hospital.

Except for World War II, when he served in the Royal Medical Corps in West Africa, his entire 40 year career in nursing was spent at St Francis where he reached the rank of Senior Nursing Officer before retiring in 1981.

He developed a love of music from an early age.

He came from a musical family and one of Harold’s earliest memories was of his father rigging up an aerial running down the garden so that he could pick up the early broadcasts from the BBC.

He particularly loved the big bands of the 1930s and 1940s.

Harold learned to play the accordion at the Sussex Follies which played at the old Sussex Hall then standing in South Road in Haywards Heath.

By the outbreak of World War II he was playing in local dance bands and took his accordion with him to Africa.

After the war he first played in, and then led, the St Francis Hospital Band which played at patient dances.

He also formed his own band - The Harold Barnett Band - which played at venues across Mid-Sussex including the British Legion and United Service Clubs in Haywards Heath and the Martlets Hall in Burgess Hill.

When most local dance bands faded away in the 1960s Harold modernised by adding his sons Paul (on electric guitar) and Clive (on clarinet & saxophone).

The band remained in demand right up to his retirement at the New Year’s Eve party at Clair Hall in 1990 – thus claiming 60 years on the local music scene!

Harold met his wife Ruth on disembarkation leave in Liverpool in 1946 when he led a party of service men to the youth club dance she was helping run.

Ruth predeceased Harold.

But he is survived by his sons and daughter-in-laws Cathy and Eileen as well as grandchildren Anna, Dominic, Carol, Sarah, Jamie and Matthew.

They thank the staff of Woodlands Nursing Home, Burgess Hill for all their support during Harold’s final years.

Harold barnett’s funeral will take place at 11.30am, Wednesday May 7 at the Holy Trinity Church in Cuckfield.

 

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