Composer started career at age 12!

Eric Coates, born in Hucknall on Watnall Road in 1886.
Eric Coates, born in Hucknall on Watnall Road in 1886.

Hucknall rotarians learned about the town’s most famous composer in a recent talk which revealed he created his first piece at the age of 12.

Pete Butler, secretary of The Eric Coates Society, told rotarians that the composer of the theme tune for Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs - originally named Lazy Lagoon - was born to Dr. and Mrs Coates of Watnall Road on August 27 1886.

Eric began playing the Viola at the age of six and by the time he turned 12 had composed his first piece of music.

President Kevin Rostance said: “It was a most informative evening that makes you so appreciative of the great tradition Hucknall has of producing musicians of high calibre.”

In 1910, Eric joined the Queen’s Hall Orchestra whose conductor was Henry Wood, where he became principal violist.

Speaking in a 1948 BBC radio interview he said: “I was dismissed through sending deputies to take my place when I was conducting my works elsewhere. Henry Wood little knew what a great help he had been to me by dispensing with my services, for from that day I never touched my viola again and was able to devote all my time to my writing.”

Other pieces by Coates that were used by the BBC as themes included The Knightsbridge March, Calling All Workers and Halcyon Days, the theme tune for the popular television series The Forsyte Saga.

Mr Butler revealed that Richard Bolitho, commemorated on Kimberley’s war memorial, was a rear gunner in the Dam Busters RAF 617 Squadron and was shot down in a Lincoln Bomber in May 1943. Coates wrote the title march for the 1955 film adaptation.

He died in Chichester in 1957 aged 71, having suffered a stroke and was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium.

His son, Austin Coates (1922–1997), was a writer who lived much of his life in Asia.