Death Of Harold George Coates, OBE, A Former Member Of The Legislative Assembly

About this Item
SpeakersMartin Mr Gerard; Face Mr Jack
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, Condolence


Page: 1328

    Mr MARTIN (Bathurst) [5.43 p.m.]: It is with great sadness that I inform the House of the passing of Harold Coates, OBE. From May 1965 to 1968 he was the honourable member for Hartley in this House, and from 1968 to April 1975 he was the honourable member for Blue Mountains. Harold sat as an Independent, and at one time he was the Acting-Chairman of Committees. Harold was born in 1917at Hampton, which is just outside Lithgow. He was a life-long resident of Lithgow. Harold passed away yesterday after a fatal collapse at the weekend. He is survived by his wife, Kit, sons Ian and Doug, and daughters Bronwyn and Olwyn. I extend my sincere sympathy to them and to Harold's extended family.

    Harold was a builder by trade and succeeded his father, George, in operating a successful timber and hardware business in Lithgow. Harold's son Ian continued in the business, and his grandson Michael now operates a very successful business that has been an important part of the Lithgow business sector for many generations. Harold Coates' record in public life is impressive by any standard. It stretches over more than 60 years. The Parliamentary Library curriculum vitae of Harold Coates reveals that as well as his service in this House he was a member of Lithgow council for almost 40 years. I served on that council with him. For 40 years he was the foundation President of the Lithgow Aged People's Home.

    Harold was President of the Lithgow Chamber of Commerce and member and President of the Lithgow Show Society. He was involved with the New South Wales Planning Authority and the Development Corporation of New South Wales. He was President of the Hartley District Boy Scout Association, a member of the Lithgow Technical College Council, a distinguished Rotarian and, I believe, a Paul Harris Fellow. He was an alderman on Lithgow council from 1945 up to the early 1980s. There was a short period when he was not on the council. He was mayor on a number of occasions from the late 1940s; his last term as mayor was 1976. Harold Coates performed long and distinguished community service. He will certainly be missed in the Lithgow community.

    Harold contacted me as recently as last week. Often he would ring me to give me the wisdom of his advice as a former member. In the mid-1970s I was a fresh-faced young fellow on the council who thought he knew everything and Harold was the elder statesman. We had opposing philosophies, but if we had the odd dust-up in a council meeting we were always good friends after it. He was always prepared to give advice, and eventually I learned to listen. Harold had a very successful political career. I was involved in some of those campaigns on the other side of politics. The people who worked for Harold, Bede Leighton of the Lithgow Mercury and Alan McInanty, were great personal friends of his. They are also great personal friends of mine. On many matters we agreed to disagree.

    Harold's inaugural speech in this House revealed that Harold was a great lover of institutions and traditions. He was a great supporter of the Royal Family. He was a Mason and he held the highest office of Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales for a record term. In that capacity he did a great deal of charitable work. As honourable members know, Masonic lodges are famous for such work, particularly the Frank Whidden Homes. For many years Harold was very much involved with that organisation and its spread throughout New South Wales. He was one of the people in Lithgow who was responsible for the Masonic Brethren and the St Vincent de Paul Society getting together and working at charitable events.

    It is unfortunate that recently the Rector of the Anglican Church at Lithgow decided that Harold, because he was a Mason, could no longer practice at the church where he was a member for 60 years. On Friday I will attend Harold's funeral. It is particularly sad to note that he will be buried from the Uniting Church because he is not allowed to be buried from his beloved Anglican Church. I know that his family are quite sad about that. In recent months it caused Harold some stress. I am hopeful that the lesson of Harold Coates' life will persuade the people who made that decision to recant. Harold Coates will be greatly missed by the community of Lithgow. I am pleased to be able to pay tribute to him in the House tonight.

    Mr FACE (Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.48 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Bathurst for paying tribute to the late Harold Coates. I am one of the few who would have been members of this Chamber when Harold served here. That was during the period of conservative Government from 1965 until the Labor Party returned to the Treasury benches in 1976. One thing that Harold never lost was his enthusiasm for Lithgow and for the place he came from. Obviously, we were on opposite sides of the political fence. Although he came into this place as an Independent, there was no doubt about his philosophy. However, that never stood in the way of my friendship with him. Whenever I went to Lithgow I would ask the former member for Bathurst, Mick Clough, or the present member how Harold was going. If Harold knew I was in the area he would always try to contact me. As I said, he never lost his enthusiasm for the myriad activities he was involved in.

    During the time I served with the police and the time I have been a member of this House I thought the prejudice between Catholics and Protestants and between the Masons and various sections of the Catholic Church, such as the Knights of the Southern Cross, had disappeared. Harold wore his heart on his sleeve with regard to being a Mason. He made a great contribution to the organisation. As the honourable member for Bathurst said, Harold was the Grandmaster of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales for a record term. I credit him with opening up that organisation, through the medium of the Frank Whidden Homes and other charitable activities. He publicly acknowledged what that organisation did.

    The fact that people were better able to understand the Masons as a result of that was a tribute to him. He broke down barriers that many people believed could not be broken down. Harold was a member of his Anglican Church for 63 years. The refusal by a Minister of that church to allow Harold and his family to attend that church and the refusal to conduct Harold's burial service because he happened to belong to the Masonic Lodge harks back to the bad old days. Harold deserved better than that. He was a great son of Lithgow and he was a good member of the New South Wales Parliament. I am pleased this issue was raised in the House tonight. May he with rest in peace.