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Research reveals story of Diss composer Hartie Pullen

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The search began on the world-wide web. In the end, the answer to the mystery of Hartie Pullen, the forgotten Diss composer, was found much closer to home.

Roydon Primary School Choir who recently performed the song. Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography.
Roydon Primary School Choir who recently performed the song. Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography.

The Diss Express recently reported that, at the town’s festival of remembrance celebration, a patriotic song written by Miss Pullen was performed by the children of Roydon Primary School and the Diss Salvation Army band.

It set bandmaster Iain Sturgeon on the trail of Miss Pullen who, according to a 1914 report in the Express, had local connections.

He spread his searches globally through his bandmaster connections, but the answer came from his cousin, Brian Evans, living in Letchworth Garden City.

Also using the internet, Mr Evans was able to consult the 1911 census and discovered that Miss Pullen, a music teacher, aged 40, was living at School House in Chapel Street with her parents, Thomas, a headteacher, and his wife, also named Harriet.

Mr Pullen seems to have moved about a bit, because he was born in Bolton and married the former Harriet Pennick in Shoreham, Sussex, in 1869.

The 1911 census shows that also living in the Pullen household in Chapel Street were Mr Pullen’s sister, Elizabeth, and his son – Hartie’s brother – Thomas, who was 37 and described as an“Army pensioner lapiadary”. A lapiadary is described in dictionaries as a cutter and polisher of gemstones.

Both Hartie and Thomas were born in Pulham St Mary – which adds to the moves the family made – and had three other siblings, Marian Kate and Harry Shepherd, born in Diss in 1875 and 1877 respectively, and Lousia, born in Shoreham in 1879.

Mr Evans’ research found that Thomas Pullen had relatives living in the Shoreham area, which may explain why Louisa came to be born there.

Mr Evans set out the Pullen family history, in an email to the Diss Express, ending with: “Hopefully, this will go some way to satisfying my cousin Iain Sturgeon’s curiosity.”

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