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Harold Francis Lobb (1913–1992)

by Gwyneth Barnes

This article was published:

Harold Francis Lobb (1913–1992), musician and educator, was born on 15 December 1913 at Ipswich, Queensland, second son of English-born John Francis Lobb, tea merchant, and his Queensland-born wife Catherine, née Springall. In 1921 the family moved to Sydney. Harold attended Croydon Public School, Newington College, Strathfield Grammar School, and Sydney Boys’ High School where he rowed in the school VIII.

Instructed in music by his mother and a local teacher, Muriel Pettinger, Lobb passed an examination equivalent to the Associate in Music, Australia at the age of fifteen. His father, however, did not believe that music was a serious profession. Upon leaving school, Lobb spent two years studying law before convincing his father that it was not the career for him. He enrolled at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, studying piano with Frank Hutchens and organ with George Faunce Allman. Four years at the Royal College of Music in London followed. There his teachers included Aubyn Raymar, George Thalben-Ball, and C. H. Kitson. Lobb also gave piano and organ recitals for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Overseas Service. On 16 March 1937 at the general register office, Romford, Essex, he married Rose Amy Goodchild.

Upon returning to Australia in 1939, Lobb was appointed organist at Holy Trinity Church of England, Orange, New South Wales, where he stayed for two years before becoming music master at Trinity Grammar School, Sydney. At the end of World War II he joined the staff of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music teaching harmony and piano. In 1951, while furthering his studies in London, he successfully applied for the position of principal of the newly established Newcastle branch of the conservatorium. He began appointing staff and supervising the acquisition of equipment in January the following year. Carmel Lutton later observed that Lobb’s energy resulted in more than 160 students enrolling by the end of the conservatorium’s first week, rising to 608 by 1954 (University of Newcastle 2007). With the conservatorium housed in temporary premises, much of his time was spent seeking financial support from local industry and business, and taking music to the community through educational programs. The new conservatorium building was opened on 26 October 1957.

Lobb was an inspirational figure whose talent and musicianship encouraged others to achieve more highly. He was also a man of integrity and the catalyst for innovation and change. Under his leadership, the University of Newcastle conservatorium expanded its range of activities to include school-aged children in the broader instrumental program. He instituted a scholarship scheme and a fund to help students in financial trouble. Other contributions to music education included producing the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s successful radio series Adventures in Music, a training scheme for high school music teachers, group tuition for junior instrumentalists, and lectures and demonstrations on important musical works. At the end of 1967 Lobb suffered a stroke and was unable to return to work; nevertheless he continued to develop the character and musical attributes of young people, and at the age of seventy-six he was still teaching piano.

Divorced from his first wife, Lobb had married Pauline Margaret Spencer, a secretary, on 18 July 1955 at the registrar general’s office, Sydney. He was appointed MBE in 1970. He died of cerebral thrombosis on 1 December 1992 in Hunter Valley Private Hospital, Shortland. His wife and their daughter and son, and his two children from his first marriage, survived him. Following a service at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, he was cremated. The concert hall at the University of Newcastle conservatorium is named after him in recognition of his vision and commitment to classical music in Newcastle.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Barnes, Gwyneth. ‘Harold Lobb—Musician and Educator.’ History (Royal Australian Historical Society), December 1994, 9–11
  • Lobb, Harold Francis. Interview by Gwyneth Barnes, 8 August 1990. Transcript held by author
  • Newcastle Herald. ‘Inspired Musician.’ 7 December 1992, 4
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject
  • University of Newcastle. ‘University Honours Music Pioneer.’ 20 March 2007.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Gwyneth Barnes, 'Lobb, Harold Francis (1913–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2016, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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