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Lake-Harcourt, Edgar Sydney

The "Haunted House" by Rona Arndt is a memory of her visits to the home of Edgar Lake-Harcourt on Rode Road, Chermside in the 1930s.

Edgar Sydney Lake, born in 1866, migrated to Canada with his parents, John and Ann and brothers and sisters in 1870. John was a flour miller and the family settled in Ontario to farm. This is probably where he acquired his farming skills.

He arrived in Sydney before 1893, the year he married Beatrice Matilda Coleman. They lived in Woollahra and he was also listed as a photographer in the Sands' Directories for many years. A fire in the studio in 1905 caused some damage.

In 1908 Edgar and Beatrice took their children to Canada for a holiday. The family stayed in Vancouver while he visited the US and probably visited his family in Ontario.

Edgar left his family in Sydney and bought land in Rode Road West Chermside, Portion 530, subdivision 1 in 1911. Apparently he was advised to go north because of a health problem.

It was about this time that he adopted the name Harcourt but sometimes he was known as Lake-Harcourt.

He became an orchardist and poultry farmer while his neighbours had piggeries, dairies and horses.

Edgar enlisted in World War 1 and on his papers he mentioned that two of his children could be contacted via the Chermside State School head teacher. Neither child went to the school and Beatrice's address was in Sydney. He enlisted as a 44year-old but he was really 49. His battalion, the 42nd, served in France and he fought in battles at Ypres, Messines and Passchendaele, giving rise to later legends among young neighbours that he served in the French army. He was wounded and returned to Australia in 1918.

Poultry farming became his main occupation though according to a neighbour's son, Andy Johnston, he did have some photographs in the house.

He wrote a book of poetry and prose, Warrigal's Story and published it in 1929. He used the pseudonym Esekal.

Farmers and shopkeepers seemed to operate some kind of bartering system. One shopkeeper, George Reid, in Gympie Road got eggs from Edgar in return for delivering groceries to him. George's daughter, Rona, went with him but would never go into the house that she thought was haunted. Edgar appointed another local shopkeeper, William Hacker, as his executor. Edgar and George probably enjoyed long conversations on literature.

Beatrice Lake died in 1923, greatly missed by her family.

Edgar continued to sell eggs and chickens during the 1930s. He learnt to drive on the local gravel roads, much to his neighbours' terror. He even used his car for roadwork outside his house.

He died in 1942 at his home and was cremated.