Harley Verneau Usill

Alderman H V Usill, BA, JP.
Alderman H V Usill, BA, JP.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Harley Verneau Usill was born in Wandsworth in 1898, the elder son of Harley Mackenzie Usill, a surveyor and civil engineer, and Alice Maud Hawkins; the family lived in Battersea. Part of his education took place at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, Kent and he had a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Like many youths, Harley lied about his age and enlisted in the Army on 6 April 1915, claiming to be 19 years old. His occupation at the time was given as assistant schoolmaster. Throughout the First World War he was a Private and sometime acting Lance Corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps, seeing service in, for example, Egypt. After the War he was a reservist officer in the St Lawrence College contingent, resigning his commission in 1925.

I do not know the chronology of Harley's career but he became a director of Evans Brothers, a publisher which specialised in teacher training materials and, later, children's books. In the 1940s he was in charge of publicity and advertising for the Vickers operation. He then started up his own firm, called Naldrett Press, which produced sports and children's titles and was official publisher to the Football Association and MCC; he was also an editor and author. In the 1930s he edited 'The Story of the British People in Pictures'; he wrote a book called 'The Future of Local Government' in the 1940s and in the mid-1950s he edited (with Tudor Rees) 'They Stand Apart', which was a critical survey of the problems of homosexuality.

In 1924 Harley married Marguerite Jeannie Vaughan Dorey (1898-1983) and they had two children - Harley John Vaughan (1925) and Jean (1930). He was the Mayor of Epsom and Ewell in 1953 and lived at Number 20, College Road for more than 45 years; he died in 1978.

HARLEY JOHN VAUGHAN USILL


Harley Junior was born in Portsmouth in 1925 and by all accounts was a keen supporter of Pompey football club. He was educated at Epsom College and his first job, briefly, was with an aircraft company. Next, he worked in the Crown Film Unit library at Pinewood Studios and in 1943 he joined up, leaving the Army as a Captain in 1947. After working in film production and for his father's publishing firm, he co-founded Argo Records in 1951. Some older readers may recall their LPs, which specialised in the spoken word, folk music and British jazz. Argo was taken over by Decca in 1957 but Harley remained in charge until 1980, when he left to form ASV (Academy Sound and Vision) Records with colleagues from Argo. Harley married Elizabeth Barry (died 1978) in 1955 and they had three children; he died in 1991.

Linda Jackson October 2012




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