Nona Keele LATIMER (née MORRIS, aka Florence Keele Bernhard Bates) [1901-1956] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Nona Keele LATIMER (née MORRIS, aka Florence Keele Bernhard Bates) [1901-1956]

Nona Keele
Alias / nickname: 
Florence Keele Bernhard Bates
c.1901-05-23 (Day is approximate)
Birthplace (town, state): 
Marylebone, London
Birthplace (country): 
Cause of death: 
Subdural Haemetoma

Nona  was born as Florence Keele Bernhard on 23 May 1901.  She did not use this exact date on later documents.  She grew up around Marybelone and Finchley in London, England. The family moved to Stone Ness, Ashurst, Kent in about 1916.  In 1916 the entire family was granted the right to change the family name to Morris, and bear the family coat of arms, by King George V.

Florence assumed the first name of Nona,  in the early 1920s.  I do have a possible match for her as a Telephonist for the Post Office in Finchley in 1915.  Later in the 1920s she gave a short resume to a newspaper, listing her education at Caldecote Towers, as well as previous employers such as Lever Bros and the Canadian Railway (C 1921).  At the time she was employed as the Senior Educator for the Irish Linen Damask Guild, and she toured the US, visiting department stores and schools giving lectures on all matters regarding napery, and setting a good table.  She was described as being refined and elegant.  There is a photo of her attached to articles about her lectures on (Nona Keele Morris).  

In 1928 she married George B Bates, and lived at Horns Lodge near Tonbridge in Kent, England.  He was a successful property developer, and Nona was able to utilise all of her skills to be a popular society, and political,  hostess.  She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service before WW2 as an officer, and was Deputy Company Commander of the 12th Kent Company ATS, and was stationed in Canterbury.  She resigned at the beginning of the war, possibly because her husband became bankrupt, but also because he was unwell.  He died in 1942.  

In 1945 we find her in London, where she married William Henry Latimer, a Canadian army officer, who had been residing in England for some years.  Near  the end of the war he went to  Hong Kong, and as a lawyer the army gave him the role of magistrate to deal with civilian cases.  In 1946 he was offered the permanent civilian position of First Magistrate of Kowloon, and Nona  sailed out on the Sibajak to Singapore to join him, leaving Southhampton on May 4 1946.  It was a very brave journey to make, due to mines, as well as the civil unrest in Singapore and Hong Kong just after the war.  They seem to have settled into expat civil service life very well.  Most civil servants seemed to save up their leave entitlement over a few years, and then take an extended holiday as it was very time consuming to get anywhere from Hong Kong, and some months would be needed for trips home to England.  In 1950 they did take a long cruise to see her brother in the US. Florence seems to have an involvement with Chatham English School.  I do not know if the Latimers lived at that address.  

 William took a trip back to England in 1953 to finalise details for his retirement.  Unfortunately, he died in 1954, not long after his return to Hong Kong.  Nona lived for another few years, but was badly injured in a fall, and died at the Queen Mary Hospital on the 11th January 1956, as a result.  She was only 55.  She is buried in the general cemetery in Hong Kong.  M. Morley-John of the Crown Council Legal Department registered her death and arranged for her burial.  EDITED here to say I have found Nona's entry on Findagrave, and her surname is written as Latimar.  She is at Happy Valley, Hong Kong Island - Ossuary.

Most of my information on Nona comes from her mother's probate documents. Other resources have been newspapers, and passenger lists.
There are documents held in the HKU library.  I found a file on the internet that lists a summary of archives  they hold from various legal firms.  The summary indicates that Sybil Quan bought Chatham English School from Nona's estate after her death in 1956.  The law firm was Lo and Lo.  I have read the Asiatic Society's account of their visit to No 1 Chatham Path, and what history they could establish about the building and the school.  They did find Quan as an owner, but not the connection to the Latimers. 

The two relevant summaries are as follows.
7 June 1956. - Letter from Lo and Lo, solicitors, to Acting Registrar and Official Administrator to Mrs Nona Latimer, deceased, and Chatham English School.
1 September 1956 - Assignment for sale and purchase of goodwill in connection with Chatham English School, Hong Kong, Philip Robert Springall and Sybil Quan.



Notes from Carl Smith card 117983:

1956, Jan. 13 - SCMP., died Mrs. Nona Keele Latimer, widow of former Hong Kong Magistrate and Tenancy Tribunal President, Mr. Harry Latimer, Jan. 11, founded Chatham English School, May Road, some years ago. Was Headmistress. On General Committee of H.K. Society for Protection of Children.

David, thank you so much for finding that record.  Nona was my father's cousin, and it is nice to build up a picture of her life.  It is also good to know that her husband was known as Harry, as he was usually quoted in the newspapers as William Henry Latimer, and nothing less formal.


This is a link to an American newspaper clipping from 1928, on, showing a photo of Nona Latimer.