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Spencer Milton Cottee (1863–1944)

Only a few hours after he had been advised that his wife was seriously ill, Mr. Spencer Milton Cottee, 80, of Cambridge Street, Epping, collapsed and died in a room at the Lismore Hotel yesterday. He was well known in the district for many years as an authority on dairying projects.

Mr. Cottee arrived in Lismore last Monday in connection with negotiations which aimed at the supply of milk from the Far North Coast area for the Sydney and Newcastle zones to relieve the existing shortage.

He was organising director of the Consumer-Producer Co-op. Movement, which had applied to the Metropolitan Milk Board for a vendors' licence to bring milk into the areas from outside the Milk Board zone. It is understood that farmers under the scheme were to receive 1s a gallon for full milk.

The negotiations had made definite progress in the few days Mr. Cottee was in Lismore as plans had been made for the despatch on Monday of a 10 gallon can of milk to Sydney for testing by University and official analysts.

In the early hours of yesterday morning Mr. Cottee received a message from Sydney that Mrs Cottee was seriously ill. He made plans to return immediately to Sydney, and visited his brother, Mr. A. Cottee, and a number of friends. He returned to the hotel about 7.30 a.m.

Two hours later an hotel employee, Mr. J. Jones, found the door of a toilet room closed and, after trying it again some time later, investigated by climbing on to an adjoining roof, from where he saw Mr. Cottee on the floor.

Det. Const R. M. Simpson and Const. H. Holm, accompanied by the Government Medical Officer (Dr Kellas), were called to the hotel, and the door was opened by Const. Holm who climbed into the room from an outside roof.

After an examination Dr. Kellas declared that death was due to heart failure.

It was typical of Mr. Cottee that even in his 81st year he was working tirelessly for the development of a new project in the Far North Coast area. Although a man of keen business acumen, his ventures always had a strong sense of loyalty to a district to which he was deeply attached.

He first came to Lismore as a young lad in 1874, when his parents took the Freemasons' Hotel. Some years later he was engaged as a produce merchant in the town but was attracted to the dairying industry and, while living at Tregeagle, was married. During the period he lived in Lismore he was a progressive worker who felt full confidence in the future of the town. He was an alderman of the Lismore Municipal Council for some years. He made the first subdivisions in the Avondale estate.

Mr. Cottee, however, was best known for his dairying activities. He showed his belief in quality in dairying herds when he visited the Guernsey Islands and brought back selected imported stock for his farm at "Belverdere," Tregeagle. The stock and their issue was well known in district show rings at the time.

He was an admirer of the principles of co-operation and was a director of Norco Co-op. Ltd. for a number of years. About 1910 he visited England on behalf of the company and played an important part in the establishment of overseas butter markets.

Some time after his return he launched into the casein industry, his first plant being set up in Victoria, but in 1914 returned to his old district. He started at Byron Bay and later came to Lismore. Norco Co-op. Ltd. became share holders, but later took over the assets of the company. As a share holder of Norco in recent years Mr. Cottee was the sponsor of a number of motions at the periodical meetings of the company. He strongly urged the company to launch into the powdered milk industry. He was a keen statistican of district production and, even during the last few days, revealed that he had lost none of his sharpness and ability in debate.

In his young days he was an accomplished sportsman, and was well known in cricket, athletic and sculling circles. He won a number of rowing match races on the Richmond River. He was a member of Epping Bowling Club, but had previously been a member of the Lismore club for many years. He played bowls on the afternoon before his death and always took any chance that offered to visit the green.

Mr. Cottee was associated for many years with the Lismore Methodist Church, for which he acted as a circuit steward. When the Lismore branch of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australia was formed in 1890 he was the first W.M. and remained a member until his death.

One of his most successful enterprises which found its first basis in experiments he made in the Tregeagle district was the founding of Passiona Products. The business has been firmly established in Sydney, and is represented by one of Mr. Cottee's sons in Melbourne.

Mr. Cottee was born at Moorabool, Ballarat, in September, 1863, but came with his parents to the Clarence in the following year. Some years later they moved to Wardell and about 1874 came to Lismore. He is survived by his wife and eight sons—Messrs. Spencer (Five Dock), Leonard (Ryde), Herbert (Brisbane), Charles (Mascot), Harold (Strathfield), Raymond (Strathfield), Allan (New Brighton), Ernest Cottee (Melbourne)—and three daughters—Mesdames G. Austin (Epping, formerly 0f Rous), F. Swalwell (Kyogle) and W. Knight (Manly). Three brothers, Messrs. Albert (Lismore), George A. (Ballina) and William B. Cottee (Brisbane), and one sister, Mrs. A. Chapman (Sydney), also survive. Two brothers and two sisters pre-deceased him.

The funeral will leave Will Riley and Son's parlours at 8 a.m. to-day, and the remains will be taken by train to Sydney for burial on Saturday.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Cottee, Spencer Milton (1863–1944)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


September, 1863
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


8 June, 1944 (aged 80)
Lismore, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations