Agnes (Nancy) Elizabeth ACTON (1892-1981), Alexander Hunter WATSON (1895-1934), James Muir WATSON (1888-1965), Jane MUIR (1865-1933), Mary Copeland BELL (1894-1971), Mount Oliphant Farm, Sarah May (May) ACTON (1898-1982), Thomas WATSON (1854-1932), Thomas WATSON (1887-1951)
(see ‘Thomas & Jane (MUIR) WATSON Family’ under heading ‘WATSON’, for photograph of WATSON family see post 29 April 2012)
[this post last edited, new information and/or images added 12 March 2013. Unless otherwise indicated all photos are from the author’s collection]
[For more Watson family photos also check out Donald Slater’s family history Flickr account www.flickr.com/photos/palaeoecogeek]
Thomas (Tom) WATSON, born 5 April 1887 at Mount Oliphant Farm, Ayrshire, Scotland, was the eldest child and son born to Thomas WATSON and his wife Jane (Jean) MUIR. His first years were spent at Mount Oliphant Farm and he then moved with the family and attended local schools in each location.
Photo left: Thomas Watson, 10 June 1914, Rosewood District, Lemberg, Saskatchewan, Canada
Tom never wanted to be a farmer. Although his family had been tenant farmers, ploughmen, cattle men and labourers at least for the previous 100 years, Tom had other ideas. His family tells stories of him being very mechanically oriented from an early age. And he was always fascinated by cars. In 1901 at age 13 he lived with his family on Camilla Farm in West Fife. 1901 was also the year that American Charles Duryea produced the first Stevens-Duryea automobiles, the first vehicle was shown in November of 1901 and on sale in March of 1902.
Tom was likely enthused about all the excitement generated around the development of the motor car. How did he learn to drive? While his father did not own a car, he would have gravitated to anyone in the neighbourhood who owned a car and took every opportunity to tinker with the mechanics and drive on the country roads. It is also possible to imagine that Tom’s interest in the motor car may have led to disagreements with his father who had no time for these “new fangled inventions” and was upset at Tom not spending his proper time behind a horse and plow. Tom was later heard to remark that he determined at an early age that he did not intend to spend his life behind a horse and plow.
By 1905, four years later, 17 year old Tom, worked as a chauffeur. Due to his habit of sending postcards, and of his mother’s habit of saving them, we have an idea of Tom’s life in the United Kingdom as a chauffeur. We know that the Watson family lived in Fife from at least 1901 to 1905. It is likely that Tom’s first driving jobs were in the area. Cowdenbeath, the location of the photographer’s studio in the photograph below right, is a town 5 miles north-east of Dunfermline in Fife where the family lived.
Left is another postcard (and the message on the reverse below) dated 1905 from Tom. It is not known to whom he wrote this card, but it sounds like it might be one of his brothers, who still lived in Scotland (Jim until 1906, William until 1909).
“What do you think of this old dial. It is taken in my livery suit which consists of a plain blue suit, with a motor coat and cap of heavy dark tweed and a dust coat for summer 2 pairs of gloves and some underclothing. About £10 – 10/ for the lot. See and get yours taken the first chance you get and don’t forget to write.”
His message (above) is not likely the tone he would use if written to his parents (“See you get yours taken”) and the card confirms that either Tom or his recipient brother, were already living away from home (“don’t forget to write”).
About this time Tom changed employers [name unknown] and started to work in England. He may have done so by the time he sent the postcard (below) of Lumley Castle located in Durham County near Newcastle.
Postcard above: Lumley Castle, Chester-le-Street
Message: Staying here for the weekend with the car Lord Scarborough’s place. Enjoying myself [It’s not known whether Tom worked for Lord Scarborough, or whether Tom and his employer were visiting Lumley Castle.]
On 3 March 1910 from London, in another postcard (not shown) Tom wrote to his mother, who lived in Gullane, Scotland, that he had “Arrived here safely at 12 o’clock last night (Tues) Will write soon. Haven’t got lost yet. T. W.” The address was in a posh area of London: “C/O Pease, 8 Hertford, Mayfair, London W.”
In early April 1910, shortly after Tom wrote this postcard, his parents and siblings Alex, Nell, Jean and John immigrated to Saskatchewan. Tom decided to stay in London; the April 1911 census listed him as a 23 year old ‘domestic chauffeur’, who lived as a boarder at 12a Little Grosvenor St. in the heart of London. Family stories indicate that Tom decided not to go as he had an opportunity to drive a ‘lord’s’ car in the coronation procession of George V which occurred 2 Jun 1911. Perhaps Tom believed that having reached this level of work as a chauffeur in London would give him more opportunities to find a job in Canada?
A year later, on 17 June 1912, Tom sailed from Glasgow on the ship ‘S.S. Pretorian’. He disembarked in Montreal; from there he made his way to Winnipeg, the date of his arrival in Winnipeg is not known. We do know that he was in Lemberg, Saskatchewan to act as best man at the marriage of his brother James (Jim) Muir WATSON to Agnes (Nancy) Elizabeth ACTON on 10 June 1914 (photograph below, also see post 29 April 2012). Tom would have been the driver of the car that took Jim and Nancy to Wolseley, Saskatchewan to start their honeymoon.
Left to right: Tom, his brother
James (Jim) Muir WATSON, Agnes (Nancy) Elizabeth ACTON, Nancy’s sister Sarah May (May) ACTON
One of Tom’s first jobs in Winnipeg may have been driving an oil delivery truck. In an undated photograph (below) he is standing beside a Premier Gasoline truck. The wooden houses in the background appear to be the type of buildings that would be found in Winnipeg, not the stone structures of Britain or the typical buildings in Montreal.
It is not known when Tom starting working as a chauffeur and handy man for George Montegu Black, a wealthy Winnipeg businessman.
On 23 June 1923 in Winnipeg Tom married Mary Copeland BELL. The Black home, 59 Wilmot Place, Winnipeg, was the Watson family address for many years as the family had an apartment over the garage.
Above: Mary Copeland BELL about the time of her marriage to Tom WATSON
Left to right: William BROWN, Best Man, Thomas WATSON, Mary Copeland BELL, Lily PALMER, Maid of Honour, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 23 June 1923
The happy couple: Mary and Tom WATSON
[For more Watson family photos, and photos of the BELL, WATERS, PALMER, BUCHANAN, McLACHLAN and other connected families, also check out Donald Slater’s family history Flickr account www.flickr.com/photos/palaeoecogeek]
Tom and Mary had four children, Elsie (1924-1983), Helen (1926-2010), Thomas (deceased as young child) and [living child]. For many years the family made annual summer trips to Saskatchewan to see cousins, aunts and uncles. (photograph below)
Left to right: Baby Helen, Mary, Tom and Elsie, taken at the home of Tom’s brother Alexander (Alex) Hunter WATSON and his wife Sarah Mae (Mae) ACTON, Lemberg, Saskatchewan about 1928
In the 1940’s Tom’s health began to fail and, when he was no longer able to fulfill the physical demands of the chauffeuring, handy man and maintenance work for the Black family, he was dismissed. Unfortunately, there was no pension plan during this time and Tom was forced to look for work elsewhere. He did manage to get some work as a driver for a local woman, however financial worries plagued Tom and Mary’s later years.
Both Tom and Mary died in Winnipeg, Tom on 19 March 1951 and Mary 20 years later in February 1971. They are both buried in Winnipeg.