This book describes the history of a humble family that migrated from England to Ireland in the mid 17th c and put down roots at Kilconnor, County Carlow. By the end of the century many members of the family had joined the Society of Friends and were part of the landed gentry. During the late 17th c and 18th c family members established themselves elsewhere in Ireland and later in Australia, England and New Zealand where they rose to prominence in a wide variety of roles, eventually abandoning Friends for the established church. Today the family is still held in high regard for its past and ongoing contributions to equestrian sports including horse racing, fox-hunting, polo and in this era, three-day eventing.
In Ireland, Solomon Watson established a well-known but doomed bank in Clonmel, County Tipperary. John Henry Watson of Ballydarton, County Carlow, master of the Carlow and Island hunt, started the Watsons’ association with hunting in which they became preeminent from the end of the 18th c. After serving in India, a later John Henry Watson helped develop the game of polo, and his Freebooters team won the first international polo match against the Americans. Corona Deane Lecky Watson is remembered with great affection for her exquisite cultivated gardens at Altamont, County Carlow, which she bequeathed to the Republic of Ireland. In recent times John Wilfred Watson represented Ireland in the Olympics, won silver in the world eventing championship and team gold in the Europeans. His son Samuel James Watson won a team silver in the same event in 2018.
In England, John Boles Watson established theatres in the South-West, the Midlands and Wales, including the Theatre-Royal in Cheltenham, and in the 20th c John Arthur Fergus Watson became a reforming magistrate, prison visitor, campaigner on juvenile justice, author and president of the Royal Society of Chartered Surveyors. Alister George Douglas Watson was secretary of The Cambridge Apostles and friend of Keynes and Wittgenstein. During WWII he helped design millimetre radar and later became head of anti-submarine warfare research. Peter Wright, the author of ‘Spycatcher’ accused him of being ‘the fifth man’ although later evidence showed otherwise.
In Australia, George John Watson, ‘the prince of starters’, developed the hunt in Victoria, ran a coaching business, bred horses, raced and helped found the Victorian Racing Club. His children were well-known sportsmen, adventurers and pioneers in Queensland and the Northern Territory. His cousin William Currie Watson, a popular sportsman, was a pioneer in Gippsland, Victoria, where he cleared 300-ft trees and dense scrub to create a dairy farm and help establish a thriving dairy industry. John Watson, another relative, shipped to New Zealand in 1843 where he was appointed magistrate for the wild frontier district of Akaroa on the South Island.
Again, from the 19th c onwards, many family members served with distinction in the military, in India, South Africa, Europe and the middle east.
The stories related in this book derive from meticulous research conducted by the authors who have utilised information provided by Watson descendants and from collections of diaries, photographs, letters and other documents. The book is A4 sized, printed in colour with 578 pages of well referenced text, 262 illustrations, 30 tables and a comprehensive index. It includes genealogical charts for the various families, a colour code for each branch and an ID number for each individual.
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