At 8.43am on Saturday 12th September 2015 my Dad, William John Rhymer Watson, died peacefully at Radius Matua, Tauranga surrounded by his family. Dad was born on Sunday 30th December 1928, the eldest child of Jean Charlotte (nee WILSON) and David George WATSON. William John Rhymer (Bill) was the first of eleven children to be born to Jean and David. Many years ago Jean wrote their weights and hours of labour on this scrap of paper.

baby weights


William John Rhymer Watson with his children (from left to right) Lorrie, Peter, Ian and Sandra. Photo taken in June 2015.

William John Rhymer (Bill) Watson c1931


William John Rhymer (Bill) Watson 1952

Lesley and Bill Watson (aka Mum and Dad)

Bill holding Ian, Lorrie, Sandra and Lesley holding Peter


Watson family at the Whangarata School 75th Jubilee in 1962. Standing in back row l to r – Dave, Jock, Beryl, Ray, Norman. Seated l to r – Janet, Ken, Jean Charlotte, Bill and Elsie. Sitting on ground l to r – Diane and Lorraine (Ken and Bill’s daughters)


Personal chattels list mentioned in 2 2.1 (a) in the will. Note the typo – I’m positive Dad didn’t own that furniture prior to 1881 – pretty sure it was supposed to be 1981!


Rest in peace Dad.


It’s been a while … a little over three years to be precise. How time flies! So much has happened in the last three years – we moved from Port Waikato to Tuakau in 2016 after over 30 years living on the same property, we had the house we purchased (almost) entirely renovated while we lived in it (ugh – I have no desire to do that again), I spent 8 amazing weeks in Scotland in 2017 and my daughter graduated in 2017 after three years of study with a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Teaching)- yay Ali!

But most significantly it was three years ago today that my Dad passed away. The following post is the post I began writing on the 19th September 2015 but never finished. I thought today would be a good day to finish it and begin writing in this blog again. There is so much more information about my family that I have learned in the last three years. It’s time to share it.

Here’s the cover of a little black autograph book I was shown on Monday. (Click on any of the images to enlarge them)

DSC05884 autograph book coverThe book belonged to Ellen Smith

DSC05885 ellen address

Ellen was the youngest daughter of Donald Moir Smith and his wife Helen (nee Watson). She was born at Picton in 1913.

DSC05631 ellen birth register

The autograph book has entries from many members of Ellen’s family. Among the entries are these two from her mother.

DSC05887 mother autograph

DSC05886 helen autographThe second autograph is actually part of a poem (Ilka Blade o’ Grass Keps its ain Drap o’ Dew) written by James Ballantine – a Scottish poet and glass artist. See more about him here.

Ellen’s grandmother, Ann Mitchell (nee Balfour) Watson  wrote the following:

Love many

Trust few

Always paddle

your own canoe


DSC05899 Ann autograph

Ellen’s Uncle David (my grandfather, David George Watson) added these two autographs.

DSC05891 david george autograph

DSC05889 david george autographEllen’s cousin Jean Watson (William Balfour and Josephine Maud Watson’s daughter) added these.

DSC05902 jean autograph

DSC05896 jean autograph 2

William Hugh Watson was visiting from Australia and added this one:

DSC05894 willie rarotonga autographAnd finally, this autograph was written by Ellen’s Aunty Julia. Julia was 30 when she wrote this.

DSC05898 Julia autograph

The current owner of Ellen’s autograph book is her son Barry Wilson. Barry was kind enough to invite Levonne and me to his house so we could see Ellen’s photos and other memorabilia.


DSC05772 ellen in chair

Ellen Mitchell Watson SMITH

In 1936 Ellen married Allan James Halley Wilson. Allan and Ellen had two children, Barry and Raewyn. Allan died on 6 May 1983 and Raewyn died on 3 April 2012. Interestingly, Allan was born on 19 May 1910 – about a month after Halley’s Comet appeared in April 1910.

The 1910 approach, which came into naked-eye view around 10 April and came to perihelion on 20 April, was notable for several reasons: it was the first approach of which photographs exist, and the first for which spectroscopic data were obtained. Indeed, on 19 May, Earth actually passed through the tail of the comet. One of the substances discovered in the tail by spectroscopic analysis was the toxic gas cyanogen, which led astronomer Camille Flammarion to claim that, when Earth passed through the tail, the gas “would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.” His pronouncement led to panicked buying of gas masks and quack “anti-comet pills” and “anti-comet umbrellas” by the public. In reality, as other astronomers were quick to point out, the gas is so diffuse that the world suffered no ill effects from the passage through the tail


DSC05638 marriage cert

DSC05703 raewyn ellen barry

Ellen Wilson (nee Smith) with her two children, Raewyn and Barry. Photo taken in 2003.

Ellen lived until she was 101 years old.  She died on 13 January 2015. The following article was published in the Central Leader on July 30 2014.

DSC05632 ellen 101My thanks to Barry for sharing his mum’s photos and memorabilia with Levonne and me.

Problem No. 93

While searching through the online newspapers in FindMyPast  recently I stumbled across this article printed in 1913. The article mentioned Mr George Watson, Kelty – I wondered if it was the George Watson who was my great grandfather William Watson’s brother? WATSON George draughts champs 1913A bit more searching revealed this article – Problem No 93 by George Watson, Kelty. Presumably the same George as in the article above, but was he ‘our’ George? Never having heard of any draught-playing Watsons in all our ‘family legends’ and knowing how common a name George Watson was I had my doubts.

WATSON George draughts problem 93After some more searching all my doubts had gone. The following article proved that he was, indeed, ‘our’ George, the last paragraph confirming it with the mention of his three sons, John, George and William, who ‘are resident at the other end of the world’.WATSON George obituary 1934Here’s a transcription of George’s death that I purchased way back in 1999 when I was just a couple of years into researching the Watson family.

WATSON George death 1934George’s first wife, Ann, died in 1897 while the family was living in Cowdenbeath.  This post mentions her death  and his second, Elizabeth, died in 1924.

WATSON Ann nee HODGE Death 1897WATSON Elizabeth nee ROBERTSON death 1924And finally, because I’m sure you are desperate to know, the solution to Problem No. 93!

WATSON George draughts solution




William Balfour CAMPBELL was born at Leslie on 20 July 1894 and was the youngest child of John and Julia (nee Balfour) Campbell. Julia was my great grandmother Ann (nee Balfour) Watson’s elder sister, therefore William Balfour Campbell and my grandfather David George Watson were first cousins. David George was born on 21 January 1894, six months before his cousin.

William was commissioned into the British Army on 4 December 1914. This photo of him shows him wearing the uniform of the Gordon Highlanders.

photo william balfour campbellI wrote to the Gordon Highlanders Museum to see if they could tell me more about the photo. Today I received the following reply from Museum research volunteer Bert Innes:

While there is no known photograph of William Campbell  held in the Museum archives, the officer in the photograph is most certainly a Gordon Highlander

The jodhpurs or plus 4 type trousers, which were either of dark  cloth or Regimental Gordon Tartan; the boots, gaiters and spur devices and the uniform tunic with rank badge(s) are of the period.  The officer is wearing the Gordons’ glengarry headdress with the silver or white metal Regimental Staff cap badge.  Shown on the lapels of his Highland officers’ pattern tunic is the “SPHINX” “collar dogs” or badges.

It is difficult, from the stance of the officer, to give his rank with certainty, but this is shown on his left tunic sleeve cuff.  You will note the one “pip” or cloth diamond shaped badge of rank, with the possibility of one other “pip” hidden from view.  This officer was either a 2nd Lieutenant (one “pip”) or Lieutenant (two “pips”).

The Museum is aware of William Campbell’s military service of which I believe you are likewise.  I note his impressive group of medals were offered for sale a few years ago.

The above mentioned medals are shown below.

William-Balfour-Campbell-meThe photo of these medals came from a fabulous blog called British Army Medals – take a look at it if you have an interest in war medals. Thanks very much to the writer of the blog Paul Nixon for allowing me to use the image. This is the information he had on his blog post about William Balfour Campbell.

Medals held:
1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and MiD, General Service Medal 1918 (clasps Kurdistan and Iraq), India General Service Medal (clasp Waziristan 1921-24).

This from the medal dealer’s write-up at the time of purchase in March 2008:

A fine Officer casualty ‘MID’ group of 5: Major W.B. Campbell, 2nd Battalion 8th Punjab Regiment late 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders

– 1914-15 Star (Lieut W.B. Campbell, Gord Highrs)
– British War Medal 1914-18 (Capt W.B. Campbell)
– Allied Victory Medal. With oakleaf emblem for a Mention-in-Despatches (Capt W.B. Campbell)
– GSM 1918. GV first type with 2 clasps ‘Kurdistan’ & ‘Iraq’ (Capt W.B. Campbell)
– IGS 1908. GV type I & clasp ‘Waziristan 1921-24’ (Capt W.B. Campbell, 2-8 Punjab R)

Note: The group professionally court mounted by Spink

William Balfour Campbell, was born 20 July 1894, at 120 High Street, Leslie, Fife, Scotland. His father was described as being a ‘Railway Engine Driver’. His family later moved to St.Andrews, where the family resided at 158, South Street. Notwithstanding the prevailing social discrimination that worked against giving men from ‘working class’ backgrounds a commission, the onset of the Great War quickly challenged old attitudes to class and William Campbell was commissioned into the British Army on 4/12/1914, and appointed to serve with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders. He first entered France and Flanders on 4/10/1915. He remained in France until 2/4/1916, on which date he was wounded in action by ‘GSW’ near St.Eloi, while serving as the battalion ‘Bombing Officer’ in charge of the ‘Grenade Section’ – a singularly hazardous appointment in any B.E.F. battalion. Indeed his section had been in action in the early hours of 2/4/1916 in a series of counter-attacks to regain a prominent position on the salient. 1/Gordon’s battalion war diary for the period refers;

” Three attempts were made in early morning to get back point 64 which the enemy was still holding. Canadian and Royal Scots bombing parties took part but attempts failed owing to the enemy occupation of a shallow trench in rear from which he could bomb 64 thereby preventing our occupation. There was some heavy shelling during the day. 2nd Lt. W.B. Campbell was wounded.”

William Campbell served just over 6 months in France and Flanders, before being invalided back to Scotland suffering from the wounds he had received in action. While in Scotland recovering, he applied for a transfer to the Indian Army. On 31st July 1917, his application was accepted. He embarked on a troopship for India on 11 October 1917 as a probationer for the Indian Army. He subsequently served in Mesopotamia from 15/5/1918 through to 1920. He was Mentioned-in-Despatches (MID) for his distinguished services in Iraq, the MID notification being published in the London Gazette of 9/9/1921. He appears to have retired from the Indian Army, with the rank of Major by 1930

With various copied research papers, including his Officers papers for the ‘British Service’ and the application/referrals for a commission in the ‘Indian Army’

Condition: GVF

The above text supplied by Aberdeen Medals.

William’s name appears in the University of St Andrews Roll of Honour and Roll of Service published in 1920.

rollofhonourroll00univ_0009rollofhonourroll00univ_0064 william balfour campbellThe * beside William’s name indicates that he was a member of the University OTC (Officers Training Corps).

By September 1921 William held the rank of Captain in the Indian Army. He appears on the following passenger lists in 1921, 1922 and 1924. Click on the images to enlarge them.

william balfour campbellTNA_BT27_0982_00_0003_P_0002FTNA_BT27_1054_00_0055_P_0001FWilliam never married and died, aged 54 years, at Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland on 10 May 1950. He died of chronic bronchitis, asthma and coronary thrombosis. It would appear he died alone as his death registration says he was found at 3.35pm and was last seen at 8.40am.  Grey Lodge was noted as his usual residence – I wonder if this was perhaps a boarding house. william balfour campbell death notice.

death william balfour campbell



I’ve been browsing the British Newspaper Archive and stumbled across this fantastic little article and sketch of my great grandfather William WATSON that was published in The Edinburgh Evening News on Thursday 7 September 1905.

william winner sketchI think the artist of the sketch achieved a real likeness to William. Compare the sketch to the photos below.

william winner photowilliam thane of fife

The Dundee Courier published the following article on Monday 4 September 1905.

dundee courier articleIn case, like me, you don’t know what a guinea is – here’s a description from a “British Life and Culture” website:

1 guinea = £1-1s-0d ( £1/1/- ) = one pound and one shilling = 21 shillings

1 guinea could be written as ‘1g’ or ‘1gn’.

A guinea was considered a more gentlemanly amount than £1. You paid tradesmen, such as a carpenter, in pounds but gentlemen, such as an artist, in guineas.

A third of a guinea equalled exactly seven shillings.

Why guinea?

Because the Guinea coast was fabled for its gold, and its name became attached to other things like guinea fowl, and New Guinea.

family and dog photo

Campbell family – back row: William Balfour, Julia Mitchell and John jnr; front row: Julia and John snr. The dog must have been a much loved member of the family.

My great grandmother (Ann Mitchell BALFOUR who married William WATSON) was one of nine children born to William and Helen (nee MITCHELL) BALFOUR. Ann’s sister Julia married John CAMPBELL on 16th January 1885 at Ferry Port on Craig, Fife, Scotland. (Click on image above and below to enlarge)

julia john marriage

Julia and John snr had three children. Julia Mitchell was born at Collessie on 18 November 1888; John jnr was born at Collessie on 7 November 1890 and William Balfour was born at Leslie on 20 July 1894.

John snr worked as a railway engine fireman when Julia and John jnr were born but was a railway engine driver by the time William Balfour was born.

In 1911 the family was living at 158 South Street, St Andrews. Image below is from Google maps. # 158 is the Home Start shop in the picture.

158 south st st andrewsJohn was still working as an railway engine driver; daughter Julia was a domestic servant; John jnr was a railway porter and William Balfour was a teacher student.


julia deathOn 18 June 1915 Julia died of a cerebral thrombosis, age 60.  I am presuming that some time after Julia’s death John moved in with his daughter Julia who had married on 9 February 1915 and was living at 56 William Street in Tayport with her husband Andrew LONIE who was a private in the 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry. John was living at 56 William Street when he died, aged 76, on 21 March 1933. Cause of death – drowning. The following newspaper articles reveal what happened to John.

john campbell drowned cropped Click on the image below to enlarge.

john campbell snr death

john campbell snr roce death

In case, like me, you don’t know what a “precognition” is here’s how the Police Scotland website describes it:

A precognition is a distinctive feature of the Scottish legal system.  It is the face to face interview of a witness who may be called to give evidence at a forthcoming criminal trial, civil proceedings or in respect of insurance claims.  It is done to evaluate the evidence that the witness will give while under oath at the trial.  The precognition requests that we receive are to interview our officers or support staff as potential witnesses in a case.

Solicitors and insurance companies tend to employ Precognition Officers to do the precognition on their behalf.  This gives the solicitor the opportunity to offer their client full advice on how best to respond to the charges they are faced with as well as establishing the strength of the case against them.  And, it allows insurance companies to explore the circumstances of a claim that they are dealing with.

Little more is known about the lives of Julia and John Campbell, but I have managed to find out more about their children, particularly William Balfour, to be revealed in the next blog.