Archive for the ‘Cowdenbeath’ Category

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.


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My great grandfather’s brother George Watson’s first wife Ann (nee Hodge) Watson died on 4 December 1897 after being ill with typhoid fever and enlargement of liver for 21 days. She died in Elgin Road, Cowdenbeath. Mayfield House, the home of my great grandparents William and Ann (nee Balfour) Watson, is situated in Elgin Road. When Ann died she left George to care for five children, the youngest Christina Deas, born on 16 January 1897, was only 11 months old.

Nine months after Ann’s death, on 7 September 1898, George remarried. George was 37 years old and his new bride was Elizabeth Robertson, aged 42, occupation housekeeper. The ceremony took place in Parnwell, Cleish. Just over a year later Elizabeth gave birth to a son. William Hugh Watson was born at 7.45am on 30 September 1899 at Elgin Road, Cowdenbeath.

The 1901 census shows the family living at Glow House in the village of Oakfield. Interestingly, Christina does not appear on this census. I wonder where she was?

george census 1901

postcard_upper_oakfield_kelty_1911William Hugh Watson emigrated from Scotland after WWI and ended up in the Cook Islands some time between 1928 and 1930 after working in New Zealand and Australia. He established a firm of clothing manufacturers in Rarotonga which later became United Island Traders Ltd. He was a member of the Rarotonga Island Council for seven years, a member of the Cook Islands Legislative Council for six years, and a member of the Cook Islands Legislative Assembly from 1957 to 1960.

William married a beautiful Cook Island lass, Marie Peyroux. I recall seeing this photo of them sitting on my nana’s (Jean Charlotte (nee Wilson) Watson) mantlepiece.

Marie (nee Peyroux) and William Hugh Watson

Marie (nee Peyroux) and William Hugh Watson

Here’s another photo of Willie that I found online.

Willie Watson, Rarotonga. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-00963-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22836068

Willie Watson, Rarotonga. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-00963-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22836068

To be continued …


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The Watson Cup

The Watson Cup

I discovered this fine silver trophy at the Cowdenbeath Bowling Club in Scotland back in 2000 when I was researching my great grandfather William Watson and his family. The inscription on the cup reads:

Presented to

Cowdenbeath Bowling Club


W. Watson Esq Vice-President

for annual competition


Here’s a photo of me holding the trophy on 20 August 2000. The trophy is very heavy –  a magnificent piece of work. It is apparently the most coveted trophy in the Cowdenbeath Bowling Club’s trophy cabinet and is played for annually in the men’s singles competition.

sandra and cup

I learned that William was a bowler when I stumbled across this article that was published in The Dunfermline Journal on 1 April 1905 page 3. I’ve transcribed it for easier reading.


The annual general meeting was held in the Masonic Hall on Tuesday – Councillor Hodge, president. The Secretary gave a report of last year’s work, which was adopted. The following office-bearers were thereafter elected for the ensuing season:- President, Councillor Hodge; vice-president, Mr W. Watson; treasurer, Councillor Shand; members of committee, Messrs J. R. Lawson, W. Duncan, D. O. Duff, P. McIntosh, D. Traill, J. Thomson, and Bailie Barclay. The secretary, Mr Butters, intimated that he could not see his way to accept re-election, but agreed to act as interim until the next meeting. Skips for the season are Messrs A. R. Dick, Hugh Kelso, H. G. Smith, Geo. Terris, Dr Craig, Councillor Hodge, J. Stevenson, W. Hodge, J. Linn, W. Watson, J. Thomson, Bailie Barclay. Considerable discussion took place as to the desirability of reducing the number of matches to be played. It was eventually left in the hands of the committee, but the feeling of the meeting was that the number be reduced. It is expected that the green will be opened on the first Wednesday of May, and the prospects of the club for the season appear very bright. A considerable number of new members intimated their intention to join.

The Dunfermline Journal 1 Apr 1905 page 3

The Dunfermline Journal 1 Apr 1905 page 3

The following year, this article appeared in the West Fife Echo. Partially transcribed below:


The Cowdenbeath Bowling Club Ltd, opened their green for the season on Wednesday afternoon. Mr Hodge, president, in presence of a large company of members after declaring the green open, intimated that Mr Paul had presented the club with a pair of bowls for competition. Mr William Watson, who is leaving for Australia, had intimated by letter his intention of presenting the club with a silver cup for competition, and asked them to kindly accept it as a trophy to be played for annually. A special vote of thanks was accorded Mr Watson for the splendid cup he had so graciously provided. Mr Paul then three up the first jack, and an interesting game followed between the president and Vice-President. The game resulted in a win for the President, the score being President 38,  Vice-President 31.

West Fife Echo, 16 May 1906 page 3

West Fife Echo, 16 May 1906 page 3

I don’t know where the “leaving for Australia” came from. That’s the second newspaper reference to Australia I have come across. Maybe William and family had initially thought of emigrating to Australia – I’m glad they chose New Zealand though. In my humble opinion it’s a much better country!!

Fast forward six years to 2006 and I was in Scotland again, this time with my Uncle Norman and my sister Lorrie. An event was being held at the Cowdenbeath Bowling Club to honour the members of William Watson’s family who had travelled from New Zealand. Unfortunately I never made it to the event as my mum died and I came home for her funeral. However, Norman, Lorrie and Lorrie’s sons David and Matthew went and by all accounts a great evening was had by all. No sooner was a glass emptied than it was refilled! These photos may or may not have been taken before too many refills! Perhaps Norman can tell us?

Norman Watson being presented with a bottle of whisky by the president of the club

Norman Watson being presented with a bottle of Scotch whisky by the president of the club

I do believe that bottle of Scotch whisky is still waiting for a very special occasion before it is consumed.

From left to right - Matthew Kurth, David Kurth, Lorrie (nee Watson) Kurth, Norman Watson and the president of the Cowdenbeath Bowling Club.

From left to right – Matthew Kurth, David Kurth, Lorrie (nee Watson) Kurth, Norman Watson and the president of the Cowdenbeath Bowling Club.

If ever you happen to be in Cowdenbeath then do go to the Bowling Club, in Bowling Green Street, Cowdenbeath (love the name of the street!) and tell them you’re a descendant of William Watson. I’m sure they’ll welcome you just as they did me. Of course, you can always just check out their Facebook page  if you don’t think you’ll make it to Cowdenbeath.

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Julia Mina Balfour WATSON was William and Ann (nee Balfour) WATSON’s youngest child.

She was born November 28th 1897 in Elgin Road, Cowdenbeath.  Elgin Road is where Mayfield House is situated so I imagine that she was born in the family home.

Julie was born with Downs Syndrome.  I was told by a family member that Ann and William believed she was born that way because Ann had been under a lot of stress in the year prior to Julie being born.  Now we all know that stress is not a cause of Downs, but back in 1897 I guess there wasn’t the same knowledge that we have now so it’s quite probable they believed it.  I wondered what stress she might have been under so did a bit of research and discovered that on 28 January 1897 Ann’s brother James Christie BALFOUR died – cause of death pneumonia. James was 33 years old. Then I discovered that on 4 September 1897 her brother William BALFOUR died – cause of death aneurysm of aorta. William was 37 years old. Wow, losing two brothers in the same year. Now that would be rather stressful. I then discovered that on 4 December 1897 (just six days after Julia was born), after being ill with typhoid fever and enlargement of liver for 21 days, Ann’s sister-in-law Ann (nee Hodge) WATSON (wife of William’s brother George), died in Elgin Road, Cowdenbeath.  Her youngest child was less than a year old. Remember that in 1897 William and George were operating the Mayfield Aerated Water Works together so George and Ann and their family were quite possibly living at Mayfield House with William and Ann.  When George married his second wife, Elizabeth, less than a year later on 7 September 1898  his usual residence was noted as Mayfield House.  Hard times for the Watson family in 1897 I think.

I have only seen a couple of photos of Julia. The first one was taken in 1912 at the wedding of William Balfour WATSON and Josephine Maud PINKHAM in Picton.

Back row: William, Julia and Ann Watson
Front row: John Watson (son of William and Ann Watson)

The photo below was taken at Whangarata in 1931.

Watson family at Whangarata 1931
Ann, Julia, Jean Charlotte, David George holding David George jnr and William John Rhymer in front

I believe Ann and Julia (family called her Julie I think) lived with my grandparents, David George and Jean Charlotte Watson, for quite a few years. Ann died in 1937 and as far as I know Julie stayed at Whangarata for quite a few more years before she was placed in Kingseat Hospital where she remained until her death in 1951. David George received these two telegrams from Kingseat Hospital on 22 and 23 March 1951. The first telegram told him Julie was dangerously ill and the second one, sent just three hours later, said she had passed away.

I would be very interested to hear any stories you have to share about Julie.

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Recognise the fellow in the middle of the back row? It’s William WATSON, my great grandfather. Seems he was a member of the Masonic Lodge – Thane of Fife 781.

I have scanned parts of the apron and sash William is wearing in the photo. Both the sash and the border of the apron appear to be made from wide grosgrain ribbon. The flap at the top of the apron is blue satin and the white fabric is incredibly soft leather.  The fringing and embroidery are metallic.

Even the buckle on the apron is detailed – looks like some type of serpent maybe.

Way back in 1999 I emailed Charles Reekie who was the secretary of Lodge Thane of Fife and this is part of the email I received back from him.

I haven’t been able to find out who Mr James Bogie was but Mr Thomas Todd was the Master of the Lodge during the years 1895-1901. For further information about the Thane of Fife go to their website at http://www.lodgethaneoffife781.co.uk/lodgehistory.htm

The Grand Lodge of Scotland Diploma shows when William was recorded in Grand Lodge – 23 November 1901.

Finally here’s a photo of Brunton’s Hall, which is where lodge meetings were held when William joined. Brunton’s Hall, High Street, Cowdenbeath is the large building seen behind the Toll House (small building at front). To the right of the Toll House is the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Memorial Fountain. The fountain was donated to the burgh in 1897 by Henry Mungall, Provost. The fountain remained a focal point of the High Street until it was removed in the mid-1940s. By then its ornate cast iron panels and stone base were showing all the effects of the town’s smoky atmosphere. [Information from Old Cowdenbeath by Jim Hutcheson, published by Stenlake Publishing ISBN 1 84033 030 91]

Photo from Old Cowdenbeath by Jim Hutcheson, published by Stenlake Publishing

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William and Ann (nee BALFOUR) WATSON’s second child and eldest daughter was Helen Mitchell WATSON. At least that’s what I always thought until I looked at her birth entry  – now I’m not so sure. [Click on the image to enlarge.] I can’t decide whether the registrar has written Hellen or Nellie.

As the first daughter of William and Ann she was named after Ann’s mother, Helen (nee MITCHELL) BALFOUR. It was customary in Scotland to name the firstborn son after the father’s father and the second born son after the mother’s father. The second born daughter was named after the father’s mother.

Twenty four years later, in 1903, Helen/Nellie married Donald SMITH at Mayfield House, Cowdenbeath. She signed her name as Nellie Mitchell WATSON.  She had been witness to a disposition in 1897 (see the Mayfield House post) and signed her name on that document as Nellie Watson. We can presume then that she was known as Nellie to family and friends. Nellie is an often used variant of Helen, as is Ellen. Interesting to note the registrar wrote Ann WATSON’s maiden surname as MITCHELL not BALFOUR. Wonder why he made that error?  Nellie’s sister Annie was one of the witnesses.

Nellie and Donald emigrated to New Zealand with the rest of the Watson clan in 1906. Their eldest daughter, Annie, was born in 1906 in Scotland. Two more daughters and a son were born in New Zealand. This photo shows the four Smith children with their granny, Ann Watson.  From left as you look at the photo: Annie, Alex sitting on grass, Ann Watson holding Ellen, and Barbara.

Here’s the reverse of the photo – love the handwriting, especially the fancy ‘a’ and capital ‘E’ in Ellen’s name. See how they wrote ‘and’ four times and each one was different. I wonder which child wrote this?

And here’s a photo of the Smith family taken a few years later. Looks like it was a Christmas postcard, possibly taken to send back to family and friends in Scotland.

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My grandad, David George WATSON, was the third son and seventh child of William and Ann Mitchell (nee BALFOUR) WATSON. He was born in Montgomery Street, Kinross. You can see a photo of Montgomery Street here.

David was just three years old when he moved, in 1897, to Mayfield House, Cowdenbeath with his family.

Foulford School, Cowdenbeath opened in May 1896 with 391 pupils and only four teachers plus the headmaster. The building was very distinctive and was built with bricks produced in the local brickworks at Hill o’ Beath. The photo below shows the main gates. There was a smaller playground with its own access gate at the rear of the school. An unusual feature was a tunnel under the school linking the two playgrounds. A door halfway along the tunnel led up into the main building. The school was demolished in 1976. This was the school David George and his brother William Balfour attended.

In The Dunfermline Journal, Saturday 9 May 1896, a reporter wrote about the opening of the school:

… Meanwhile there are six class rooms, two of which can be made into one room by means of a movable glass screen. Separate entrances are provided for the boys and girls. Suitable hat and cloak rooms and lavatory accommodation are provided, and special attention has been paid to the corridor – the lighting being perfect, and the glazed tiles of the side walls white, instead of the dirty brown tiles which are stupidly adopted in some schools. The building is of brick, with white brick corners. The wash hand basins are marble, and the basins are surrounded by an artistic arrangement of pretty tiles. The furniture all through is neat, and is quite in keeping with the surroundings. The school, when finished, will cost upwards of 4,000 pounds. The cost of the portion already finished will be about 1,000 pounds. The playground accommodation is simple and some shrubs have been planted in front of the building.

Foulford School, Cowdenbeath. Photo from "Old Cowdenbeath" by Jim Hutcheson

There are no dates on the following photos. In the first photo David George is in the front row, third from left as you look at the photo. [Click on the images to enlarge.]

David George cropped school photoIn this photo David George is in the centre of the back row. If you click on the image to enlarge it you will see the “glazed tiles of the side walls” as reported in The Dunfermline Journal.

Here’s a close up view of David. Doesn’t that look like the face of a mischievous little boy?

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