The Watt Family.

By John Watt

(Richard) Here's a snapshot about your maternal Grand-dad as recalled by me (John Watt), plus hear-say from my own elders regarding his back-ground, close relatives etc You will need to place this into its historical context. Remember a big social transformation has taken place over the last eight decades, more-so since my Father's demise in 1975.

Valentine Partridge.

Some of this can still be authenticated with your Nana (Hilda Watt) whose mind is still as sharp as a tack. Stanley's own Mum- Valentine (nee Partridge ) died of Cancer in 1939 just one year before I saw daylight for the first time in 1940. Her age then was about 54 her mother had passed away when she was a small girl of 8 or 9, in Barnstable Devon where she lived with her father a local publican. Times weren't that good, and he carried on his business when-so-ever he could; they were hard drinkers in those Bristol Channel Ports which at times went well beyond usual hours or so it seems.For he was sent up before the Beak for selling drinks after licensing hours, & for which reason he was heavily fined and obliged to relinquish his liquor license. Since he had to support him-self and his one daughter & continue to earn a crust, he and his daughter took a trip over the Bristol Channel to the Welsh coast on a boat. Wales at that time came under a differing set of rules and regulations, much as they do now in many respects, and he was able and willing to put his past discretions behind him and get on with a new life. In quick time (no computers to check on court records), he re-applied for his liquor licence & continued in the same line of business.

He re-established soon after arrival where he acquired a Public house in Newport Monmouth. He must have been resourceful and a personable sort of a fellow, for it didn't take very long to find a new partner to share his life. She just happened to be the barmaid, working in his new Pub. Valentine Partridge had now acquired a Step-Mother and shortly after the nuptials two step siblings -one named Gertrude and her younger sister Nellie. There's nothing I can add to what later became of Mr & Mrs. Partridge no. 2. He sounds like quite an interesting character? Maybe Mary could question her Mother for more items of interest. May be shed light on dates, it was all around WW1 time, what became of Valentines Dad and Step mother. My Father, Stanley was brought up under strong influence from his two step Aunts Nell and Gert. His parents were not wealthy as a result of his Father serving in WW1 returning from the trenches in 1918 followed by and the depression years of the 1930's.

James Alexander Watt.

Let's now introduce what I know of Valentines' husband - my G'Dad 'James Alexander Watt'. Known within his own family circles as Jimmy.

As a four year old child I can only just remember him. I recall this old person who smoked. I remember a particular event when he babysat your uncle Dave and I during the daytime in 1944. He must have been visiting I guess, for I don't recall him being resident with us for any lengthy period of time. We lived then at no. 27 Cricklade Rd. Bishopston, Bristol, - just around the corner from where your Aunt Sylvia now lives and your Bristol cousins, (the Sheppards) were raised. His modus operandi was to shoo us both into the hallway of that house - I recall the external front door being on latch and locked well above our reach. A cane chair, tilted, and strategically placed by him under the kitchen door knob isolated him within that room with the scullery beyond that again, it being where the rear access into the garden was situated. He was hard of hearing not unexpected considering his experiences. Looking through the kitchen door keyhole I can recall him silhouetted, slumped in front of the coal fire in his chair in the corner of the room, warming one of his scrawny hands before the hearth & then rubbing both of them together biting his pipe between his teeth as he did so, and occasionally removing it to spit with extreme accuracy into the sizzling embers of the fire.

The only other association of him I clearly remember, is my attendance at his all male funeral farewell in Cardiff or maybe Newport during 1945, at a time of my life when I could walk underneath a dining room table without stooping and from its seclusion witness the lower half of many long black overcoats highly polished boots and similar below waist apparel. I also remember the steam-train journey back to Bristol that same night, especially the smoky portion through the Severn tunnel. I'd been given a train drivers peaked cap with which I was most proud, (by my step-cousin Percy Buck), I think he was Nellie's son what - ever subsequently became of those family connections am unsure. I recall meeting Gert - Stan's elder Step Aunt in Swindon, during the early 1980's. She had moved their for reasons unknown to me but possibly relating to the railway industry. She then lived alone and I had occasion to drop Nana off for a meeting with her whilst I attended to business concerning a large land development of Land my employers were jointly involved with the Swindon Borough Council. I could have asked so many questions about the past if only I had had presence of mind and sufficient interest at that time. Perhaps you may get an opportunity to question Nana and fill in some of the questions this narrative may pose.

Between 1914 and 1918 'Jimmy' was a gunner in the Welsh Fusiliers stationed in France in the WW1 trenches. Recalled to me fairly recently by your Nana, "if only the powers that be had listened to him he would have won the war after only one year, she also recalled him as a most helpful and cheerful person much welcomed by her during Xmas 1942; a time she remembers of loneliness and stress, when she found her-self living alone in a small chalet-type building, at Redcliffe Bay near Portis-head; then known as 'bomb alley', a very frightening place for a survivor of the December 1940 Luftwaffe Blitz. that being the reason she was living down there in the first place Perished being immediately down channel of Germany's Principal target - the Bristol Aeroplane Company - was a rat-run back to base for Luftwaffe bomber pilots who having missed their opportunity to attack the B.A.C. felt at such moments that discretion being the better part of valour - used to eject their bomb-loads and make a run for it, allowing them to fight another day.

One December night in 1940 whilst sheltering during an air raid in her Anderson shed located at the bottom of the garden of 11 Eastfield Rd, Cotham, Bristol. Her's was one of a group of five houses adjacent to the Avonmouth Railway line that were raised to the ground or declared unsafe and later totally demolished after receiving a direct hit, in which thirteen of her neighbours were killed. But I digress so back to Portishead.
v Mary Buckley - was not yet even a gleam in your Granpa's eyes; Nana alone with just two very young boys to look after & with no food in the house and with Xmas soon upon her, (her husband away on compulsory war effort business at Box, near Bath, working in an underground factory manufacturing aero-engines.)

Suddenly late on Xmas eve there came a knock on the door - none other than Pa in Law - although it had taken him a day and a half to find her; Jimmy appeared bearing a turkey, & other Xmas Fayre, cheer and goodwill. He had travelled by rail from Wales and taken several hours to find her location. As I said earlier, Jimmy had been a Gunner in the Welsh Fusiliers during the Great War, he had returned from WWI trenches in 1918, & since returned to work as a watersider in his father's Newport Docks. He was a proud man too proud perhaps! He had fallen out over some matter or other with his Father and estranged him-self from his family. Reconciliation was seemingly not an option to Jimmy, even though after Hilda married Stan, she contacted some of her father in law's relatives to build bridges & in fact got along fairly well with them during difficult and therefore infrequent visits.

She failed however to persuade Jimmy to mend any broken fences. Jimmy had at some stage in the 1930's been terribly crushed & lost a lung in a train shunting accident. He had by the time I am talking of here, few of his own resources and was soon to be diagnosed terminally ill with stomach cancer. Yet Fergusson Watt (his father), was apparently during his own lifetime a man of some considerable wealth. He was also a religious man with influence being the owner of the Newport Docks. He had prior to that I understand been the owner of Aberdeen Docks, but had sold up and moved to Wales when Jimmy was a lad. Jimmy was not the only child; he also had two brothers and one sister. On his death bed the Vicar unduly influenced him and half his money was left to Jimmies' sister, & the residual of his estate given to the Church, both sons being disinherited. Jimmy's sister shortly after she came into her inheritance met and married, little else is known by me of her

As far as any money was concerned - that was that! .What was the cause of the acrimony? You might ask? & I can only guess. Seemingly Jimmy had early on in the piece, fallen for a pretty young thing who as a living sold cups of tea and packets of fags to all the wharfies, from a dockside kiosk, ....& worse!...... he got her in the family way...but then he did the honest thing and married her.

Well, he may or may not have felt compelled about that decision; nevertheless had he not done so, neither I would be here narrating this tale, nor would you be able to be much interested in its final outcome. His family gave him a hard time over these events and little or no support so that possibly was the beginning of the end of what may have been a wonderful family relationship!!

I know nothing of Jimmy's Mother or her maiden name. Nor do I know what Jimmy's brothers did to chagrin their Father. I recall dimly being told of a success-full transport business which was somewhere in the family's ownership at or about that same time?

Stanley James Watt.

Stan- my Father- was a busy and to me a distant person, a strict disciplinarian. Too strict even for those days I believe. A very hard worker however who financially supported as best as he could his family. He was very tied up in the trade union movement, and attended lots of meetings at work. He held down two jobs for several years working from 0700hrs - 2000hrs 5 days a week

This article was written by John R. Watt

John Watt b.1940