WILLIAM STANLEY WATSON
William Stanley Watson was born at Waverley, NSW, on the 13th September, 1918, the second
son to Thomas William WATSON and his wife Florence Elsie May nee HAYWARD.
Although christened "William", he was to be called "Dad" by his two sons, "Papa" by his
grandchildren and "Willie Watson" by a few. To everybody else, he was generally known as
Bill's father was a Western Lands Commissioner and Bill spent much of his early years at
Forbes, NSW, attending the local primary school there. The family moved back to Sydney by
the mid 1930s, in time for Bill to spend his high school years at Sydney Boys High. He
obtained an "exhibition" to Sydney University, graduating with a BSc there in 1937,
subsequently taking a Diploma of Chemical Engineering at Sydney Technical College.
His early work life was with a number of companies: Chemco Products (3 months), Glandular
Preparations (G.P. Pty.)(nearly 2 years), Johnson & Johnson (nearly 3 years) and Hardman
Research Laboratories (18 months). I understand that one option considered, was a position
with the cement company at Kandos, NSW and it is interesting to speculate what family life
would have been had that option been taken up. However, he joined Rheem Manufacturing Co.
(now Rheem Australia) in July 1945 and was to remain with them until retirement 29 years
later in July 1974.
Bill's association with the Scouting movement no doubt dates from his early years, with a
group based at St Judes, Randwick. By the time I was in the scouts, Bill was Assistant
Commissioner for East Metropolitan Area. It was largely through his continued services to
scouting that he was eventually rewarded with an OAM.
Bushwalking was a popular pastime in the 1930s and Bill was a regular participating member
of the men only Rover Ramblers Club. In the early 1940s he was president of the NSW
Federation of Bushwalking Clubs and in an article in Smith's Weekly in 1944 he was described
as the "President of Pedestrianism". Bill must have been proud of this title as he
frequently referred to it in later years when talking to health professionals.
In May, 1938, Bill met Edith Finlay at a ball organised by the Girls Fellowship Club at
Randwick Presbyterian Church and over the next three years, they got to know each other and
each other's families. Edith worked as a comptometer operator at the then Sydney County
Council and was a bushwalker too, but she belonged to the mixed Sydney Bushwalkers Club.
At a Rover Ramblers barbecue at Warrimoo in September, 1941, Edith fell off a log and
injured her back. Edith was unable to walk and she was stretchered out to the railway
station, then by train and ambulance to Sydney Hospital. Bill insisted that, in spite of
rumours, he had not pushed Edith, but he still had the task of explaining to her father why
Edith would not be home that night.
This incident must have prompted something, because, four weeks later, he proposed, was
accepted, and on 10th October, 1942, they were married at Randwick Presbyterian Church. The
honeymoon was short and brief, wartime petrol rationing saw to that. Indeed the route taken,
to Picton, Robertson, Nowra and Mt. Keira, could probably be done in a day today.
They bought and moved into a house at 46 Paine Street, Maroubra and were to live there for
15 years. This place was to become well known to Scout leaders in the Maroubra/Kensington
district. It was also to become well known to a group of bushwalkers, mostly those connected
with the Rover Ramblers Club and their families.
Two children were born to Bill and Edith; myself (Allan Finlay, taking my middle name after
my mother's family name) on 29th October, 1943 and my brother (Keith William, middle name
needs no explanation) on 24th June, 1946.
The marriage was to be long and happy, Bill passing away two days before their 64th wedding
anniversary. There was, however, one incident where I think Bill learned an early lesson
about "withholding information" from the wife. About late 1947, the subject of a discussion
with friends had turned to emergency services. Someone suggested that the best example of
emergency action was "when Allan . . .". The speaker stopped as he realised he was speaking
out of turn, but it was too late. Mother wanted to know more.
Some 12 months before, Dad had taken me to a Federation reunion camp, while Mum stayed at
home to look after my new-born brother Keith. While in camp, someone noticed I was missing.
"Where's Allan?" There was no answer, as the whole camp had instantly dissolved into a
search party. I was found and taken back to camp on a big motor bike. I do not remember
being lost, indeed, at the time I insisted that I was not lost, it was just the camp that
was lost, but I do remember the ride on the motor bike - that was cool!
During Bill's time with Rheem, he was sent overseas five times. The first was shortly after
joining them in August 1946, leaving from Rose Bay, the International Airport for Sydney at
that time. Although he was travelling to the U.S.A., there were no direct flights from
Australia at that time and he had to travel westwards with a connection of several days at
Cairo. The return was directly across the Pacific on the delivery run of a new DC4 for
A.N.A., which required three intermediate stops from the U.S.A. West Coast; somewhat
different to the non-stop flights by jet aircraft today.
Other trips for Rheem were in 1956, 1963, 1967 and 1972 and not without incident. On the
1963 trip, his travelling companion died when in Paris and the timing of his 1967 trip meant
that on his 25th wedding anniversary, he was in Paris and Edith was still in Sydney.
Family holiday trips were relatively frequent. Early ones stayed in hotels, cabins, etc, or
at a friends house at Leura. Then we had a tent - one of those large rectangular marquee
types. In later years a caravan was purchased to replace the tent. These trips always
started with packing from a check list in an exercise book Dad kept for that purpose. And in
those times there were five of us: Dad, Mum, the two boys and our dog "Muffin".
The longer trips were for the annual holidays and in the process we covered much of N.S.W.,
with the odd venture interstate, particularly to Brisbane, meeting up with family relatives.
I was to learn much about this country from these trips and no doubt increased my interest
in Social Studies at school. This backfired on one occasion, when we visited Forbes. Dad
wanted to show us: where he used to live, his school, etc., while all I was interested in
was seeing the Jemalong Weir; from school, that was all I knew about Forbes.
One other experience from these trips was the habit of Dad suddenly stopping the car to pick
up a sample of local wattle. He had quite a collection of pressings and, as he usually had
them checked by the Sydney Herbarium, found that he had to take two samples in case the
herbarium wanted a sample too. He was also to write a book for the Scouts on plant
Shorter trips were usually more local, the Colo River district being popular when oranges
were in season. Easter, 1951 was spent at Newnes, a place Bill had visited in 1937 with a
group from Sydney University. Events in my own life have since centred on this place and I
blame Dad, and that trip, for leading me into these activities.
One of Bill's hobbies was photography. There is a story from his university days while
taking part in a street procession by students. Bill was walking along with a camera,
pretending to take pictures of people in the crowd and then handing them a square from a
roll of toilet paper that he carried. At one point he noticed his mother in the crowd and
immediately decided that it was time to photograph the people on the other side of the road.
As a committed photographer, he had to have his own dark room. At Maroubra, the laundry
was rigged up with screens to form the darkroom as required and it was there that I was
taught the magic arts of the darkroom. At Denistone, we were able to utilise space under the
house for a more permanent set-up, then, when Denistone was sold, I moved the darkroom to
Randwick, where Dad's old abandoned darkroom from his single days was rebuilt for my use. I
still have this darkroom equipment, but no longer the place to operate.
Meanwhile, Dad had shifted to colour slide photography and built up quite a collection of
slides. His slide evenings were not the boring shows one might expect, as he had the happy
knack of putting together an interesting show, not too long or short and not showing every
slide. And oh! the cry of joy when one visitor unearthed Dad's box of rejects! In later
years, Bill was a popular guest speaker, particularly at nursing homes, with his slide shows
of subjects both local and overseas.
Interestingly, my brother Keith, did not get too involved in B&W still photography like me.
He went on to bigger things, professionally. This was video, including work as a TV
cameraman and running his own video production business.
In the mid 1950s. the appliance division of Rheem Australia moved from Waterloo to
Rydalmere. In December, 1957 the family moved to 152 Chatham Road, Denistone; a house with
59 steps to the front door, quite a change from the flat land of Maroubra.
Bill joined Rydalmere Rotary Club in 1963 and was to serve in various capacities, including
Secretary and President until his retirement in 1974. He joined Eastwood Probus in 1982,
became a life member in 1991 and attended meetings right up to the middle of this year.
These Rotary connections were reinforced with Edith's membership of Rydalmere Inner Wheel
from 1963 to 1991.
My brother, Keith, married Noelene Schwarz in 1968, moved to his own residence and started a
family. Bill's first grandchild, Brett Keith, was born in 1970 and a second, Ilka, in 1972.
Ilka was to marry Mark Hornshaw in 1997 and there are now four great-grandchildren, Samuel
(born 1999), Jarvis (born 2001), Hugo (born 2004) and Kai (born January this year). I did
not move out until I purchased my own home unit at Wollstonecraft in 1978.
Bill suffered a heart attack in 1968 and subsequent health problems led to an early
retirement from Rheem in 1974. However, over the next 9 years he was able to carry out
consultative work for at least 12 different organisations and individuals. He became a "part
pensioner" in 1983 at the age of 65.
Bill was also now in a position to do a number of holiday trips with Edith, mostly overseas.
These started in 1966 with a long service leave trip to New Zealand and over the next 25
years travelled to Japan, Europe, North America, New Caledonia, Scandinavia (twice), New
Zealand again (twice) as well as a 5 month "Round the World" trip in 1970. On some of these
trips they were able to re-visit overseas friends established through their involvement with
Rotary and Inner Wheel.
There were also trips within Australia, including a 3 month "Round Australia" trip in 1975.
From the mid 1980s, many of these were on trips organised by Probus and these were much
easier to enjoy when someone else is doing the driving.
Our elderly Aunty Ethel had moved from the family home in Randwick to a home unit in
Eastwood in the late 1970s, so that she could be closer to other family members. In 1983
Aunty Et moved to a nursing home and, in 1987, Bill and Edith purchased the unit and sold
the Chatham Road house. I was later (1992) to move into an adjacent unit, which Dad not
long after described as a "mixed blessing". I trust that my move has subsequently proved
This talk is largely based on notes Dad prepared for his 50th Wedding Anniversary to Edith
in 1992. 10 years later we all were able to share in their 60th Anniversary celebrations
held at my house at Marsfield.
There will be another gathering there today after this meeting and you are all invited.
He gave up driving, after some persuasion, at the age of 85, finally agreeing to use a
"Gopher" battery powered trike that had been organised by my brother. Once he started to
use it, there was no turning back. He had a daily routine (which, towards the end, included
Saturdays and Sundays) of collecting the mail from the post office, checking the bank
balance at the ATM and making the odd purchase which too often meant a trip into Franklins
for packets of sweets. There were also outings on Sundays to "Crecy" for a barbecue lunch.
On August 1 last Dad did not look too well and was taken by ambulance to Ryde Hospital the
following day. He had pneumonia. After nine weeks spent in hospital and at Fernleigh
Nursing Home, he passed away at Fernleigh on Sunday evening, 8th October, 2006.
We will all have our memories of Bill. One letter received last week enclosed a photo of
Bill "with a microphone in hand, as usual". He certainly made a good MC, whether it be in a
room with a mic or, as I remember, with just a loud voice in front of a bush campfire;
leading the singing, organising a round or singing a solo such as the comedy song "The Old
Sow", complete with sound effects.
He will be missed by all of us. May he rest in peace.