Emily’s Autograph Album: A Local Tale (pt 2)

A Summary So Far…
For those that read the first part of the article (see https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/articles-other/emilys-autograph-album-a-local-tale-pt-1/), I would like now to try and offer some further thoughts on the identity of the Emily that owned the autograph album, a number of illustrations from which were featured in the previous part of the article. Before I do, however, I would like to summarise the key evidence which we extracted from the album in part 1 to supply some context to this part of the article for those that haven’t read it.

Emily's autograph album, containing at least 25 years of her life, (Walsall Local History Centre)

Emily’s autograph album, containing at least 25 years of her life. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The album was sent to Walsall Local History Centre from Sheffield Archives several years ago, as no paperwork or relevance could be found linking it to Sheffield. Emily’s album contains paintings, poems, thoughts and cartoons that cover at least 25 years of her life, commencing on 12 December 1900, when it was presented as a birthday gift from her sister. We had no idea who Emily was, but the book did contain mementos left by friends and family from the Hednesford, Cannock, Great Wyrley, Bridgtown, Heath Hayes, Brownhills, Walsall, Willenhall and Pelsall areas amongst others, and so was of local interest.

Dedication page - the most important clue. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Dedication page – the most important clue. (Walsall Local History Centre)

I felt that the pictures, captions and poems offered a lot of direct and suggestive evidence that, even if it didn’t tell us who she was, opened a little window on Emily at least: it seemed, and I hope those that read it will agree, that we have an Emily, a Lottie [likely a Charlotte?] and a Garrett that were all siblings in the locality around 1901. It is possible that locality could be narrowed to the Cannock area. The family seemed to have ‘respectable’ and educated friends, with many references to teachers and teaching.

'Affectionate brother' Garrett's rather curious drawing, 17 September 1901. (Walsall Local History Centre)

‘Affectionate brother’ Garrett’s rather curious drawing, 17 September 1901. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Emily’s brother, Garrett, seemed to offer the best chance of locating the family by virtue of his uncommon name, and, as I explained in part 1, a general ‘local’ search on ‘Ancestry.Com’ for a ‘Garrett’ revealed an Emily, Garrett and Charlotte Darby living at 39, Queen St, Walsall. Initially elated, it turned out to be a false lead.

Returning to the search for a Garrett, the only other I could find locally was a Garrett Watson, who was listed at the Princess Alice Orphanage, Streetly, in the 1901 census. He appears as a 14-year old boy that hailed from Cannock originally, but no birth certificate was registered anywhere under that name. Some name evidence did support the possibility in the album, but saying that, Watson is not uncommon and, what I do not understand, is why would the brother of a ‘respectable lady’ be in an orphanage around the time he is drawing in her album?

I felt I had drawn a blank and decided to look at the 1891 census, after all Garrett was 14 and so should be on that as well. There was no entry for a Garret Watson, but there was an Emily and a Charlotte Watson to be found in Mill St, Cannock.

Cannock Gas Works, the railway station, Mill St and the Railway Hotel in 1938. (www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

A scene central to the Watson story: Cannock Gas Works, the railway station, Mill St and the Railway Hotel in 1938. (www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

The house was occupied by a Charlotte Watson (senior), who is described as American, although British subject, and a widow at the age of 43. There were six children: John (16) was a railway booking clerk – possibly, considering where they lived, at Cannock Station. He and scholar sister, Rosa (13), were born in Warwickshire. The next two children, Charlotte (11) and Emily (9), were both born in Pelsall and at school. The last two, James G (4) and Thomas (2), were both born in Cannock and, with Thomas being just 2 years old, and Charlotte a widow, his father must have died recently.

Garrett, Emily and Charlotte Watson in Cannock in 1891- is this who the album belonged to? (National Archives)

Garrett, Emily and Charlotte Watson in Cannock in 1891- is this who the album belonged to? (National Archives)

While there was no Garrett Watson listed, there was a James G Watson; he is consistent with the 1901 census for Garrett – being both the age of four in 1891 and having been born in Cannock. So, I did a check for this name on the General Register Office Index and it showed a birth certificate issued in Cannock, in the June quarter of 1886, under the name of James Garrett Watson. I decided to investigate further…

Watson, The Game Is Afoot
Our story, and at this point it is just a story, starts in Scotland back in 1839/1840. Here, in Muirkirk, Ayrshire, a John Barr Watson was born to father Thomas Watson, a carpenter and joiner. John would grow-up and go to school in Muirkirk, before leaving his father behind and moving down to England. That move appears to have been around 1856, when John was 17 or 18, as according to his later obituary he was involved as a ‘right-hand man’ in the Royal Horse Artillery in the Indian Mutiny. The mutiny was between 1857 – 1858, making John quite young to serve, indeed, I could find no campaign medal listed for him, so he may have served later in India.

Stephen Garrett, a Northamptonshire man by birth, was a gunner in the Royal Artillery, in Greenwich, London, according to the 1851 census. He is living with his Devonshire wife, Jane, and five children in a Soldier’s cottage. All of the children were born while Stephen was an active soldier: the first two and the last at Woolwich, while James and Charlotte, the latter in 1847, were born in America. This didn’t quite add-up to me: I suspected Stephen was in what was to become the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1899, so I wondered what the family were doing in an independent America?

The Garrett family in 1851 Northamptonshire. (National Archives)

The Garrett family in 1851 Greenwich, London. (National Archives)

Anyway, Charlotte Garrett would of course grow-up to be Charlotte Watson senior – if you remember, it said she was American, though a British subject, on the 1891 census. What the 1851 census does show is where James Garrett Watson gets his middle name – it being Charlotte’s maiden name. James also turned out to be a family name for both the Watsons and the Garretts.

John Barr Watson and Charlotte Garrett tied the knot on 23 December 1871 at Woolwich parish church, Kent. A few months before, Charlotte had been working as a housemaid at a school in the Sydenham area of London, while father Stephen, now a pensioner from the Royal Artillery, was living with his wife, Jane, and daughters Lucy and Eliza, in Manor Row, Woolwich. It appears they were shopkeepers – possibly running a chandler store.

John Barr Watson and Charlotte Garrett marry at Woolwich in December 1871.

John Barr Watson and Charlotte Garrett marry at Woolwich in December 1871.

John Barr Watson cant be traced for certain – and I include the Indian Mutiny in that – until 1871, when his marriage certificate states he was a gunner in the Royal Artillery despite the fact that he cant be located in the Royal Artillery barracks at Woolwich on the census of the same year. It may seem likely that Charlotte was introduced to John through her father being in the same regiment – and we do know a John B Watson was in B Brigade of the Royal Horse in 1871 – but as the whole town was one vast military installation, it is possible that they simply met; saying that, if she was working in Sydenham, and was away from home, she may have met John through her father.

One assumes that John and Charlotte would then have moved into married quarters, but something strange, not to say illegal, happens that makes me doubt this. You know how couples decide after many years of marriage to renew their vows, well John and Charlotte decided to do go the whole way and get married again in the following April. The couple married in the neighbouring parish of Plumstead. I can’t see any reason for this to happen other than as the marriage entry is witnessed by both Stephen and Lucy Garrett that perhaps they didn’t have the blessing of her family in December and had married in secret then?

John and Charlotte remarry, illegally, in Plumstead Church in April 1872.

John and Charlotte remarry, illegally, in Plumstead Church in April 1872.

Added to this strange event is the fact that according to his later obituary, John Barr Watson would have left the military in 1871; this could be stretched to 1872, I guess. We know that he took-up a post with the London & North Western Railway, but we don’t know what or where. In fact, we know little else until 1875 when the couple turn-up in Foleshill, Warwickshire. Foleshill is now on the outskirts of Coventry. I cant be certain of what the couple were doing in Foleshill, but it follows, with his later career path, that John Barr Watson was working in some capacity for the LNWR at Foleshill Station – possibly even station-master. We know the couple were there as their first born child, John Barr Watson junior, was born in Foleshill.

Foleshill Station - undated, but later than the Watson's time. (www.warwickshirerailways.com)

Foleshill Station – undated, but later than the Watson’s time. ( http://www.warwickshirerailways.com )

However long the Watsons were in Foleshill for, and for whatever purpose, they had moved on by 1877. Rosa Watson, the couple’s eldest daughter was born in Wolston, the other side of Coventry to Foleshill. Rosa was christened in the parish church, but the entries are actually undated other than the year, so we don’t know when it was exactly. What is interesting is that John Barr Watson and Charlotte were described as being from Wolston and he, a station-master. I assume that, as they live in Wolston, they are living in the station-master’s house on what was then Brandon Station. What is interesting is that the a second station was built alongside the first, which was renamed Brandon & Wolston Station and opened on 29 October 1879. The Watsons must have witnessed this building to some degree.

Pelsall Station, where John Barr Watson was master between 1879-1882. ( www.southstaffsrail.webs.com )

Pelsall Station, where John Barr Watson was master between c1879-1882. The master’s house can be seen on the left. ( http://www.southstaffsrail.webs.com )

Witness some of the construction they may have done, but they would not be in charge when it opened. We know that in late 1879 the couple were in fact operating a new station – this time Pelsall, Staffordshire. In the last months of 1879 the couple’s second daughter, Charlotte, was born and later christened in Pelsall Church. John Barr Watson was still the station-master on the 1881 census. John Barr junior was attending the local village school, but interestingly, according to the census, so was Rosa even though she was just 3 years old. Charlotte senior is still described as being American and Charlotte junior being just a year old.

The Watson family in the station-master's house, Pelsall. (National Archives)

The Watson family in the station-master’s house, Pelsall. (National Archives).

On 22 January 1882, the couple’s third daughter, Emily, was christened at Pelsall Church. This baptism date is fairly consistent with the 12 December that was suggested as Emily’s birthday from the album. I could have, at this stage, paid for a birth certificate, but I didn’t feel convinced enough.

Emily's baptism, 22 January 1882. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Emily’s baptism, 22 January 1882. (Walsall Local History Centre)

According to John Barr Watson’s obituary, the family moved to Cannock – likely Mill Street – in 1882. He took-up the post of station-master and seemed to be a very popular, jolly figure in the local community – again supplied from his obituary. James Garrett Watson was born in the mid-months of 1886, before being baptised at St Luke’s Church on 1 August. In 1888, the last of the brood, Thomas was born; he was baptised in St Luke’s on 17 October.

Is this John Barr Watson, with wife Charlotte and the two youngest Garrett and Thomas? It was taken at Lamb's on Mill St, Cannock, the road they lived on - compare John to the drawing below. (Brain Holmes)

Is this John Barr Watson, with wife Charlotte and the two youngest Garrett and Thomas? It was taken at Lamb’s on Mill St, Cannock, the road they lived on – compare John to the drawing below. (Brain Holmes)

Watson, There is but One Step from the Grotesque to the Horrible
All seemed so well: James was the station-master and maybe Cannock station, compared to Brandon, would suggest his career was on the upward path. It wasn’t, and you will be aware that I have referred to his obituary several times already. If you remember, according to the 1891 census Charlotte was a widow and I thought the death of the local station-master, especially one in his forties, might make the local newspaper. It did, and it was shocking.

John Barr Watson committed suicide on 10 January 1891. (Cannock Library)

John Barr Watson committed suicide at Cannock Station on 4 January 1891. (Cannock Library)

On 10 January 1891 the Cannock Advertiser and Cannock Chase Courier both carried a story on John Barr Watson’s gruesome death a few days earlier on Sunday 4 January; the facts that they printed had been ascertained, as far as they could be, at an inquest held at the Railway Hotel, Mill St, Cannock, on Tuesday 6 January. The hotel has now been demolished. The Deputy Coroner presided at the inquest, he was H. H. Jordan, and Sergeant Upton, famed for the Edalji case, was the police liaison. Prior to the inquest opening, John Barr Watson’s body was displayed to the jury and to Charlotte – a jury was required at all inquests prior to 1926. It is perhaps shocking to us today that Charlotte was giving evidence two days after her husband’s sudden and violent death and with the body in the next room.

The Railway Hotel, Mill St - the Station is in the background. Scene of John's inquest 6 January 1891. (unknown)

The Railway Hotel, Mill St, Cannock, scene of John’s inquest 6 January 1891 – the Station is in the background. (unknown).

According to Charlotte, when pressed by the Coroner, John Barr Watson’s drinking had increased over the past six weeks, although he never seemed depressed. He had got drunk on occasions, she said, and had been out on the Saturday – but, in modern parlance, he only got merry that night.

Turning to the Sunday, she said he seemed ‘dull’, reading the paper and not speaking much. At 3 pm he had his dinner at home – the station-master’s house on Mill Street – and then, after playing with the two youngest children for a short while (Garrett and Thomas), as all the others were at Sunday School, he went out to the station to do the books. She said there was nothing unusual in this, as it was a quiet time he often worked on a Sunday. It was 3.30 pm. He must have gone straight to the station in my opinion, as the lamps were not lit on what was a January day when his son later arrived.

John Barr Junior was the booking clerk at the station and headed up to the station at around 5.40 pm for the 6.15 pm train. He struck a light to illuminate the winter night first in the porter’s room, then the waiting room and finally the booking hall. It was here he found that winter night had descended on him, as he nearly stumbled over his father’s legs: John Barr Watson senior lay in a pool of blood at his feet, his head partially under the counter. I cant imagine what a grotesque sight that must have been. John ran to the Railway Hotel for help, it was 6 pm.

The step to the horrible would come very quickly. The medical testimony presented at the inquest said that he had been dead for 2 hours (making it around 4 pm), but it was the constable on the scene’s evidence that would carry the jury: Watson, he had determined, had taken his own life by slitting his own throat with a razor. He had reasoned that Watson had sat in a chair to do the deed, using a reflective glass to sight himself, and then fell forward. The cut to the throat was deep and deliberate.

There was plenty evidence to support his theory: his body lay crumpled by the razor, which was on a table along with a piece of looking glass, his neck tie and collar, and while there was no note, his 55 year-old brother’s name and address, James a baker from Glencoe, was left on the table and initialled by John. The Coroner summed-up that it was the most deliberate case he had presided over and the jury declared for ‘suicide, while temporarily insane’. I have no doubt the wound was self-inflicted, with him having took off his collar and tie, but I just wonder how he would have placed the razor on the table when he fell?

There was no explanation that anyone could give – or at least wanted to give – as to why he did it. The London North Western Railway stated that they were perfectly happy with his work performance. Plant, the temporary replacement, said the books were in order and all money sent to the Company – just that his form C’s were a few days overdue (returns on the number of tickets sold in a day). Money was not an issue either it seemed, as his letters of administration show he left an estate of £88 to his wife. As for John Barr Watson, he was interred at Cannock Cemetery on Thursday 8 January.

The community took and interest in the case, as it was both a shock and John Barr Watson was so well thought of. £8 was raised and presented at the inquest and an FH Robinson wrote to the Advertiser for locals to contribute. On Wednesday and Thursday 28-29 January, entertainment nights were held at the Cannock public rooms on behalf of the family. And so ends this awful affair.

Elementary, My Dear Watson
We now move on a decade and things have changed. Firstly, John Barr Watson junior has flown the nest – he had become a ‘viewer of military stores’ in Plumstead, London. He had turned to the military in the same area as his father had been based. Charlotte must have accompanied him, for she is working as a live-in domestic at the Woolwich Union Workhouse Hospital. I wonder if the Garrett family had anything to do with this?

Garrett we know is in the Princess Alice Orphanage, and I wondered if he fell foul of the law (hence his ‘before the beak’ drawing) and became a problem to his mother and so was sent there, or he was simply a scholar there. Thomas Watson was certainly a scholar, and he too was sent away, strangely, this time to the Royal Orphanage on Goldthorn Hill, Wolverhampton. It does suggest the Charlotte was struggling to cope with the younger boys.

This left Charlotte, Rosa, Emily and a lodger named Cowlishaw, a 17 year-old estate agent, in the family home, which was now on Hednesford Road in Cannock. According to the 1901 census, Charlotte has no employment it seems, nor does the 23 year-old Rosa; Emily on the other hand is listed as a teacher in a Board School, which confirmed the suspicions that the drawings in album (in part 1 of the article) aroused. I was now pretty convinced that Emily Watson owned the album.

The Watsons at home, 1901. (National Archives)

The Watsons at home, 1901. (National Archives)

I thought it would be useful at this stage to get to look at the education records, to try and track down Emily’s career. With the Walter Simpkin connection, I started with the Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay School Board. I saw no trace of her, but the entry for Great Wyrley School below is of interest. Stephen Woodhouse was the senior assistant teacher to Samuel Mason. Woodhouse would see his son, Reginald Coley, killed in the First World War, as would Elizabeth Dutton, the cleaner, who lost her son, Joseph. It is interesting to note an Alice Mason at the school. She was no relation to Samuel, and from Hednesford. She wrote the lesson plan on making love cakes in part 1.

Great Wyrley Council School, 1896. (Staffordshire Record Office)

Great Wyrley Council School, 1896. (Staffordshire Record Office)

I then turned to the Cannock School Board, however the records are sketchy: Emily is represented, but there is only a staff book for the years 1904-1907 (it does mention earlier years) and before that there are only wages books. Before I start on Emily, Wesley Boot was listed as being an assistant teacher at Walsall Road School – as was Herbert Jelleyman, who would be killed in the War and enshrined on the Cannock War Memorial. Further, a Marion Morris, who like Wesley drew in the book, was also there. A May Mason, sister to Alice, who painted the sunflowers, was at West Hill School.

Emily listed under Rawnsley School (Staffordshire Record Office)

Emily listed under Rawnsley School: the red L indicates she left. (Staffordshire Record Office)

It seems from the records that Emily became a pupil-teacher in 1896; a pupil teacher was a child/young adult selected on account of intellect to receive three/four years concurrent training and education. By this time training took place at a pupil-teacher centre, run by the local school boards, with teaching practice at their elementary schools. She is hard to trace fully, which is why I checked Wyrley from that date, but it looks like she flitted between Rawnsley Infant School and Chadsmoor Infant School while not at the Pupil-Teacher Centre. In 1898, Emily Watson was listed as a Pupil-Teacher on £2 10/- per month. They were prepared for the Queen’s/King’s Scholarship Examination (later the Preliminary Examination for the Certificate) at 18. Emily took this in 1900 – and passed.

The former Chadsmoor Infant School, now converted to housing. (Richard Law)

The former Chadsmoor Infant School, now converted to housing. (Richard Law)

Emily’s pay went up each year – more substantially when she qualified in 1900. As a pupil-teacher her teaching was limited to 5 hours per day, and she could teach most subjects other than religious studies. In July 1901 Emily was teaching at Chadsmoor Infant School, although there appears to be some confusion as to where she is listed – still with the pupil-teachers. Marian Morris also appears at Chadsmoor. No records from the school itself survive. She left on 30 September 1905.

Emily at Chadsmoor Infant School as a Pupil Teacher (Staffordshire Record Office)

Emily at Chadsmoor Infant School as a Pupil Teacher  in 1898. (Staffordshire Record Office)

She left, not to travel the world or taken extended leave, but to move over the road to Chadsmoor Girls’ School, starting the following day on the 1 October 1905. She was certainly a qualified assistant at this school, on a salary of £60 per annum. Again, there is a little confusion: she may have left earlier, but I believe her career certainly finished in late 1909, when an Emily Watson married a Wilfrid SC Leach at Cannock Registry Office.

One fact did come to light, her birthday was recorded in the staff book as 12 December 1881; this was the proof I had sought – this was Emily Watson’s Autograph album.

Emily as a Certified Assistant at the Chadsmoor Girls' Schoolfrom 1905. (Staffordshire Record Office)

Emily as a Certified Assistant at the Chadsmoor Girls’ School from 1905. (Staffordshire Record Office)

Education Never Ends, Watson. It is a Series of Lessons with the Greatest for the Last
At first nothing seemed odd about Emily Watson marrying Wilfrid S.C. Leach at the Cannock Register Office. Their marriage would likely have ended her teaching career, as many female teachers were expected to leave once they got married. It wasn’t until the 1911 that my curiosity was aroused.

Wilfrid Leach had been born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire,  in 1882. A former commercial clerk, he had been ordained as a Primitive Methodist Minister in 1905 – his first circuit being Bloxwich – which then also took in Cannock. We know that Emily had attended Sunday School back in 1891, so it is possible she was a Primitive Methodist and that is how she later met Wilfrid. The question which really rose to my mind was why was a Primitive Methodist minister getting married in a Registry Office?

Wilfird Leach on the 1911 census. (National Archives)

Wilfrid Leach on the 1911 census. (National Archives)

I think I may have an answer. Methodist ministers were moved around circuits after spending some years at one. Thanks to the Engleseabrook Primitive Methodist Museum, who supplied me with a chronology of Wilfrid’s career, we know that Wilfrid moved to Coalville, Leicestershire, in 1909. I suggest Emily was faced with a quick decision, I suggest Wilfrid may have already moved to Coalville and returned to ask her to marry him (possibly again); whichever, she made the decision to marry him and moved up to the Coalville area with him.

In 1911, the were living in Cobden Road, Chesterfield, yet they were not there on the census together. Wilfrid is stopping with friends – the Wests – in Coalville, whereas Emily is London. In one of those moments that feel the Watsons deliberately did this for me to find 100 years later, the family have a get together at what is Charlotte’s lying-in centre at 72 Lady Margaret Rd, Tufnell Park, Islington. We know it is a lying-in centre, as a patient Nellie Wilson is recorded with her 15 day-old daughter. Nellie was from Tasmania. Also, the 89 year-old Nurse Lindon appears, she was single and from Ireland – but clearly sprightly enough to continue working.

Family meeting of the Watson's in London (National Archives)

Family meeting of the Watsons in London (National Archives)

Charlotte is 32, and risen in a decade from being a cleaner to be a certified midwife – brilliant. Emily is not listed with a profession, so we can assume she no longer teaches. The census return appears to have Emily has having had and lost a child, but the entry is struck through in red and I cannot trace the child. Charlotte senior has made the trip down and for the first time we get her true birth place, Halifax, Nova Scotia, which does make sense: the British had a military base there until 1905, unlike in the USA. We also learn that Charlotte had had nine children, but lost three; the entry is again crossed though, but this time in black and it would be difficult to try and trace these lost children due to how the family moved over time. Thomas Watson was also present, he had become an engineer and surveyor for a Cannock company.

Wilfrid SC Leach, Emily's husband. (Engleseabrook Primitive Methodist Museum)

Wilfrid SC Leach, Emily’s husband. (Engleseabrook Primitive Methodist Museum)

So what do we know of Emily and Wilfrid? In mid-1912 their first son, John W Leach, was born and registered in Chesterfield. It was JW Leach that painted the ‘angry sea’ picture when he was 13 years-old, which is in part 1. In 1916, their second and, as far as I can tell, last child, Geoffrey was born. He was also registered in Chesterfield.

We know the family moved about as Wilfrid was moved between circuits: they went to Tarporley, Cheshire (1917), Burton-on-Trent (1919), Leicester (1923), Derby (1930), Hull (1933), Sileby in Leicestershire (1935), Wembley in London (1941), Worksop (1945) and Barrow-on-Trent (1951). Burton, you may remember, was where the GW Woolley painted my favourite picture. Interesting to note that the family were in London during the bombing of World War II.

An oil painting by GW Woolley,1919. Looks like a Christmas card scene - i use this for my avatar on Wyrleyblog Facebook (Walsall Local History Centre)

An oil painting by GW Woolley,1919. Looks like a Christmas card scene – I use this for my avatar on Wyrleyblog Facebook (Walsall Local History Centre)

The last place on the list was Barrow-on-Trent. Barrow was a retirement home for ex-Primitive Methodist Ministers and the couple settled here in 1951. The couple remained here for a few years, until Wilfrid passed away on 13 December 1953. He was cremated at Nottingham Crematorium. Emily moved away; all we know is her last lesson came on 27 March 1960, when she died of natural causes at Honeysykes Farm, Thorpe Salvin, near Rotherham. Interestingly, a Geoffrey Leach, born c1917, passed away in Sheffield in 1979. I suggest that this is why the album ended up at Sheffield Archives. John W Leach, I could not trace for certain.

So what of Emily’s siblings: Well, it is difficult to come forward in time, due to lack of sources. John Barr Watson junior was back in Cannock in 1911. He was an edge-tool maker and living with his sister, Rosa. After this, he cannot be traced with certainty. Rosa Married George Beech in 1910 and was living with him and three lodgers on Hednesford Road in 1911; John was one, ironically another was a booking clerk for the LNWR. George Beech was a gardener. I suspect Rosa passed away in Cannock in 1933, George in 1955. I couldn’t trace any children. Thomas, I could not trace with certainty. Lottie married Cecil Harvey in Islington, in 1915. It isn’t really possible to be sure when she died but a Charlotte Harvey’s death was registered in Islington in 1958 – about consistent with Emily’s life span.

A postcard letter of an India woman sent by Garrett to a Mrs Reaves - found in a Beech family album (Brain Holmes)

A postcard letter of an India woman sent by Garrett to a Mrs Reaves – found in a Beech family album (Brain Holmes)

So what of the man that really cracked the code, James Garrett Watson? After the Orphanage, he became an engine fitter at Messrs Bumstead and Chandler’s Cannock Chase Foundry, Hednesford. By 1911, Garrett had left that company and was serving as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery – he had been posted to the 59th Siege Battery in Roorkee, India. He appears on the military census for 1911.

Is this Garrett - it does look like the poor quality photo from the newspaper below. Found in A Beech family album. (Brian Holmes)

Is this Garrett – it does look like the poor quality photo from the newspaper below. Found in a Beech family album. (Brian Holmes)

In August 1914 Garrett was still in India, but in March 1915 the battery was redeployed to France and fought at Neauve Chapple and Loos before going onto the Somme in 1916. The battery was equipped with heavy howitzers and were most often employed in destroying or neutralising the enemy artillery, as well as putting destructive fire down on strong-points, dumps, stores, roads and railways behind enemy lines. Garrett was a Lance-Bombardier.

Garrett Watson was killed in action on 1 September 1918. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Garrett Watson was killed in action on 1 September 1918. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Garrett lived through most of the conflict, even the great German advances in early 1918. Sadly, Garrett Watson was killed in action on the 1 September, 1918. He, along with four other members of the battery where on signalling duty, when a bomb from an aeroplane struck them as the battery advanced to a new position at Cherisy, near Arras. On Monday 26 September, 2011, my wife and I, with some close friends, visited his grave. He is buried with his fallen comrades that day at Tigris Lane Cemetery, Wancourt. It is a few miles from where they were killed. We left a copy of his picture from the Walsall Observer and that of his drawing to his sister Emily.

Garrett at rest, we visited in September 2011 - we left a copy of his photo and the drawing he made in the album.

Garrett at rest, we visited in September 2011 – we left a copy of his photo and the drawing he made in the album.

And I suppose that in the words of Emily herself, that would be…

Emily's own entry on the last page (Walsall Local History Centre)

Emily’s own entry on the last page (Walsall Local History Centre)

Sadly, it isn’t. As I walked along Cannock High Street one day, I stopped to peruse the names on the war memorial and specifically looked for Garrett. I was a little downbeat to see they had got his name wrong – they had put James E Watson instead of James G Watson. My heart actually fell more for his mother, as it is more than likely she was at the unveiling of the monument on 26 May 1923 and saw the curtain drop to reveal an incorrect name – although the correct name was printed in the events programme of the day (https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/the-story-of-the-cannock-war-memorial/ was one of my first Blog stories, and a little cruder, but gives the background to the memorial).

Cannock War Memorial, unveiled 26 May 1923 - with James E Watson instead of James G Watson - the name in the programme.

Cannock War Memorial, unveiled 26 May 1923 – with James E Watson instead of James G Watson – the name in the programme.

I contacted Cannock Chase District Council and showed them my proof. They were brilliant – and finally, in February 2014, Garrett got his name back. Charlotte Watson had died back on 31 January 1929, being buried in the same grave as her husband – and I bet she is giving him hell 🙂 . I really wanted to do this for her, as I had visited Garrett in France, but somehow I felt the dismay she likely felt in her losing a son only for them to et the name wrong. She probably felt a bit helpless – well, here’s one for you Charlotte.

Garrett is now correctly recorded - thanks to CCDC.

Garrett is now correctly recorded – thanks to Cannock Chase District Council.

And so, was this item of world importance? No, it was no Domesday Book or Magna Carta. What it is, and I hope you will agree, is a story of great local interest and very much a HUMAN one.


This is the most special of stories for me personally, as it was the first I really investigated at a deeper level and turned into a talk. I wasn’t going to write it up for a long while (as I still do it for a talk), but circumstances have dictated otherwise. As such, it was always intended to be (that’s why I haven’t dedicated anything to them before!) dedicated to the three most important people in my life, my amazing wife Donna (Mrs Blog) and my fabulous daughters Ellie and Lizzie (the Blogettes). I have therefore timed it for the 2-year anniversary of Wyrleyblog and hopefully my 50,00 hit!

My thanks to:
Staffordshire Record Office (Rebecca, especially)
Walsall Local History Centre
National Archives
Cannock Library
Engleseabrook Primitive Methodist Museum
Cannock Chase District Council
Richard Law
Brian Holmes