Alexander Hugh Watson
Husband, Father, Grandfather
Thomas and Margaret Watson of ’Rockleigh’, Tennyson Victoria were parents to Catherine born 1890, James Donaldson born 1891, Alexander Hugh born 1896 and Margaret Rita Mary born 1900 and died aged 27yrs. Known as Katie, Jimmy, Sandy and Rita.
This story is about Alex. A hardworking farmer who worked the team of draught horse from before daybreak till dark. Coming home, caring for the ‘team’ brushing and feeding. Most nights would be 10pm or 11pm before sitting down to his evening meal. The ritual would start again next morning before daybreak. A hard life in the early twenties!
One story told was Alex driving the ‘team’ around the paddock across the top round and down the other side and across bottom end of paddock and every time he came halfway along field the ‘team’ would snort and carry on. Eventually the mystery was solved as the grain lay flat on the ground revealing his brother Jim lying in the sun reading a book! Jim was not keen on the farm work, more academically inclined? He married a schoolteacher to prove it!
Jean and Alex Watson about 1940
Alex was an athletic build stood 6ft 1 inch tall, dark curly hair, shy with laughing blue eyes that twinkled, a wonderful sense of humour, handsome, light smoker, non swearing, sober habits a real gentleman, whom all his female cousins and friends truly respected and loved. Alex married Florence Jean Stewart in 1925. She was only fifteen years and eleven months old … a child bride. The Stewarts lived across the road at ‘Glen Ayr’ Tennyson.
Alex purchased ‘Yeaman’s’ property about four miles from ‘Rockleigh’. He and Jean started their married life here where sheep and cattle roamed the many acres.
About a sixth of the farm was planted with orange orchard. The packing shed was two paddocks across, from the home with irrigation channel which had a bridge across for access in the fruit season. The packing shed was humming as busy as a beehive with noise of the ‘Grader’ being manually driven as the many thousands of golden oranges were graded and packed for the markets in Bendigo.
Alex employed an Englishman named Harry Evans. Harry arrived on Watson’s farm the day of his 21st birthday and became a friend for life. Harry lived in the ‘old’ house which housed the orange grader. It becomes a habit for Alex to walk over to visit with Harry of an evening. The boys Rupert and Bruce had been warned not to go across the Bridge on their own, but one evening they decided to follow their Dad hiding outside. Alex being aware that they had disobeyed waited till almost 9pm, turned to Harry and in a loud voice said, ‘I must go Harry, there’s a giant crocodile lives under the bridge and he comes out at nine o’clock. With that he rushed out and run as hard as he could and as he went over the bridge he let out a blood curdling scream, ‘There HE is!’ Those two little boys never went over that bridge again on their own. Their screech of ‘DADDY, DADDY, DADDEE’ was heard far and wide in the night air. Alex never hit the children but had a subtle way of teaching them a lesson they never forgot!
Eventually Alex purchased a fruit shop in Pall Mall Bendigo opposite the renowned Shamrock Hotel where Dame Nellie Melba slept one night and the town’s Post Office Clock was silenced so she wouldn’t be disturbed!
Alma Hocking helped Alex in the fruit shop called ‘Tennyson Fruit Supply’. A story Alex told was how they had a cat in the back of the shop to keep rats at bay and one day he dived his hand into the Hessian bag only to feel the cat had messed in the bean bag. Quickly he rushed out the back of the shop where he washed off the offending excretion. Telling the customer someone told him to if you washed the beans it would help keep them crisper longer. Alex was no fool!
In 1926 September 1st Rupert Egan was born, in 1927 a home birth on November 9th Bruce William arrived. 1929 October 29th Ian Thomas, 1931 December 9th Elaine Margaret, 1934 January 15th Beryl Ruth followed in 1950 February 20th by Russell Alexander.
Every child was to learn to love a very caring, compassionate, kind Father who spoilt every one of them. Each Friday night the children would be listening for the sound of the T-Model Ford to arrive as they were always treated to a Freddo Frog or a Nestle choc bar each. Providing for the family was his priority! Some nights he would say, ‘Oh, I forgot the chocolate, sad faces soon brightened as he produced from his pockets, ‘the goods!’
Alex worried about the future events world wide; many hours were spent talking about the future with his sister Catherine. They both tended to be worrywarts.
In the mid forties Alex moved the family to his old home ‘Rockleigh’. Waiting in the garage was a monster of a car called the JEWITT it was so grand!
Fifteen cows were milked night and morning by daughters Elaine and Beryl; the separator would hum while the rich cream would come out the spout into cream can which was picked up by Mr. Munday driving the cream truck every three days. The cream was taken to Rochester Butter Factory.
About 1946 ‘Yeamans’ was sold to a Returned Serviceman and ‘Rockleigh’ became the only family income resource.
Alex liked growing vegetables etc and decided to grow tomatoes for Factory in Bendigo. He was helped by Rupert and ‘Mister’ (his pet name for Ian). Bruce by this time had been taken under the wing of Uncle Keith Stewart down in bright lights of Melbourne.
Hundreds of acres of tomatoes were grown over the years, millions of seeds planted in hot beds out under the peppercorn trees to be carefully watered and weeded to ‘pulling stage’ then replanted in acreage for coming season.
Alex hired a twelve seater bus from Bendigo every weekend for pickers to travel to Tennyson. Eager pickers were left behind each week. They were paid one shilling a case. One weekend two pickers really excelled and filled 95 cases each. As a bonus Alex gave both men FIVE POUND cheque. Next weekend both men were back again mainly because Alex had forgotten to SIGN the cheques!!
During these years Mr. Bill Lambourn had a 17 passenger bus service from Cohuna to Bendigo which passed by ‘Rockleigh’ each week day. As business progressed Mr. Lambourn purchased an 8 seater Packard bus which was garaged at ‘Rockleigh’ and when needed Alex would drive the bus to Lockington to pick up surplus passengers from there through Tennyson, Kamarooka etc to depot in Bendigo… being a gentleman this job suited him admirably.
Alex had developed a problem with his legs, varicose veins were now causing ulcers and much time had to be spent resting. This may be one of the reasons he became so interested in game of Draughts. Even forty years after his death his ‘brain teaser’ problems are still quoted in farmers paper The Weekly Times etc. He travelled to Tasmania where he won a silver trophy shaped like the map of Tasmania.
His favourite pastime was tennis which he excelled at. Many years at Bendigo Easter Tournaments Alex Watson excelled winning the men’s Singles Championship, he won with blood sodden feet from the many blisters. Later was heard to say ‘you forget about your feet, your racquet and head is all that matters’, his motto on tennis which he would quote; THE GAME OF TENNIS IS OH SO QUAINT…YOU JUST HIT THE BALL WHERE THE OPPONENT AINT! Years later he was very proud watching his children making their presence felt on the same Courts Elaine R/U in Under 17 yrs. Rupert and Elaine Q/F in mixed doubles.
Alex also had responsibility of two shops owned by family in Pall Mall Bendigo. Rented out as a Butcher Shop and a Café.
In 1950, Alex decided with help from Estate Agent that selling ‘Rockleigh’ and buying Rose Café in Lockington would be viable proposition as daughters were teenagers and could be salesgirls. In January 1950 Watson’s Café became a reality. It proved not to be the best move Alex made in his lifetime. As children married and moved out. He was left to run shop mostly on his own as Jean had new son to nurture. His health deteriorated legs were becoming increasing problem till he was forced into selling the business.
That was start of the tragic end to this story.
Alex, Jean and Russell moved to Archibald Street Lockington in 1957. From then on Alex worried himself sick. How could the family survive? With no income? He exhausted all avenues round town and no employment was available.
He spent some time in West Breen with Beryl. On his return came to the conclusion the Government had the answer. If he died Jean would receive the Widows Pension. She and Sam could survive without him.
Regretably, on June 28th Alex unselfishly ended his life. Jean and Sam did survive on pension until Jean re-married in 1962. (edit: Jean married Duncan Palmer)
(Story is thought to be by Elaine Watson/Lawrence)
Whilst Alex Watson is well remembered as a champion tennis player, he also exceeded in the board game of Draughts. During his time as proprietor of the Cafe in Lockington, Alex would play several of the local youths at the same time, emerging victorious on all but a very rare occassion.
Some newspaper snippets relating to Alex’s prowess can be seen below: