Henry Watson - 1796 – 1875

Henry Watson – 1796 – 1875

Henry Watson (1796 – 1875) & family

by Margaret Elder, great-great-granddaughter

Henry & his 2 wives

Henry Watson was born in 1796, the eldest child of John Watson and Elizabeth Linnecar, from Yorkshire. There were 3 other children; Richard (1797 – 1865), Mary (circa 1799 – unknown) and Hannah who died in infancy. Henry and his two surviving siblings were christened in All Saints, Wakefield on the 11th November 1801.

Henry Watson - Siblings and parents

Henry Watson – Siblings and parents

Henry and Richard, both still young boys, arrived in Glasgow with their father in the early years of the 19th century. We assume this followed the deaths of Elizabeth and Mary but no records have been found to verify or refute this.

We do not know what Henry did in Glasgow as a young man, but he came to Ashcraig in 1820 to lay out the gardens for Mr A. D. Campbell, sugar plantation owner and builder of Ashcraig. Once the gardens were planted, Henry was asked to stay on as gardener and factor. During his time working for the Campbell’s, he and in due course his family, lived at Ashcraig cottage.

Henry Watson - First-family

Henry Watson – First-family

Henry married in the parish of Largs on 26 September 1820. His first wife was Margaret Hamilton. Her birth does not appear in the Parish register for Largs but a Margaret Hamilton was born in Glasgow to a William Hamilton and Margaret Thomson on 29 September 1795. This could explain Henry and Margaret’s eldest child being christened Margaret. Their second daughter was christened Elizabeth after Henry’s mother, Elizabeth Linnecar.  Their eldest son John, after Henry’s father and their second son William, after his maternal grandfather William Hamilton. Margaret, Henry’s wife, died after the birth of their 5th child, Maria in 1828 and Henry was left with 5 children, the eldest about seven.

On 29 April 1833 he married Agnes Robison Gilmour McLean from Beith, who was christened on 19 April 1804. Agnes was known as Robison. It’s likely that Mrs Campbell didn’t get on very well with Robison and the former left nothing in her will to Henry’s second family.

Henry Watson - Second family

Henry Watson – Second family

Henry and Agnes had 4 children; Robert, Richard, George and Jessie.

Robison Watson

Robison Watson

According to the 1841 census, Henry, as head gardener and Factor to A D Campbell, his second wife, Robison, together with William (then 15) and Maria (then 13) of the first family, along with Robert (then 6) and Richard (then 3) of the second marriage, were living at Ashcraig Cottage.

By the 1851 census, William (then 25) had left home but Maria (then 23) was still with Henry and Robison at Ashcraig, together with all four children from the second marriage; Robert (then 16), Richard (then 13), George (then 8) and Jessie (then 5).

By 1861, the Campbells were dead and Henry & Robison were living at Pierhead, Greenock Road, Skelmorlie. Henry had the occupation of grocer and his son George, that of grocer’s assistant. Also staying in the house, were Robison, Robert, his wife and two of their children (William & Henry), Richard and Jessie.

In the 1871 census Henry was 75. His occupation was grocer and spirit merchant and his address is Eglinton Place. From different sources, we know that he owned the whole building which comprised 5 houses and 2 shops. Henry and his wife lived in No. 5 along with George and Jessie, while Robert and his family were in No. 4. The other 3 properties were let.

Henry died on 07 January 1875, aged 78. His eldest son John registered the death.

In the 1881 census Henry’s wife and daughter were living at No. 3 Eglinton Place. The status of both was private means.

By 1891 Robison appeared to be living at the same address on her own. She died 08 February 1897, aged 84.


Henry Watson’s children:

Margaret Watson (1821 – 1869) was born on 6 April 1821. She married Robert Cochran Orr, licensed grocer of Largs on 4 December 1847. Robert & Margaret had 4 children.

John Watson (1822 – 1906) became a spirit merchant of 4 Bath Street, Largs, He married a Largs girl, Barbara Walker Henry, on 16 September 1843. John and Barbara had 9 children. At one time John along with his brother-in-law Robert Orr owned a considerable number of houses in Bath Street. John was for years Inspector of the Poor in Largs and on his retiral received a handsome testimonial. Peter, a son of John and grandson of Henry, was a J.P for Ayrshire and Provost of Largs.

Elizabeth Watson (1824 – Unknown) was lady’s maid to Mrs Campbell before her marriage to John Paton on 28 January 1854. We understand that John was a gentleman’s gentleman to Mr Campbell. Elizabeth must have fallen into disfavour with Mrs Campbell for in a codicil to her will, she cancelled her legacy to Elizabeth.

William Watson (1826 – 1906). On returning from America after being involved in the Confederate War, William married Helen Milligan on 11 April 1871. The witnesses to the wedding were his half-sister Jessie Watson and his nephew Peter Watson. William had 3 children, a son, Henry and 2 daughters. When Mrs Campbell cancelled her legacy to Elizabeth, she added William’s name to her will.

Maria Watson (1828 – Unknown) born the year her mother died seems to have been the black sheep of the family. Years after her death some relatives were even then denying her existence. It is not known what she did to upset her own family. She married a Mr Christie and they lived in Belfast. Whatever Maria did must have been overlooked by Mrs Campbell for in her will she left Maria £19/19s (£2,500 in today’s money), double the amount left to her brother and sister.

Robert, his wife Margaret & L to R – Harry, William & Richard.

Robert, his wife Margaret & L to R – Harry, William & Richard.

Robert Watson (1835 – after 1907) born at Ashcraig on 08 November 1835, became a joiner and ironmonger. He was about 20 when he married Margaret Pettigrew Mountain from Prestonpans. In the early years of their marriage they lived in Glasgow with Henry (Harry) and William, two of their sons were born there. The 1861 census saw them back in Skelmorlie living at 4 Eglinton Place and their third son; Richard was born there in 1865. The 3 boys became joiners with their father. They later moved to Partridgefield in Upper Skelmorlie which we understand they built.  Robert’s sons are not believed to have married.

Richard’s children. The eldest died, aged 13 and is missing from the photo

Richard’s children. The eldest died, aged 13 and is missing from the photo.

Richard Watson (1838 – 1914) became a joiner and ironmonger with his brother Robert. He married Jane Anderson Macrae from Carridale. Richard and Jane emigrated to North America but the boat they were sailing on sank in the St Lawrence. They were picked up separately and for a time, neither knew the other was alive. When reunited they returned home. They had 9 children. It’s understood that after the death of his brother, George, Richard stepped into the grocery business to help his father who died two years later. Richard then took over fully and became a grocer and spirit merchant. Jane Macrae’s brother John was a well-known Civil Engineer. He laid part of the Suez Canal, part of the Glasgow and Dundee tramway system and personally supervised the laying down of the entire Edinburgh tram system as well as some railways. Richard’s eldest son Henry trained as a Civil Engineer and worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway, returning home to Skelmorlie on retiral. He did not marry.

George Watson (1843 – 1873) worked with his father in the grocery shop in Eglinton Place. He did not marry and died aged 30.


Jessie Watson - Henry Watson’s youngest daughter

Jessie Watson – Henry Watson’s youngest daughter.

Jessie Watson (1846 – 1894) did not marry. We believe that she ran Halketburn as a guest house for a few years. Jessie died on 17 March 1894, of breast cancer aged 48.

Additional Information from notes and photos in Mrs J M Yeomans files.

Richard Watson outside the shop at Eglinton Place. Now a Chinese takeaway.

Richard Watson outside the shop at Eglinton Place. Now Chinese takeaway.

Richard Watson died 1914, aged 77.

His grandson was Henry R McGeehen.

Richard Watson and elder brother Robert built:

  • Mountview (Skelmorlie Castle Road)
  • Whinhill (The Lane)
  • Seaview (Skelmorlie Castle Road)
  • Partridgefield (where Robert and family subsequently lived)
  • Lincluden (Shore Road)

Notes on the Watson family extracted from Walter Smart’s book ‘Skelmorlie’,1968.

William Watson was an engineer who had travelled widely and finally settled in Louisiana. After a few years there, the Civil War broke out and he volunteered for the Confederate Army. Later he joined the schooner ‘Rob Roy’ and engaged in running the blockade, first in the smaller sailing craft and then on steamers.

On returning home, he started a business in Greenock and built 3 houses in Skelmorlie, which he named after his battles; Oakhill (Montgomerie Terrace), Pea Ridge (Montgomerie Terrrace) and Beechgrove (Eglinton Terrace. In Pea Ridge, now called Craigallion, he wrote 2 books recording his adventures and giving his impressions of life in the southern states which are still sought after by American historians. ‘Life in the Confederate Army’ was published in 1887 and the ‘Adventures of a Blockade Runner’ in 1892.