Fremantle Stuff > people >
From the MCB website [Ron Davidson]:
William Watson (1864-1938) was born at Peg Leg near Bendigo. He left school at 13 and worked at a variety of jobs. He arrived in Western Australia in 1895 with his family, a little capital and a horse and cart.
Watson opened his first grocery and tea rooms at the corner of High and Market Streets. More shops followed. He switched his major interest to manufacturing bacon, hams and smallgoods at a factory and abattoir in Hamilton Hill. The enterprise also diversified to making butter and cheese under the Watsonia label.
Watsonia delivery van c1920, from Fremantle Library image #E000089-06.
Watson's Luncheon Rooms, photo 1910 #2696. This building was erected in 1903 as part of the Owston Buildings. It was purchased by the Waterside Workers' Federation in 1955, when Watson's built their administration block at Spearwood. Watson's Luncheon or Refreshment Rooms operated from the site 1907 to 1914 and then it became Watson's Supply Stores.
Known as “Old Bill”, Watson became wealthy, but was always regarded as a good bloke in egalitarian Fremantle. He was conservative politically, but gave freely to the families of the radical Fremantle Lumpers’ Union during strikes.
Watson disliked political parties. He was elected as the independent Federal member for Fremantle in 1922 and again in 1925 when he defeated Labor’s John Curtin by 6000 votes. He did not stand in 1928 and Curtin won. When William Watson died, John Curtin was a pallbearer at his Fremantle funeral. “He was a generous and friendly opponent,” Curtin said. Text and photo, MCB.
The last Watsonia shop in Fremantle, at 71 High St - behind the truck. Skip Watkins photo, 1989.
Fremantle Mayor Sir Frank Gibson with William Watson c. 1928 >
From the Azalia Ley Homestead Museum website:
William Watson arrived in Fremantle in the 1890s and quickly established a successful smallgoods business in the port city. In 1902 he opened a piggery where Davilak Reserve now stands and in 1909 he moved it to Hamilton Road in Spearwood. This meat processing plant supplied all his retail outlets and lunch rooms throughout Perth until he shifted his focus from retailing to production in the late 1910s.
Next to the Hamilton Road Factory was an old rundown house. Watson and his wife Eliza refurbished it, named it Woodlands and moved their residence from Fremantle to join the thriving market garden and dairy community in Cockburn. The name Watsonia was registered in the early 1920s as a brand name for a new butter-margarine product and became the name of the factory and business. By the time WWII arrived, Watsonia was in a position to supply meat and dairy products to the Australian Armed Forces and the ration-restricted UK.
The business was bought out in 1965 by a Canadian company and continued trading until 2009 under the Watsonia name. The old factory was demolished and is now the site for the new Eliza Ponds Estate housing development.
Leah Napier, Reader Services Librarian, Cockburn Libraries.
This article can also be seen on the Cockburn Libraries’ Local History blog and first appeared in the December 2014 edition of Cockburn Soundings.
William Watson (22 October 1864 – 21 December 1938) was an Australian politician. Born in Campbells Creek, Victoria, he was educated at public schools before becoming a miner, bricklayer and farmer. In 1893, he left Victoria for Western Australia, where he became a bacon manufacturer in Fremantle, and became known as a local benefactor. In 1922, he was elected to the Australian House of Representatives as an independent, representing the seat of Fremantle. He held the seat until he retired in 1928. He returned to the House in 1931, again as the member for Fremantle, but this time representing the United Australia Party; he retired shortly afterwards in 1934. Watson died in 1938 and was buried in Fremantle Cemetery.
At the time of his death, William Watson was living in Peppermint Grove. He is buried in Fremantle Cemetery, Methodist MON B167.
Garry Gillard | New: 26 June, 2015 | Now: 26 May, 2022