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3 corrections, most recently by cipwoods - Show corrections


Of Watson's Bay.


Visitors to this seaside resort have experi- enced a difficulty in finding out, when they have attempted to do so, after whom it was

named, for at different periods in its history  

two persons bearing the name of Watson have lived there, each of whom was "pilot and harbour master," and when information was given the wrong man as a rule received the credit

Among the crew of H.M.S. Sirius, com- manded by Captain Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, when she arrived in 1788, was a Robert Watson, who held the rating of quartermaster, and who, after the wreck of that vessel at Norfolk Island, in March, 1790, and the crew had been brought to Sydney, became one of the signal men at the South Head, and later had com- mand of the colonial schooner Francis, in succession to Mr. William House, and after the loss of this vessel, at Newcastle, in March, 1805, he was appointed pilot at Sydney, and resided at the bay at South Head.

In the Sydney "Gazette" of April 13, 1811, can be read that "on Tuesday, his Excellency the Governor and Mrs. Macquarie, accom- panied by his Honor the Lieutenant-Governor and Mrs. O'Connell, Mrs. Palmer (of Walloo- moolla) [Woolloomooloo], and a party of officers, among whom were those on his Excellency's staff, made an excursion to South Head by water, his Excel- lency making a visit of inspection to North Harbour en passant. In the evening the party, alighted from their boats in that part of Camp Cove (now called Watson's Bay) where the native figtree spreads its foliage into an agreeable alcove. Beneath its verdant canopy a cold collation was presented; and, after a stay of nearly two hours at this beautiful romantic spot, the company returned to town." In this we have the evidence of this "romantic spot" being called Watson's Bay in 1811.

In August, 1811, Robert Watson was appointed boatswain of the dockyard at Syd- ney, and harbour master of Port Jackson. In 1813 he is described as harbour master and senior pilot, and his son, Edward Watson, was in command of the colonial vessel Estramina. In 1814 he resigned his position of pilot.

In 1816 something went wrong, and he was dismissed from the office he held as boatswain of the dockyard for misconduct, otherwise misappropriation of the stores, but by infer- ence the charge was not true, because the lighthouse at South Head, commenced in 1816, was completed and lit for the first time on November 30, 1818, and under date of Novem- ber 28, "his Excellency has been pleased to appoint Mr. Robert Watson to be superintend- ent and keeper of the light on Macquarie Tower, with a salary of £50 per annum."

Robert Watson did not long occupy the position, for he died at his house on The Rocks on November 1, 1819 — his age not stated. He was interred in the old Devonshire- street cemetery, and on that ground being resumed for the present Central Raliway Sta- tion, the remains were removed, with others, to the Bunnerong burial ground, where they now rest. The only thing to mark the grave when they were deposited in it was a piece of the original headstone, with a few letters cut on it.


The other Watson was Captain Thomas Watson. He was the son of Captain Daniel Watson, who late in life lived in the Campbell- town district, as host of the inn named Robin Hood. An entry in the register of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, at Denham Court, reads: "Death—Daniel Watson, of Robin Hood, died March 9, 1857; buried March 11, 1857, aged 87, formerly a pilot." Captain Thomas Watson was a master mariner and ship- owner of some note in Sydney. His history is a long one, and can only be briefly given here. In 1836 he was a pilot of Port Jack- son, with office in the dockyard, which was then on the western side of Sydney Cove, where Burns, Philp, and Co. now have their wharf, and he had a private residence at Watson's Bay. In 1837 he sold this, when it was called in the advertisements "A Marine Villa, at Watson's Bay, bounded by the waters of Port Jackson." This passed through many owners, finally belonging to Sir John Robert- son, under the name of Clovelly, after whose death it was demolished.

Captain Watson bought the brig Essington, and went as store ship with the expedition under Sir John Gordon Bremer in H.MS. Alligator, and Lieutenant Owen in H.MS. Britomart, to North Australia. On returning from this service he returned to his position of pilot, to which he was reappointed on October 29, 1830.

If at this time we can judge Captain Thomas Watson by his actions, we would come to the conclusion that he was a man of unsettled disposition, or else he was one who sank his own inclinations at the request of the local authorities to accept a position of trust that his acquaintance with nautical matters fitted him for at a time when men of his type would be scarce.

After a few years he returned to the sea, owning and commanding vessels that traded to the islands and China. When he retired

from service afloat he owned whalers. For some years he was a member of the New South Wales Navigation and Pilot Board.

He was a great admirer of Captain Cook, and at his own cost he erected a monument to him in Bigge-square, in the town of Liver- pool, and one at Randwick, which Commodore Goodenough unveiled. And it was through his advocacy and monetary assistance that the statue to Captain Cook in Hyde Park was erected in 1879.

He died a few months later, at his resi- dence at Randwick, on October 4, 1879, aged 84 years

Watson's Bay, as stated before, was named after Robert Watson, and the memorial, de- signed by Professor Wilkinson, and erected at the suggestion of the Royal Australian Historical Society, by the Municipal Council of Vaucluse, commemorates him, and visitors to the bay can now satisfy themselves by reading the inscription on it.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
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