A great grandson of Sydney Grandison Watson of Walwa and Tintaldra on the Upper Murray River, Brian Harvey Watson (1942 to 2014) was a major contributor to the research that went into Norman C Hutchinson’s book titled “Grandie” that was about the life and descendants of Sydney Grandison Watson. Brian’s proof reading and track changes and suggestions as well as the information he had researched and provided was invaluable.
Although not published in the book, Brian also transcribed the diaries of Sarah “Jessie” Watson, the eldest child and daughter of “Grandie” Watson.
Brian Watson, his wife Susie and daughter Lucinda were at the old Tintaldra Store on the day of the book launch in September 2010. The Tintaldra Store had been built for “Grandie”, by Edwin Jepcott, in 1864 and is still in use as a Tea Rooms for coach travelers and others.
Brian was a descendant of “Grandies” second wife Constance Maria Armstrong (1836-1894). His grandfather Leopold “Leo” Tamerlane Watson (1870-1937), who, along with brothers ‘young’ Grandie and Eddie, pioneered Cape York and settled at “Merluna” and “Watson River” in the 1880’s. Unfortunately in 1889, young Eddie was killed by aboriginal tribesmen at the Pine Tree Station homestead. Leo married Inagh B H Armstrong (1878-1948) in 1907. The Watsons sold Merluna in 1912 and moved back south. ‘Young’ Grandie died at Lovatt, Moss Vale in 1937 and Brian’s grandfather, Leo was killed in a car accident on the highway at Wyalong, in 1937, whilst returning from a sheep inspection with three other people.
Brian’s father, Leopold Harvey “Bill” Watson (1911-1979), had been manager of the family farm at Nanangroe, near the Murrumbidgee River, north of Canberra. When war broke out he enlisted in the RAAF and his wife Nance (nee Cohen) moved to a flat in Potts Point to be near her family. Brian Harvey Watson was born there on March 20, 1942, his sister Jane in 1945. On Leopold’s return the family moved first to Goulburn, then a few years later in 1956 to the farm at Nanangroe.
Brian became a boarder at Shore School, where he captained the rifle team, and resident at St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1963. His skill with a .303 rifle earned an Imperial Universities Blue as well as a University Blue.
He was accepted to do a post-graduate degree in agricultural economics at Oxford University and sailed in January 1967 on the Fairsky. On the same ship were three singing brothers called Gibb. In Oxford, Watson was able to improve his student lifestyle by training polo ponies for extra cash.
In 1971, back in Sydney, he married Susan Overell, originally from Brisbane, and began work as a farm management consultant in Cootamundra. By the mid-1970s he was consulting overseas. Sadly, drought and bushfires meant that the Nanangroe farm was sold in 1978.
Brian felt a commitment to the academic side of his field, and was a long-time committee member of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, serving as NSW vice-president.
He had the same commitment to Shore School, and to St Paul’s College, joyfully attending every performance of the college’s annual revue, Victoriana!
Although Brian lived in the city he still loved the country, and was sometimes spotted in his treasured old Driza-Bone cracking a stock whip to drive off the marauding possums of Killara.
Polo remained a passion, and he was happy to be able to present the LT Watson Memorial Trophy, in Richmond in 2013 (established in 1952 by his grandfather Leo)
Brian was a formidable bridge player and equally formidable on the tennis court with fellow members of the Killara Food and Tennis Tragics. He was adept with both left or right hand.
In latter years he was involved in a several community campaigns, such as the protection of biodiversity in Ku-ring-gai, and the protection of sand dunes and properties of Wooli on the north coast.
Brian had always been interested in recording family history and had planned to travel, after retirement , to explore where his family members had settled or been involved. He had even bought a 4 wheel drive for the trip.
Sadly, that was not to be as in 2013, Brian was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and passed away 11 months later on the 12th August 2014.
Soon after Brian had retired from his work as an agricultural and resource consultant economist, he had heard about plans to sell off the car park at Killara train station. He was not personally affected, as his was a pleasant level walk to the station, but for most, the steep streets were a trial.
He initiated the campaign to stop the sale and began gathering signatures, making signs and setting up websites and a Facebook account. His hospital bed became campaign headquarters and from there he made calls and continued to send emails until 7000 signatures were gathered. The petition was tabled before the NSW Parliament on the day he passed away.
Brian believed in the importance of contributing to the welfare of all communities and he had spent more than a decade in aid project management in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. He managed the Australian Aid agricultural project in Kenya from 1978-1981, working with the Giriama tribe to develop a safe water supply, a major benefit for the women who had to walk long distances carrying water. He was joined by his wife Susie and their three young children. It proved to be quite an adventure, with an occasional snake dropping down from the rafters.
Later Brian had worked in Fiji, helping to establish goat and cattle farms. It took two years to get agreements from all the local family members before work could start. He was a hard worker and a good organiser, but it was his equable temperament and the ability to get along with people which made things happen.
Brian is survived by his wife Susie, son James and daughter in law Vivian, son Hugh and daughter in law Megan and daughter Lucinda and her husband. Also his sister Jane and her husband Sandy as well as seven grandchildren.
His daughter Lucinda became a campaigner for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research tirelessly raising grassroots awareness of the disease to enable better research and treatment of Pancreatic Cancer.
In 2014, she and a passionate community of advocates successfully lobbied for the government to include a chemotherapy drug called Abraxane on the PBS for pancreatic cancer patients. The drug, when taken with standard general treatment, helps extend the lifespan of Stage 4 patients by six months. At the time of her father’s journey, Watson said Abraxane was a costly drug for pancreatic cancer patients – an average cost per script was $1,300 (versus $38 for breast cancer patients, for whom the drug was generally prescribed). After the successful lobby – including a big social media push – it now costs only $6 per script. World Pancreatic Cancer Day is now in November each year and the official colour for the day is Purple.
Brian Harvey Watson was a force for good in many communities from Cootamundra to Killara and from Africa to South-East Asia and the Pacific.