William John Watt was born in Penicuik in 1895.
The the younger son of William Watt, a General Labourer, and Ann Watt. His father died around 1900 and his mother then went back to working as a Confectioner.
After finishing school, William worked at Cowan’s Paper Mill then at the Moat Colliery, Loanhead.
He enlisted in the 9th (Dandy Ninth) Royal Scots at Glencorse early in 1916, and saw active service in France. Gravely wounded at the battle of Arras in 1917, he lost both hands and most of one arm, leaving him severely disabled and was in hospital until October 1919 before being discharged.
Knowing that opportunities for regular employment for a disabled man like him were slim, Watt resolved to learn to paint, enrolling in classes at the Edinburgh College of Art.
Working with a brush strapped to his remaining forearm, he achieved a modest level of competence in easel painting of watercolours and oil paintings, but it was only around 1930 that William realised that he would stand a much better chance of earning a living by selling his work in the form of useful or decorative household wares –
Along with other survivors of the War, he was housed in Longniddry, East Lothian, where a colony of veterans’ homes had been established.
They were displayed in a glass-
Watt sold his wares to passing trade from the newsagent’s shop he and his family ran in the village.
In these makeshift surroundings, over a period of several years till the mid-1930s, Watt produced a substantial number of painted pots, including table-wares, vases, ginger jars, and other items: small pieces decorated with surprisingly intricate patterns, as well as larger items, such as ginger jars, in a broader, and simpler style.
He also received orders from further afield, and even from abroad –
Articles in SPHR
Articles in Bulletin (Members only)
“Stump” and “Longniddry”
Watt had a remarkable sense of humour, evidenced in the mark left on his pots – ‘Stump’.
Other Publications & Links
Longniddry was, incidentally, the village where the first of the Women’s Rural branches in Scotland, founded in 1917, offered classes for teaching how to paint on pots; hand-
Sources: Text and images © H R Jack 2012. Image of ‘Stump’ courtesy William Watt Junior.