Ernest Watson

Masonic Career

Ernest was initiated into the Loyal Berkshire Lodge of Hope on 6th February, 1906 aged 29, when George Gardner Leader was the Master of the Lodge. He was made Master of the Lodge in 1920 and, having served his year as Master, became its organist. In 1925, at the consecration of the Hungerford Lodge, he is listed at their Founding Organist having by that time been honoured as “The Past Provincial Grand Organist”. As may be seen in his obituary, both lodges were well represented.


The passing of Ernest Watson, with its most tragic suddenness, has left a blank in local musical circles which cannot easily be filled. Although he has died at an early age, his life has been crowded with musical activities from the days when he was a chorister at St John’s Church. Having the advantage of a good early tuition in music under Mr. T.H. Webb, Mus. Bac., Ernest at the age of nine or ten began to display an unusual talent for the pianoforte, and was indeed then looked upon as something of a musical prodigy, while at 17 he had obtained such a wonderful mastery with his technique of his instrument that he astounded his hearers renderings of Beethoven and Liszt. Ernie, as he was generally known, very soon began to make great strides, and with not a little genius behind him, gave promise of attaining to great heights in the musical world. Up to a point he succeeded but ill-health, which dogged his footsteps for so many years, played havoc, alas, with his chances.

Ernest Watson will be remembered by many as an organist and choirmaster, and in this capacity he acted at different times at Shaw, Burghclere and the Congregational Churches, and also for a time in Reading, while on many occasions he deputised for other organists in their temporary absence; in his church duties his work as always, was thorough and musicianly. He was also for many years a regular playing member of the N.A.O.U., his instrument being the viola, and here also his musicianship stood this Society in good stead. A musician to his finger tips, he at times extended his energies in various branches of the art, pianoforte, organ, violin, viola, singing and conducting, all in turn claimed his interest, and had more opportunity been afforded him he would undoubtedly have made a fine conductor.

It is however, as an accompanist that he will perhaps be best remembered, and in this department he was supreme. No public dinner or smoking concert programme in the days of the old Town Hall was considered complete unless the accompaniments were “in the able hands of Mr. E. Watson” as was so often reported, and his humorous embellishments to the accompaniments of the old-time comic song came to be looked upon as such a “sine qua non” that in some cases “Watson’s accompaniment” was the real thing, the song itself taking second place.

In his time Ernest Watson must certainly have played on more pianos, and accompanied more vocalists, than any of his musical contemporaries, his services being always eagerly sought after by all the leading singers of the neighbourhood. Nor was it only locally that his gifts as an accompanist were taken advantage of, as some 10 or 12 years ago he obtained an engagement in London at the National Sunday League Concerts then held at the Alhambra Theatre; at these Ballad concerts he accompanied Mr. Lane Wilson and other notable singers of that day, and I well remember him telling me, in his unassuming way, how small he felt in the vastness of that huge stage.

Ernest Watson possessed a genial and kindly disposition which gained for him many friends, and he was generous in the extreme, his great musical gifts being always at the disposal of others; times without number I have known him refuse the fee, that as a professional musician he was perfectly entitled to ask for, in order that various charities might benefit accordingly.

Ernest died in harness, as he would have wished, and it is typical of him that he was playing the pianoforte to the last, even in public the night before he passed away. His loss will be mourned by many, but his work and influence still remain, and the friends of Ernest Watson will ever cherish the memory of a gifted musician and a true and generous man.

Newbury Weekly News 1 November 1928


Record of his funeral

The funeral took place on Monday afternoon. It was fitting that the first part of the service should be held at St John’s Church, for it was here that the deceased commenced his musical career as a choir boy. A special choir composed of old friends was in attendance, whilst another old friend and fellow organist, Mr. Russell Wade, was at the organ. There was a large attendance, principally representatives of musical circles and societies, and of the Order of Freemasonry, as Mr. Watson was organist of the Loyal Berkshire Lodge of Hope.

The personal mourners present were Dr. J.B. Bennett, Mr. Brian O’Farrell, Pay-Lieut. P.T. Bennett, R.N., and Mr. F. Gardner Leader.

The Masons present included Mr. J. Smallbone (Worshipful Master of the Lodge of Hope), Mr. W. Stephenson Raine, O.B.E. (Worshipful Master of the Hungerford Lodge), Dr. Faulkland Rooke, Dr. A. Gordon Leggat, Messrs. P. Chillingworth, H.C. Commerford, W.R. Davey, F.C. Hopson, H. Camp, J.T. Lawrence, W.H. H. Court, F.Hunt, H.R. Metcalf, E. Martin, C. Maggs, H.J. Booth, H.A. Cadd, S.J. Strange, Maber, Russell Wade, F.G.Whittaker, W. Head, F. Burn.

Others noticed present were Mr. T.H. Webb, Mus.Bac. Mr. W. H. Flint, Mr. Ashley Turner, Mr. Hugh Turner, Mr. W.J. Johnson, Mr. J. Johnson, Mr. Joseph Hopson, Mr. Bernard Ramsey, Mus. Bac., Mr. A. H. Drury, F. R. C.O., Mr. Walter H. Bell, Mr. John McNey Bell, Mr. E.L. Staples, Miss Ruth Staples, Miss Liddle, Mrs. Coles, Mr. Hollands, Mrs. Alfred Hollands, Mrs. W.R. Davey, Mrs. Belk, Mr. Stanley Hickman, Mr. and Mrs. W. Murray, Mr. Victor Corden, Mr. Herbert Comyns, Mr. A. J. Rawlins, Councillor J. R. Witts, Messrs. A. Wellington, J.H. Moon, H.G. Love, C. Purdue, R. Popejoy, Pope, S.Lewis, Walter Taylor, Jenkins etc. etc.

The service was taken by the Rev. C.E. Hardy, and as the body was being borne from the church, Mr. Wade played the Dead March in “Saul.”

The interment was at the Old Cemetery. The Masons present dropped the customary sprigs of acacia on the coffin, but the most affecting incident was the number of young pupils who dropped flowers into the open grave.

There were a large number of beautiful flowers, the senders including: Mrs. T.P. Bennett, Jack and Pat; Mrs. O’Farrell and Brian; Mr. and Mrs. T.S. Taylor (Willesden); Mrs. E. Ashdown and Miss Booz; Alfred Camp and family; Members of the N.A.O.U; the Worshipful Master, Officers and Brethren of the Loyal Berkshire Lodge of Hope; the Victory Lodge and the Hungerford Lodge of Freemasons; the South Berks Silver Band; the Employees of the Central Cinema; Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Drury; Mr. and Mrs. Harding, Amy, Lily and Ruth; Mr. and Mrs. Paul Hopson; Mr. and Mrs R. Butler; Dr. Faulkland Rooke; Members of the Newbury Congregational Church Choir; Grace and A.J. Coles; Mrs. Low and family; Miss Ruth Staples; Ivy and Will; his old friend Russell; Mabel Spracklen; Mr. and Mrs. Bert Bell; Capt. and Mrs. Stephen Knight; Winnie Dekes; Noe, Bobby Stanley and Mary Brooklyn; F.H. Adams and family.

The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Messrs. Camp Hopson and Co. Ltd.

The Rector of Newbury made a sympathetic reference to the deceased musician at Sunday night’s service at the Parish Church, and Mr. Bernard Ramsey played Brahm’s “Requiem.”
References were also made at both services at Shaw by the Rector, the Rev. H. Kingsley Kefford.

Newbury Weekly News 1 November 1928