Anne Waterson’s Obituary

Sept 28 1967


Brilliant Teacher Who Became

Wife of Distinguished Artist

Mrs Ann Waterson who died in Stracathro Hospital on Friday evening came to Brechin as a young teacher almost 60 years ago.  In the ‘Advertiser’ of November 17 1908, in a report of the School Board meeting, we read, “The action of the School Committee in appointing Miss Wallis, Kenilworth, to the High School was approved of.”

The appointment was certainly one on which the School Board and the School had congratulated themselves in the years to come; for 16 years Miss Wallis was an outstanding member of the staff and a most successful teacher.  In those days it was unusual for a woman, and especially a young woman, to be appointed head of a department but as head of the English department of the High School Miss Wallis did a splendid job. 

She had a tremendous love and knowledge of English literature and was widely read in history.  She never went to a lesson unprepared and she expected the same careful, honest work from her pupils.  She sent forward many good students who distinguished themselves in the various fields and readily acknowledged the help which her guidance and encouragement had been to them.

Miss Wallis came to Brechin with very high credentials.  She had been educated in Dundee, which was her mother’s home – her father belonged to Beverley, Yorkshire.  She became a student at St Andrews University and despite having to travel daily from Dundee topped the honours classes.  St Andrews was always the beloved “alma mater” – until a year or two ago it was her great joy to return each spring for the annual reunion.  She was almost the last survivor of the students of her year.

After completing her training as a teacher she received an appointment at Leamington where she was most happy and formed a lasting bond with many of her pupils, some only a few years younger than herself.  With some she had corresponded for sixty years.

At the same time as the High School appointment was offered her, she had the offer of an English post; she used to say she had never regretted coming to Brechin.  Besides the heavy responsibilities of her school work Miss Wallis and her sister took an active part in political and cultural societies here.  She was proud to have been a “lifelong Liberal” – and the Liberal resurgence here a few years ago she hailed with delight.  She was one of the veteran stalwarts honoured by the local Liberal party.  She was also associated with the women’s suffrage (non-militant) movement here.

In 1924 Miss Wallis resigned from teaching to become the wife of the artist, David Waterson RE.  It was a very happy marriage, for the two had a great many interests in common, not least their love of books and reading.  Both were deeply attached to the old house at Bridgend and its tree-shaded garden and liked nothing better than to welcome their friends there.

At the same time as she encouraged her artist-husband, Mrs Waterson found new openings for her own gifts.  It was at this time that she formed a very happy link with members of the YWCA Girls’ Club through the talks she gave on Sunday evenings in the Club.  Each week she would take a novel or a play and give her fascinated hearers – they were of all ages – a full and lively account of it.  The preparation for each evening must have entailed a tremendous lot of work but she undertook it as a labour of love.  On the administrative side, Mrs Waterson was also for many years of great assistance to the YWCA as a member of its Finance Committee,

The aims and ideals of the Women Citizen Association made a strong appeal to Mrs Waterson and she was active in the local branch from its beginnings.  She served for two terms as president and she was also influential in the wider movement.  When she retired as president in 1939 it was remarked that while they had had many experts to speak to them they always felt that Mrs Waterson could hold her own with any of them.  She was also very interested in the Branch’s practical activities, particularly the Child Welfare Clinic which was started in 1932, in co-operation with the Nursing Association.

Mrs Waterson was a former vice-president of the Ladies’ Lifeboat Guild and actively interested in the branch of the League of Nations Union started here in 1931.  For a School; she made her own contribution to the discussions and had many an intellectual tussle with the lecturers!  She gave talks on many subjects to a variety of organisations and could claim to have proposed the Immortal Memory at least half-a-dozen times – unusual for a woman.

She had a long connection with Brechin Cathedral and was a member of its Society of Friends.

Mr Waterson died in April 1954, after a lifetime spent in painting.  A fortnight before his death he received the Freedom of the City.  Mrs Waterson with characteristic courage and determination, set herself to preserve as much of his work as possible for posterity.  First of all, his fellow citizens had to see what he had accomplished.  David Waterson was a quiet, retiring man, absorbed in the practice of his art and comparatively few knew anything of the quality and versatility of his work.

In 1955 Mrs Waterson had the satisfaction of seeing staged in the Mechanic’s Hall a comprehensive memorial exhibition of her husband’s work, water colours, oil paintings, etchings, mezzotints.  “He has left us a legacy of lasting beauty” Provost Eddie remarked in opening the exhibition.  For the purpose of the exhibition nearly 300 pictures had been loaned and it was estimated that nearly 200 people visited the Mechanics’ Hall to see the exhibition, which to most must have been an eye-opener.

The general feeling was that only a permanent exhibition would be a fitting memorial to the artist.  In 1957, two days after Christmas, at a ceremony in the Mechanics’ Hall, Mrs Waterson formally handed over to Provost Eddie the collection of his pictures which had been selected for presentation to the community.  It must have been a great ordeal but in her moving speech she never faltered.  The pictures have since given pleasure to those who use the Hall.

Mr Waterson’s outstanding portrait of the Scots violinist Scott Skinner has fittingly found a place in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.  His wonderful life-size studies of insects (showing the minutest detail) were offered by Mrs Waterson to Queen’s College, Dundee, and most gratefully accepted.

Mrs Waterson would have been 89 in January.