Biographical Sketch

David Waterson was born of good stock.  Both his grandfathers and his father were skilled craftsmen and held in high esteem in the community.  David’s father and grandfather came from Newburgh and were both reed makers, David Yule, his maternal grandfather from Longforgan, a riddle maker.

Blyth Waterson with a family of seven (five sons and two daughters) had to find another means of livelihood.  Already remarkably well-read he took over the booksellers business in Swan Street (Still carried on as Hendry’s.)

David Yule was also a man of individuality – he was an elder for 60 years (after the Disruption in the east Free Kirk) and for 30 years treasurer of the old Equitable Co-operative Society.

He grew up amongst men of thoughtful and intelligent mind, interested in what went on around them with always plenty of books and tools to exercise his young mind and his hands.  In the big attic room in the family home in Damacre Road the children could indulge in various hobbies, amateur photography, music theatricals etc.  All these things had an influence on the man and the artist David was to become.

David’s first schooling was at the little private school kept by Miss Alexander and her sister “Miss Jessie.”  Then he went on to the Damacre School where he was not too happy as the rougher lads were only too ready to bully a shy boy (such as David was) especially if he wore a white collar to school.  Even at this early age he must have had an interest in drawing and when the class was asked to write on their slates what they wanted to be when they grew up he wrote “P.P.”  Only after much persuasion would he say what “P.P.” stood for – Portrait Painter.

At the High School he was much happier.  On the payment of a small extra fee he was allowed to attend a special drawing class.  And what joy it was to have pencils, paint box and brush of his very own.       

When he was fifteen the problem of getting a job arose.  For three years he worked with his elder brother George in the shop.  Any spare time, he spent reading avidly science, philosophy and poetry and many of the learned journals of the day.  He became an expert photographer and was a founder of the Photographic Society.  He not only developed his own plates but made the appliances needed for developing and enlarging them.  The camera he most often used, he also made himself.

At last he was able to achieve the desire of his heart.  He had been saving every penny he could and he was given little financial aid by grandfather Yule.  His father gave him permission to enroll as a full-time student at the Edinburgh School of Art, a very modest establishment in those days and the number of full-time students was very small.  The shy, reserved country boy, with only a bare pittance to keep himself, lived a life of austere simplicity.  But notwithstanding all the hardships, life to David was joyous adventure.

He must have made rapid progress at the School for in six weeks he was promoted to the Life class.  Edinburgh and its environs provided ample material for his pencil and brush.  David was able to continue his serious reading thanks to a ticket for the Advocates’ Library given him by Lord Guthrie, also a Brechin man.

Student days over with various prizes to his credit, David returned to Brechin determined on a career as an artist.  Thanks to Mr. C Mitchell, grocer, he rented at a nominal rent a small studio in Mr. Mitchell’s property on Market Street and there he set to work as a portrait and landscape painter.

Commissions might be few and far between but he was encouraged by the few in town who recognised a lad of real promise.  These included Miss Anna Guthrie (later Mrs. Lendrum), Mr. James Lamb, The Latch and the Rev. Dr Aird of the East U.P. Church who had a particular influence on the young Brechin lad.  He had told David that a son of a friend of his, Dr Cameron, was finding etching more profitable than painting.

  There had been no etching class at Edinburgh Art School but David got hold of every book he could on the process and soon was printing his plates on a press he had made himself.  From etching he went on to Mezzotinting which remained throughout his life one of his favourite mediums and in which he was to become an acknowledged master.