Dad was a complex man. He was deeply religious and believed it was his duty as a parent to pass that onto us, his children. He cared about justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within society. He gave generously to so many people, not just financially but also his time and skills.
He was a hard taskmaster…. whatever that means. A more accurate description might be a highly disciplined man who expected similar standards of discipline from other people.
Pharmacy was Dad’s profession, and he often said, it benefitted him well. We always had plenty of food, a nice home, opportunities and holidays. However it was music that really defined Dad. He was a brilliant pianist, and I loved the way he could play anything. He achieved his FTCL and LRSM at a young age. He sang in choirs and went onto train choirs, choristers and chamber music groups for the rest of his life.
I remember cringing occasionally when some naughty boy was evicted from a rehearsal, or someone else was told to stand up straight and sing in tune, but his exacting standards always got amazing results.
Dad had the gift of improvisation and he could party and play the piano all night. We saw glimpses of this legendary partier as we grew up, but the young Doc Watson that his friends knew and loved was mainly before our time.
Dad was the ‘Grandpa’ of Grandpa’s Slipper’s fame. He obligingly wore an old pair of slippers or a woollen cardigan to school visits sometimes when Mum, (Joy Watson) was talking to children about her books. The slightly belligerent Grandpa was pretty much spot on, and Dad was very proud of Mum’s achievements.
As one of nine siblings, we were all given the opportunity to learn at least two musical instruments. There was a high expectation that we wouldn’t waste our chances and we each had to practice for an hour on each instrument every day. In hindsight that seems an awful lot of music practice….
It was fitting that we all there at his funeral, sending him off exactly as he’d requested; the readings, the string quartet, the cello sonata, my brother’s own song, the Irish Blessing and many more special touches.
What I especially liked about Dad’s qualities was that he was funny, gentlemanly, fair and generous.
He didn’t always get things right but he wouldn’t hesitate to aplogise when he realised he was wrong. I think this last quality is especially important.
It seems a lot to ask for these days — a happy, safe childhood and that’s exactly what we had. Thanks Dad, and good bye.