Richard James Watson, known to many as Willy, was born and lived all his life in Helmdon.
There are some here who will remember him from his earliest days when the farm was his playground, where countless dens were built in the bales and where the brook was the means to take him to far off places. Willy had big ideas and when he decided to build a raft it involved oil drums strapped under an old wooden door. When it was eventually carried down and put into Weston brook, it was too wide and rested on both sides of the brook. It was used as a bridge for quite some time after that. Even at this young age Willy gave a really good party and there will be many who will remember helping him celebrate his birthdays.
There are some here who will remember him from his school days at Kings School, Sherbourne Park. It was not an easy school to like but there were some happier moments. It was at school that Willy started his life long love of music when he took piano lessons and worked his way through the grades. He would accompany the music teacher around the local churches and learnt how to master the intricacies of the church organ. A skill that many have called on throughout his life during important moments in their lives. Willy also enjoyed painting while at school. There are many Willy Watson landscape paintings hanging on walls and most of them will have a view of Astwell castle somewhere in them. He loved the view of the castle and used his artistic licence to place it in a lot of his landscapes. He also started his fascination with anything electrical while at school. He would love to take apart old radios or televisions to see how they worked and it was then that he started his collection of record players and classical as well as pop records. He also loved photography and bought himself a cine camera. It is thanks to Willy that there are lots of family memories of that time.
There are those here who will remember him from Pitsford young farmer days. There are many memorable moments that will be recalled here today from that time like the year the men decided to take a baking class while the ladies followed the machinery class. Not only that and despite adjourning to the pub while the sponge cakes were in the oven, the men gained the top marks. Then there were the pantomimes. There was the moment when the king and the dame got more than a bit tipsy in Cinderella.
There are those here who will remember Willy’s love of cars. There are two people here who were particularly grateful for his chauffeur services while someone else will recall with affection the three litre Capri which could easily be called upon to do the ton. Willy loved to go for drives in his cars and would use any excuse like the time he drove all the way to Aberystwyth for a Chinese takeaway.
There are those here who will be thinking of his skilled, effortlessly stylish skiing where he would disappear down the slope, leave everyone else to snow-plough their way down to catch up. Willy was never an athletic type but he was a first class skier.
There are those here who will know him as a farmer. There will be many memories of him on the farm. Always thinking of others, there was the time he bought a fridge, filled it with a couple of cases of beer and put it in the workshop in order to quench the thirst of the busy haymakers. He hadn’t noticed as people kept disappearing then reappearing and didn’t realise why until he went to the fridge and found there was no beer left for him. He never did fill it up again and used the fridge to store welding rods away from the damp instead.
Willy has always liked a good birthday party but for his fortieth he really went to town with his ‘Middle Ages Banquet and Ball’ to celebrate his middle ages. This involved a marquee decorated out with banners and a shield to show where the fine food was located, “Cibus bonus est” and another shield to direct people to the drink. Some will remember the Latin motto above that. Everyone entered into the spirit and turned up in mediaeval costume and practised another ancient custom when they gave Willy the ‘bumps’.
There are those who will remember him building the beautiful house and garden at The Old Glebe. No mean undertaking, he filled the house with his beloved antiques and his garden with a mass of plants. Willy really did know his plants and could quote the Latin names of all of them at a drop of the hat. He built the pond, complete with its own waterfall and put many artefacts, including features of a demolished church, around the place. Here he threw open the doors and welcomed everyone in for fund raising events, for musical evenings and again he could be depended upon to throw a good party. He was trustee for AMEND and in its infancy when facilities were limited he let them use The Old Glebe for their meetings. He also opened the garden for the National Garden Scheme as well as for numerous village organisations.
There are those who will remember him for unstintingly giving to all sorts of events and organisations in the village whether it was a couple of fields each year for the Carnival parking and ploughing or the space to construct or store props, not to mention his music, acting, set-building or painting contributions to the Bridge Players. One memorable moment was his building of the Jolly Roger boat, complete with sails and figurehead which walked away with first prize for the floats at the Carnival.
Then there will be those who remember him for his film of the village to celebrate the millennium. Throughout the year of 1999, Willy filmed all the events and activities in the village starting in the winter and moving right the way through the year to the celebration of the millennium itself. With the help of WEA members (he supported the WEA for countless years), he then spent many hours editing and putting together a touching snapshot of Helmdon life. It is worthy of any television programme and should act as a lasting memory to the many and varied talents that was Willy Watson.
Willy was a kind, generous, talented, fun-loving man who is no longer with us. We can make sure he lives on in our memories and wish him peace.
Tribute submitted by Sue Wallace, Willy's sister