Obituary: The Rev John Watson

John T. Watson, minister, born 13 January 1904, Missionary (Methodist Missionary Society) in Dahomey West Africa 1929-34, Methodist Minister Plymouth 1935-38, Golders Green 1938-46, Bible Society Secretary for Schools and Colleges 1946-49, Assistant Home Secretary British and Foreign Bible Society 1949-54, Assistant General Secretary 1954-60, General Secretary 1960-69, married 1933 Gertrude Crossley (died 1982; two sons, one daughter), died Eastbourne Sussex 2 October 1992.

Dedicated, dignified and wittily wise - such would be my summing up of John Watson's character. As a devout and lifelong member of the Methodist Church and in his role as general secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society he showed, as he did throughout his career as student, teacher, ordinand and missionary, an enduring commitment to his Christian faith.

Born to a Lincolnshire shopkeeper in 1904, John Watson steadily revealed his gifts of leadership as a scholar of Moulton Grammar School, as a student at Westminster and Didsbury training colleges, as a college principal in West Africa and latterly as a head of department of the BFBS and then its general secretary. Upright of bearing, tall and slender, Watson well fitted the roles which he was called upon to play. He could both command respect and show great pastoral care at the same time. He was a good manager and a real friend.

Of his intellectual ability there could be little doubt. In addition to the education already mentioned he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the West Virginia Wesleyan college in 1966. He had shown his gifts as a teacher before being ordained, and during his time at the Bible Society he wrote four books including Seen and Heard in Dahomey (1934), How to Play a Hymn Tune (1950) and Daily Prayers for the Methodist Church (1951).

Watson had to exercise great wisdom in the then developing relations between national societies in what was becoming the United Bible Societies. His choice as a general secretary in London, after being invited to the work by an equally renowned Methodist, Dr William Platt, was a wise one. Watson was respected everywhere he went.

The British and Foreign Bible Society was founded in 1803 as a lay organisation to translate, publish and distribute the Scriptures in as many languages as circumstances or funds would permit. As the 19th century went on and individual nations developed their own societies - starting with Scotland, Ireland and the US - there was a need to bring these daughter organisations together under the aegis of one central body. The United Bible Societies was formed, not to replace the BFBS, but to facilitate co-operation between the separate national societies.

Watson was much travelled, as the senior officer of the BFBS has to be. In 1968 he was asked to join the delegation of the United Bible Societies that was to meet the Pope, a first step in the later promising relations between Roman Catholics and others in the work of Bible translation and distribution.

In 1969 he retired to Eastbourne and during the last 23 years led a most worthwhile retirement. He not only found his gifts as an organiser and speaker of use to local churches, Probus (former Rotarians) and other senior associations, but his fluency in French led him to set up a group in which people could either improve or start their acquaintance with that language. That he wrote several hymns and a wedding march for a son's wedding serves to reveal still further his Methodist attachment, not to mention his musical talent.

Yet over all these things, the characteristic that will ever stay with me is that ever-lurking smile behind his eyes, his constant sense of humour and his fund of amusing stories. He was a man of God who loved people, could guide and serve them, and never forget that, above all, he honoured his Lord.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice