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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us