Review circa 1983 by G Douglas M McLeman

The Christian Watt Papers.  

Edited with an Introduction by David Fraser.  Paul Harris 1983 5.95

 

An unusual set of circumstances had led to the preservation of these Memoirs.  Christian Watt was born in 1833 in Broadsea, the fishertown of  Fraserburgh.  The loss at sea of four brothers, of a son at the age of thirteen and of her husband helped to unhinge her mind and she spent the last forty years of her life in an Asylum in Aberdeen.  She died in 1923 at the age of ninety.  She made a recovery and could have returned to her family home, but she chose to remain in  the Asylum. She was an educated woman and was persuaded to write these Memoirs, which tell the story of her own life and give the history of her own and related families and also an account of the conditions of precarious but self-reliant life in a fishing community in Aberdeenshire during the second half of the last century.

 

Christian Watt shows herself to have been an attractive woman with a strong personality.  She learned to gut fish at the age of ten. She was a maid to the Duchess of Leeds in London at the age of sixteen.  When she was a laundrymaid at Philorth House, the home of the family of the Frasers of  Saltoun, she received a proposal of marriage from a younger son of that family.  Christian Watt's family was related by two separate links of illegitimacy with the Fraser family, and, over her long life, she was on intimate terms with five generations of that family.  She also received attentions from the Master of Lovat and there is an account of an extraordinary meeting with the young man's parents, the 14th Lord Lovat and his wife, at Strichen House.  When she was twenty-three, Christian Watt went to New York to recover an estate of some 300 bequeathed to her by a brother.  She stayed in America for two years and for a time was table-maid to Sir Winston Churchill's grandmother.  She married a fisherman, James Sim, when she was twenty-five and had ten children.  Christian Watt had a hard life, but on balance a happy one.  Her very strength of character may have made things difficult for her.  She says of herself that she was a "sodger clad" but "Major minded".

 

In such Memoirs there are bound to be errors of fact and the Editor wisely says that Christian Watt is entitled to her own errors.  The reviewer's family is one of the related families, of which an account is given and certain facts are given wrongly and, sometimes, something is attributed to the wrong generation. The editing of this book by Sir David Fraser is thoroughly admirable.

In connecting narratives he gives the background of the history of Fraserburgh and of the Fraser families of Saltoun and
Lovat.  There are illuminating genealogies and some excellent photographs.  Christian Watt's own writing is racy and readable.

DOUGLAS McLEMAN.

 (Review circa 1983)
I'm not sure what the original review was for, but a copy is kept in my copy of the book. It may have been for the Glasgow Herald. - for whom I know my father occasionally did reviews - With his interest in Genealogy, he would have been especially pleased to have done this one , as he shared  common ancestry with Christian Watt- (his great, great Grandparents Alexander Watt/ Christian (Kirsty) Noble) were Christian Watt's paternal grandparents)

 
Andrew McLeman 2001