James E. Watson

Teacher: 1942 - 1976


Obituary - Liverpool Daily Post, 19th February, 2007

For generations of Liverpool schoolboys, James Watson was known by just one name: the Killer.

Quite how this kindest of men attracted so ferocious a nickname is lost in the fog of time, but, in later life, he would admit that it worked to his advantage.

If his pupils at the Liverpool Institute were slightly in awe of him from the word go, the task of maintaining classroom discipline for the learning of Latin and Scripture was that much easier. And this, remember, was in the let-it-all-hang-out days of the 1960s and '70s.

He was the son of an Anfield schoolteacher who secured a scholarship to Liverpool University in 1930 to study the Classics. After a number of teaching positions in the 1930s, including a brief spell as a private tutor to one of John Moores's children, he arrived at the Institute in the early war years, having been turned down for RAF service after a childhood illness.

He was, however, allowed into the RAF Voluntary Reserve, supervising the RAF section of the Institute's Combined Cadet Force and maintaining the well-polished appearance of an ex-serviceman to the end of his life.

Outside the school world, his life centred around his church and family. He had researched the links between northern Nonconformism and state schools for his Master's degree, and he was later involved in the Baptist Church in a number of positions at a national level.

He was married in 1940 to Beryl Jones, whom he had met at university, and had three children, the first of whom died in infancy.

In the 1960s, with the decline of interest in school cadet forces in more liberal times, he turned many of his energies to organising Easter trips to Paris for younger boys with his close friend and colleague, Archie Moy.

His pupils were inclined to see him as a slightly formal figure, which indeed he was, with a commanding presence and an air of authority which carried him easily into the role of the school's joint vice-principal in the 1970s.

But those who arrived at his door quaking in their boots after some misdemeanour were often surprised to find that the teacher with the formidable reputation was anything but a killer, rather the very incarnation of Christian charity who knew how to practise what he preached.

James Edward Watson, schoolmaster; born December 22, 1912, died February 13, 2007.

By-line: Willaim Leece (L.I. 1963-1969)