Watts, Mr John
Collection date: Sept 1905
John Watts of Worle (1823-1908): age 82, 2 songs FT 547/8 on 12 Sept 1905: In 1901 census John Watts was aged 77, a Gate man on the Light Railway that linked Weston-s-Mare with Clevedon (ref RG13/2323 f122 p27). What brought Cecil Sharp to Worle to meet John Watts that day is unclear. He had just spent a busy week collecting in the Langport area (23 songs, 8 singers) and may have been ‘getting away’ to the seaside for the weekend, when he bumped into John Watts manning the Light Railway line. It’s hard to imagine that he would have gone all that way for a planned rendezvous with just one singer. Serendipity seems the likeliest reason for the collection of 2 songs that Sharp had hardly encountered in Somerset. He’d collected one version of the ‘Besom maker’ from Louie Hooper in Hambridge (FT134) and would find only one other version in Somerset (John Arnold at Frome 1909). Sharp knew ‘The (Jolly) Waggoner’ song from Baring Gould’s collecting in Devon but had not yet noted it in Somerset until he met John Watts.
John Watts was baptised on 17/9/1823 at East Brent church, son of William Watts, labourer and Sarah. He moved with his wife Ann to Worle by 1851 census and worked as an agricultural labourer initially. He switched to working on the railways for the rest of his days. He died June 1908 Axbridge Dist 5c 309.