Wat­son and the Shark… and Amherst

The Amherst News - - EDITORIAL - Les­lie Childs is a mem­ber of the Amherst News Com­mu­nity Ed­i­to­rial Panel.

This paint­ing by John Sin­gle­ton Co­p­ley hangs to­day in the Na­tional Gallery of Art in Wash­ing­ton D.C., one of the most pres­ti­gious art galleries in the world. And it has an Amherst con­nec­tion!

Just an­other sur­pris­ing fact that most don’t know about this amaz­ing town we call home.

The naked man in the paint­ing is Brook Wat­son. He’s in Ha­vana har­bor at age 14 and the shark in the bottom right is about to bite off his leg. He sur­vived but sported a wooden leg there­after. Read on.

Brook Wat­son (1735-1807) was born in Devon, Eng­land and or­phaned at age 6. Rel­a­tives sent him to his un­cle in Bos­ton and by age 14, his un­cle had sent him to sea on one of his mer­chant ships. And what young boy in a trop­i­cal port wouldn’t go swim­ming?

When Brook re­turned to Bos­ton in 1750, he dis­cov­ered his un­cle was bank­rupt, but a man who had boarded in his un­cle’s house, Cap­tain John Hus­ton, a sol­dier and land owner from near Fort Lawrence, took him un­der his wing and in­vited him to sail home with him on his mer­chant ship. There Hus­ton saw to it that Wat­son learned book­keep­ing and record keep­ing. Soon Wat­son came to the no­tice of Cap­tian Robert Mon­ck­ton who made him the com­mis­sary dur­ing the ac­tion that saw Fort Beause­jour yield to the Bri­tish.

In 1758, Wat­son over­saw the ex­pul­sion of Aca­di­ans from Baie Verte area and was com­mis­sary un­der Gen­eral James Wolfe at the Siege of Louis­bourg.

By 1759, he was in Lon­don, Eng­land fur­ther­ing his ca­reer, by en­gag­ing in busi­ness in Mon­treal, Lon­don, and Bos­ton. In 1763, see­ing the prom­ise in own­ing land at the head of the Bay of Fundy, he ap­plied for and got land in the newly formed County of Cum­ber­land. An early map shows some of that land in sight of Fort Lawrence, run­ning par­al­lel with the head of the Bay of Fundy right be­side a sim­i­lar sized piece owned by Cap­tain John Hus­ton, his old men­tor.

From 1772 on, he of­ten com­bined busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests so that he rose quickly to great im­por­tance. He served ten years as Chair­man of the Cor­po­ra­tion of Lloyds of Lon­don. He trav­elled back and forth to North Amer­ica of­ten, and on one trip just prior to the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion, he ac­com­pa­nied the Amer­i­can pris­oner Ethan Allen on his voy­age from Canada to Eng­land.

Brook Wat­son used his con­sid­er­able tal­ents and soon be­came an Al­der­man for the City of Lon­don, and then Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (1874-1793). As well, he was Sher­iff of Lon­don and Mid­dle­sex in 1785 … and fi­nally he served two terms as Lord Mayor of Lon­don, Com­mis­sary-Gen­eral of Eng­land and a Di­rec­tor of the Bank of Eng­land. In his last years, he was made a baronet.

Did you know….the Face­book Group, Aban­doned Cum­ber­land shares ex­cel­lent pho­tos and con­ver­sa­tions about aban­doned build­ings in Cum­ber­land County.

Photo cour­tesy of the Na­tional Galery of Art, Wash­ing­ton, D.C

Wat­son and the Shark

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.