Watson-Watt talk well attended at Town House

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An illustrated talk on Brechin’s most famous son, Sir Robert Watson-Watt, was held by The Friends of Brechin Town House Museum.

The talk coincided with an exhibition on Watson-Watt, which runs at the Town House Museum until the end of May.

The talk was well attended, with visitors from Aberdeen and Dundee at the event - including Emeritus Professor Brian Makin, who was the last person to hold the Watson-Watt Chair of Electrical Engineering at Dundee University.

Also in attendance was Robin Bowden, son of Lord Vivian Bowden of Chesterfield, who had worked with Watson-Watt during the war and also joined him in Canada as a partner in his consultancy. Members of the Watson-Watt Society and Friends of the Town House Museum were also out in numbers to hear the talk.

It was emphasised that the talk was not a history lesson or an explanation of radar but the life story of a Brechin ‘Lad o’ Pairts’ who left his home town and became the central figure in the development of radar during World War II.

Born in Union Street, Watson-Watt was educated at Damacre and Maisondeu schools before leaving Brechin for Dundee to complete his university education. It was Watson-Watt’s 1935 memorandum about the possible use of radio waves to detect incoming, aircraft before they were seen or heard that alerted the authorities to a scientific development that could prove invaluable in any future conflict.

In four short years he led a dedicated and talented team who were able to deploy a radar screen around the British coast that was a vital factor in the 1940 Battle of Britain and prevented the planned invasion of Britain, Operation Sealion, to be postponed.

He was knighted in 1942 for his work and granted the freedom of the burgh by Brechin 1944 and married three times with no children.

He lived and worked in Canada and America at the end of the war and remained there for several years. He returned in later life and spent his time between Pitlochry and London and was an active campaigner for the anti-nuclear movement in the 1960’s. Sir Robert died in 1973 in Glenfeshie near Aviemore and is buried in Pitlochry with his wife, Dame Katherine Trefusis-Fiorbes who pre-deceased him.

One aspect of the talk focused on the oft quoted family link with James Watt, the steam engineer. However, research had been carried out on both families and no link had been established suggesting that the link is anecdotal.

During the interval the sum of £86 was raised and the Friends of the Brechin Town House Museum generously added £50 to make a total of £136. The Watson-Watt Society are already in discussion about providing an inter-active learning facility about Sir Robert Watson-Watt and his work.