Obituary: Jenny Watson, Councillor and Children’s Safeguarder

Jenny Watson was a respected councillor
Jenny Watson was a respected councillor
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Fearless, feisty, forthright, Jenny Watson was a woman passionate about helping others, just as at ease with royalty as she was fighting for her constituents and the wellbeing of countless children.

Born: 10 September, 1931 in Aberdeen. Died: 7 September, 2016, in Crathes, Aberdeenshire, aged 84

Although young people were at the heart of her concern she, along with her husband scientist and mountaineer Dr Adam Watson, shared a profound interest in the environment with Prince Charles, with whom they became friends.

He at Balmoral, and they at their home at Crathes near Banchory, adored the glorious Scottish countryside, and when she joined the board of the Cairngorms Partnership she took a strong line on conservation.

She helped the prince, known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, to put pressure on the Scottish Government to take a more sensitive line for bridges and roads in rural areas such as Glen Dye in Aberdeenshire.

But she was perhaps best known for her compassion, evident over decades of public service when she focused on children, spending 20 years as a member of the Children’s Panel and a decade as a Children’s Safeguarder, representing vulnerable children in hearings and the courts and winning every case.

Born in Aberdeen, she was adopted and raised in the city’s Chapel Street by her mother’s sister Georgina Mortimer and her husband Joe Raitt. Together they went hillwalking and camping in the post-war summers. A bright youngster, she gained a scholarship to the Aberdeen’s Central School and then became a secretary/assistant to the statistician D.J. Finney FRS at Aberdeen University. Adam Watson was in the nearby department of natural history and her first trip to the hills with him was in late 1954. They married early the following year.

They later lived at Inverdon and then Glen Esk, where Adam was studying red grouse,before moving to the Banchory area, where Mrs Watson devoted herself to their two children, Jenny and Adam. By the early 1970s she had become one of the first members of the Children’s Panel, always ensuring that the children came first and not afraid to challenge officials and social workers who were on the receiving of her displeasure when things needed to be sorted out.

She was subsequently a Safeguarder – a Scottish government appointment – and excelled at both providing thorough reports on the youngsters and their families and at encouraging children to speak out. She served on the Parole Board for several years.

Her great strength was her deep understanding of human nature and her intense moral fibre. She detested injustice, was principled in how she felt people should be treated and fought hard for causes in which she believed. She was elected a councillor for Banchory on the former Kincardine and Deeside District Council and became chairman of its environmental health committee. Then, after six years as a district councillor, in 1995 she was elected as an Independent to represent Banchory East and Crathes on the new Aberdeenshire Council where she was a member of the ruling administration of Liberal Democrats and Independents. She also served as vice-chairman of its infrastructure services committee and represented the council on the Cairngorms Partnership Board, Aberdeen Airport Advisory Committee, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and was a director of the Enterprise North East Trust Ltd from 2002-2007.

Her popularity in the Banchory area was reflected in her success at the ballot box and she was re-elected in 1999 and 2003 before opting to stand down in 2007. Long after she held any official role, people still went to her for help and advice.

“Jenny was a straight-talking and colourful political figure,” said Councillor Hamish Vernal, Provost of Aberdeenshire. “She was well-liked across the council chamber and a passionate contributor to the business of this council. She left a great legacy.”

A woman of many varied interests – skilled in silversmithing, tapestry and sewing – she had a particular fondness for the theatre and pantomime. She was the first member of the Krazy Kat Theatre company committee, formed in 1982, and was treasurer until last year, supporting and promoting its work for more than 30 years.

She also co-wrote and produced seven pantomimes in Crathes Hall and in Aboyne in which she was always the Old Fairy – a perfect reflection of her sparky character and sense of humour.

At her own request there was no funeral service. She is survived by her husband, Adam, daughter Jenny and son Adam.