Papers of Rev David Watson, 1859-1943, Church of Scotland minister, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Notes from Chaplaincy at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow (copy of hand-written text) 1910-1914;
  • Transcription of Notes from Chaplaincy at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow (by David G M Watson) c 1990s.

Administrative / Biographical History

David Watson was born in 1859  . His father, David, worked in the boot and shoe trade. David attended Alva Academy, but left at the age of 12, after the death of his father the previous year, to become an apprentice in the provision trade. During his apprenticeship he attended evening classes, and by the time he was16 had developed an interest in entering the ministery. With the help of his minister, Mr Kelly, Watson began to learn Greek and Latin, and won a bursary to attend university to study Arts and Divinity.

Watson started at the University of Glasgow , Scotland in 1877  . In his first two years he studied Latin and Greek before going on to study Logic and Mathematics. In 1880-1881  he studied Moral Philosophy, Physics and English Literature before going on in the next academic year to study further mathematics. In 1881-1882  Watson moved from the Arts Faculty to the Faculty of Theology, having attained the Logan Bursary which was tenable for four years. He took junior Hebrew lessons, Church History and Divinity classes. He then went on to take senior classes in Church History, Divinity and Biblical Criticism and further Divinity classes. During his time at Divinity Hall, he coached Glasgow High School and other pupils for entrance to the University. He was also Vice-President of the University Missionary Society, and left the Glasgow Hall in March 1884  , after "seven laborious years".

Once David Watson had been licenced to practice as a minister, he was appointed assistant to the Rev A Fyfe Burns of St George's Parish in Paisley in preparation for holding his own parish. Watson then moved on to practice at St Clements, in Brook Street, Mile-end, Glasgow from 1886  . This particular part of Glasgow was one of the poorest and most deprived areas of the city.

During his time at St Clements, Rev Watson became increasingly active in founding clubs and various amenities to help the working people and children in the area. He welcomed the Glasgow Workmen's Dwellings Company that improved the housing stock within the city, and was a member of the Housing Committee of Kyrle Society that managed property within the area. Rev Watson also formed a Rambling Club as well as the George Court Club which was a clubroom for men to meet, read, play dominoes and draughts, as well as a venue for talks, and to provide a Sunday School for the children of George Court. In 1901  he founded the Scottish Christian Social Union , a recognised centre for Christian influence in social, civic and national life, and opened a club in the church hall for young men to prevent them from hanging about the street. It was around this time too that he started the Guild of Play which was set up for the children of the area.

It was in 1908  that Rev Watson wrote a text book on "Social Problems and the Church's Duty" and became involved with the Scottish Council for Women's Trade , which he was later chairman of and worked alongside Margaret Irwin of the Glasgow branch. Rev Watson had an abiding interest in social work and attended relevant conferences. He was especially concerned with the local housing conditions and served on committees of the Presbytery of Glasgow investigating conditions in model lodging houses. His report on housing conditions led to the Glasgow Presbytery Lodging-House Mission (still in operation today as a day centre, drop-in cafe and church for Glasgow's homeless, hostel dwelling and resettling communities), and the Glasgow Corporation insisted on improved management and stricter supervision of lodging-houses. He also submitted evidence to the Royal Commission on Scottish Housing in 1913  .

Outside of his St Clements Parish work, Rev Watson had been asked by Lord Polworth and the Prison Commissioners for Scotland to become the chaplain at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow in December 1909  after the departure of Rev Andrew Miller . He held this position for five years in conjunction with his regular parish work at St Clements. He also served on various General Assembly Committees (Home Mission, Life and Work, and Social Work) and spoke at the General Assembly Church Congresses, representing the Church at three different conferences: Liverpool , 1920  ; Birmingham , 1924  ; and Stockholm , 1925  . He was invited by Edinburgh University to deliver the Gunning Lectures for 1910-11  which were later published as Social Advance: It's Meaning, Method and Goal . He then became an Honorary Graduate of the University of Glasgow , having been awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity on Commemoration Day on 20 June 1913  . In 1917  , Rev Watson gave 15 lectures at Queen's College in Belfast , which were later were published as The Social Expression of Christianity . Rev Watson was also an active member of the Rechabites, Foresters, Ancient Druids, and identified himself with the Charity Organisation Society during its 50 years of service.

Rev David Watson was married to Janet Martin and they were together for 45 years until her death in 1932  . David and Janet had two sons, John and David, as well as three daughters. Rev David Watson died on 5 November 1943  . Source: Chords of Memory by David Watson, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, Edinburgh and London, 1937.


Arranged chronologically within record series.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposit : Dr D G M Watson : Nov 2000 and Oct 2002 : ACCN 1993 & ACCN 2288

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

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Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 0248 procedures

Custodial History

Material held by Reverend Watson and his family prior to deposit


None expected

Related Material

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Location of Originals

Original notes with Dr D G M Watson


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives,ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999 and National Council on Archives,Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds and lower level descriptions compiled by Andrew Thomson, Assistant Archivist (Cataloguing), 02 June 2005. Finding aid created by Andrew Thomson, Assistant Archivist (Cataloguing), 02 June 2005. Amendments made by Vikki Laidlaw, Assistant Archivst (Cataloguing), March 2007. Catalogue edited by Michelle Kaye, Archives Assistant, 25 September 2012.

Geographical Names