Timeless timepiece (Object 83)

Dad's watch

Dad’s watch

My Dad, as I have noted in previous posts, was originally a watchmaker by trade. He served his apprenticeship at T.S. Cuthbert in Glasgow, as proven in this document found in the archives, signed by Cuthbert himself:


Dad’s apprenticeship letter

He remained employed by T.S. Cuthbert until 1946 when, aged 33, he left to set up a watch and clock repair business with his brother Robert and their friend Bill Young. His boss at Cuthbert’s, J.H. Stanton Crosthwaite, wrote the following testimonial on his departure:

“Mr James R__ has been in my employment for 18 years, and I have pleasure in stating that he is a  first class watch repairer in all branches of his trade. He is highly skilled in the repair of complicated watches and gave me complete satisfaction.
He leaves me of his own accord to start out in business for himself and carries from me every good wish.”

The fact that their business was not a financial success was down to the socialist principles of the three watchmakers, who couldn’t bring themselves to charge poorer customers for their work.
For his apprenticeship, Dad had to build a watch from scratch, and he gave the finished product to his father. When Grandad died the watch returned to its maker. The watch pictured here, however, isn’t that one, which was inherited by Brother 1, his eldest son, when Dad died. This watch was Dad’s own, inherited by Brother 2. The remarkable thing about it though is the inscription on the back, which I didn’t even know about until after Dad died:


“Eleanor to Jim, 14/7/51”

So this watch must have been an engagement gift from Mum to Dad. It mirrors the inscription found inside her engagement ring, but it surprises me for two reasons. Firstly, a watch seems a strange choice of gift for a watchmaker. Secondly, I don’t think it was a common occurrence, in those days, for a woman to present an engagement gift to her fiance. Whilst my mother, as a Communist, held radical and progressive political beliefs, I never thought of her as particularly feminist in her outlook; she still seemed, for example, committed to the traditional gender role of housewife and mother. However, the more I get to know about her and her early life in my trawl through the archives, the more I have come to realise just how wrong I may have been. Women like my mother, in the 1940s and 1950s, paved the way for the full feminist revolution of the 1970s. So thank you, Mum!

This watch, however, is a token of love, not a political statement. The love my parents held for each other, to the end of their lives and beyond into ours today, is timeless.


About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
This entry was posted in 1900-1929, 1930-1949, 1950s, Clocks and watches, Dad, Mum, Parents and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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