Home Industry and Commerce Mining Friend of Miners and Officer of the Grand Priory – Mr Robert Watkin

Friend of Miners and Officer of the Grand Priory – Mr Robert Watkin

May 1937

Mexborough and Swinton Times May 21, 1937

The death occurred on Wednesday Mr Robert Watkin, of Holly House, Darfield, a well-known South Yorkshire mining engineer, general manager and director of Dearne Valley colliery.

He had been ill for about three weeks and failed to rally from a slight operation.

Friend of Miners

Mr Watkin’s death removes an outstanding figure from the industrial life of South Yorkshire. He was a man of wide experience, strong character and high integrity.

The mutual understanding he developed with employees at Dearne Valley colliery was a model of good relationship. He lived a full and useful life and devoted a great part of his time to the service of others.

Mr Watkin was passionately devoted to ambulance work, with which he had been actively associated for half a century. Some six years ago Mr Watkin had conferred upon him one of the highest honours the ambulance movement can a card, when he was appointed, on the highest possible recommendations, an officer in the Grand Priory in the British Realm of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.

A Son of The Mine

The son of a colliery official, Mr Watkin was born to married life at Munton colliery Durham. He began work in the mine at the age of 12 and, supplementing what education he had gathered at the elementary schools by attending technical classes, he was appointed Surveyor at Cortonwood colliery, Wombwell, at the age of 20.

Seven years later he was appointed under manager at Cortonwood, and served in that capacity from 1888 to 1901, when he was appointed manager for the Tunstall Call and Iron Company, North Staffordshire.

In 1903 he became general manager of the Dearne Valley Colliery, Little Houghton, commencing an association with that firm week has lasted for 34 years and has been very happy and successful for all concerned.

Under Mr Watkins wise incapable direction, Dearne Valley colliery has been intensively developed and modernised, and in 1924 he was appointed to the board of directors. His knowledge of mining was unique and he was often consulted on problems relating to the practical side of the industry. He was always ready to encourage individual effort and was especially helpful to young people. He was a past president of the Yorkshire Branch of the National Association of Colliery Managers.

Mr Watkin had a high opinion of the value of ambulance work. He joined the ambulance class in Wombwell in the early 80s and was connected with the centre until 1901, when he formed at Darfield a class of which he has since been president. Since 1906 he has been honorary secretary of the Wath division of the Yorkshire Collieries Ambulance League.

To Mr Watkin himself the crowning point of his life of achievement, was the award to him, of the ambulance title of Officer of the Grand Priory. This is the fourth and highest order, and is held by most of the members of the Royal Priory.

High Tributes

The memorandum in support of his nomination was signed by all the leading figures in the ambulance movement in this part of South Yorkshire, and stated:

“Hs knowledge and organising ability, coupled with his enthusiasm for the work, approved of the utmost value in carrying out the objects of the South Yorkshire College Ambulance League. He has always enjoyed the confidence of the men engaged in competitive work. Is strict impartiality and sense of justice have never once been questioned. His work is done with geniality and good temper, so necessary to the success of it because of this kind. Few men have worked so devoutly, so nobly and with less thought of personal reward and Mr Watkin.”

In his earlier life Mr Watkin took more than a passing interest in public life. At the time of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 was a member of the old One Wombwell School Board, and he continued in that capacity for many years after. At the time of his death he was chairman of the Wombwell Old Age Pension subcommittee and a member of the Court of Referees at the Employment Exchange Barnsley.

Is interest our lay largely in the industrial and engineering fields. It was a firm friend of hospital work and all charitable movements. His passing is a great loss, not only to Darfield but South Yorkshire generally. A flag flying at half mast symbolises the sympathy and respect of the Dearne Valley colliery staff and employees.

Mr Watkin, whose wife died 12 years ago, is a succeeded by five sons and three daughters. His sons are all engineers or industrialists in various capacities.

Mr Matthew Watkin is a mining engineer at Sheffield. Mr Robert Watkin is a mining engineer at Whitley Bridge, near Selby. Mr W Clifford Watkin is a quarry owner at Darfield. Mr Fred Watkin is a coal factor at St Annes on Sea, and Mr Charles Watkin is an officer at Dearne Valley colliery.

Typical of his philanthropy was his devotion to the care of Belgian referees during the war. For this he was specially decorated by the late King Albert of the Belgians with the Order of the Palm of Gold.

The interment is to take place at Darfield cemetery tomorrow.

Mexborough and Swinton Times, May 1937

Mr Clarence Egger Hirst, the youngest son of Mr GH first and the late Mr George Harriers, M.P., was married at Darfield parish church in Whit Tuesday to Miss Iva Bell of 85 Wath Rd, Brampton