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Watson Mills Celebrating 70 Years Consecutive Service
Sunday 10th April 2016
On Sunday 10th April a packed church at Kilbixy joined in the Thanksgiving Service for 70 years
of consecutive service of Watson Mills on the Parish Select Vestry.
Rev. Alastair Graham Mullingar Union of Parishes led the service which included a dedication of plaque to honour Watson for his commitment to the Select Vestry in the parish.
Watson was first elected to the Vestry in 1946 and continues to serve with both distinction and influence, now in his 90th year. His service of 70 years is a truly remarkable achievement and demonstrates so clearly his firm commitment to serve God and his Church.
Watson was born in a nursing home in Mount Street in Dublin, the elder brother of John. They both had the privilege of growing up in the picturesque village of Ballynacargy in Westmeath, where their father ran a local drapery shop. Watson’s father was from the locality and his mother came from Abbeyleix in Co. Laois. As a young man Watson took over the running of the shop and expanded the drapery shop to include hardware and all other household items. He was very successful in his business and won the admiration and loyalty of the village as customers. However, in addition to his business, Watson generously embraced a spirit of service to both the church and the wider community. In all the myriad of different activities he was to the fore, whether it was fishing and shooting, as founder of the village Tennis Club in 1948, or his invaluable contribution to the Kilbixy Historical and Heritage Society where his knowledge of local history is legend and he, himself, is revered as an historian.
Perhaps his most lasting contribution was his work on the restoration of the Royal Canal which started with other local people in 1974. At that time, the Royal Canal in that part of Westmeath had become totally dysfunctional, without any water, and had become something of an eyesore and dump. With Watson’s influence and leadership, the local group in Ballynacargy undertook an amazing restoration which saw the Canal extended to the river Shannon. The Canal now runs freely through the village and has become one of the most picturesque features in this beautiful pastoral part of the County of Westmeath.
Watson’s commitment to improving the environment also extended to the Tidy Towns, when he became one of the founding members. The village is now a delight to visit and is greatly admired by all visitors.
Watson’s life has been grounded in his faith and commitment to God. His love of God has engendered in him an amazing sense of vocation and he has, with great delicacy and sensitivity, ensured that the very historic church of Kilbixy has been properly restored. It is now one of the most historical sites in the country, where it is only one of two churches that had a Leper Hospital in the church grounds and the remains of the hospital are still visible today. In Watson’s time Ballynacargy was an oasis of goodness and adventure for young children to grow up in and he and his brother, John, enjoyed an enchanting childhood and the benefits of that lived with them all their lives. This enchanting upbringing took place without any religious bigotry and was surrounded by a great social life which was enjoyed by young and old alike.
At the lunch in Bloomfield following the service four people Johnathon Mills, Eleanor Murtagh , Norman Black, Ruth Illingworth got to make a speech about Watson and pay tribute to the contribution he made in so many areas – after that Watson himself addressed the room with a witty and poignant speech recalling memories over the past eight or nine decades. It was a wonderful way to end the day to hear from such a powerful witness how time has made it possible for Christians from all walks of faith to celebrate together.
“It was wonderful to witness and share in the celebrations with the large congregation of family, friends and parishioners that gathered on Sunday to offer their thanks to God for a truly wonderful human being who has embraced the finest of Christian values and standards and whose ecumenical spirit has helped to create a lovely Christian atmosphere and ethos in Ballynacargy, which is, along with Watson’s distinguished service to God’s church, a beacon of light that is an inspiration to the whole of Ireland and beyond. May God continue to bless Watson with good health and happiness and may his good influence continue to be felt in all aspects of our church and society.” Rev. Alastair Graham