23. William Watson (1864-1938), food wholesaler and politician
William Watson was born at Peg Leg near Bendigo. He left school at 13 and worked at a variety of jobs. He arrived in Western Australia in 1895 with his family, a little capital and a horse and cart.
Watson opened his first grocery and tea rooms at the corner of High and Market Streets. More shops followed. He switched his major interest to manufacturing bacon, hams and smallgoods at a factory and abattoir in Hamilton Hill. The enterprise also diversified to making butter and cheese under the Watsonia label.
Known as “Old Bill”, Watson became wealthy, but was always regarded as a good bloke in egalitarian Fremantle. He was conservative politically, but gave freely to the families of the radical Fremantle Lumpers’ Union during strikes.
Watson disliked political parties. He was elected as the independent Federal member for Fremantle in 1922 and again in 1925 when he defeated Labor’s John Curtin by 6000 votes. He did not stand in 1928 and Curtin won. When William Watson died, John Curtin was a pallbearer at his Fremantle funeral. “He was a generous and friendly opponent,” Curtin said.