There is an old Irish song that says “going to a wedding was the making of another”. That may have been so in G.L. Watson’s case, albeit events moved forward in decidedly slow motion.
In 1881, George’s sister Ellen got married to George Beattie, an Edinburgh Timber importer. The ceremony took place at the parish church in the Clydeside village of Inverkip, where the Watson family had their summer house, Ellenbank.
Also present was a distant cousin of Watson’s mother, Fanny Lovibond, and her six lovely daughters, all of whom lived in London. Fanny’s husband was a well-to-do Greenwich brewer. At that time Marie Lovibond was just 9 years old and no doubt failed to register with George.
That said, from 1883 onwards a mysterious Miss Lovibond starts to appear in the list of dignitaries who attend the launches of G.L. Watson’s larger steam yachts.
They were friends for 20 years, although the exact point in time at which George started to court her is not known. What is clear, however, is that an impediment stood in the way of true love. George lived with his mother until her death in August 1902 and it may well have been that his mother emotionally blackmailed George into remaining single until she departed. Certainly the relationship between son and mother was unusually close. When his mother suffered a severe stroke in 1901, Marie travelled North to help nurse her – clearly that move was not entirely altruistic.
Whilst those letters from George to Marie that have survived do not reveal George as a great romantic, they certainly show him as a man of great good humour, and one who was keen to show that he was anxious for Marie’s welfare.
They were finally wed in Putney Parish Church, West London, on 10 June 1903. George’s two supporters were also his two most high profile clients – the Earl of Dunraven and Sir Thomas Lipton. Getting Lipton to attend was no small feat – Lipton declared in the Press after the service that it had been the first wedding he had ever attended.
Martin Black’s exquisite biography: G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design can be purchased online here.