James MacPherson Wattie

Quick Info

17 November 1862
Aberdeen, Scotland
6 January 1943
Glasgow, Scotland

James Wattie studied at Aberdeen and Oxford. He taught for a while at George Watson's College in Edinburgh and the Church of Scotland Training College in Aberdeen before becoming a Schools Inspector.


James Wattie was born in the parish of St Nicholas, in the centre of the city of Aberdeen. His parents were Alexander Wattie (1829-1864) and Betsey McPherson (1828-1915), born in Strachan, Kincardineshire. James was the third of his parents' three children, having two sisters, Annie Wattie and Sarah E Wattie who were ten and two years older than him respectively. His father died when he was two years old and his mother Betsey Wattie supported the family working as a school teacher. At the time of the 1871 census the family were living at Hillhead of Auchattie on the south side of the River Dee from Banchory in Kincardineshire. Betsey was teaching in the parish school of Banchory Ternan in the small town of Banchory. Annie was an apprentice dressmaker while Sarah and James were both at school. James went on to attend Old Aberdeen Grammar School before he matriculated at the University of Aberdeen in 1879. At the time of the 1881 census Betsey and her daughter Sarah were living in the School House at Milton of Tullich, Glenmuick, Aberdeenshire where Betsey was a teacher. James was a student at the University of Aberdeen living as a boarder at 21 King Street, Aberdeen with Peter Diack, his wife Mary and four children. We note at this stage that one of Peter and Mary Diack's children was Katherine Carney Diack whom James later married. James graduated from the University of Aberdeen with an M.A. in 1883 with First Class Honours in Classics and First Class Honours in Mathematics.

After studying at Aberdeen, Wattie went to the University of Oxford, matriculating at Pembroke College on 30 January 1884 where he was a Henney Scholar:-
Certain relatives and friends of the Rev Thomas Frederick Henney, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Pembroke College, who died in 1859, to testify to his services and do honour to his memory, subscribed a sum of money to found a Scholarship, to be called the Henney Scholarship, subject to such conditions and regulations as the College shall from time to time determine.
Wattie was First Class in Classical Mods in 1885. (Mods is the name of the first public examination for the degree of B.A. at Oxford.) He was First Class in Mathematical Mods in 1885. He was First Class in Lit. Hum. (literae humaniores, the name of the examination for the B.A. at Oxford) in 1887.

After he received his B.A. from Oxford, Wattie taught at George Watson's College, Edinburgh from 1887 to 1893. He married Katherine Carney Diack (born in Aberdeen 1864, died 1931) in Old Machar, Aberdeen in 1892; they had four daughters, Mary Frances Carney Wattie (born 1892 in Old Machar, Aberdeen), Katherine B McPherson Wattie (born 1896 in Old Machar, Aberdeen), Nora Isabel Wattie (born 1899 in St Andrew, Edinburgh) and Margaret Patricia McPherson Wattie (born 1903 in Monifieth).

He became a lecturer in English at the Church of Scotland Training College in Aberdeen in 1893. In 1897 he became one of His Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in Edinburgh. Scotland had first appointed His Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in 1840. The task of inspectors was to report:-
... what improvements in the apparatus and internal management of schools, in school management and discipline, and in the methods of teaching have been sanctioned by the most extensive experience.
After three years in Edinburgh, living at 12 Inverleith Gardens, he moved to Keith, in Banffshire. At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at Earlsmount in Regent Street, Keith. This very large house, built on behalf of Colonel C George in 1869, was in fine gardens overlooking the River Isla. The family had two servants, a general domestic and a nurse.

The posting in Keith lasted around four years after which he was based in Broughty Ferry, a town on the estuary of the River Tay a few miles from Dundee. In Keith, the family lived at Linton in Strathern Road. After two years he returned to his native city of Aberdeen. In Aberdeen the Wattie family lived first at 60 Queen's Road, next at 1 Rubislaw Dens, then at 14 Hamilton Place. In 1910 he was appointed Chief Inspector of Schools, and at the time of the 1911 Scottish Census the family were living in Old Machar, Aberdeen. In 1927 Wattie became Senior Chief Inspector of Schools in Scotland; he retired in the same year.

After he retired, Wattie had several articles published with contributions to the Year Book of Education, 1932 where he wrote Chapter 5, Scotland: elementary education; the English Association's Essays and Studies contributing the articles The Grammarian and his Material (1930) and Tense (1931); and the Transactions of Glasgow Philosophical Society in which he published A discourse on parody (read before the Society on 17 October 1928, published 1929).

We note that James and Katherine Wattie's daughter Katherine won a bursary to Aberdeen University in 1912-13:-
The third bursar was Miss Katherine B MacPherson Wattie (seventeen), a daughter of Mr James MacPherson Wattie, H.M. Inspector of Schools. She was educated at the Aberdeen High School for Girls, and won the Town Council Gold Medal for University Subjects as dux of the school recently.
Wattie joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in January 1889 when he was teaching English at George Watson's College, Edinburgh. He remained a member of the Society through his career, leaving the Society around 1921. After his death in 1943, when he was living at 24 Burnbank Gardens, Glasgow, he was buried in Allenvale Cemetery, Aberdeen. We note that, throughout his life, his favourite recreation was walking.

After Wattie died in 1943 his daughters Nora Isabel Wattie MB ChB (Assistant Medical Officer in the Public Health Department in Glasgow), Mary Frances Carney Wattie MA (married name Gant after her marriage to Thomas Harold Gant in 1921), Katherine B McPherson Wattie MA (married name Cope after her marriage to Thomas Cope), and Margaret Wattie (married name Espinasse after her marriage to the professor of zoology Paul Gilbert 'Espinasse), founded the Wattie Prize in Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Aberdeen. The prize is:-
... to commemorate the name of James Macpherson Wattie, their father, the prize is awarded annually to the best candidate in English Language in the English Honours examination, provided that his or her work shows distinction.
You can read a little about Wattie's daughter Nora Isabel Wattie at THIS LINK.

References (show)

  1. Bursars, Aberdeen University Review Vol 1 (Aberdeen University Press, 1914), 104.
  2. James MacPherson Wattie Prize, The Aberdeen University Calendar (Aberdeen University Press, 1975).
  3. James MacPherson Wattie, ancestry.co.uk.
  4. Wattie, James, List of Ordinary Members Session 1901-02, Edinburgh Mathematical Society.
  5. Wattie, James MacPherson, in Who Was Who (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Additional Resources (show)

Other pages about James Wattie:

  1. Nora Isabel Wattie

Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update March 2021