Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group

Mary Watson's family
Four generations of the Nattrass family at Hill House. Mary is on the right.

The late Mrs Mary Watson (neé Nattrass) was an invaluable source of information on the economic and social life of the residents of Holme St Cuthbert’s parish. Her memories formed an important part of the book “Plain People”.

Mary and her brother, Thomas, were born at Hill House, Salta where her parents, Thomas and Edith Nattrass farmed. From the age of five, she attended Holme St Cuthbert’s School, walking four-and-a-half miles each day. She left junior school on winning a Longcake Scholarship to the Tomlinson Girls’ Grammar School in Wigton. At first, Mary cycled to Silloth each day to catch a bus for Wigton then a bus was arranged to take pupils from Mawbray straight there. During her teenage years, she had become a Sunday School teacher at the Methodist Chapel in Mawbray and also played the organ there.

Mary left the Tomlinson School in 1939 to become a boarder at Newton Rigg Agricultural College, near Penrith.

She studied Poultry and Dairy Management. On the outbreak of war, she was photographed on a tractor and this shot (on the right) was used in recruitment posters for the Women’s Land Army.

Mary eventually had to leave the college to help on the family farm due to the severe labour shortage caused by the war.

In 1942, Mary married James Watson of High Laws. At first, they lived in the house at Salta, now known as ‘Three Chimneys’. James's parents moved to Orchard Farm, Mawbray and so Mary and James took Brookside Cottage in order to help them there.

Eventually they moved to Orchard House and took over the farm themselves. Later, they moved just over the road to a bungalow. James became increasingly disabled, dying in 1989. By this time their son, Geoffrey, and his wife Jean were running the farm.

Mary Watson driving tractor

James Watson in home guard uniform at Hill House, Salta.

Mary continued to live in the bungalow and took an active role in church and social activities. She too became disabled but was still able to participate fully in village life with the unfailing help of Geoff and Jean.

She was admitted to hospital in July 2004 and died peacefully in Wigton Hospital on February 21, 2005.

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Mary Watson (1922-2005)