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Name: WATSON, James Kerr

Nee: bro of Andrew Macrae and Bertie Watson

Birth Date: 3 Oct 1881 Ayr, Scotland

Death Date: 11 Nov 1955 Nairobi

First Date: 1908 with his brother Andrew Macrae

Profession: Established a building contracting business in Nbi. Built first St Andrew's Church, original MacKinnon Building, Whiteway Laidlaw & numerous other buildings in Nbi. Built Kampala Post Office, Namirembe Cathedral, Uganda.

Area: Nairobi, Athi Plains, 1930 Doonholm

Married: Ellen Elizabeth 'Nell' Kelly b. Ayr 25.12.1885

Children: Hamish (PWD); Lorna; William; Paddy (Fletcher); Nick (Nicol); James Kerr (1910); Eileen Kelly (Fletcher) (1911)

Book Reference: Gillett, SE, KFA, EAWL, Red 25, Red 31, Hut, Curtis, Macmillan, Drumkey, Red 22, Land, Advertiser, Barnes, Leader14, Red Book 1912

War Service: E. Af. Ordnance Dept.

General Information:

SE - J.K. Watson - Aug 1908
Bought land on Athi Plains and with his brother started farming there, going in mostly for dairy cattle, and by end 1909 was supplying milk to Nbi. Later Pres. of the Ayrshire Breeders Soc. & of Agric. Society of EA. Also bred Great Dane dogs. His farm 'Doonholm Dairies' was later managed by his youngest son. He and his wife were both staunch supporters of St Andrew's Church, Nairobi
KFA - At first meeting of Unga Ltd. in January 1909 it was decided to award a contract to Mr J.K. Watson to build a mill in Nairobi.              Source - Mrs Hazel Watson - James was a builder by profession and Andrew an accountant. They had one sovereign left between them. This meant they had to earn money before proceeding to their desired destination. They came to Nairobi and fell in love with Kenya so the idea of proceeding to Rhodesia was forgotten. Being Scotsmen they managed their earnings well and later that year acquired 5,000 acres of land 7 miles South of Nairobi on the Athi plains. They decided to raise cattle and sheep and a nucleus herd of animals was bought from the Masai. J.K. started his own building business teaching local labour in those days there were not very many artisans from India available to assist. The materials used in the buildings he undertook varied from precast concrete (made from imported cement) and the rich locally quarried stone used for the more prestigious buildings that gave walls 18" thick. These included the Muthaiga Club, the Theatre Royal on Sixth Avenue ...... the old and original small St. Andrew's Church which many years later was moved from the site where the Lutheran Church now stands, into the grounds of the new St. Andrew's. Andrew was also involved in some of these projects and it is interesting to note that the removal was undertaken by the Mowlem Construction Co. when his third son Colin was Managing Director. The Nairobi Post Office was a project, on the same site as it has been ever since - the third edition now under construction! Mombasa Post Office, the Uganda Cathedral Namirembe and the National Bank of India, Kampala. Others in Nairobi were the original YMCA building somewhere near the present Kenya Coffee House and Silopark House in Nairobi. Andrew was an enthusiastic founder member of the YMCA and contributed much of his time to its establishment in the growing town. The Exchange Building now preserved as Kipande House was a creation of the Watsons and the brothers were adventurous in constructing the first two-storey stone building in Nairobi which was the premises of Mackinnon Bros. on the site now occupied by Barclays Bank opposite Regal Mansions in the old Government Road. The time was ripe in 1910 for the construction of their own house and this is when the Doonholm property - also double-storeyed was accomplished. The name Doonholm was chosen in memory of their home town. .......  Although an 'o' has been dropped from the word, becoming Donholm, the name still belongs to the area where a housing estate has grown up. The original house still stands and was used as the site office when the estate was constructed a few years ago ...... After the building of the house an all-weather road to Nairobi was needed especially as motor cars were becoming available and a popular means of transport. So Doonholm Road was built. Kavirondo men who worked for the Uganda Railway offered to work on the road in their spare time. They did not require money for doing so but had a happy arrangement of being supplied with abundant game meat from the animals which the brothers shot. This road is now known as Jogoo Road. ........... Running parallel with these activities was always their first love - the developing farm and cattle breeding. Ticks, as always, were a dreadful problem ..... In 1910 the brothers constructed the first cattle dip in EA at Doonholm, ceremonially launched by the then Governor of Kenya, Sir Percy Girouard. .... In 1913 they imported Ayrshire cattle from their home area and crossed these with the local Zebu animals . The brothers commuted to town by pony and milk was taken from the farm to the dairy by mulecart. They had taken over the small dairy named Rosebank as the nucleus for their new venture United Dairies. They also tried ostrich farming ....... but this project did not last long as the ostriches were difficult to handle and were hard to confine, always escaping in the days when no permanent "chain link" type fencing was available. .... (more) .... after WW1 a rift developed between the brothers and the farm was divided. Curtis - p-. 42 - The Watsons of Doonholm - 'Jim Watson with his wife Nell and brother Andrew arrived in Kenya in January 1908. The family were Scottish building contractors from Ayr. Jim brought with him a comprehensive set of his tools, and when the box was being unloaded in Mombasa Old Harbour from the small boat that brought them ashore it proved too heavy for the porters, who sank with it to the bottom. Fortunately the water was not too deep and both porters and tools were recovered. Not long after they reached Nairobi the Watsons bought 5000 acres of grazing land on the Athi plains some 7 miles south-east of Nairobi. Needless to say there was a tick problem because of the teeming game. The brothers' intention was to raise cattle and sheep, the nucleus of the herds being bought from the Masai. Jim duly established a building business and among the early buildings he put up, using pre-cast and cement blocks for walling, were the Post Office on 6th Avenue and the Old St. Andrews Church, completed in 1910. Andrew Watson, by profession an accountant, took a job with the Agricvultural Dept. to help raise capital for the development of the farm. He lived at Doonholm and commuted to and from his Nairobi office on a mule. To overcome the tick problem the brothers built the first cattle dip in Kenya in the year 1910, the opening of which was attended by the Governor. Once the ticks had been controlled the Watsons imported Ayrshire cattle from Scotland, and their younger brother Bertie brought them out with him in 1913. These cattle formed the nucleus of the Doonholm Ayrshire Herd, which later won many prizes at Agricultural shows. Macmillan - 1930 - Much could be written about the interesting and useful business which Mr Watson has built up with such manifest enterprise and ability. The charming homestead in which he and his family live was built by him, for it was as a builder that he began business at Nairobi in 1908. He it was who erected the first two-storey structure in the town viz. the premises of Mackinnon Bros on the site now occupied by Barclays Bank in Sixth Avenue. Amongst the other edifices built by Mr Watson may be mentioned the Theatre Royal, Exchange Buildings, YMCA Building, Muthaiga Club, St. Andrews Church, Nairobi, Uganda Cathedral, Namirembe, Kampala, National Bank of India, Kampala, and Post Office, Mombasa etc. He began his dairying activities by taking over in 1910 the small dairy which had been established under the name of Rosebank Dairy, and which had been the first undertaking of the kind in the country
Land - 1912 - James K. Watson - Grazing and agricultural, 1153.74 acres - Ngong - 25/5/10 - Leasehold for 99 years from 30/12/11 - Registered 21/2/12
Advertiser - 21/8/1908 - Advert - Jas. K. Watson, Government Road - Joiner, Builder & Contractor
Advertiser - 4/9/1908 - Subscribers for St. Andrews Church Building Fund - J.K. Watson - Rs. 45
Barnes - Nairobi City Park Cemetery - James Kerr Watson, died 11 Nov 1955 aged 74
Gazette 6 Mar 1956 d.11 Nov 1955 probate
Leader14 - Business Register - Jas. K. Watson, Builder and Contractor, Nairobi, Kampala
Red Book 1912 - Jas. Watson - Builder & Contractor, Nairobi
Gazette - 12/11/1919 - Register of Voters - Nairobi, North Area - James Kerr Watson - Farmer, Doonholm
Gazette - Voters List 1936 - James Kerr Watson, Farmer, Doonholm, Nbi
[Was he married before, to Helen Greenlees b. 1862 and had 4 children with her? See Ancestry family tree]

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