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The Christian Watt Papers
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Publication Date
19 April 2012
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Birlinn Limited

The Christian Watt Papers

by Christian Watt - Find out more about the author

'Her papers are a significant Scottish discovery' – Daily Telegraph

'A moving and completely absorbing' – Sunday Telegraph

At the age of forty-seven Christian Watt began to write down recollections of her life; she continued until her death at the age of ninety in 1923. Her tale is a remarkable story, vividly told with a natural narrative gift. She was born into a Fraserburgh fishing family, and spent much of her life gutting and selling fish, and, for a time, working in domestic service, first to the Duchess of Leeds and subsequently travelling to New York to serve as tablemaid to Winston Churchill's grandmother. Hers was a life of constant toil and hardship. The sea brought her family a precarious living and often a violent death: four of her seven brothers, her husband and her favourite son all died at sea. Anxiety and grief eventually led to mental breakdown, and Christian spent the last forty years of her life as a patient in the Cornhill Infirmary. Her treatment there was enlightened and humane; she continued to work and travel and it was there that she wrote, drawing on her vivid memory.

Her writings offer a vivid insight not only into the life of the north-east of Scotland during the middle and later part of the nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, but also on events of national and international interest. Christian was a woman of beauty, character and intelligence, and her writing is fuelled by her sense of family pride, her anger at social injustice, her hatred of war and her profound religious faith. Her courage and compassion are everywhere evident, as is her frankness, spontaneity and insight.

Her papers have remained in her family, but thanks to David Fraser’s careful and sensitive editing are now available to a wider public. He has arranged the papers in a coherent chronology and provided narrative and explanatory links, but for the most part leaves Christian to tell her story in her own words. Previously privately published, this book has not been widely available for many years.

General Sir David Fraser was one of Britain’s most senior generals. He has written biographies of Lord Alanbrooke, William Douglas Home and Frederick the Great. He also wrote And We Shall Shock Them, a history of the British army during the Second World War. He lives in Hampshire.