Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tribute to Raymond Arthur Watts 1931 - 2010

Ray Watts was my first Sergeant when I joined the Police in 1979. I thought then that I was the luckiest new recruit in the Force, and now, looking back some 31 years later, I realize that I most certainly was.

I was just 19, a fresh faced new Constable walking into the Station for the very first time and more than a little apprehensive to meet my first Sergeant, especially as the Constables who all looked stern and twice my age, simply grunted in my direction and turned away. The police Force was very different then to what it is today, and as I waited in the Sergeants Office I had no reason to expect anything but a militaristic figure who would bark out orders that I would instantly jump to.

As it turned out I could not have been more wrong. The door swung open and in walked not a regimental Sergeant Major, but a smiling gentleman of a Sergent who introduced himself in a soft and very dignified Welsh accent as 'Sergeant Watts'. From that very moment I knew that everything would be fine.

Sergeant Watts had that quality about him, I felt instantly that I knew him. His appearance was that of a kindly father figure, a little on the heavy side but very smart and distinguished looking with silver hair and a smile that put me at ease, I knew I was with someone I could trust and depend on. My initial impressions were absolutely correct and in time I would grow to know that this man was everything he appeared to be and much much more.

Sergeant Watts looked after me in those early days like a father watching out for his son. He commanded great respect but in a very gentle way. His manner of leadership was something to behold. He made you want to do good work, he made you want to please him rather than to feel pressured into doing so. Even on that very first morning he asked me if I thought I could make it to the Station for 7am the next morning rather than just giving me the order. He made learning the job fun and when my paperwork contained mistakes, he would return it to me with humorous little notes attached, often starting with the phrase 'I spy with my little eye'

Over the ten years I worked with him Sergeant Watts was always the very essence of competence and quiet confidence. He had that extraordinary ability to look relaxed in a crisis, to never appear flustered, frustrated or angry, and yet somehow, as if by magic, the job was always done. He made everything seem so easy when in reality, his job was far from easy.

The Police Force of the 70's and 80's could be quite a harsh environment to work in where fools were never tolerated, but Ray never had a bad word for anyone, and no one ever had a bad word to say about him. He was a man who genuinely stood above the rest of us. Here was a man of such quiet dignity, that everyone respected regardless of rank. 'He's a true gentleman' was a phrase you often heard associated with him.

I have so many great memories and as I think back on them, there was always laughter. Ray enjoyed life to the full, he enjoyed good food and good conversation. We made each other laugh a lot. I can see him now hunched over in silent laughter, eyes closed with shoulders rocking up and down. I was a bit of a clown back then I suppose, but looking back now I'm happy and proud that I made him laugh so much.

Today, as I paid my final respects to this wonderful man at his funeral, I recognized in myself the pain of a son saying goodbye to a father. Such was depth of feeling this man had given me. If you are lucky in life, you will meet someone very special who will leave a lasting impression upon you. Ray Watts certainly left an impression upon me and I will never forget him. The world seems a lesser place without him in it. He could never have known it, but I really loved, respected and admired him.

'Good night Sarge'

The photograph above is one of the last ever taken of Ray, just weeks before he died.


At 1:47 am , Blogger TerryJ said...

Beautiful Eric. If the world had more people like this, what a wonderful place it would be.

At 9:39 pm , Blogger Eddie P said...

I was very touched by your comments Eric and, knowing what a genuine person you are, I know you really meant them. How wonderful to have had such a good and kind person to watch over you.


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