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British Industrial History

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John Forbes Watson

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Sir John Ballingall Forbes Watson (1879-1952)

1952 Obituary [1]

It is with regret that we have to record the sudden death of Sir John Forbes Watson, K.C.M.G., at his home in London, on Monday, August 25th. Sir John, who was seventy-two, had been the director of the British Employers' Confederation since l921, and his distinguished work for the Confederation did much to establish the status it enjoys to-day.

John Ballingall Forbes Watson was born on October l0, 1879, at Milnathort, Kinrossshire. He was educated at Dollar Academy and at the University of Edinburgh, where he was president of the Union, and at the Universities of Paris, Gottingen and Heidelberg.

He was called to the Scottish Bar before the 1914-18 war, but from 1915-19 Sir John served in the R.F.C. and the R.A.F. He was then called to the English Bar by the Middle Temple.

About this time also he was the secretary of the National Light Castings Ironfounders' Association, later becoming secretary to the body now known as the British Employers' Confederation, of which he shortly afterwards became director.

During his many years in this office he was brought into contact with most leading industrialists, Government Departments, and trade unionists, and he served on several Government committees. He was a member of the British Employers' delegations to the annual conferences of the International Labour Conferences from 1922 onwards; at several he was the chief delegate, and from 1941/47 he was vice-president.

He held a number of distinguished positions in the International Labour Office itself since 1928, and represented that organisation at the World Economic Conference in 1933 and at San Francisco in 1945. He had served on the executive committee of the International Organisation of Employers since 1922, and had been chairman of that committee since 1949. In 1932/33 he was president of the organisation.

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