Roy Watterson 1935-2013

The Good Old Days Concerts exists because of the life and work of Roy Watterson. One of Roy’s close friends, Toni Richards, penned a beautiful tribute to Roy on the occasion of his passing on 31 July, 2013, and has given us permission to reproduce her tribute below. Thank you, Toni! Thank you, Roy!

Talented Tenor Gave Seniors Golden Days

Roy Watterson was a star of the Australian entertainment industry, a champion of the seniors, a Balmain identity, a father and family man, a loyal friend, a man of honour, and an honest bloke. He also liked a joke: when asked about his favourite sport, he would say “I like nothing better than a brisk read”.

For 32 years, from 1981, Watterson presented about four variety concerts a year for the senior audience. His acts were world class and on occasions he would bring the star attraction from overseas or from interstate to perform.

Watterson was born on February 24, 1935, in Liverpool, England, one of 10 children of Sam and Lillian Watterson. In later life he would tell stories about sharing a bed with his siblings, having basic food on the table but never leftovers, and feeling an expectation that you would go out to work to help support family as soon as you possibly could.

The Watterson children were evacuated to Llansannan, North Wales, during World War II and Roy developed a deep love of Wales, the Welsh people and the language. He considered himself Welsh and was very proud of this heritage. He was also blessed with a pitch perfect beautiful tenor voice and sang for his passage on an ocean liner to Australia in the early 1950s and stayed for a few years. Then he sang his passage back.

However, it wasn’t long before he decided that Australian life was for him and with no singing opportunities available, in 1960 he became a chaperone in the Big Brother Movement and brought 28 young English men out to populate Australia. Back in Sydney, Watterson joined the Welsh church and ultimately settled in Balmain East.

He was a sought-after singer and performed on the club scene, doing many shows including the Black and White Minstrel Show and The Mikado, where he shared a dressing room with a young Reg Livermore. For many years, he was also involved in the organisation for Welsh Choirs touring Australia.

Then the Victorian and NSW governments contracted Watterson to organise and present variety concert tours around country areas for Senior Citizen weeks. He loved the work and also recognised a group in the community that was often neglected – the senior citizens.

So he became an entrepreneur in his own right and Nostalgia Productions’ The Good Old Days concerts began. He had a simple formula – know your audience, give them what they want, at a time they can get there, and at a cost they can afford. Initially he presented variety shows in Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand as well as Sydney, but as a one-man band, after a number of years, he decided to focus his energy on Sydney.

Old-fashioned service was very important to Watterson and he handled the whole operation from beginning to end, doing, among other things, all the ticketing and bookings himself. He rarely put an act on unless he had seen them perform. His comments following the shows ranged from “the oldies wouldn’t like it” to “good but not great” to “it works!” Then you knew he had a winner, and he was invariably right.

He followed the same formula at every concert. He would sing Memories, do a few requests, then for the rest of the show acted as the compere.

Watterson was the longest regular booker of the Sydney Town Hall. In turn, the Town Hall recognised his loyal patronage and in June this year presented him with a framed tribute.

In 1995 Watterson was honoured by Wales for his “contribution to Welsh abroad”, and in 1999 received a Commonwealth Recognition for Senior Australians award. In 2000, he received an Outstanding Achievement award at the Senior Australian of the Year Awards. In 2008, he received the NSW Premier’s Award for services to the community and in 2009 a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the community.

In 1996, Watterson married Yoko. He is survived by their children, Carys, Gwyn and Emlyn and siblings Jean, Pat and Jimmy.

Toni Richards.