Liveryman Andy Watts MBE – A Tribute
On 15th June 2021 we lost one of our great colleagues and friends, Andy Watts. This tribute is published to a man who touched all our lives at both the personal and professional level and who has left a wonderful legacy and some great memories.
4th May 1945 – 15th June 2021
Although a plumber by trade, from an early age Andy showed an interest in music. He was encouraged by his Mother to learn the violin and the piano, but in the longer term his heart was set on playing the drums. He developed his skills as a percussionist and while at school in Somerset he formed a skiffle group with four friends, called The Dusty Road Ramblers. They played in a barn in a village near his home town of Chard and were spotted by a BBC producer and invited to appear on a popular TV programme at that time, “All Your Own” with the renowned broadcaster and later to become Sir Huw Wheldon at the BBC Studios Bristol on 4th September 1960.
Andy also took his Duke of Edinburgh Award at Chard School, where he met the Duke himself on receiving his Bronze Award in 1961. It included a musical element, hence the cymbals in the picture.
Andy progressed on to play with The Roland Halliday Dance Orchestra, which backed Matt Munroe at the Pavilion Theatre Weymouth.
Andy served his plumbing apprenticeship with his family firm, Watts Brothers, before joining the Registered Plumbers Association in 1966. In 1971 he was appointed Executive Director of the Institute of Plumbers, where he was to serve for 35 years.
Watts Bros Circa 1963 left to right Bert Watts, Andy Watts, Billy Watts (Andy’s father), Lilian Watts
In 1973 Andy successfully sought affiliation for the Institute to the Engineers’ Registration Board (superseded by the Engineering Council in 1983). In recognition of the Institute’s role as plumbing’s leading professional body he was responsible for it achieving educational charity status in 1979.
In 1986 he led the centenary celebrations of the Register of Plumbers at London’s Guildhall in the presence of the Lord Mayor. In his quest to achieve statutory registration he supported the 1981 Plumbing Adjournment Debate and after the establishment of the Parliamentary Registration Group in 1987 a follow up Adjournment Debate in 1991.
He was a founder Executive Board Director of the World Plumbing Council (WPC) which was established in 1990 and held the office of WPC Secretary from 1996 – 2008. The WPC Executive Board bestowed its highest honour, the Distinguished Service Award, upon Andy in 2011, one of only a handful of individuals ever to have been given such an accolade. Andy was a driving force behind the WPC forging a close working relationship with the World Health Organisation and subsequent joint publishing of “Health Aspects of Plumbing”, a critically important document that illustrates the important work undertaken by the plumbing industry to ensure public health and safety.
A major contributor to the plumbing industry for more than four decades, Andy was awarded a thoroughly deserved MBE in 1994 for his years of accomplished service and dedication to the plumbing industry. In the words of Russ Chaney, Past President of the WPC, “His long standing commitment to his organisation remains as a model for those of us who serve as chief executives of plumbing industry organisations”. Prior to his retirement from the IPHE in 2006 Andy started the process and application for the Institute to be Incorporated by Royal Charter. It was subsequently bestowed in 2008.
Throughout his working life Andy continued his interest in music and for thirty years he was the drummer with Pete Corrigan’s Band of Hope, which held Sunday lunchtime sessions at the Queens Theatre, Hornchurch playing evergreen standards and Jazz. This group featured two female singers who were later to become famous, Maxine Daniels and Cleo Lane, who married the celebrated band leader, composer & saxophonist Johnny Dankworth. Other well known musicians who guested with the band were the clarinettist Cy Laurie, trumpeters Kenny Ball and Kenny Baker and trombonist Don Lusher among many. In 2003 the band played on the visit of HM the Queen accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of The Queens Theatre.
Andy spoke with the Duke and reminded him that they had met previously when he was 16 on completion of his Bronze Award for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme and showed the Duke the photograph of both of them on that occasion. They agreed how much they had both changed since then!
Andy was also a keen radio “Ham” and devoted much of his leisure time on the airwaves. Even when away at family holiday times he would take his equipment and set it up. He had to learn Morse code and managed with practice to get up to speed and became quite proficient. He was also a member of the Bletchley Park Radio Ham Group, which you can see in the main picture. One of his claims to fame was that he spoke to the former King of Jordan, King Hussein also an avid radio ham who often surfed the airwaves.
After retirement, Andy took the advanced Motoring Test and passed. He joined his area group and became the North East London Secretary for the Institute of Advanced Motorists. He also became involved with the Upminster, University of the Third Age (U3A) and within this a member of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) Group, Beer Group, Politics Group, and Computer & IT Group of which he became the leader.
Andy formed numerous friendships throughout his life and career, which he continued in retirement with several little different lunch sets, including the ‘Kent lunch set’. I’m sure they amongst others will be raising a glass or two to the memory of this warm hearted and witty gentleman.
Andy was admitted to hospital with severe respiratory difficulties on 9th June 2021 and sadly passed away six days later. His funeral will be held on Friday 23rd July 2021 at 12:30pm at the South Essex Crematorium in Upminster. Regretably numbers attending will need to be limited to personal invitations only, but the service will be streamed live for those who wish to attend virtually. Here is the link:
A memorial service is being planned for later in the year.