Sunday, September 12, 2010

Angus Watson and Co. Limited

While on holiday in Norway in the summer of 1903, Angus Watson had a brilliant idea. He had been observing the local fishermen landing their catch and noticed that many of the smaller fish were discarded and thrown back into the water. He asked a local fisherman why this should be so and was told that there was no demand for such small fish.

Watson did not agree. He was sure that he could import the unwanted fish and sell them in the U.K.

Watson returned home to Newcastle and rented a small warehouse hardly larger than a room. He employed one man and a youngster to help him. Angus Watson and Co. was born.

As Watson had anticipated, the business was a huge success. The small fish became known as Skippers sardines.In 1921 Watson was able to open a factory to actually can the fish he had been importing. The firm continued to expand rapidly as other canned food products were added to the fish they were selling. By 1928 the number of employees had risen dramatically to 10,000.

In 1961 Angus Watson and Co Limited merged with two other fish canning companies to form John West Foods. Since 2006 John West has been owned by MW Brands.

By Mark Matlach


  1. I have a watch from my great grandfather Charles Kennedy who worked for Angus Watson from 1924 to 1939.

  2. My Great Aunt Doris Simpson was Sir Angus's P.A. and worked for him in the North East before relocating with the company for 8 years in London during WW2.

  3. When Sir Angus Watson died, he bequeathed his large house in the Jesmond area of Newcastle to Newcastle University. I had the pleasure of living in a top floor flat in that house from 1962 to 1968. One day we showed members of his family around the house, to show how the University had adapted it, but looked after it.

  4. well so I have just established " Sir Watson" was the father of my Illegitimate mother and therefore my Grandfather