Henry Watson (1789-1860) followed in his father Andrew Watson’s footsteps in employment in the Limerick Chronicle and politically, becoming an Alderman for the city. He became Mayor of Limerick for three years between 1823 and 1826 and again in 1854.

After his reelection in 1824, the Corporation gave him the honour of being chaired through the city.

Henry Watson’s own newspaper, the Limerick Chronicle, gave a detailed account of the spectacle on October 6, 1824.

The Mayor made several efforts to decline the intended honour, but all would not do; the overwhelming mass was irresistible, their feelings were warm and enthusiastic, and they would gratify them. Finding opposition ineffectual, the procession… returned to the Exchange, whence… the Mayor, surrounded by his friends and immense multitude, reached the Court, and then ascended a chair, borne on the shoulders of his fellow citizens.

The Exchange on Nicholas Street was where the Corporation held their offices. Here they waited as word was sent throughout the city of the impending procession. This gave time for banners to be gathered and a route to be planned.

The procession… proceeded down Bridge Street, preceded by the Trades in a brotherly union, with their several flags waving, carried by their wardens.

The route proceeded straight down what is today O’Connell Street to Glentworth Street, where they turned up towards Boherbouy. Stopping for a moment outside Watson’s house on Glentworth Street to let out three cheers.

[at Boherbouy] the clothiers belonging to Mr Myles’ factory, came out with a fleece of wool which the Mayor wore as a sash during the remainder of the procession, the numerous cockades and favours previously received from other Trades, covered his hat.

Turning back towards the city, the procession crossed Upper William Street at what is now Gerald Griffin Street, then circled John Street and Mungret Street, returning to O’Connell Street via High Street and Thomas Street. By this time the chair carriers would have been completely replaced, but the journey had really only just begun.

[it continued through] Bank Place, Charlotte’s Quay, over Baal’s Bridge, up Mary Street, Castle Street and through Thomondgate to the Mayor’s Stone, returning by the Distillery, then passing on through the Englishtown and Broad Street

The Mayor’s Stone was the Treaty Stone, and it was located nearer to JJ Bowles at the time. The Distillery was on Brown’s Quay.

whence it took the direct route to the New Barracks, where the Commander of the garrison, Sir John Eiley, C. B. met it with the most gracious salute, (which was reciprocal with the chairing party) waving his hat several times and remaining uncovered until the procession passed thence down the Military Road, through the Crescent, loudly cheered by the lovely occupants of the several windows, wine and refreshments being sent out from many places

Nine years earlier, Sir John Eiley’s Household Brigade, were at the Battle of Waterloo. Military Road today is O’Connell Avenue.

At length the procession reached the Mayor’s house, who, after the cheers abated, addressed the several Trades, twelve of whose banners were floating before the chair, in the most feeling and impressive manner, he told them that he was so overpowered by the distinguished honour thus conferred upon him… he was unconscious of having merited so much from them, as, during the year just passed he merely discharged his duty, but return their kindness.

Henry Watson was known as a quirky character outside public office, he would look through every paper and make notes on scraps of paper, which he would put into his hat. When “taking the hat off to a lady” the paper whole flow like confetti about him. “He was High Sheriff several times – there was no public board, of which was not one of the prominent and active members. He was fond of fun, joke, repartee, laughter – and was the same to everyone”.

On March 10, 1860 Henry Watson died following an unsuccessful operation to remove a fish bone that had become lodged in his throat. He was buried with his father in St Munchin’s Churchyard.

Anonymous, The mock chairing of Henry Flood at Winchester, 1784, etching on paper, 9.4 x 6.4cm, British Museum, London, 1868,0808.5328 © The Trustees of the British Museum
Anonymous, The mock chairing of Henry Flood at Winchester, 1784, etching on paper, 9.4 x 6.4cm, British Museum, London, 1868,0808.5328 © The Trustees of the British Museum