Harry Watson was born in 1907 in Poplar. He moved to Canning Town in 1911 and lived there until 1931, when, he moved with his family to Southend.
He was a lighterman from 1922 when he was apprenticed until 197I, when he retired.
A union activists at all levels in the Watermen, Lightermen, Tugmen and Bargemen's Union, he was its President from 1959 until it merged with the TGWU in 1971.
He joined the Communist Party in 1941, becoming a member of a Port of London branch covering dockers, stevedores, lightermen, ship repair, and seamen.
Harry was Communist Party parliamentary candidate for Poplar in the 1950 general election. Though once strong in the borough, Party membership had declined to only 55 but, it was thought, could be rapidly increased. In the Borough Council elections the Party had contested two wards and in one received 16% of the Labour vote and 11.5% of the total vote, a pretty good result. In the other ward 13% and 7% was won, compared with the all-London average of 11% and 5.5%.
Now the fulltime organiser for London for the WLTB, it was hoped that as a candidate he would turn the attention of the Poplar branch to the port and its industry generally. In the event a pretty modest general election result was attained.
In 1952, he visited China on a political delegation, an event which the Political Com mittee of the Party thought had enabled him to make a “great political advance among the lightermen”.
In 1964, J. T. Stratford & Sons Ltd won an injunction against the general secretary of the WLTBU and Harry Watson as President to Brixton jail for contempt of court. The firm had been embargoed but the union officials pointed out that only their EC could lift the action – not themselves. The judge wisely decided that a two-day delay between his making an order and the meeting of the WLTBU executive committee was acceptable and dismissed a demand that would certainly have closed the Port of London.
Harry was in his 90s when he died.