Born at Minnedosa on 12 August 1904, son of James Snarr Watson and Kathleen “Kate” Carswell (1876-1949), he moved with his family to Winnipeg where he was a student at St. John’s Technical High School. He was the Principal of Salisbury School (1926-1929) in East Kildonan and taught at Cecil Rhodes School (1929-1944) then he worked in life insurance at Crown Life until retirement in 1983.
He began curling at the age of fifteen. He entered his first Manitoba Bonspiel in 1923 and won his first trophy at in 1926 at twenty-one years of age. Watson led his Strathcona rinks to Manitoba championships in 1936, 1942, 1943, and 1949. In addition, his team won national honours and the coveted Brier Trophy in 1936, 1942, and 1949. Under his leadership, his teams were Grand Aggregate Champions in the Manitoba Bonspiel in 1939 as well as the six-year period from 1942 to 1947. In total, his teams won 32 trophies in Manitoba Bonspiel competition. In 1939, he founded and organized the first Provincial High School Bonspiel in Manitoba. He was instrumental in the organization of a national curling school as well as world curling in association with the Scotch Whiskey company, which was the forerunner of the Air Canada Silver Broom competition.
As an administrator and volunteer, Watson served as Chairman of the Manitoba Curling Association Junior Committee, President of the Strathcona Curling Club (1944-1945), President of the Manitoba Curling Association (1952-1953), and Chairman of the Dominion Junior Curling Association Committee. Watson wrote extensively on curling for many newspapers across the country and was the author of several instructional books on curling technique. His film Magic in Curling received an award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
He was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (1969) and held honorary life memberships in the Strathcona Curling Club, Manitoba Curling Association (1954), Canadian Curling Association (1959), Swedish Curling Union, and Canadian School Curling Association. He was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame (1973), Order of Canada (1975), Governor Generals Curling Club, Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (?), Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame (1980), and Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame (1987, 2012). He received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), International Curling Federation's Elmer Freytag Award (forerunner of World Curling Hall of Fame) in 1978.
He died at the St. Boniface Hospital on 21 July 1986. He was inducted posthumously into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame (1987) and his 1936, 1942, and 1949 teams were inducted in 2012. Those same teams were inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2016, he was designated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada a Person of National Historic Significance.
Historic Sites of Manitoba: J. Ken Watson Plaque (Regal Avenue, Winnipeg)
Birth registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 July 1986, page 39.
“Curling legend Watson dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 July 1986, page 64.
Ken Watson, Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
We thank Nathan Kramer, Rick Wishart, and Rick Mutton for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 18 November 2022
This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.
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