George Chale Watson, the eldest son of Captain George Watson. The family arrived in Van Dieman’s Land on the Resource on 28 December 1830. The ‘Resource’, 417 ton with 4 guns, left London 26 July1830 carrying goods and 37/50 passengers. Sailing via Rio and Cape Town it arrived in Hobart Town 28 Dec 1830.
Master George Watson spent many of his formative years in the ship building yards of Battery Point Hobart. Amongst old nautical associates of these early years was Captain Goodman, a sea captain who was lost in a typhoon off the coast of China and never seen again. Captain Goodman was deeply mourned and affectionately remembered by a very large circle of relatives and friends of the Watson house.
George Chale Watson was educated in a grammar school in Launceston Tasmania. He did his groundwork as a surveyor under the tuition of James Bonwick, the celebrated Australian Geographer. It was under Bonwick’s tuition that Watson acquired a preliminary acquaintance with traversing and triangulation, the fundamental elements of a profession he was destined to take a prominent role in.
Once gold was discovered in Victoria Tasmania was eclipsed by the ‘bright prospects’ of the goldfields and Tasmanian colonists left in droves.
Widowed after the untimely death of Elizabeth Willis during childbirth Watson departed for Victoria, leaving the child with family. He went to Echuca where he took up employment as the manager of a store selling provisions to travellers pushing inland.
The year 1861 proved to be formative in the shaping of Watson’s life and career. It was in 1861 that the discoveries of the ill fated Burke and Wills expedition revealed so much about Central Australia. During this time Watson was managing the store, using his free time to pursue his studies as a surveyor.
Echuca was on the direct route of the overland travellers and there is no question that these travellers who stopped to replenish supplies before they left ‘civilization’ fuelled his desire to explore little known parts of Australia. Watson wrote that “it was from these travellers with whom my business thus bought me into contact that I obtained my first knowledge of Queensland as a desirable locality. It was as a result of these travellers that the golden shores of Victoria lost all their attraction.
Watson spent four years working in Echuca. By 1862 he had gathered sufficient earnings from the store and took a ship to Queensland. He made his way to Sydney and embarked on board the historic steamship Telegraph, under the command of a distinguished colonist, Captain O’Reilly. They had a smooth passage and reached Brisbane in 1862.