Video: Farewell to Mr Monopoly, Leeds business legend Victor Watson

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VICTOR WATSON had many competitors in business, but no enemies.

Friends and family congregated at Leeds Minster on Thursday to celebrate his life in a memorial service that was at times both moving and amusing.

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

The chairman of Waddingtons, the manufacturer of Monopoly, was widely admired in the Yorkshire business community for his sense of decency and fair play.

He was also a devoted family man with a playful side and keen sense of humour.

John Watson, the former Conservative MP, told the gathering how his older brother defeated hostile takeover attempts by Robert Maxwell, the corrupt tycoon.

“The bid battle was fought out in the headlines of the newspapers as well as the institutional boardrooms of the City,” he said.

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

“This was largely because Victor successfully sought to match Robert Maxwell’s acknowledged gift for the newsworthy turn of phrase.

“Asked whether he had ever met Maxwell, Victor said ‘Yes, I met him once. I suppose my luck had to run out sooner or later’.

“It would be very wrong to see that battle now simply in light of its entertainment value.

“Over the subsequent 30 years, around 3,000 people have reached retirement age with their Waddingtons pensions intact and that would not have happened if Robert Maxwell had been able to plunder their pension scheme as he did with so many others.”

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

Mr Watson also recalled how his brother would hire Linton village hall every Christmas to stage the Watson family pantomime with parts especially written for members of the family.

In his address, the right reverend Stephen Oliver quoted from Mr Watson’s poetry, revealing “his love of Yorkshire, observed wit and enormous capacity for fun”.

He also paid tribute to Mr Watson’s insatiable curiosity, which led to innovation in business, suspicion of takeovers and personal interest in other people, as well as his creative imagination and abundant enthusiasm.

Rev Oliver said: “Curiosity, imagination and enthusiasm; these gave to Victor a sense of integrity.

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

The service for Victor Watson at Leeds Minster. Picture by Tony Johnson

“It built that society of friends in business and beyond and somewhere it was rooted in the Yorkshireman that he was, that desire to do the right thing.”

A member of the wider family, Chloe Latchmore, sang Ave Maria. His daughter Amanda Latchmore read a favourite poem, Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt.

The family chose the hymns Immortal Invisible God Only Wise, Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer and Jerusalem. Robert McClements read from St Matthew’s Gospel.

The Tim Hurst Quintet played jazz standards including Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the end of the ceremony as the 375 attendees filed out of the minster.

Dame Fanny Waterman, the founder of the world-renowned Leeds International Pianoforte Competition, was among those who paid their respects.

She said that Mr Watson was a man of dignity and humility who had concern for everybody.

Dame Fanny told The Yorkshire Post: “He was a unique and great person; modest, always there, an example to people and a great Yorkshireman.”

Robin Smith, vice chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, recalled a man with an impressive intellect who was charming, wise and wonderful company.

John Watson said: “He would have heartily approved of a jazz band at the end. I know it is unconventional but so was he.”

Husband, father and fairy-tale granddad

Victor Watson was husband to Sheila, a father of two and grandfather of five.

In her tribute to “a fairy-tale Granddad”, Lucy Latchmore said Mr Watson asked her to “remember what I have taught you... Have fun. Create something beautiful. Work hard. And whatever you do, be bold.”

Deborah Green, a friend, said the high turnout was “to be expected... Victor made an amazing contribution over so many years”.

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