Dean’s Verger retires after giving almost 56 years of service to the church


Jack Watson who has retired as caretaker sexton and Dean's Verger.

Jack Watson, who has served as caretaker, sexton and the Dean’s Verger at St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, Diocese of Clogher, for almost 56 years, has retired from his roles.

In that time, he has attended an estimated 9000 services in addition to almost 500 weddings and hundreds of funerals.

At a presentation to Jack at Sunday morning worship in the Cathedral, it was stated this was a record length of service for the Cathedral if not anywhere in the Church of Ireland.

For 12 of those years, Jack was also caretaker of both the Cathedral Hall and the Cathedral. “This was a big job as it not only involved normal caretaking duties but also in the early days involved cutting the grass using a scythe and clipping the hedges by hand,” explained Mr. Sam Morrow, Secretary of St Macartin’s Parish.

Since 1974, however, the duties were divided and Jack continued the work associated with the Cathedral.

Sam Morrow continued: “Caretaking in the Cathedral included management of the heating system which for many years was fuelled with coke which was a fuel like coal. Up to 25 tons of coke were required each year and Jack had to carry what was required to keep the fire burning, down the steps to the furnace, three times per day, Ashes had also to be removed daily. It was great relief to Jack when the furnace was converted to oil firing in 1993.”

Jack’s love for the work in the Cathedral was obvious, said Sam, especially preparing for acts of worship.

Over the period of almost 56 years, it has been calculated that Jack would have prepared the church for about 9000 regular services, as well as 492 weddings when Jack was in the porch to welcome the bride and groom and give them words of encouragement. There were many sad occasions too and Jack would have been present at an estimated 1300 funerals to shake hands and express sympathy to the bereaved.

Jack’s other role as Dean’s Verger, a ceremonial role to precede visiting dignatories when taking their seats and escorting them to the Reading Desk or Pulpit if they were participating in the services, was also performed with great professionalism and dignity.

Sam outlined some of the dignatories he has welcomed to St. Macartin’s Cathedral, including Her Majesty, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh during her historic visit to Enniskillen in 2012 as well as Her Majesty’s Lieutenant for Fermanagh on many occasions.

“On those special ceremonial occasions we were very proud of Jack as he led processions of the great and mighty. Over the years, leaders of the Anglican and other churches have been visitors, including numerous Archbishops of Dublin, Archbishops of Armagh, and the Archbishop of York. Governors of Northern Ireland and politicians were also regular visitors over the years including the Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and visiting Taoisigh from the Republic of Ireland.

“He has welcomed many members of the Royal families over the decades, which included such important personalities as King Leopold, King of The Belgians; The Duke of Gloucester as well as The Queen.

“In his role, Jack Watson served as Dean’s Verger for five rectors, four of those being Deans of Clogher and one going on to be Bishop of Clogher. In addition to the rectors there have been 14 curates or assistants during his time in the cathedral. There have also been 62 different churchwardens all of whom Jack maintained an excellent working relationship,' he said.

However Jack’s commitment to St. Macartin’s Cathedral and Clogher Diocese did not end there. He has also served the Church of Ireland in other roles as a member of the Diocesan Synod, a member of the General Synod and for over 30 years as a Diocesan Reader.

Paying tribute to him, Sam Morrow concluded: “The parish has been superbly served for almost 56 years by a man of faith. He has been a very modest and kind man and the parish wishes to mark this outstanding service by way of a presentation.”

Jack said: “It was an honour and I regarded it as very important to fill that role.”

Jack and his wife, Ethel have a son, Jonathan and three daughters, Carol, Mae and Ruth.