The Baker Street Irregulars


Over on Turk Toron’s blog, Turonistan, he reminds us that yesterday was the birthday of Sherlock Holmes according to The Baker Street Irregulars. There is a bit of family history that linked my Grandfather to Arthur Conan Doyle.

My Grandfather’s name was John Watson and he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1864. He, my Grandmother and his brothers moved to southwest England around 1883 and started a business buying coal brought down from northern England and selling it to individual households. Sellers of coal were known as colliers.

The business covered portions on Portsmouth, Plymouth and Bristol and was divided between my Grandfather and his three brothers. The story about our family connection to Conan Doyle is that one day my Grandfather was on his rounds. Since he was a tradesman, he would go to the rear or to the tradesman entrance to the house and sell the coal to the housekeeper, or the wife. Colliers had a dedicated territory.

One day, he arrived at the house where Conan Doyle was staying. He went to the rear of the house and knocked as usual. However, the housekeeper was not present. As a good businessman, my Grandfather knew how much coal the housekeeper had purchased on the last visit and knew more was needed. He continued to knock.

Doyle was in a room above the rear door. He was writing a Sherlock Holmes story and was about to select the name of Holmes’ companion when he was interrupted by my Grandfather knocking on the rear door. Doyle opened the window and looking down at my Grandfather asked him what he needed. My Grandfather’s response was, “‘Tis I, John Watson, yer collier. D’ye want any coal t’day?”

And that is how Holmes’ companion, Dr. John H. Watson, acquired his name.

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