Mary Isoline Watson, wandering washerwoman


Mary Watson, 1906-1968, married at an early age and settled on a farm at Seddon. Here she became Marlborough's first woman motor cycle rider.

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Mary Watson. Image supplied by author

Always interested in the welfare of country women, Mary, in 1938, was distressed to hear how urgent was the need for help in farm kitchens and laundries. Lack of assistance was due to the fact that country girls were seeking vocations other than that of domestic work.
Mrs Watson established herself in a unique occupation. She became a wandering washer-lady, visiting scattered country farm houses on a motorcycle, with a sidecar carrying an electric washing machine.

She used a sidecar specially designed for the several types of motorcycles she was eventually to use. The first was "V" twin "Alldays Allon" two-stroke. Then came a BSA 2 and three quarter, followed by a Royal Enfield 350 c.c. and eventually a 55 cubic inch "Indian Scout" which carried, beside the washing machine, a vacuum cleaner, and an iron.

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Mary Watson and her mobile washing machine. Image supplied by author

Over the hills and dales, over rough country roads, sometimes making wide detours due to flooded creeks and rivers, rode Mrs Watson with "The Happy Day Washer" written in letters of fire on her sidecar.

Fortunately Mrs Watson was quite an able mechanic and could do much of her own maintenance work, including fitting of rings, valve grindings and re-timing, apart from the usual road repairs.

As a rider of no mean ability, it was a matter of course that, during the Second World War, Mrs Watson should become a dispatch rider in the WWSA. During those years she was also kept busy by the rural mail delivery and goods service, which she had established. She spent five and a half days a week on delivery, covering 70 miles a day. In very wet weather she sometimes drove a truck for this service.

While she regarded motor cycling as the sport of sports, her other pastimes included flying, rowing, fishing and shooting with a .303 rifle As well she was a very accomplished needle worker.

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