Book Club: Lancaster author’s new novel makes waves

Author Robert J Watson from Lancaster.
Author Robert J Watson from Lancaster.
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Ex-sailor Robert John Watson from Lancaster has just released his latest book, ‘The Secret of the Sarah M’.

That The Sarah M happens to be a ship comes as no surprise when you hear of Robert’s passion for all things nautical.

Robert, 57, says the five-and-a-half years he spent in the merchant navy was the best job he ever had.

But his seafaring days go back much further.

“They actually began when I was about three years old,” said Robert.

“My dad was a local fisherman and I spent many days on my godfather’s fishing boat trawling Morecambe bay for shrimps.

“I must have eaten pounds and pounds of them all freshly cooked in sea water. I loved and still do love the sea. There is just something magical about it.”

Even an incident in which the youngster nearly drowned failed to curtail his love of the open water.

Robert said: “My dad was doing some work on a boat at Glasson Dock. The tide was in and he told me not to walk on the slab of concrete. I did and slipped between the boat and the quayside.

“A friend of mine saw me hanging onto a rope on the boat’s side and alerted my parents. My dad dragged me out by the scruff of the neck coughing and spluttering.

“My mother freaked out and tried to keep me away from the sea. She had no chance of that.”

Robert went to St Peter’s primary school in Heysham village and then onto Our Lady’s High School, Lancaster, but he admits he was just treading water there. “To be honest I could not wait to leave,” he said. “Me and school never saw eye to eye. All I wanted to do was go to sea.”

And so in 1972, Robert got his wish when he joined Tower Shipping, sailing out of the Thames.

He told me: “I had a great life at sea, once I had got over being seasick that is. For a few weeks, I thought I was dying.”

Robert left the sea when he got married becoming a psychiatric nurse working at Lancaster’s Moor Hospital for 15 years.

He has five children but only his eldest daughter, Emma, shared her father’s love of the sea also joining the Merchant Navy.

As well as being an author, Robert is now a full-time carer for his youngest son, 22-year-old Simon, who has cerebral palsy

Robert is married to Jackie and has six grandchildren.

Predictably maybe, all Robert’s books adopt a sea theme and follow the lives of the Birket family. His first, ‘ Seasoned With Salt’, was published about eight years ago and was followed by Birkets Voyage’, ‘A Merchant Man’s War’ and ‘Birkets Gold’.

‘The Secret of the Sarah M’ is another chapter in the life of the Birket family.

After getting involved with the mob in New York, Robert Birket is eventually foced to seek refuge in England where he tracks down an old sailing ship, The Sarah M, once owned by his grandfather.

“There are several twists and turns in the book,” says Robert.

Good luck Robert with your new book and to all who sail in her.

The book, printed by Karabeth Publishing, is available in paperback and on kindle and e-book.