I had the honour and privilege to know Betty Temple Watts and her husband Hal, as a young teenager growing up in O’Connor in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. My parents lived in Nardoo Crescent and I walked to school at both Lyneham Primary and Lyneham High. Betty lived in Clianthus Street and I went past their house the greater majority of my school days. I was, and still am, as people who know me will agree, a totally rabid bird watcher and one thing that I always remember about their garden was that it was chiefly native and always had small honeyeaters flitting about. Their yard was beside a small park – it is still there – that had several mature Yellow Box and Blakely’s Red Gums growing naturally in it. The only other garden I can remember like that (without the park next door) was Steve Wilson’s garden in Scott Street, Narrabundah. Both gardens and their owners had a profound influence on my life for which I will be forever grateful. Betty once gave me a small sketch that she had done – unfortunately I can’t remember what the species was or what happened to it. I know my parents, both of whom were artists were quite impressed with it. With the ignorance of youth I didn’t realise that one day it could become valuable.
During the warmer months I would see both Betty and Hal pottering in the garden or Betty would be sitting in the sun sketching a bird. She soon discovered I was interested in birds and encouraged me to keep my interest into later life, something I was able to do through working with CSIRO Wildlife (and all its later names). We always managed to stop whatever we were doing for a quick chat. Steve Wilson also had the same influences on me.
Philip Veerman is correct in saying that the greatest influence she had locally was the fact that she illustrated “The Birds In the Australian High Country”. Again I was lucky in that I was asked to contribute and was an assistant editor to the last edition of the book with John Calaby.
Betty was a lovely lady and a pioneer in the world of bird art in Australia. I haven’t seen The Quintessential Bird” but have heard much about it. It is something I must remedy in the very near future.
From: Kevin and Gwenyth Bray [
Sent: Saturday, 21 July 2012 5:40 PM
Subject: [canberrabirds] The Quintessential Bird
I have just been given the book The Quintessential Bird - the Art of Betty Temple Watts.
Betty Watts was a foundation member of the Canberra Ornithologists Group and one of the first two life members. She provided the illustrations for some pre and post decimal bird stamps as well as to several different bird books.
Is there anyone in COG who was here at the beginning and therefore knew Betty Watts? She moved to Queensland in 1972 and died there in 1991 aged 91.
Kevin & Gwenyth Bray
02 6251 2087
0406 376 878 (Mob Kevin)
0409 584 342 (Mob Gwenyth)