Remembering City of Norwich School's Scatty - an art master with an amazing future vision
PUBLISHED: 17:48 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:48 15 February 2019
He retired from teaching 70 years ago and he died in 1956 but the memory of the amazing Walter "Scatty" Watling lives on. Derek James remembers an art master like no other
The year is 2035. The place is Norwich. And a visitor from the past had arrived on a magic carpet to be shown around by a guide known as “Bright Youth.”
The time lord was a gentleman called Walter Watling, known to his students and friends as “Scatty” or “Daddy,” a talented artist and teacher who worked at the City of Norwich School from 1910 until he left in 1949.
With all this talk at the moment about how we would like Norwich to be in 2040 it is a good time to see what those went before us thought the future may look like – and sketched it.
It was in 1935 when Scatty climbed on his carpet, held tight, and arrived in the Fine City a century on.
It was a whimsical flight of fancy called A Prophetic Fantasy and he wrote it for the popular Norwich Annual back in 1935.
He arrived in Central Park when his guide was waiting. “When I met Bright Youth I had already sensed an atmosphere of planned efficiency about everything in the city.
“He told me this huge park, containing the cathedral, the castle, the town hall, the ancient guildhall, St Peter’s and St Andrew’s churches and the university down by the river, was at one time the slum-ridden centre of the city,” wrote Scatty.
They had lunch together in a large pub where the lad from 2035 explained how necessities such as education, boots and meals were as free as tap water, while he needed his monthly coupon book for services at the castle such as books, music, television and travel.
Afterwards they walked across central park, passing the lido with its civic orchestra, free buffet, sun-bathing, dancing and swimming, all under a vast reinforced glass roof with semi-tropical plants.
Passing through coupon control they walked around the base of the 600ft high whipple aviation tower, dominating the whole of Norwich on sites of the old Royal Hotel and GPO (top of Prince of Wales Road).
Scatty then told how aeroplanes emerged by curved level approaches and were carried aloft by a large central lift and launched down lop chutes from a revolving platform near the top.
He looked across the city which had been developed like a meadow fairy ring. At its heart were trees, grass and flowers with the lido, Turkish baths, gymnasia, sports stadium, amusement encloses, civic theatre and wireless “televisaphone” exchange.
“I remember the old traffic congestion of St Stephen’s and Magdalen Street and was amazed to see the beautiful tree and garden-lined boulevards which have taken the places of all the main entries to the city.” Ber Boulevard was the most stunning of these.
Bright Youth spoke of the good times in this city with no need for thrift.
Scatty wrote: “By this time I was nearly convinced that these times made for greater individual happiness than my own and I asked what were the contributory causes of the change?
“Well,” said Bright Youth, “Our text books give three contributory facts: (a) The Hitler Fiasco, (b) The Monetary Collapse of 1940 (c) Television.”
“Oh! What happened to Germany? I snapped at him.
“Why! Didn’t you know? Well towards the middle of 1935 Germany suddenly.....”
Then, explained Scatty, there was a buzzing in his ears. The doorbell rang, it was the postman with a tax demand, a notice from the bank about his overdraft and three cards from political parties asking him to vote for them.
He had woken up. It had been a dream.
Remember this story was written four years before the second world war started...here was a teacher, writer and painter with a vision and a concern for what lay ahead. He knew the horrors of war only too well, having been left for dead on the battlefields of the Great War.