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Dacre Watson’s Story

The father of Society member Dacre Watson was also named Dacre Watson, following a family tradition of always naming the eldest son Dacre going back to the 1650s. From the age of 12 in 1919 he was educated at St Bees School in West Cumberland where he also learned to play Rugby. After school in 1924 he was articled to be a Chartered Accountant in Whitehaven and when he qualified in late 1927, he accepted a job offer from Price Waterhouse (PW) to travel to Chile, which he did in early 1928 at the age of 21.

With PW, he was based mainly in Valparaiso, where most of the work was done, but he also spent time in Santiago. Most of his work entailed auditing the ‘Oficinas’ in the Atacama, as the Nitrate fields were named. He also volunteered to audit various companies in the South so he was very happy to travel to the extremities when other colleagues preferred to stay in Santiago.

Travel in those days was by local steamship and, in his diaries, he writes of taking three days to get up to Antofagasta from Valparaiso and three days to Puerto Montt in the other direction. He used to base himself in Antofagasta at a boarding house run by an English lady and travel to the ‘Oficinas’ by car with a driver.

In 1936, PW decided that, because of the economic climate in Chile, all local accountants were to be paid in local currency, the Peso, which resulted in a considerable pay cut, bearing in mind the inflation at the time.

The lady who ran the boarding house also had the contract to supply the lunch boxes for the airlines (Panagra and LAN) passing through to Lima and Santiago and he used to help her with the packing. This lady advised him that she had heard that the next day Don Mauricio Hoschild would be travelling south on the Panagra flight. She had also heard that he was having trouble finding suitable accountants to help him control his quickly growing mining companies (which were in Chile, Bolivia and Peru). Dacre used his initiative and bought a ticket on the same aircraft as Don Mauricio (it cost him a month’s salary) and arranged to sit next to the great man.

He had prepared well and on the 7-hour flight to Santiago and he showed him how he could have a current state of finances for all the companies, virtually at his fingertips, almost at any time.

Well, either through exhaustion or by being impressed, at the end of the flight Don Mauricio offered Dacre a job at double the salary (double of not very much) but, crucially, paid in USD. He also paid PW to buy my Father out of his contract and a month later he started with Hoschild Mining where he was to remain until he retired in 1970.

In 1939, Hoschild had expanded well into Bolivia and a manager was needed there; Don Mauricio asked Dacre if he would be prepared to live in La Paz (at 13000 feet) and the answer was affirmative, so he took his new bride to live there. They loved it despite all the violence and dangers.

They stayed in La Paz until 1947 when they accepted a return to Chile, but not before the whole family came to Europe for a while after the war. After all, Norway had been invaded and occupied by the Germans and his wife wanted to see her own mother. They stayed in Norway for a year though Dacre went back to Chile early to run the finances of the company (Mauricio Hoschild y Cia) in Santiago. The rest of the family followed in 1948.

As CFO, Dacre had to travel a great deal, but he was still deeply involved in cultural and business life in Santiago. He was instrumental in steering the committee of St Andrews Church in Av. Holanda and was Chairman for many years. He eventually became the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. and, in 1960, he helped to set up the Cheshire Home in Santiago; it might well have been this work which earned him an OBE in 1968.

Lise Krohn-Nilsen and Dacre Watson about 1938 just before they were married. Valparaiso.


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