Our History. Our Founder.
We appreciate history. The history of the iconic buildings and structures that we have the privilege to restore. The history of stonemasonry, and the love of a craft that’s methods haven’t changed much in six thousand years.
We’re also proud of our own history, which began back in 1970 when Robert John Watt (Bobby) was first introduced to the trade of masonry. Like any great story, the path that led Bobby Watt to found RJW Stonemasons Ltd. wasn’t a straight one. But, it’s a bonny tale befitting of a man as feisty and engaging as Bobby Watt.
Bobby Watt – The man behind the masonry.
Back in Scotland in 1970, a 16-year old Bobby was ready to learn a trade and make a living. His first thoughts were to be a motor mechanic (car) or an aircraft engineer. These were quickly eliminated – motor mechanics have very dirty hands and nails and to be an aircraft engineer meant joining the Air Force. Bobby’s dad, fearing a very expensive education bill if Bobby ended up leaving the Air Force early, steered him away from that option. So, Bobby, did what any resourceful young man would do, he reached out to a friend whose father owned a business. That business was in stone masonry.
Bobby’s began to apprentice on the Isle of Arran, which is just off Scotland’s West Coast. For the first two weeks of this apprenticeship, his sole task was to lift tens of thousands of heavy bricks out of a boat. It was horrendous, back-breaking labour and a test of sorts. Once his friend’s father saw that Bobby had the work ethic and determination to make it through two weeks of very hard manual labour, he took him on as a real apprentice. Bobby quickly learned that stonemasonry is more than a job, it is an artform and one that he has the passion and natural talent for.
How a pint of beer, changed the course of a man’s life.
In true Scottish style, a pint a beer at a local pub sparked a conversation that led a newly married Bobby to Canada. This life changing conversation was about a shortage of stonemasons in Canada. Specifically, that First Canadian Place was in dire need of someone to help them build stairs. Bobby recognized that the need went beyond this one job – there was a gap left by more than eighty years of inadequate stonemasonry training in North America. So a young and ambitious Bobby went home, turned to his wife Alison and asked, “How do you fancy going to Canada for a wee bit?”
RJW Stonemasons is born.
It quickly became apparent that skilled stonemasons just didn’t exist, so training became a priority. Bobby has been instrumental in crafting the training programs in Whitby and in Ottawa. His love of the craft and his belief in preserving and growing our expertise in the trades is as infectious as the man himself. Bobby speaks to high school students so they have a better understanding on what it’s like to choose a trade as a career path.
Bobby, credits his success to the people he surrounds himself with. They are hardworking, dedicated and talented. In all the years he’s been a stonemason he has never wavered from his commitment to excellence. And, the rest as they say, is history.