Henry Scott

A family wedding at Oulton church. Fred Willans, Henry and Ethel Scott, Ethel’s sister Florence and her husband George Stark.

In the 1950s and 60s Henry Scott was a lamp man on the length of line running through Woodlesford. Before that he was a milkman and he’s remembered for being an accomplished musician. With his wife he also ran two shops locally.  

In the days before colour light electric signals Henry was responsible for the oil lamps on the semaphore signals between Stourton and Methley. His daily routine meant that he had to walk between them making sure the lamps had clean lenses and were topped up with paraffin. The job involved climbing ladders up to the signals, often in wet and windy weather, as well as making sure the wicks were lit and in good order. 

The lamps, which were designed to last for seven days, had to be carried back to a hut at the station to be maintained. Inside each lamp there was a ceramic part which became covered in carbon from the burning wick and it had to be thoroughly cleaned. The wicks were cut to get rid of the burnt tips after which they were turned down so they could produce a flame a couple of inches high. Henry then had to take the lamps back to replace them in the signals, sometimes hitching a ride on a goods train or light engine.

The “bull’s eye” lens on each lamp was designed to magnify the light from the flame so it could be seen at night from a distance. If the flame was blown out by the wind the signalmen had to stop trains and warn the drivers to proceed with caution. Henry was on call to re-light the lamps if they went out.

The Up “home” signal at Woodlesford station.

George Henry Scott was born in Tingley in 1906 where his great grandfather had been an agricultural labourer. His grandfather was a quarryman and colliery banksman in the area whilst his father, George Scott, started out as a quarryman before becoming a colliery blacksmith.

In 1892 George Scott married mill girl Sarah Battye, the daughter of a slate quarry worker and ironstone miner from Holmfirth. After spending a few years living in Morley the family moved to 29 Claremont View in Oulton where George worked at either Armitage’s quarry or Water Haigh colliery.

It may have been George and Sarah who started the milk round using a horse and cart to deliver milk from door to door. It was carried in churns on the cart and was ladled in pint and half pint measures into jugs at each house. They also delivered hen and duck eggs. The round involved Henry’s older brother, Herbert, and when Henry married Ethel Maud Willans at Oulton church in 1935 he gave his occupation as a dairyman. Later he bought a small van and in the early 1940s employed Sid Patterson to make the deliveries.

Ethel grew up in Selby where her father, Fred Willans, ended his working life as a barman. He started out as a pawnbroker’s assistant in Leeds and became a confectionery dealer in Selby. So it was probably Ethel who brought shopkeeping and other business skills to her marriage with Henry.

William Willans, Ethel’s grandfather, had worked in an iron foundry but went on to run a grocer’s shop in Holbeck. Her uncles and aunts had a variety of occupations: William was a mechanic, Fanny a confectioner, Rebecca a book binder, and Robert a professor of music.

Ethel’s mother, Maud Elizabeth Eades, was a milliner and dressmaker, and her family background also brought business skills into the family. Her father, James Eades, had been a commercial traveller and after he died her mother, Ann Elizabeth, ran a boarding house in Keighley which took in actors. One of Ethel’s uncles, who started out as an apprentice machine maker, became a political agent living in Abingdon in Berkshire.

Henry and Ethel Scott ran their first shop, selling groceries and sweets, in a wooden building at 16a Calverley Road in Oulton next to the old post office opposite the bottom of North Lane.

Eventually they sold the business to Ethel’s brother, Charlie Willans, and he ran it with his wife, Doris, until it passed to their daughter Joan. The shop was later incorporated in a small bungalow. Meanwhile Henry and Ethel moved to run a sweet shop on Highfield Lane in Woodlesford.
Like many a railwayman Henry Scott was a clever man who in a different time would have gone to university and one of the professions. He passed examinations in French and German and travelled with Ethel to Switzerland and Germany, no doubt making use of the cheap fares for railway workers.

As a self taught musician he played the piano, cello and violin to a very high standard and took part in concerts as well as giving music lessons at Woodlesford school. One amusing incident happened when Henry tried to move his piano into Pear Tree Cottage in Oulton which he had just rented. Unfortunately the piano wouldn’t go through the door so he had to give up the lease. The Henry Scott Trophy for the violin, which is competed for at the Rothwell Music Festival, is named after him.  

Henry Scott.