Tributes to pioneer of supermarket chain

Renowned businessman Wilf Proudfoot who has died at the age of 91
Renowned businessman Wilf Proudfoot who has died at the age of 91

Pioneering Scarborough businessman and former Conservative MP, Wilf Proudfoot, has died at the age of 91.

Born at Crook in County Durham, he gained his early knowledge of the food retailing industry by working in the local self-service grocery shop which his father managed in the town.

He moved to Scarborough at the age of 14 and attended Scarborough College, later being conscripted into the RAF where he was commissioned, serving as an aircraft fitter in Allahabad, India, and in the education branch and teaching mathematics and technical skills to recruits from an educationally disadvantage background.

In 1946 he invested £300 from his RAF gratuity, and borrowed funds from his family, to buy a former blacksmith’s building in Seamer and fit it out as a supermarket.

He developed the business using the self-service and high volume/low price model which he had experienced on a trip to the United States in the 1950s.

The company went on to develop stores at Newby, Eastfield, Barton-on-Humber, Withernsea. He also opened the first supermarket in town at what is now McDonald’s Restaurant in Huntriss Row.

In 1950 he became the youngest member of Scarborough Town Council when he was elected as a Conservative member. However his informal dress sense did not endear him to some other party members as he was once asked to leave the Conservative Club when he walked in wearing jeans and a cardigan. His Parliamentary career saw him win the Cleveland constituency in 1959 at the second attempt, after an earlier attempt to become an MP at Hemsworth.

Mr Proudfoot served for two terms in Parliament, as MP for Cleveland from 1959 to 1964, and later as the member for Brighouse and Spenborough from 1970 to 1974.

In 1965, Mr Proudfoot was a leader in the consortium which set up a pirate radio station off Scarborough, Radio 270, on board a 150 tonne fishing vessel, Ocean 7, which was fitted out with a 10kw radio transmitter and became the station’s joint managing director, but its broadcasting career was brought to an end in 1967 as a result of the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act.

After leaving Parliament in 1974, Mr Proudfoot became a regular visitor to the United States where he developed an interest in hypnotism, establishing the Proudfoot School of Hypnosis in Scarborough which attracted people from all over the world. He lectured on hypnotism and hypnotherapy in the USA, Spain, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Britain.

He leaves his wife, Peggy, to whom he was married for 63 years, sons Mark and Ian, who are joint managing directors of the Proudfoot supermarket company, and a daughter Lyn, and five grandchildren.

In a tribute, Mr Proudfoot’s family said: “We have lost a very caring and loving family man who was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, and the local business world has lost someone who had great vision.

“His entrepreneurial talents, matched by determination and hard work, won him respect from very many people in political life and in hypnosis around the world.

“As head of our family he will be sorely missed, but he leaves behind him many happy memories and his legacy of honesty, hard work, fairness and caring. He was an unpretentious man who will always be cherished by us and the people he worked with.”