At the Forum’s meeting held on the 20th of September Speaker Finder John Spinner re-introduced an old friend, Chris Helmes.
The subject of his talk was Percy Shaw – the man who put the Cats-eye on the road.
Percy Shaw was born in Halifax in 1890, one of a poor family of 14 children. As a child he moved to the nearby village of Boothtown to a house where he lived for the rest of his life.
He left school aged 13 and, after a number of dead-end jobs, he and his father set up a business doing any small jobs and repairs required. His social life involved a regular visit to the Old Dolphin pub in Queensbury and it was whilst travelling home on his motor cycle that he realised the need for road markings visible in the dark.
It is not clear how he devised the cats-eye but he set up the Reflective Roadstud Company which was an instant success. He became a local celebrity due to his eccentric lifestyle, always dressing scruffily and restricting his social life to visits to the Old Dolphin; his one luxury being a Rolls Royce car.
He achieved national fame when he was the subject of an interview by Alan Whicker and received an OBE in 1965 for services to exports, dying in 1976 age 86.
Chris circulated a cats-eye for us to see its unique features including self-cleaning and ability to withstand heavy traffic and the forum members plied him with many questions.
Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks enthusiastically supported by all the members.