Charles McCarthy

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CHARLES Middleton Allen McCarthy, the philanthropist and businessman who brought one of Scarborough’s major employers to the town nearly 45 years ago, has died aged 84.

He was the first employee in this country of McCain Foods (GB) Ltd, starting their first food factory outside Canada from an office above the garage at his Grimsby home, with his wife Sheila.

Mr McCarthy, who was known to everyone as Mac, opened the Scarborough factory in 1968 and became the driving force behind one of the most successful businesses in the McCain Group and the UK frozen food industry. He was chairman of the UK operation until he retired in December 1997 shortly before he was 70, having led it for 32 years.

He also played a key role in McCain’s expansion into mainland Europe and was a director of the global company board for many years.

As a philanthropist, he supported many good causes in the town with both time and money, particularly sport and the arts, and some owe their survival to the work of he and his wife.

He was heavily involved in the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s move from its old home at Westwood into the former Odeon Cinema in 1996. He formed a formidable fund-raising trio with former artistic director Sir Alan Ayckbourn and the late Lord Downe, securing the money to finance the move. When it opened the smaller of its two auditoria, a 165-seat endstage/cinema was named The McCarthy in recognition of his work.

Mr McCarthy also helped to save the town’s YMCA, was chairman of governors at Scarborough Sixth Form College and encouraged McCain’s backing for the then Scarborough Football Club and giving its name to the now defunct ground.

He was also instrumental in McCains being one of Scarborough Cricket Club’s substantial sponsors, a role it has had for about 25 years and something the firm took on when sponsorship was just beginning to come into its own.

In 1993 he was awarded a CBE for services to the frozen food industry, and was made a Freeman of the Borough of Scarborough in 1996 in recognition of his services to the town.

Paying tribute to him, Sir Alan said: “I believe that without Charles McCarthy the SJT in its current form would not exist. His characteristic drive and determination drove the project through from start to finish.

 “An astute, tough businessman, but at the same time a caring family man and generous friend, I believe he delighted in the cut and thrust of the real life commercial arena almost equally as much as he did the make-believe magic of the arts world. 

“A man of many passions whom we shall all miss greatly. People like Mac are rare and special.”

Richard Grunwell, the present chairman of Scarborough Theatre Trust, said: “Mac McCarthy was a man who had colossal influence on Scarborough life. As head of the biggest employer, he used his position, his time and his talents to improve the lives of Scarborough people in so many ways. He was a man without whom Scarborough would have been substantially the poorer.”

Nick Vermont, McCain GB’s Regional CEO, said: “As well as the fantastic business results Mac achieved, he will be remembered as much for the way in which he conducted his business, his boundless drive, energy and determination, a tough negotiator but with absolute integrity, the firmest of handshakes and a big smile. Mac played a vital role in building and living the culture and values that still makes McCain such a special place to work.”

Mr McCarthy is survived by his wife, Sheila, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.