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 in the education branch and teaching mathematics and technical skills to recruits from an educationally disadvantage background.
His entrepreneurial talent came to the fore when in 1946 he invested £300 from his RAF gratuity, and borrowed funds from his family, to buy a former foundry building in Seamer and fitting it out as a supermarket. He developed the business using the self-service and high volume-low price model he had experienced at the Crook shop in the 1930s.
The company went on to develop stores at Newby, Eastfield, Barton-upon-Humber, Withernsea.
He was one of a group of leading local businessmen at the time in Scarborough, who opened the town’s first supermarket in Huntriss Row at what is now a McDonald’s restaurant.
He became the youngest member of Scarborough Town Council in 1950 when he was elected as a Conservative member, and once recalled how his informal dress sense did not endear him to some other party members, and 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.
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.
One of the highlights of his Parliamentary career was to be a key promoter of decimalisation of currency before its introduction in 1971 and also served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Keith Joseph, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government.
Throughout his political career, Mr Proudfoot was particularly vocal on retail issues, including opposing the use of trading stamps.
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 a school of hypnosis in Scarborough which attracted people from all parts of the world. He lectured on hypnotism and hypnotherapy in the USA, Spain and the UK.
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.