Andrew Porter in beBee in English Horticultural Content Creator • Unaffiliated Oct 2, 2016 · 1 min read · +700

Percy Shaw and the best invention to come out of Halifax West Yorkshire!

Percy Shaw and the best invention to come out of Halifax West Yorkshire!

Our little town in West Yorkshire is renown for some well known brands such as the Halifax building society (now Lloyds banking group) Crossley Carpets once the largest carpet manufacturer in the world (now individual businesses) Mackintoshes chocolate factory (now Nestle) but there is one stand out brand from Halifax which was invented by Percy Shaw and is still used in road safety throughout the world today....although it has now been adapted to use solar reflectors.

After working in various engineering jobs Percy Shaw began working with his father repairing small machine tools until his fathers death in 1929, he then started his own road contracting business which was repairing roads, he was a very inventive person even at an early age but his most renown invention was the Cat's eye used for the lighting of roads at night.

There are numerous stories of how he came up with the invention, but the most well known one is....after leaving the Old Blue Dolphin Public House in Queensbury during very thick fog, he was driving down the winding A647 which has a very steep drop down one side (you wouldn't want to go down that!) then when approaching one of the sharp bends the fog was so thick he could hardly see anything in front of him just at that moment the headlights of his car shone on a cat sitting on a fence and its eyes reflected the light back at him, which prevented him from having a very nasty accident....and so Reflecting Roadstuds was born!

He patented his invention in 1934 however sales were initially slow until the Ministry of Transport approved them and then there was the  blackout during WW2 which helped to boost sales and the production of the cats eye's, Percy Shaw's factory which was close to his home in Boothtown (3 miles from where we live) then began to grow in size and was making over a million roadstuds a year. 

A later patent added a rubber rainwater reservoir which worked when a cars wheels went over them it would push the eyes down into the rubber reservoir hence cleaning them in the rainwater, Percy Shaw was awarded the OBE in 1965 for his services to exports, in later life he became eccentric and his only luxury was the Rolls Royce Phantom he drove around in.

Percy Shaw passed away in 1976 age 86 at his home 'Boothtown Mansion' but his invention lives on to this very day helping to keep motorists safe throughout the world, and is still ranked in the top ten greatest British inventions of all time. Thanks for reading and if you wish to add a comment you are more than welcome.

Andrew Porter (Horticulturist) All Rights Reserved 2016

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Franci Eugenia Hoffman Oct 3, 2016 · #15

#4 I have cataracts in one eye and was told too early for surgery, as well. I also have impaired night vision. I wear glasses with transition lenses as well as progressive lenses. I'm not too keen on having the surgery.

Pamela L. Williams Oct 3, 2016 · #14

#12 THAT Union army! haha! Here's an interesting thought. The grandfather of the President of the Confederacy was in the battle I mentioned. If he had died, which he very well could have, would the Civil War have happened? Send me your email via beBee email and I'll send to you.

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Pamela L. Williams Oct 3, 2016 · #13

#6 Ah cool share Franci! I wouldn't have thought of that.

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Andrew Porter Oct 2, 2016 · #12

Not sure about that battle Pamela, I only know he was involved in the civil war...and yes I think your paper would make for a very interesting read thanks.

Pamela L. Williams Oct 2, 2016 · #11

#9 Oh, that name sounds familiar, wonder if he was involved in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse! or or any of the Southern campaigns? Hmmm, gotta look that up. Now look what you did! You'll find records of Parliament meeting to discuss that fateful battle and say: Another such victory as this will destroy the British Army. That was the theme of the paper. They won, but paid a very high cost. I'll have to send you my paper. I think you'll like it.

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Andrew Porter Oct 2, 2016 · #10

#5 Thanks for commenting and sharing Franci and I am pleased you enjoyed my little taste of Yorkshire history about this amazing invention.

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Andrew Porter Oct 2, 2016 · #9

#8 It's nice to hear from someone who takes an interest in history Pamela, I think quite a bit of our history has developed a habit of been forgotten, hence my last 2 posts, when you mentioned the revolutionary war that also reminded me of another chap from Halifax who sailed to the US to join his family and ended up becoming a colonel in the union army his name was James Bintliff and he was born just a mile down the road from us, apparently his former home in Monroe, Wisconsin is on the National register of historic places!

Pamela L. Williams Oct 2, 2016 · #8

#3 Your entire country is steeped in history Andrew. When I was young I hated history and then in secondary school, I was going to fail a history class if I didn't do something. The teacher said she would raise my grade 1 letter for every two 10 page reports I turned in (the papers had to be good). I could pick my subjects. Since it was American history it of course tied back to Great Britain. I did 10 reports, thinking OH BOY I'll get an A! No such luck, the highest grade I could earn that way was a B. I took it! The positive to come out of it was I learned to love history, especially the Revolutionary War. The battle that led to the British General Cornwallis surrendering occurred about 2 miles from where I live. I wrote a paper on it in college and quite frankly the British came out of the research with more integrity and honor than the opposing Patriot General Greene. I went online into some of the British archives to get the whole story.

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