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
Picture Credit: www.ypsyork.org