John Pallister takes a look at one of Craven’s forgotten people of note and re-visits their story to remind us what they were about

ALTHOUGH the story of Walter Morrison MP, deserves the very considerable prominence it has recently received, there are other stories of forgotten Craven notables that should be re visited.

Few could match Walters undoubted philanthropy, but several local men were self-made in the Yorkshire tradition and provided enormous moral and social leadership to our district.

No statue, but a simple gravestone in Lothersdale churchyard marks the passing and memory of Harry Riddiough. Born in Victorian times at the height of The Empire (1882), Harry’s story is a remarkable testimony to the many business men of this great period and to their often selfless ideals of social service.

Born to mill workers in Lothersdale, Harry was one of 13 children in the family, and had attended the original parish school before leaving the new school at the age of 13.

His first job was alongside other family members in ‘Wilsons Mill’ where began as a ‘weft boy’. Already alert to life, Harry had taken the pledge, sang in the church choir, played the oboe in the orchestra and tried his hand at amateur dramatics. Walking 3.5 miles (each way) to night classes at Glusburn over a four year period, saw Harry learn various textile skills and bolstered his eye for design. Moving to Bradford at the age of 19 to work in the big mills at Cottingley Bar, saw him find his business niche. He rapidly became the designer, then a director and eventually chairman and the owner of the company Butterfield and Fraser Ltd, worsted manufacturers, making the best worsted cloth and selling it over much of the world.

Married to Edith, his school sweetheart from the village, they set up home in a residence in Bradford’s fashionable Manningham Lane. Harry visited the Bradford Wool Exchange most days driven by his chauffeur in Daimler and Alvis cars. Yearning for Lothersdale, the couple purchased farm land in the village and set about building a summer home on an acre plot. It was not long before ‘Oakfield’ drew Harry and the family back to live permanently in the village where they first met, and where they were destined stay. Oakfield remains today, a grand detached bungalow with spacious terraced gardens surrounded by the lands that Harry had purchased.

From his early days Harry was interested in social welfare and since 1920 had been an active officer in Bradford YMCA, becoming president in 1926. During WWII the unenviable role of Bradford’s ‘Concentration Committee’ was to be chaired by Harry. This was a difficult and sensitive role, whereby the Committee endeavoured to reduce the factory space taken up by the textile trades and make the space available for war production. Needless to say, by way of example Butterfield and Fraser left Cottingley, only to return after victory.

Local politics called Harry, who was chairman of Lothersdale Parish Council and a member of Skipton RDC, when in 1934 he became a West Riding County Councillor resulting in his eventual chairmanship of Skipton Divisional Highways and vice chairman of the Finance Committee. Lest the impression be that Harry’s energies were only political and self serving, other social interests included school governorships, education committees, village halls, alms houses, diocesan works, and The Skipton Chrysanthemum Society. He first touched this newspaper as a director in 1935 and was chairman of the Craven Herald Board at the time of his death.

National politics called Harry during the Second World War, and with courage and a good spirit he stood for Parliament. Our Skipton sitting member Mr Rickards died in late 1943 and an early by-election was called. It was at the height of the war and Churchill led a ‘National Government’ which naturally included both Labour and Liberal members. Mr Rickards had held a safe seat with a majority of 5,059 and it was expected that Harry would become shoehorned in as the Craven MP, but this was not the intention of the small but populist ‘Common Wealth Party’.

The Common Wealth Party stood very loosely along the lines of the ‘levellers’ of Cromwells time, seeking a more equitable distribution of life’s bounty across the population. Lt Hugh Lawson was their candidate, soon to be joined by a renegade Labour supporter from Liverpool called Alderman Joe Toole. Although disowned by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party, in the event Toole the unofficial Labour candidate, managed to split the vote and hand the seat to Lt Lawson. The final vote was very close, but Winston Churchills popularity was in the doldrums and a majority of only 221 votes propelled Hugh Lawson into the Skipton constituency. Skipton returned to the Conservative fold at the next election, but Harry declined to stand.

Sadly Harry died in 1947 at the age of 65 and following a modest medical operation. He was noted as a quiet man, a pipe smoker, a part time farmer, who wore a three piece suit usually sporting a home grown rose in his lapel. He was as much at home hay making in Lothersdale as he was dispensing local justice as Vice Chairman of Skipton Bench, or hearing Tax Appeals for the Stainforth Wapontake.

A simple, extremely successful man known for honesty, model family values, common sense and above all Yorkshire drive. Harry Riddiough encompassed the Rags to Riches story, along with stalwart service to Craven, and deserves this remembrance.

John Pallister. Howgills.