Lives Remembered

Betty Scott: 'She was full of energy and she'd one of the biggest hearts I've ever known'

Betty Scott with Cliff Richard

BETTY Scott would have been a big singing star if she hadn’t lost her heart to a handsome impresario from Belfast.

Born in London of Cockney parents, her father was manager of Mr Teasy Weasy’s salon and hairdresser to the glitterati.

She grew up in Blackpool and it was 1962 when, in true showbiz fashion, Alf Scott saw her perform in a club in the seaside resort.

He made his way backstage, invited her to dinner and so enthralled was she that she gave up a promising career, turning her back on a BBC TV contract travelling the world appearing with the Combined Services Entertainment.

Her's was a remarkable love story. A young Jewish girl who won a talent show at 12, was a Carroll Levis discovery, and at 16 turned down an invitation from Richard Attenborough saying she wanted to sing more than she wanted to act.

She shared the bill with Anne Shelton, Tommy Cooper, Arthur English and Vic Oliver, but the main man was always Alf, her husband for 30 years and, without doubt, the love of her life.

In the 1960s Alf brought the stars to his famous Boom Boom Room in Belfast's Arthur Square.

Mounted police controlled the crowds on opening night. Johnny Ray topped the bill with Bill Haley and the Comets and Gerry and the Pacemakers, with the hosts David Jacobs and Pete Murray.

The Rolling Stones, Cilla Black, Roy Orbison, Dionne Warwick all came to Belfast thanks to Alf and Betty.

I remember her reeling off the names.

“Danny La Rue was such a lovely performer, Adam Faith who’d just bought his brother a butcher’s shop, the John Barry Seven and Jerry Lee Lewis brought the house down with Great Balls of Fire.” Those were heady days.

Tributes to Betty have poured in since her death on May 17.

Marie Jones called her a proper trouper. Candy Devine contacted me from Brisbane. Musician and composer Mark Dougherty said: “A wonderful addition to life."

Playwright Martin Lynch was a close friend. “She was very supportive not only financially, she got involved in our shows. We’d have lunch together and I just looked at her in admiration. This woman who championed integrated education, the Grand Opera House Youth programmes - she was full of energy and she’d one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known."

Betty was very fond of Martin and he recalls the time he took her to the Edinburgh Festival, a new experience for this vibrant woman.

“We did three plays in one day and I had to coax her out of the pub at one in the morning. She was the life and soul of the party.”

And her Christmas parties were legendary - always musicians and she’d sing her favourite songs for us, full make up and beautiful dress, she surely was the hostess with the mostest.

Alf died on their 30th wedding anniversary in January 1992. In his memory Betty held a celebrity gala and raised £200,000 for an intensive cancer therapy unit for Belvoir Park Hospital.

A 10-piece orchestra and 100 artists, not one person asked for a penny piece in payment.

She didn’t talk a lot about her award-winning association with RoSPA’s Tufty Clubs teaching children road safety, her work with the ratepayers association, her time as a toy lady at the Royal Victoria Hospital or chairing the Lady Taverners of Northern Ireland raising money for mentally and physically disabled children.

I once told her she was like an onion, so many layers and layers of interest. Then, just for a brief instant, she shed a tear.

“I was sitting with Alf at the end. It was our anniversary, that very day, that very afternoon. Thirty years.”

She paused. “In a lucid moment he just smiled at me and took my hand and whispered, 'It’s been good Betty, hasn’t it?'”

I like to think they are together now, catching up on her remarkable life story.

Many friends from all walks of life gathered with members of the Jewish community as Betty, would would have been 81 this year, was laid to rest on Monday at the Jewish Cemetery in Newtownabbey beside her husband, his brothers Sidney and Dennis Scott and their mother.

Sincere sympathies and love to her daughter Karen and beloved granddaughter Elliana.

Anne Hailes

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Lives Remembered