Tributes to Boston Spa man who worked for the community

A well known Boston Spa man and Wetherby News contributor has died following a battle with cancer.

By Janet Harrison
Monday, 4th April 2022, 2:23 pm
Updated Monday, 4th April 2022, 2:57 pm

David Watts, known for his extensive work in the community, died on Thursday March 31, aged 72.

“He initiated the Boston Spa Festival in 2016 and organised the scarecrow displays and the open gardens, to mention but a few,” said his wife Anne.

A Yorkshireman to the core, David was born in Richmond and grew up in Ainderby Steeple, Northallerton.

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A self-described dyslexic, he went to a private school; during a memorable prize-giving ceremony, he listened to the speaker tell everyone that those who hadn’t won prizes might do so if they worked a little harder. So, young David worked harder.

The next year, instead of being 20th out of a class of 28, he was second. At O-levels, he was top of his class, “the highlight of my academic achievement,” he wrote. This defined his style for life: he always worked harder, and he achieved success.

His degree in marketing resulted in work for Unilever (during a six-month stay in Australia), then Cadbury, Philips, and finally Wellman, a kitchen franchise company where he was marketing director for more than 20 years.

David married Maggie Coulson in 1974 and they had three children, James and twins Timothy and Hazel.

They lived in Leeds, then in the East Wing of Thorp Arch Hall, and finally at Four Gables in Boston Spa, where David has resided for the last 25 years.

Maggie died of cancer in 1998 and he met Annerose Schneider (known as Anne) in 2001, and they were married in 2002.

He recently wrote: “I never thought that I would find true love and happiness after Maggie died but I did, and Anne’s love has sustained me.

“We are both a little semi-detached, standing at the side, but that gives us a perspective on what is going on.

“We enjoy each other’s company; people might see us as sad but do we care?”

David and Anne built up the bed and breakfast business that Maggie started, adding two more cottages which served as holiday accommodation, and achieving five-star status with the Tourist Board and on TripAdvisor.

David was Chair of the PTA in Wetherby during his children’s school years and went on to be Chair of the Thorp Arch Village Society and Advertising Manager for the Causeway community magazine, which Anne edited for two years.

His involvement with Boston Spa started with Boston in Bloom, where he was instrumental in organising Open Gardens and bringing BBC Gardeners’ Question Time to the Village Hall.

Anne added: “His idea for the Festival was to have various individual groups and organisations all do their own thing on a given weekend, without central interference; it has turned out to be a winning formula that has grown more successful each year it was held.”

During lockdown, when it was not possible to have hanging baskets in the village, David called for flags to be sewn by local residents, which were hung from the brackets used for the baskets.

Some 60-plus brackets each had a hand-made flag on it, and afterwards the flags were sewn together for display in local churches.

He also wrote the weekly Boston Spa community update for the Wetherby News.

Friends said: “He had the ability to offer simple solutions to seemingly complex problems which could tie other people in knots.

“He was eternally optimistic with a light touch, which encouraged and influenced those around him to achieve great things. A true gentleman with a purpose.”

David was a keen cyclist and member of the Men on Bikes (MOB) group of riders, based in and around Thorp Arch and Boston Spa.

He took up running quite late in life and achieved his goal of running the York Marathon five years ago.

“He was so proud of his fitness – he was in the top three per cent of runners in his age group in the country as recently as December, which makes it even more of a shock that the cancer took him so quickly,” Anne said.

“He trod quietly and yet left a huge footprint.”

David was known for his sense of humour – and his ability to talk to anyone about anything.

Another friend said: “He always saw people, never looking beyond them but with that gift he was a great enabler within any group that was lucky enough to have him.”

As an avid gardener, over the years he made the garden surrounding Four Gables his own.

His son Tim said that the garden was a delight to be in and explore. 

The garden was open to the public several times, including through the Yellow Book National Open Gardens for Charity. It won three gold awards from Leeds in Bloom.

In addition to gardening and cycling, David and Anne liked to entertain and enjoyed travel, especially South Africa, which they have visited many times.

David Watts is survived by his wife Anne, son James (Elisabeth), daughter Hazel, and son Timothy (Leah) and their two children, Annabel and Charlotte.

“He will be missed by his many friends and people in the community whose lives he touched,” said Anne.

A remembrance service will take place on Thursday, April 21, at 11am at St Mary’s Church in Boston Spa. All are welcome to attend. This will be followed by refreshments in the Village Hall.

David had requested contributions to Bowel Cancer UK in lieu of flowers.