Local Man John Fewkes leaves phenomenal £2.2 million to Music College
John Fewkes, a former Shepshed hosiery manufacturer who died last year aged 75, has left an astonishing £2.2m to the Royal Northern College of Music. His extensive music library has also been bequeathed to the college. The legacy is the largest it has ever received. Income from the gift will provide up to 15 scholarships annually at the world-class conservatoire. Jonty Stockdale, principal of the college, has expressed ‘disbelief but joy’ at the generosity of a man he never met. Mr Fewkes’ beloved saxophone has been gifted to the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Born in Leicester John Fewkes was educated at the independent Rossall School in Fleetwood. He would have liked to play a musical instrument at school, but the opportunity never arose. It was only in later life that he was able to indulge his passion for music - especially dance music. After teaching himself to read musical scores, he learned to play the piano and saxophone. In time he became an accomplished musician. Longing to have an ensemble which played his kind of music, John formed his own nine-piece band, performing alongside professional artistes and winning critical acclaim. He was also a keen golfer with some notable achievements at The Leicestershire Golf Club to his credit.
After leaving school, John Fewkes studied textiles and sock manufacturing before setting up in business with his brother Roger in 1964. They took over the factory of John Scott-Nichol Ltd in Factory Street, Shepshed and later moved to new premises in Old Station Close where they continued in business until 1990.
Here production systems and warehousing were in the capable hands of Robert Scaysbrook.
Manufacturing high-class hosiery in a model factory, the Fewkes brothers produced branded socks for outdoor country pursuits. They also greatly expanded the supply of socks for school wear. Besides numerous schools, their customers included Harrods, Selfridges and many famous High Street stores.
Their proudest achievement came in 1976 when they were awarded a Royal Warrant to supply socks for children of the royal family. Complementing factory output, a considerable proportion of work was done by skilled outworkers operating Griswold machines in their own homes.
In retirement John’s brother Roger has remained active in public life, serving as a councillor on Harborough District Council.
John Scott-Nichol originally opened the Shepshed factory in the 1930s. At first it was known as Shepshed Footwear Co Ltd. before changing its name in 1946. His family had centuries of experience in the Scottish wool trade, and could trace their descent from Sir Walter Scott. John Scott-Nichol was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in WW1, and in WW2 served as captain of the Home Guard in Shepshed. Older townsfolk may recall him wearing the kilt and parading the Guard in Belton Street from their base at The Haunted Castle. His innovative blend of 50% wool with 50% nylon swept through the hosiery industry, revolutionising the manufacture of socks for school wear. He also pioneered direct trade with retailers rather than dealing through wholesalers.
To-day the Scott-Nichol ‘crest for quality’ brand is still in production under the ownership of Leicester based Pantherella Ltd.