Prominent member of Jewish community was at heart of charity

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Elizabeth (Betty) Scott was born in London in 1939, where her father was manager of Mr Teasy Weasy’s hairdressing salon, which catered to the glitterati of the day.

The salon was opened in Mayfair by Peter Carle Bessone Raymond, who also trained Vidal

Sassoon, and developed a chain of fashionable salons in the West End and also several major

British cities. He was regarded as Britain’s first celebrity hairdresser.

Betty would go on to make her mark in the world of showbusiness and in her early years looked set for stardom.

She grew up in Blackpool and at the age of 12 years was a talent show winner, being discovered by talent scout Carroll Richard Levis who hosted a talent competition for young people in the 1950s called The Carroll Levis Discovery Show.

She famously turned down an invitation from Richard Attenborough to pursue a career in acting at the age of 16 as she preferred singing.

The daughter of Cockney parents would later share billings with Tommy Cooper, Anne Shelton,

Arthur English and Vic Oliver.

In 1962 she was performing at a Blackpool club when Belfast businessman and impresario Alf Scott saw her and made his way backstage to introduce himself and invite her to dinner. There was a chemistry between the couple from the beginning, so much so that Betty gave up a

promising career, which had included a BBC TV contract to travel the world with the Combined

Services Entertainment programme and came to live in Belfast.

Alf was involved with a number of fashion, handbag and carpet shops in Belfast including Sterlings men and women’s wear and Motherland shops, but had a keen interest in entertainment and was also an organiser of successful concerts in the city.

He would later, with the support of Betty, become responsible for attracting major stars to The Boom Boom Rooms in Belfast’s Arthur Square including Bill Haley and the Comets, and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

He and his brothers Denis and Sidney had been born in London but moved to Northern Ireland,

where they developed business interests. Denis had radio and stage experience and was a member of Belfast Drama Circle; one of the brothers had gone to school with Frankie Vaughan, who would be among the stars to appear at the ballroom.

The Boom Boom Room opened in September 1963, being billed as Ulster’s most luxurious ballroom

and located on the site of the old Royal cinema and theatre. It was a replica of the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach and cost £50,000 to create.

The opening night was hosted by top DJs Pete Murray and David Jacobs and topping the bill was

Freddie and the Dreamers. The resident band at that time were the Barristers. Alf and Betty brought artists including the Rolling Stones, Cilla Black, Roy Orbison, Danny La Rue, Adam Faith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Frankie Vaughan, the Mike Cotton Jazzmen and Dionne Warwick to Northern Ireland.

Then the largest ballroom in Ireland, admission to the Boom Boom Room ranged from 7s 6d to 10s

6d when it opened in 1963. During the 1960s Betty also took to the stage, but for a different variety of performance than her normal cabaret, playing the title role of the play Vanessa at the War Memorial Hall during Belfast Festival ’65.

Her husband was chairman of Belfast Cinemas and also owned the Tonic in Bangor, bringing artists such as Lena Martell, Freddie Starr, Elkie Brooks and Sir Harry Secombe to the venue in the 1980s.

Betty and Alf were happily married for 30 years, with Alf dying on the 30th anniversary of their marriage in January 1992.

In his memory she organised a charity celebrity gala which saw all musicians and artists donate their services; among those in the line-up included Denise Nolan, Jimmy Cricket, Clubsound, Eamon Holmes, Gerry Kelly and international pianist Russ Conway. The event raised £200,000 for an intensive cancer therapy unit for Belvoir Park Hospital.

Betty Scott was also a keen and dedicated supporter of RoSPA’s Tufty Clubs, promoting road safety for children and other charities including the Lady Taverners of Northern Ireland, raising monies for mentally and physically disabled children.

She was also a keen supporter of integrated education in Northern Ireland and also the Grand Opera House youth programmes.

Tributes were paid to her by, among others, Marie Jones, former radio presenter Candy Devine,

playwright Martin Lynch, journalist Anne Hailes and musician and composer Mark Dougherty.

Martin Lynch said Betty Scott was an “indefatigable, one-off” and that he had never met a woman with more energy and such a zest for life.

“Her work for charity is legendary. She ran the Lady Taverners NI (which raises money for children’s charities) for many years but she also had a special affection for the Integrated Education movement.

“She loved and admired Shankill woman, May Blood - another indefatigable legend, chair of

Integrated Education. As a Jewish woman herself, Betty believed passionately that Catholic and

Protestant children should be educated together,” he said.

“She was also a great supporter of the arts, again particularly projects for young people and supported the work of the Grand Opera House’s youth projects.

“She also supported and loved our Green Shoot production of Two Sore Legs (Brenda Murphy’s

powerful story about her Ballymurphy mother.) This was Betty in a nutshell: even though she lived a comfortable lifestyle in leafy Holywood, she felt passionately about a story from Ballymurphy! I could go on. But she was a true character,” 

He recounted a generous gesture when Betty had been with him at the Edinburgh Festival and learned how a young NI theatre-maker had expended everything she had to bring her play for a month to the festival. Betty quietly called Martin Lynch aside and gave him £100 for the young woman.

The Belfast Jewish Heritage site on social media described her as “a vivacious member of the Belfast Jewish community. A singer, hostess, charity fundraiser and warm hearted lady.”

Betty Scott died on May 17 and was interred in the family plot in the Jewish cemetery at Carnmoney.

She is survived by her daughter Karen and granddaughter Elliana.