In her anecdotal history of small-town life in Paignton , Peggy Parnell writes of a local outfitter’s business and its progress from a humble start to having several successful shops. Perretts was considered “up-market” and had a year-round clientele, as well as the casual summer trade found in any seaside resort. The company was run by three generations of one family and was staffed with tailors to make alterations to clothes, and shop assistants to “measure-up” and engage in sales patter. It was so different to today’s internet-dominated approach to clothes retailing and, of course, the business no longer exists.
Included in Peggy Parnell’s chapter on Perretts is the paragraph shown below:
Obviously, a tragic occasion as he was only 59 years old, but who was Sid Wotton and, if he left such an impression on the owners and the staff of the company, what was his effect on the public who shopped in Perretts?
Firstly, Sid Wotton had a deep knowledge of outfitting, was unfailingly courteous, remembered returning customers and their requirements, and was very loyal to the Perrett family, as they were to him. Add to these qualities, the ability to make a sales pitch and you have all the essential ingredients of a valuable employee in the old world of retailing. What else do we know about him?
Sid Wotton was born on 17th August 1909 in Princes Street, Paignton, and he remained in the town (except for war service in Belgium, see above) all his life. On 10th October 1934 he married Doris Youlden at Winner Street Baptist Church (see above), attended by both, and where Sid was a member of the choir. In 1933, he had been involved in the selection of a new organist  and Sid had a fine tenor voice, singing hymns and oratorios with gusto. In addition to his singing, Sid also spoke at Church garden parties (see below) and it is easy to see that his skills as a salesman were useful if these parties involved fund-raising.
Sid and Doris had three sons, all brought up to attend Winner Street Church each Sunday, and the anniversary of the founding of the church was usually celebrated by a group photograph, like the one below. In addition to his connection with the church community, Sid was a Freemason, becoming Worshipful Master of Torbay Lodge No. 1358. Outside those interests, life revolved around Perretts and the growing family, but then illness intervened. Doris, who was anxious by nature, suffered from uncontrollable hypertension and this led to a stroke from which she died aged 49. This must have been a very difficult time for Sid, especially as he had been diagnosed with diabetes and then developed cardiovascular disease. By 1965 all three boys had left home and we come to the events described by Peggy Parnell. That’s not how Sid should be remembered.
Andy Warhol suggested that everyone should be famous for 15 minutes. I’m not sure that a paragraph in a book counts as fame, especially when the ending is so tragic. Rather, I want to celebrate the Sid Wotton who was such an important person to those who knew him and who showed fine qualities of loyalty and service in everything that he did. It’s all history now, of course, but that doesn’t make celebrating the man any less important.
 Peggy Parnell (2013) A Paignton Scrapbook. Stroud, The History Press.
 Patricia M. Leaman (1986) A History of the First 100 Years of Winner Street Baptist Church, Paignton. Publisher unknown.
I would like to thank David Wotton for telling me about the reference to Sid Wotton in Peggy Parnell’s book.