WILF Scott – a fizzing, coruscating, sparkling, bright burning meteor in fireworks’ phantasmagorical firmament – has died. He was 72.

He was born and raised in Shildon, retained a Shildon lad’s passion for railways, spent his last years in Richmond, North Yorkshire – in the pyrotechnical pantheon, it has been said, a local lad made god.

He’d travelled the world, his displays illuminating appearances by everyone from Tina Turner to the Rolling Stones, working for powers like the Russian government and the World Wrestling Federation (which must not, of course, be supposed synonymous).

A personal letter from President George W Bush, praising Wilf’s work at the G7 summit in London, remained framed on his hallway wall.

For Shildon’s rocket man, however, the highlight may have been the Queen’s golden jubilee celebrations in 2002, when the monarch was required to stand on a platform on the Mall and fire huge fireworks back over the roof of her home. The subsequent display lasted 14 minutes.

“It was extraordinarily brave of the royal household to allow it to go ahead, and us with tons of explosives out the back,” he once recalled.

“The one thing you learn in this industry is never to stand a reigning monarch on a pile of explosives and ask her to press the button..

“Next time I want to be in charge of the concession toilets because the strain really was too much for me.”

Her Majesty may have understood. She personally appointed him a Member of the Victorian Order.

Arnold and Peggy, his parents, ran what these days would be termed an artisan bakery overlooking the railway line that shunted to Shildon Wagon Works – “the biggest train set in the world,” said Wilf.

On Saturday mornings, he and his brother John – who became a squadron leader – were required to light the coke-fired ovens.

“I’d pretend that it was an A4 Pacific steam engine and that I was in Darlington shed lighting the boiler,” he said.

Sometimes he’d be paid two bob to keep an eye on the engine while the driver got his pipe in the bakery café.

When the wagon works closed in 1985,Wilf tried to get financial backing – “I very nearly succeeded” – for farewell fireworks built around a pyrotechnic steam engine and a 10ft figure of Margaret Thatcher.

Mrs Thatcher, it may reasonably be assumed, would have become a 20th century Guy Fawkes.

At primary school, however, he’d proved a damp squib, failing the 11+, preferring to supplement his burgeoning collection of improbabalia. Soon he had 24 brass bedsteads and a dozen grandfather clocks. “People at that time would pay me half-a-crown to take them off their hands,” he said.

His parents arranged for him to attend the fee-paying Scorton Grammar School, near Richmond – “it meant leaving Shildon at 6 20am each day but I quite liked it. It was trains.” At Scorton imagination was encouraged, flair flourished and he developed a particular love for Richmond Georgian Theatre and for dressing up.

Probably at much the same tie he was busking on Darlington High Row, wearing a nightshirt and German military helmet or the full uniform of a Coldstream Guard drummer.

“I wouldn’t mind,” said Wilf, “but there wasn’t an instrument I could play,”

His ambition, he said, was to own a stuffed camel and a uniform from the Battle or Waterloo. “I got the stuffed camel, one of those where you open the side and there’s a xylophone inside, but I never did get the uniform from Waterloo.”

He completed two fine arts degrees at Reading University, worked in children’s television and as inventor, artist, antiques dealer and bargee but made little money from any of it.

With just enough to buy a half of beer or ten fags – “certainly not both” – he turned his mind to pyrotechnics, lit the blue touch paper and re-fired.

The company was called Pyrovision. Soon Wilf Scott’s name would be in lights across the world.

HE retired at 60, with hindsight thought it too early. “I didn’t have enough money and I think I was pretty good at the time, but I’d had enough of standing around in fields, freezing cold in the mud.”

He moved from his Cambridge base to Richmond, looked at 20 houses in four days, thought Richmond’s only problem was that (as he put it) it was the hilliest place this side of the Yukon. There remained a fairly level route from his house to the pub.

We’d last met, he and I, shortly before Guy Fawkes night in 2017, though he’d never had much time for that annual extravagance and didn’t plan to leave the house.

What, hiding under the bed like a frightened puppy?

“I don’t want to miss The Archers,” said Wilf.

The house was a virtual model railway museum, endless shelves of scaled down motive power from around the world (and 68292 from Shildon sidings.)

“Sometimes it takes me half an hour just to get to bed,” said Wilf. “I’ll stand looking at a cabinet, trying to remember where I got them all.”

The place also overflowed with all manner of other collectables, with his cartoons – much appreciated by magazines like Private Eye and The Spectator – and with memories of a fantastical career.

Someone once said he was Bohemian; probably he was. Eccentric? Very likely. Genius? Undoubtedly.

He’d been twice married, lived alone, guessed that if the sky really had been the limit he’d fallen a bit too quickly to earth.

“I’ve had defeats. I’ve been on my backside so many times you wouldn’t believe it and if I’d handled myself better I might have been a wealthy man.”

He’s also written an autobiography, From Pits to the Palace, a fellow Shildon lad’s suggestion that it be called Fourteen Minutes of Fame prudently ignored.

He smoked aromatic tabs, pottered about the house, strolled on the level to the pub. “I have my house, my trains, a bit of money a drink and some cigarettes,” said Wilf. “I’ve had a full life. I’m happy.”

The death notice in The Northern Echo described Wilf as “a supernova of the fireworks industry”, said that he’d died peacefully among his collections of trains. His funeral is at Darlington crematorium at 2.45pm today, Wednesday May 15, 2019.