Local businessman leaves a lasting legacy for Essex charities

6th August 2020

A new fund launched in memory of pioneering local businessman Bill Southern is to give vital long-term support to charities and voluntary groups across Essex.

Bill, who died in December 2018 aged 82, set up Southern Supplies with his wife Jean 50 years ago.

An enthusiastic supporter of local charities, Bill wanted this support to continue after he died. His wishes have been granted with the creation of the Bill Southern Legacy Fund, which is being run by the independent charitable trust Essex Community Foundation (ECF.)

Jean said: “Bill and our children, Moira and Gordon and son in law, Ian, did many fundraising activities, including parachute jumps, abseiling, 100km walks and organising a charity ball. One of our staff members had a child with Downs Syndrome and we still support the charity that helped them.

“ECF appealed to us as Bill’s Legacy Fund would benefit the Essex area long-term and we as a family could be involved in decisions about giving grants which would make a difference.”

Bill was born and grew up in Glasgow and was one of seven children.  From birth he had sight in only one eye.

Jean said: “This did not deter him in any way, in fact, if anything, it made him more determined. He left Glasgow when he was about 23 to find work and further his career. Bill and I met in Putney, London. We were married in September 1965 and set up Southern Supplies in 1969. Bill had spotted the opportunity to start a business selling mostly to the garage trade from a mobile van racked out with supplies. We moved to South Woodham Ferrers in 1971 and in 1976 the firm expanded into one of the first industrial units in the town.  We traded mostly in Essex and East London and had a retail shop on New Street in Chelmsford.”

Bill and Jean built up the company together, with Jean working as company secretary and office manager and Bill in sales. When they retired, they enjoyed travelling and cruising, visiting many places around the world. Bill loved to explore.

The fund will be a lasting tribute to Bill who had a legendary zest for life and was known in South Woodham Ferrers as one of the ”Three Wise Men” who set up one of the first businesses on the industrial estate, in what was then a new town.

The couple’s son Gordon said: “Dad was a big character, known to all for his hospitality, generosity and gregariousness. He had endless energy, momentum, wit and charm. Only poor health in later years could slow him down.”

Bill’s generosity will live on through the fund established in his name which will be a credit to the enduring memory of a loving and wise man.