We said farewell to several key characters in Southwark’s tapestry this year, including a renowned boxing coach, a fierce political campaigner and the owner of Millwall Football Club.
Graham Poole 1952-2023
South London’s most famous pie-maker Graham Poole, who ‘dedicated his life and soul’ to the M. Manze Pie & Mash dynasty, sadly passed away aged 70.
Graham Michele Poole died from cancer at his home in Warlingham on September 24, accompanied by his beloved wife and daughter.
From the age of thirteen, the tireless businessman served the family enterprise for over half a century, ensuring the people of Bermondsey and Peckham never went without their traditional, liquor-soaked grub.
He even saw the businesses through a time of uncertainty, when petrol bombs struck the shop during a spillover of the Brixton riots in 1985 and was able to reopen it in 1995 and make it his own.
The Peckham shop did well under Graham’s stewardship who, despite his high standards, was a conscientious boss who could light up the room with his ‘infectious laugh’.
A keen chef both at work and at home, even when his cancer spread, meaning he could no longer eat himself, he would still cook for his wife.
Tributes from former employees showed that he will be remembered for being a great boss, a family man and ‘always ending the day with a smile.’
Nanny Bet 1934-2023
The smiling face of Betty Heather appropriately shines down near the Blue Market Square in Bermondsey, and for her grieving family, it is a lasting memorial to a woman who was like a mum to thousands of girls.
On March 20, Elizabeth (Betty) Heather peacefully passed away surrounded by her loving family – aged 89.
A typical start for Bermondsey girls like herself, she worked at the Peek Freens Biscuit Factory and Hartley’s jam factory before going on to be the lift lady at Aylwin Girls’ School.
Her daughter Kathy said that was where she got her nickname ‘Nanny Bet’ – “She was a mum to all,” she told us.
After retiring at 72, a perfect day for Betty involved shopping down the Blue, having dinner at the Age Concern followed by playing bingo and putting her bets on the 49s (the daily lottery).
Betty is not only survived by her family but also by a place on the famous People’s Mural overlooking the Blue Market – which was painted including characters ‘everyone would recognise.’
“Her face has been painted directly underneath the wall light – so even in the dark, she shines bright,” Kathy added.
Steve Hiser 1941-2023
The legendary amateur boxing coach, who trained champions and positively impacted the lives of many, tragically passed away last year aged 82.
Described as a “father to a thousand sons”, Steve Hiser tragically passed away on May 12 following a successful career both inside and outside the ring.
Former professional Hiser was in his 50th year at Fisher ABC after he started coaching there in 1973.
When he soon became head coach, he helped to develop many champions, such as Ted Cheeseman, Lloyd Honeyghan and Peter McDonagh.
But the influence of Hiser, who was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2012, went way beyond the ring. He will be remembered as not only a coach but a mentor and paternal figure to everyone he trained.
Bermondsey’s Trevor Thirlwall knew him for over 40 years and is now a coach at the club with the other four ‘disciples’ Hiser left in charge.
When asked what it was that made Hiser so unique, Thirwall simply replied, “Without sounding too clichéd, how do you explain greatness?”
Coral Newell 1936-2023
A battle-hardened campaigner, who served the people of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe for over half a century, sadly passed away.
Coral Newell was 87 when she died unexpectedly on May 12, following a life dedicated to her community. A Labour stalwart, the former councillor headed up the Beormund Community Centre right into her eighties until its closure just after the pandemic.
There she ran training programmes from basic skills right up to accountancy, as well as leisure activities and a nursery.
In an interview with the News just two years before her passing, Coral explained how she found a love for political activism as a teenager and went on to fight for better facilities for the working-class community she was so proud to be a part of.
Having grown up on the Amos Estate, off Rotherhithe Street, she only left her beloved hometown for a brief period during the war when she was evacuated.
Following the war, she took on a mission to help rebuild war-torn Southwark and help residents young and old come together – which included starting a youth club on her estate aged just 15.
As well as daughter Sian, Coral left behind two grandchildren Joanna and Richard, great-grandchildren Evie and Teddy and a legacy of helping those most in need.
John Berylson 1953-2023
Millwall Football Club was rocked by the shocking death of owner and chairman John Berylson in July.
Micky Norris 1948-2023
A famous local publican, who ran a Rotherhithe pub for 35 years and was loved by all, died aged 74.
Michael ‘Micky’ Norris passed away on June 22, after a long battle with his health. Over the 35 years he ran the China Hall pub on Lower Road, thousands raised a pint with ‘guvnor’, Micky Norris.
The much-loved landlord will be fondly remembered for his generosity, hospitality, and the community spirit that he fostered at Rotherhithe’s favourite public house.
After working at the pub part-time, he was asked to take it over in 1983. Micky’s wife, Linda Norris, who moved into the pub with him that year, said it already had a good reputation – but under Micky’s and his family’s management, it went from strength to strength.
In 2019, the pub was sold to a developer and the couple narrowly avoided homelessness when they had to move out. Micky also had to have his leg amputated the year before but despite this dark spell, he managed to keep his head up.
When he died, over 250 people attended his funeral and former MP and friend, Sir Simon Hughes said: “Good local pubs with really strong local attachments are very important, and unfortunately, greedy private companies often don’t understand this.
“In the end, one has robbed us of another of our really special local venues. But Micky’s legacy will never be forgotten.”
Tony Linforth-Hall 1946-2023
Adela Valencia 1993-2023
The charity that runs the annual Latin carnival in Burgess Park, tragically lost a member of their team last year, who died aged just 29.
The last Carnaval Del Pueblo festival, which took place on August 20, was dedicated to the life and memory of Adela Ibarra Valencia, a deeply loved member of their family who died unexpectedly in June.
A talented dancer, Adela performed at every carnival and all the London New Year’s Day Parades, as well as helping her mum run her stall every year.
Nuala Riddell-Morales, director of Carnaval and a lifelong friend of Adela’s told us: “Adela came to London as a very young child from Buenaventura (Colombia) in difficult circumstances, and her escapism was coming to the Latin American school ran on Saturdays in Clapham.”
Nuala added that Adela was “born to smile and perform.”
She is survived by her two sons, Julio (10) and Joel (4), her mother, her sister and the Latin American community in Southwark and beyond.