A LOCAL man who rose to become General Secretary of the Co-operative Union for 22 years, has died at the age of 92.

Sir Robert Southern lived in Glebelands Road, Prestwich, for 60 years before moving to Spurr House in Unsworth where he died. He is survived by a daughter and a son, three grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

He was born in March 1907 in the Heaton Park area of Prestwich and moved to Park Lane, Whitefield, shortly afterwards.

He attended Park Lane school up to the age of 11 and then Stand Grammar School, joining the Co-operative Wholesale Society in 1923.

Sir Robert furthered his studies at the Co-operative College, Loughborough, and joined the Co-operative Union in 1929.

He became Assistant General Secretary in 1946 after gaining a BA degree in commerce from the University of Manchester by attending lectures during the evenings and weekends.

Sir Robert was appointed General Secretary of the Co-operative Union in 1950, a position he was to hold until his retirement in 1972.

He was awarded the CBE in 1953 and a knighthood in the New Year's Honours list of 1970.

Sir Robert received the Co-operative Movement's highest honour - presidency of the annual Co-operative Congress - in 1969.

He was also a vice president of the International Co-operative Alliance and he was well known both in this country and throughout the world as an eminent ambassador for co-operation with his urbane style, wide culture and unfailing amiability.

Sir Robert was also very actively involved with Stand Unitarian Chapel, being superintendent of the Sunday school for 42 years, secretary of the trustees and secretary of the Men's Club.

In his younger days, he was a member of the cubs, then scouts, the football and cricket teams.

It was through his connection with Stand Chapel that Sir Robert met his future wife, Lena, to whom he was married in 1933 and who sadly passed away in December 1998.

Following his retirement, Sir Robert served for two years as president of the Chapel Society.

He had a number of leisure time interests, particularly photography, reading and travel.

He attended the Radcliffe Literary Society and Camera Club meetings for many years and he also presented his own talks and slide shows, usually related to his travels abroad.

Sir Robert also enjoyed brass band music and with this interest in mind he became secretary to the Besses o' th' Barn Band Company, a position which again he held for a number of years.

He had been a resident at Spurr House for around three years prior to his death.

A funeral service took place at Stand Unitarian Chapel followed by committal at Overdale.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.