NORMAN ‘Nobby’ Collins, a much loved figure in Wotton under Edge who ran the town’s Co-op store for many years, passed away on September 3.

Here his family have shared some memories of his life:

Tributes have flooded in for Nobby, including one which read “Nobby was the Co-Op”.

Even his family felt Nobby was 99 per cent Co-Op, as he spent a great deal of his time there for many decades.

Norman was born and raised in Synwell, the middle son of Violet and Gordon. He had an older brother Ken and a younger brother, Graham.

The reason for the name of “Nobby” is lost in the midst of time but it was a constant in his life and the name most referred to him by.

Nobby spent his childhood in the fields and woods that surrounded the town, afforded the freedoms of a child growing up during the war years that would rarely be seen today.

He had a love of sport, playing football for Synwell and Wotton, and spent many hours on the playing field not far from the family home in Mount Pleasant.

Nobby was an able pupil and gained a place at the grammar school. Like many at that time he left school aged just 14 and although still wearing short trousers, he started working at the Co-Op. Nobby was so small the staff used to tease him by standing tins of beans on his head and joking he was only the height of the counter.

Nobby was called up for National Service with the Royal Hampshires and after six months was sent to Malaya.

This must have been quite an adventure for a lad from Wotton back then, he even managed to meet up with his brother in Singapore who was also serving.

After his two years were up Nobby returned to Wotton and never ate rice again.

He had a brief spell at Tubbs Lewis before he returned to the Co-Op under the then manager Reg Morley.

Nobby worked his way up to the position of manager and remained at the store until his retirement at the age of 65 years.

Nobby certainly witnessed some changes in the retail world over his tenure.

In the early days deliveries were made all over the town.

When still a lad Nobby was fulfilling an order when he was told that the customer only wanted dented tins of food as these were cheaper. Nobby’s solution to the lack of dents was to chuck a couple on the floor.

The Co-Op was at the heart of the main street, many of the staff worked alongside Nobby for years, finding him a softly spoken man but with a keen sense of humour. He was fair and really did create a team where each person was valued.

Nobby offered opportunities to people who were often overlooked by other employers, taking on several valued staff members with disabilities.

Although the more corner shop style of customer service evolved into the self service supermarket, Nobby was still able to provide the personal touch to the customers. Whether it was staying open a little later for a customer arriving as the doors closed, or arranging for a heavy bag of shopping to be dropped off for an elderly customer, Nobby gained the respect and affection of his customers and staff team.

But of course there was more to life than the Co-Op. Nobby married Jill and became a father to Mark in 1964 and Tim in 1966. The boys remember the smell of hams boiling on the kitchen stove ready for Nobby to sell by the slice in the shop.

Their dad’s love of football ensured regular visits to Forest Green or more local games and the annual holiday was always memorable. By this time Nobby had moved to Yate with Jean, they married in 1979 and all remember annual holidays to Torquay,Tenby and later many memorable holidays abroad.

Nobby worked in an era in retail when staff had lunch hours, a half day on a Wednesday and Sundays off. The changes in hours and technology weren’t for him and he was ready to retire, to start a new chapter in his life with Jean.

Nobby did work again for a while, this time alongside Claire at the George where his eye for detail saw the most perfect washing up. However by this time Nobby and Jean had a mobile home at Sandy Bay and spent more and more time there at their home from home for over 20 years.

At home in Wotton there was the allotment. Jean and Nobby have spent many happy hours working together to ensure there was a steady supply of home grown veg.

Nobby was content with life, he was proud of his children and all the grandchildren.

He was a bit of a worrier and wanted to see everyone happy and doing well.

Retail must be in the blood as Tim and Kate run a retail business and both of Mark’s children are managers at Tescos.

Between Jean and Nobby they have built quite a family empire.

They have helped care for the grandchildren, enjoyed seeing them at family occasions and welcomed great grandchildren.

This gentleman and gentle man will be remembered with love and affection.