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Bill Little: Arsenal legend Charlie George helps unveil memorial to veteran Highbury Corner flower seller

PUBLISHED: 11:57 04 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:37 11 June 2018

Bill Little's sister Pauline Smith next to the planter in Highbury and Islington station. Picture: Siorna Ashby

Bill Little's sister Pauline Smith next to the planter in Highbury and Islington station. Picture: Siorna Ashby

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A seven-year campaign finally came to fruition on Friday when a plaque (and flowerbed) was unveiled for Bill Little: the flower seller who brightened Highbury Corner for three decades. Among the invited guests were members of his family, Arsenal old boy Charlie George, and – of course – the Gazette. Sam Volpe reports

Friends and family of Bill Little - including Arsenal legend Charlie George - outside Highbury and Islington station where Bill's flower stall once stood. Picture: Siorna AshbyFriends and family of Bill Little - including Arsenal legend Charlie George - outside Highbury and Islington station where Bill's flower stall once stood. Picture: Siorna Ashby

For 30 years, Highbury Corner flower seller Bill Little was part of the Islington furniture.

Until he died in May 2002, he made his living selling blooms from a little stall outside Highbury and Islington station from 7.30am to 7pm every day.

In the 16 years since his death he has been much missed, and seven years ago his son Andy decided he’d like to set up some sort of memorial to his dad close to the spot he made his own.

On Friday last week, a plaque was unveiled on a planter in the station, both dedicated to Bill’s memory.

Andy Little told the Gazette: “It’s been a bit difficult to sort but it’s just been the timing. Until recently there was a building up by where my dad used to be, and the redevelopment has changed the station dramatically.

“When I started this idea it was nothing more than a pipe dream. Today, there’s a lovely sense of achievement.

Bill Little.Bill Little.

“Day in, day out, he was a big part of things here.”

Bill was so popular that Andy’s efforts to pay tribute to his father were backed by some pretty high-profile local names.

Boxing promoter Frank Warren and Only Fools and Horses actress Gwyneth Strong both supported the idea of a plaque in the station.

So did Arsenal legend Charlie George – and Charlie attended the unveiling.

He told this newspaper: “I used to come and have a chat with him, about the football and about everything else. He was just a lovely, lovely man to talk to.

“I used to chat with him for ages and we would put the world to rights. Andy got in touch to ask if I’d support him, and of course I said yes.”

Bill LittleBill Little

Bill’s youngest sister Pauline Smith, 75, was also there for the ceremony.

She said: “It’s a lovely little memorial to him. It means the world to the family.

“He was a well thought of, lovely man and he was always out there, whatever the weather.

“He really was a local landmark.”

She added: “He was always out there with his deckchair – sometimes with his daughter, before she sadly died.

“Before he came to Highbury he worked in Covent Garden, selling flowers there.

Friends and family of Bill Little - including Arsenal legend Charlie George - outside Highbury and Islington station where Bill's flower stall once stood. Picture: Siorna AshbyFriends and family of Bill Little - including Arsenal legend Charlie George - outside Highbury and Islington station where Bill's flower stall once stood. Picture: Siorna Ashby

“He was one of 14, and at least seven of his brothers did the same back then.”

Transport for London area manager Ray Dance led the unveiling ceremony. He said: “I have been here 20 years and can just about remember Bill. He was hugely popular.”

The planter was installed by TfL in conjunction with the Bee Friendly Trust, a charity working to create bee-friendly areas across London.

Luke Dixon from the charity said: “We’re really, really happy. Already this morning we’ve had feedback from commuters who think it’s brilliant.”

Donald Espeute, an environmental adviser for TfL, said: “The Bee Friendly Trust got in touch and, with this request, that seemed the way to go.

“It helped us to achieve two ideas nicely.”

Bill Little.Bill Little.

In addition to Andy and Pauline, four of Bill’s grandchildren, his niece, and even a great-grandchild were there to see the plaque revealed.

Friends and family who attended the ceremony were unanimous about Bill’s importance to Highbury Corner.

Barry Gaule, a close friend of Bill’s, said: “When Bill had the flower stall they’d all be stopping to ask him for directions.

“I knew and loved Bill for many, many years. We used to go out drinking together. He was a really great bloke, even if people sometimes thought I was his son!”

Angela Green, of TfL’s Customer Experience team, said: “When I put the plaque on the planter this morning, I noticed there are so many bees there already, it’s a hive of activity.”

At the end of his tribute, Charlie George added: “It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t get a statue of Bill outside the station, really.”

The plaque dedicated to flower-seller Bill Little. Picture: Siorna AshbyThe plaque dedicated to flower-seller Bill Little. Picture: Siorna Ashby

There is no statue, but it seems fitting that a man so long linked with flowers has his tribute attached to a flowerbed.

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