Find us
Follow us

Obituary - Billy Smith, Smith & Green Wholesale Florists

Obituary - Billy Smith, Smith & Green Wholesale Florists

31 May, 2024

Billy Smith, who worked in the Flower Market for almost half a century and co-founded Smith & Green with Peter Green, died earlier this month, aged 81.

Billy was born in Hackney in January 1943 and followed his older brother and several more members of the Smith family into the old Covent Garden in the early-1960s. He began his career working for QED, before working for C H Gardiner, where owner Charlie Gardiner became a mentor. Billy moved on to FJ Foster. In 1978, after the move to Nine Elms, he gave Peter Green a job at Foster’s and after both had also worked elsewhere for short periods, they decided to set up shop together in 1991.

For much of his Market life, Billy could be found delivering flowers around Essex, where his customers would have been royally entertained the character and the stories that were so loved by his market colleagues. “Everybody loved him,” said Peter Green. “He was hard working, always well dressed, constantly smiling and happy, a practical joker and a great storyteller – I’d heard most his tales 100 times, but they always made me laugh! Some days, I’d leave the market with pains in my stomach; it was a lot of fun.”

After a few years working part time, Billy retired in 2011, leaving Smith & Green in the more than capable hands of Peter and his son Jack, who is also Billy’s Godson. He was still active until a few years ago in a field in which he was even more famous than flowers – football.

A storied playing career as a tough-tackling, long-haired centre half in non-league will be best remembered for his time at Tooting & Mitcham, which included an infamous run to the fourth round of the FA Cup in 1975-76. Peter was at the game in the previous season when Tooting & Mitcham hosted Crystal Palace and remembered Billy’s agricultural methods and piratical appearance when they bumped into each other at the Market a couple of years later. “We got talking about that game and were friends for 50 years,” said Peter.

Above: Tooting & Mitcham take the lead against Crystal Palace in November 1974

Palace were managed by the flamboyant Malcom Allison on that day in 1974 and although he didn’t perhaps know it then, some of Billy’s best days in football were to come when his playing days were over. He managed Dulwich Hamlet, Carshalton Athletic, Kingstonian, Corinthian Casuals and Crawley Town and as well as lifting trophies and inspiring cup runs at several of those clubs, he was also well renowned for the number of players he introduced into high level league football. The most famous is Ian Wright, but he also spotted and developed Alan Pardew, Murray Jones and Andy Gray, who all had very successful professional careers. He was manager of Tooting & Mitcham into the 2010s and his last discovery Michail Antonio is still playing in the Premier League, for West Ham.

Above: The Flower Market's football team in the late '70s - Billy is back row, third from left

Back to the day job and he also discovered Peter, of course. “I’ve got a lot to thank Billy for,” said Peter. “I was a wild punk rocker, but he obviously saw something in me and gave me a chance. I didn’t let him down and he became my second father, favourite uncle and older brother rolled into one. Football was always a big part of everything, he was mad about it and so am I. he was still playing for my team Oxted until he was 61!”

Billy leaves his wife Mavis and their daughter Tracey. His funeral is at Croydon Crematorium, at 10.30am on June 14th.

Rest In Peace, Billy.




Tommy Leighton
map-markercross linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram