TRIBUTES have been paid to the founder of a footwear company, who honed his shoe-making skills at the firm that became Reebok.

Norman Walsh, who founded Norman Walsh UK, died aged 82, on Sunday June 15.

During his working life, Mr Walsh made shoes for famous former athlete Roger Bannister, who was the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes.

He also made shoes for the 1948 British Olympic team and British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington.

Mr Walsh’s impact in the world of footwear was so great that the bearers of his coffin all wore ‘Walsh’ jumpers at his funeral, while a pair of shoes he produced was laid on top of his coffin.

There will be also an exhibition in his honour at a museum in Northampton.

Before founding Norman Walsh UK, Mr Walsh served his apprenticeship at Bolton-based Foster Bros Footwear, which belonged to the Foster family, who went on to become Reebok.

Mr Walsh’s niece Jacqueline Dando said: “Making shoes was his life — he always enjoyed doing it.

“I remember when he got an order for 10,000 shoes from Baltimore in The United States of America and he said ‘I would have been in Heaton Cemetery if I had tried that!’ “He was a character, he liked to joke and he was a lot of fun. He was very independent and he was well-known by a lot of people.”

Mr Walsh was born on July 20, 1931, in Daubhill and was the youngest of three brothers and a stepbrother.

When he left school in 1945, Mr Walsh went to work at a cobbler’s shop, where he learnt how to make shoes with his stepfather.

After learning how to make his own sports shoes, Mr Walsh founded Norman Walsh UK in 1961 and operated from a workshop in St Helens Road, Daubhill, where he made shoes for rugby, football, mountain climbing and cross country.

He remained at the workshop until he sold the business to another Walsh family of no relation.

In his final days, Mr Walsh lived at Ladymead Nursing and Residential Home in Heaton.

Mr Walsh had two nieces and two nephews and the family would often enjoy trips to Tenerife.

His funeral was held at St Thomas and St Johns Church in Tempest Road, Lostock on Tuesday June 24 and was attended by family, friends and former work colleagues.