Fond memories of PSF chairman

John Topham, Chairman of Progressive Safety Footwear
John Topham, Chairman of Progressive Safety Footwear
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The funeral of John Topham, founder and chairman of leading protective equipment business Progressive Safety Footwear takes place in Sheffield today.

John Topham was a popular and well respected figure in the local business community and, at 91, was still actively involved in the everyday business of the Attercliffe-based business that he founded more than 50 years ago.

He founded Prgressive after working for a safety boot manufacturer, based in North Wales, initially supplying the National Coal Board and then expanding to supply footwear and protective equipment to steel and engineering companies.

John Topham’s son, Howard, Progressive’s managing director, said: “My father will be greatly missed by both his family and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him, for his integrity and his keen sense of humour.

“The company was both a hobby and a profession to him. When he was in his mid-70s he was instrumental in our move to these new premises. We took a lot of risks, but he always encouraged the senior management team.”

The move paid off and Progressive thrived and expanded, but probably the proudest moments for John Topham came in recent years.

He played a key part in Progressive’s successful negotiations with construction plant giant JCB to produce a range of safety wear bearing their brand and in negotiations to supply the range to DIY store giant B&Q’s outlets.

“He was very involved in what turned out to be day long meetings,” Howard Topham recalls.

Last, but not least, John Topham lived to see a third generation working at the family firm he founded, when Howard’s daughter, Anna, and son, Edward, joined Progressive.

In addition to his involvement with Progressive, John Topham was, for 32 years, chairman of the Sheffield branch of the Urostomy Assocaition, which provides support for people who have suffered from bladder cancer.

Staff at Progressive Safety Footwear have also paid tribute to John Topham, describing him as “a lovely man who treated everyone the same and who always had a kind word for everyone within the company”.