TRIBUTES have been made to leading public figure and entrepreneur who ran the “Essex Selfridges”.

David Keddie died on Sunday, aged 88, leaving behind his wife Jill, five children and ten grandchildren.

As chairman of the iconic Keddies stores in Southend and Colchester, he was one of the county’s most respected businessmen of the past 60 years.

His son, also named David, said: “My father was one of life’s true entrepreneurs - a dynamic, inspirational and deeply-principled maverick, with an innate sense of justice.

“He was never afraid to rise to any challenge.

“At heart, he was a family man with a fierce independence of spirit. He will be sorely missed.”

Mr Keddie was born in Westcliff and during his early life, aged 18, he joined the Inns of Court Regiment as part of the Territorial Army while studying for the Bar.

This led to him becoming an officer with the 10th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, based in Germany, learning to fly and moving on to the Essex Yeomanry of the TA, between 1951 and 1955.

It would be decades later that his legal knowledge came to the forefront as a senior magistrate for the Southend bench, from 1972, which then saw him become Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff for Essex.

David said: “Dad was proud to have been born, and lived in Essex, his whole life.

“I would describe him as an iconoclastic and fearless visionary whose influence reached every part of Essex, but he also had a deeply ingrained sense of service and public duty.

“As well as his roles as a farmer and the chairman of what was Essex’s version of Selfridges, he was immensely proud of being the founder and chairman of Essex Radio in 1981, and the first High Sheriff of Essex from south Essex between 1985 and 1986.

“He led key fundraising activities across the county and was a vital contributor to, and supporter of, local industry, arts, education and the church.”

Keddies was modernised and refitted in the 1980s but it closed its doors in the High Street after 104 years in February, 1996 after going into receivership - a victim of changing times.

In its heyday the famous independent department store was the first port of call for shoppers looking for clothes, perfumes, gifts and household items. Mr Keddie was an important and much respected employer in the town and after the closure Mr Keddie did not stand still.

Instead he turned his attention to his family estate, driving the diversification of a loss-making dairy farm into a profitable estate with a successful wedding and events venue at its heart.

David added: “He truly lived up to his self-professed ambition to leave this world, particularly Essex, in a better place than he found it.”

The funeral will take place at the family home in Hall Road, Rochford, in March.