Steven Thoburn, the Sunderland greengrocer known to millions as the “metric martyr”, died Sunday, March 14th 2004, following heart failure. He was 39 years old.
Steven Thoburn became a household name for being the first trader in Britain to be found guilty of a criminal offence for selling goods in pounds and ounces. Mr Thoburn received thousands of letters of support, and donations totalling £300,000 were made to the Metric Martyrs Defence Fund, set up to finance his and four other traders’ legal defence.
Mr Thoburn left school at 16 and went straight into his father’s fruit and vegetable business. In 1989, he started his own shop in Southwick market, Sunderland city centre. He worked a six-day week, starting at 3.30am each morning to buy produce from his wholesalers twelve miles away in Gateshead, running the shop until 5pm and then coming home to do his lists for the next day.
Mr Thoburn said in 2001, “All I wanted to do was give my customers what they wanted. I’m not a hero, I’m just a hardworking man…I don’t want to know anything about Europe, as long as I am allowed to go to work. If [customers] wanted me to sell fruit in kilos, I’d sell fruit in kilos. In my world, what the customer wants, the customer gets”.
Steven Thoburn was married to Leigh with three children, Georgia, Rhys and Jay.