Spotlight on remarkable story of Newham’s Bill Lall

It was 54 years ago that Bill Lall came to this country from India with ‘only a few pounds in his pocket’ determined to fulfil his ambitions and dreams.

Last week, at a ceremony in the historic Guildhall, a remarkable story was climaxed when he received the Freedom of the City of London and was then further honoured with a private lunch at New Scotland Yard in recognition of the voluntary work, mainly in Newham, to which he has become increasingly dedicated.

It contrasted sharply with that day in 1958 when, as a young man, he arrived to begin a new life in what was then a hostile environment.

“It was not an easy start,” he told guests at the celebration lunch. “Things were different in those days. Notices on shop windows read ‘Room available. Sorry, no coloureds, no Irish, no dogs’.

“I wanted to qualify as a chartered accountant, but no firm in London at that time was willing, or brave enough, to offer articles of apprenticeship to a stranger from a far-off land.”

He continued: “Despite this, I was convinced I would succeed because I had two mental attitudes in my favour. Firstly, I had the determination and vision that I would become a chartered accountant one day.

“And, secondly, I had - and still have - great faith in England and a great love for the country.”

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After moving to Manchester he did manage to qualify as a chartered accountant and then joined a number of prominent companies, which included a spell working in Milan for Price Waterhouse.

When he returned to this country he joined the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Trade and Industry as a senior executive officer, but it was in 1974 that he took the bold step of starting his own accountancy practice in Manor Park.

“It is almost unbelievable, when I look back now, that for six months I did not get a single client,” he told guests. “But some 25 years later, when I finally sold my practice, it had a staff of 14 and nearly 700 clients.

“It is still growing under its present ownership and is probably the largest, locally grown practice in Newham with clients as far away as Ireland, South Africa and India, where it is planned to open an office in Mumbai.”

Among his other achievements he has been awarded a Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration by the University of East London and had two books published on his philosophy for success - one in this country and the other in India, where it was launched by the British High Commissioner.

When he retired fully from business, he stepped up his voluntary work in and around Newham - including as a volunteer worker at Barkingside police station close to where he lives with his wife Shashi, daughter Deesha, and seven-year-old granddaughter Lusha.

The lunch at New Scotland Yard was hosted by Detective Chief Supt Chris McDonald, chair of the local branch of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales.

He told guests it had been a privilege to know Mr Lall and went on to pay tribute to ‘all his voluntary work.’

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, heaped similar praise on him and referred to Mr Lall as an ‘extraordinary and hard-working man’.

Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey, the second most senior officer at Scotland Yard, also found time to say how much the police appreciated his astonishing voluntary service.

The final word, however, went to Bill Lall, who said: “I came to this country with practically nothing, but England gave me absolutely everything that I wanted in life.”