Two young players from Southport Rugby Football Club launch The Ellis Expedition #TheEllisExpedition Photo by Angus Matheson of Wainwright & Matheson Photography

A fundraising expedition to the ‘South Pole’ in memory of an inspirational Southport sports ambassador has smashed its 16,000km and £16,000 targets – in its first week. 

Southport Rugby Football Club last week launched The Ellis Expedition with the aim of seeing players and supporters run, walk and cycle the combined equivalent distance from Southport to the South Pole in memory of club President Graham Ellis. 

The challenge is raising money for the Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Charity and was due to be officially launched by Graham at the clubhouse on Waterloo Road on July 1. 

Tragically, the dad-of-three died, aged 64, just two days before the mission began. 

Graham, a chartered surveyor who lived in Southport but grew up in Liverpool and Stockport, was thrilled to hear that the challenge was taking place in his honour and was pleased to support the NHS, which he credited with twice saving his life in recent years. 

Colin Toohey, who is masterminding The Ellis Exhibition, said: “We were due to try and complete both targets throughout July, so we are delighted to have surpassed both already! 

“We have nearly reached 18,000km so we have decided to revise our targets and settle on one big one – 72,000km. 

“We have reached the South Pole, now we are going to circumnavigate the globe and then on the last leg, race from the South Pole back to Southport. 

Read More: Tributes paid to Southport Rugby Football Club President Graham Ellis

“On the final day of the challenge, July 31, we are planning a big walk from the Southport Rugby Club clubhouse out towards the Marine Lake in Southport, with everyone walking in their own ‘bubbles’, and then back to the Clubhouse where we will celebrate Graham’s life and raise a glass to him.” 

Graham’s funeral takes place this Friday (July 10) at West Lancashire Crematorium. But due to rules over social distancing, only his wife, Anne, children Jack, Megan and Hugh and a few other close family members will be allowed to attend. 

The family said: “We want to make sure that everyone who knew Graham has a chance to show their appreciation for him. His hearse will pass outside Southport Rugby Football Club en route to the service, and we would love it if people would line the pavements on Waterloo Road outside the club, wearing club colours if possible, and give him a round of applause.

“We would suggest that people aim to be in position for 2.30pm, and please make sure that all relevant social distancing is adhered to.

“Thanks to everyone for your wishes and messages of support.

“If anyone wishes to make a donation to the Ellis Expedition in Graham’s memory, then that would be greatly appreciated.”


Southport Rugby Football Club president Graham Ellis, in his club colours

Southport Rugby Football Club president Graham Ellis, in his club colours

A huge tribute has already been paid to Graham in the shape of the immense effort people have put into The Ellis Expedition for which he will forever be remembered. 

Col Toohey said: “That is the kind of man that Graham was, to have inspired that level of support among so many. 

“There are people in Dubai, in Australia, all over the world, doing challenges in his memory. “There are people in their 80s doing the expedition, children aged five, the people involved are mostly from our rugby club but there are also others from the wider rugby family who are keen to honour him. 

“People sadly can’t go to his funeral this Friday, due to the restrictions in place because of coronavirus.

“But it just shows the world we are in that they are going to live stream his funeral so people can watch it. 

“There is going to be a guard of honour for him along Waterloo Road for him on the way to his service, with lots of people wearing club colours, so hopefully that will be a nice thing for his family.”

How to get involved in The Ellis Expedition:

Step One: Download Strava

Step Two: Join our group (

Step Three: Sign up to the challenge (…/6f1cd4b0-b089-11ea-b34a-b1…)

Step Four: Connect with Strava

Step Five: Run, Walk, Cycle…

Remember to donate! (

For more details about The Ellis Expedition please visit: or email Colin Toohey at: or follow the Southport RFC page on Facebook.

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