Belfast Telegraph

He was a man who gave his all for benefit of Northern Ireland public

By Clive Scoular

It has been my pleasure to know Billy Hastings for, maybe, 20 years. We both attended Down Cathedral and it was there that I got to know him and his lovely wife Joy.

Everyone there loved him and each Sunday morning before the service he walked around the members of the congregation dispensing sweets - always, of course, reminding them not to eat them during the dean's sermon.

He never missed a service, except when he was off on a break with members of his family.

I clearly recall one Sunday morning back in 2002.

As he gave me my sweet, he said that he wanted me to write a book about the Europa Hotel and he wanted an answer - and a positive one - by the end of the service.

I had not long become an Irish historian and had written a couple of books by then, including a biography of James Chichester Clark, which Billy had read. As the dean pronounced the benediction, Billy came round to my pew at a rate of knots - would I do it? And I said that it would be a pleasure.

He seemed relieved and, within six months or so In The Headlines: The Story Of The Belfast Europa Hotel was written and published.

The launch, at the Europa, was a great success, as were the sales of the book.

Billy was full of praise for what I had done and, in my reply, I thanked him and his family for the help they had given me.

This is the Billy I remember. We have been remembering him in our prayers over the past months, because all of us at Down Cathedral had greatly missed him - and probably his sweets as well.

Billy was a gentleman in every sense of the word and his generosity to the cathedral and to many other charitable groups was evident wherever he went.

We at the cathedral will miss Billy, but we will have plenty of fun memories of a man who gave his all in a most unassuming and kindly way. We also know that society will be all the poorer without him.

We salute this wonderful man - a man who gave his all for the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, as well as further afield.

People of Ulster: remember Sir William Hastings and all he did for all of us.

Clive Scoular is a writer and historian. He is the author of In the Headlines: The Story Of The Belfast Europa Hotel (Appletree Press)

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