Belfast Telegraph

Family pays tribute to hotelier Sir William Hastings as memorial service held

Customer service was in the DNA of hotelier Sir William Hastings, his son has said.

The big decisions were as easy as the small for the kind and fair father-figure with an entrepreneurial spirit honed in post-war East Belfast, Howard Hastings added.

Sir William helped lead Northern Ireland's hotel industry and became one of the best-known personalities in tourism, dying last month aged 89.

Sir Van Morrison and PSNI chief constable George Hamilton were among those who attended a memorial service on Friday at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

Mr Hastings said: "He grew his business leading from the front, with a hands-on approach, customer service was in his DNA."

Sir William founded the Hastings Hotels group more than 50 years ago.

It owns six hotels across Northern Ireland.

In 1993 he bought the Europa in Belfast city centre, famously known as the most bombed hotel in Europe.

His son said: "The big decisions were as easy for him as the small ones, after a couple of sleepless nights he'd assure himself that this was the right thing to do, agree a price and shake hands and that was that."

The Priests sang at a service which was a celebration of a life rather than a second funeral, organisers said. St Anne's was packed with up to 1,000 people.

Sir William was self-taught but architects were impressed by his understanding of their designs, accountants by his mental agility, his son said.

Mr Hastings added: "What you saw was what you got, he was straightforward, his pet hate was bluffers."

His kindness was evident at Christmas when he invited widows and spinsters who would otherwise be alone.

He was a man of deep faith, in times good and bad.

His son said: "Dad was definitely a joiner, he enjoyed being in the thick of things.

"Dad's energy and his constant engagement with people was a source of his energy."

His daughter Professor Julie Hastings said he lit up a room and was an inspiration and a legend.

His training started early; from 12 he was washing glasses in his father's pub.

Right to the end of his life he was busy, beginning another hotel development in Belfast aged 87 which is still under construction.

Mr Hastings said: "He knew his illness would not improve and ensured his affairs were in order.

"His hardest job was to give away his golf clubs."

He died at home surrounded by family, with Christmas carols on the radio.

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