We can't describe the huge void he's left, but take comfort from his legacy
It is with great sadness that the Hastings family announces that Sir William Hastings (89) passed away peacefully at home today following a short illness. He was surrounded by his wife Joy and children Julie, Howard, Allyson and Aileen.
He was married to Joy for 57 years and as well as being a loving husband, father and grandfather, Billy was Ireland's leading hotelier and we are immensely proud of his outstanding accomplishments.
A former pupil of Royal Belfast Academical Institution, he left school at 16 and went into the timber trade as a junior apprentice before joining his brother Roy in the family licensed trade business at 18.
Together they owned many pubs, mainly in East Belfast. In 1964, he purchased his first hotel, the Adair Arms in Ballymena, and from then was the lifeblood of Northern Ireland's hotel industry.
He did not let the Troubles put him off as he continued to expand his portfolio with the purchase of six railway hotels from Grand Metropolitan in 1971.
The beautiful Slieve Donard Hotel is the only one remaining today.
He played a key role in restoring the hotel industry and in 1993, when many were shying away from investing, he purchased the Europa Hotel and transformed it into one of the world's most famous hotels offering much local employment and trade to local suppliers.
His dedication to the industry was recognised when he received a Knighthood in 2009 having already been awarded a CBE and an OBE. The University of Ulster awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 1998. He was chairman and board member of a number of organisations including the Institute of Directors, the Transport Holding Company, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Bass Ireland and a passionate member and past president of the Belfast East Rotary Club for 50 years, as well as a loyal parishioner formerly of Drumbeg Church of Ireland and latterly of Downpatrick Cathedral.
Throughout his life, he was proud to work with many charities including Help the Aged, Chest Heart and Stroke and Men Against Cancer and this dedication also contributed towards his Knighthood.
His hobby was golf which he played every Saturday he could. His first club was Mahee Island where he was captain in 1958, and he was a member more recently at Malone Golf Club and Royal County Down.
He also had a great loyalty to Dundela Football Club in his younger days of being a publican in the Belmont area.
He took great pride in working together with us in the family business and until he took ill earlier this year he still came into his office every day and continued to play a key role as chairman of Hastings Hotels.
In 2015 Billy was immensely proud to announce the purchase of what is to be the seventh Hastings hotel and he was very much looking forward to seeing the rebirth of the Grand Central Hotel when it opens next year.
We cannot describe the huge void that he has left in our lives but we take comfort in the fact that he was an inspiration to so many people and has left a lasting legacy which we will remain dedicated in honouring."