Courageous and generous hotelier Billy Hastings built empire that put Northern Ireland firmly on world map
The death of Sir William Hastings, the outstanding hotelier and businessman, brings to an end the remarkable story of a man whose life was the stuff of legend. From relatively modest beginnings, he was the embodiment of the self-made man who became one of the giants of Northern Ireland business and society and helped to put us on the map worldwide.
The story of his life, particularly in the early years, reads like an adventure novel which would have made a script for a fast-moving film.
He had great courage and vision, particularly during the Troubles which would have daunted any businessman, and he even survived a kidnapping by loyalist paramilitaries to continue consolidating and extending his empire.
Billy Hastings, as he was known to everyone, owned a number of other hotel properties when he bought over the Europa, which had the unique reputation of being one of the world's most-bombed hotels.
Behind all this lay the reality of an entrepreneur who had nerves of steel, determination and an over-riding faith in the future of Northern Ireland.
He was a larger than life figure with charm and great style, even down to his personalised 1066 number plate.
Only a few weeks ago he was discussing his latest ambitious venture, the new Grand Central Hotel in Belfast, and this epitomised his remarkable spirit and zest for life.
He was always an approachable individual and part of the legend was his record of donating to charities and giving something back. Symbolically he was never happier than when he handed out sweets to the parishioners in his beloved Down Cathedral.
His contribution to the hospitality industry, as well as to employment in Northern Ireland, will be all part of his rich legacy.
Many will feel that they "knew" Billy Hastings personally, but the greatest loss will be to his wife and children and the wider family. We extend to them all our sympathy at this time.