Belfast Telegraph

That so many from such diverse spheres turned out to remember him is a mark of the esteem Sir Billy was held in

Editor's Viewpoint

If the mark of a person is measured by the diverse range of people who attend his or her thanksgiving service, then Sir William Hastings stands out as a very notable individual.

Yesterday they came from the worlds of business, politics, media, music, the arts, show business and other important sectors of Northern Ireland society, including many people who had worked with him and for him, to pay tribute in St Anne's Cathedral.

Billy Hastings - as he was known to everyone - was a man who was measured not just by entrepreneurial brilliance and imagination, derring-do and an indefatigable belief in himself and his projects, but evidently also by the way in which he treated other people.

Sir Billy has left an enduring legacy in his successful hotel chain, which did so much for the hospitality and tourism industry in this place, and that goes well beyond words.

Yet it is a feature of so many thanksgiving services that in the dignity and solemnity of such an atmosphere there is the space, time and opportunity for those present to reflect even more deeply on the life and achievements of the person they have come to honour.

Lord Eames, the former Church of Ireland Primate and Archbishop of Armagh who knew Sir Billy personally, gave an eloquent and inspiring tribute that captured vividly the essence of the man.

He said: "Names like Culloden, the Europa and the Slieve Donard became landmarks on the road to a better future from the man who asked: 'Why not?'.

"Why not think ahead, and why not show the courage that something could work?"

The St Anne's Cathedral service was a public event to celebrate one of the great figures from Northern Ireland, and rightly so.

Yet behind the scenes this remains a very sad time for the entire Hastings family, and we offer them our sympathies at this most difficult period in their lives.

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