Monday 16 July 2018 01:41:55 PM

Hotel Giant Sir William Hastings Dies At 89
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Sir William Hastings, the leading hotelier in Ireland, has died at the age of 89 following a short illness.

A statement form the family of Sir William Hastings said:  “It is with great sadness that the Hastings family announces that Sir William Hastings passed away peacefully at his home on Friday 15 December. 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 grand-father, Billy was Ireland’s leading hotelier and we are immensely proud of his outstanding accomplishments.

“Billy was a former pupil of  the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and he left school at 16 to go 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 the Grand Metropolitan in 1971. The beautiful Slieve Donard Hotel is the only one remaining today. 

The late Sir William Hastings who passed away on Friday 15 December at the age of 89.

“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.

“Billy 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.”

The family added:  “We have been overwhelmed by the tributes paid to Billy from around the world since his death and would like to thank people for their kind words as they have helped us greatly at this very difficult time.

“He will be laid to rest in a small, private family funeral and there will be a public celebration of his life in the New Year for which details will be released in the coming weeks.”

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Former South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Billy Hastings – a gentleman of immense stature in the business, tourism and community sphere.

“Billy contributed much to the tourism infrastructure in Northern Ireland.  In South Down, he oversaw further developments at the Slieve Donard Hotel and was the first Chair of St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.  He was also a former member of Down/Chicago Link Ltd and was a member of Down Cathedral in Downpatrick.

“Billy firmed believed in the development of tourism centred on St Patrick, early Christian Heritage and the Mournes and he saw those elements of our tourism strategy in South Down as central to the tourism offering, income generation and further job creation in South Down.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Billy over many years, particularly in my role as former MP for South Down.  To me and many of my colleagues He was the epitome of hard work; enthusiastic about tourism and the hospitality industry; a champion of Patrician heritage and the Mournes.  He had a strong abiding belief in hard work, self-help and building and putting our local economy first.

“To Lady Joy and to his children and wider family circle, I offer my deepest sympathies.  Our community has lost a stalwart and entrepreneur of the tourism industry and business world”.