Billy Hastings kept faith in Northern Ireland during its darkest days

Billy Hastings, who has died aged 89, was almost as old as Northern Ireland itself.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 18th December 2017, 12:29 am
Updated Monday, 18th December 2017, 7:06 pm
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Born in the 1920s, Sir William (as he would later become) reached adulthood just after the close of the Second World War.

His hotel business began to really get going shortly before the Troubles erupted in Northern Ireland.

Despite the unfortunate business timing of the latter (he bought the Culloden Hotel, for example, in 1967), Sir William persevered to build and build the Hastings Hotels group.

He has been described as someone who established the modern tourism industry in Northern Ireland.

More than that, he retained full faith in the Province in its darkest days.

Hotels, famously including the Europa, which he would come to own, were often bombed during the violence.

In the 1970s and 80s, it hardly seemed likely that Northern Ireland would become a tourist destination, or indeed a place that anyone at all would visit from outside unless they strictly had to do so.

But Sir William continued to acquire hotels and furnish them to a high standard, in a way that both facilitated and boosted the fledgling tourism trade – a trade that is now booming.

It is a fitting testimony to his vision, confidence and boldness that Windsor House, one of the tallest buildings anywhere in Ireland, is now being turned at huge expense into a major new Hastings hotel in the very heart of Belfast.

Seemingly always optimistic and cheerful, the entrepreneurial Sir William was forging ahead with ideas and plans until late in his remarkable life.

Married to Joy for 57 years, and survived by his large family, Sir William will be much missed by his relatives, by his many colleagues in the hotel world, and by the country as a whole.