The news that one of Northumberland's most well known sons has died reached me via the Farnes wardens earlier. Billy Shiel a name synonymous with The Farnes had been at the head of the family business operating the Glad Tidings Boat Trips for many decades. There can't be many birders in the country who haven't travelled over to view the amazing Farnes spectacle using one of Billy's boats over the years.
Whilst I met Billy a few times I can't claim to have known him other than as a passing acquaintance but I have a great deal of respect for the business he built up and the effort he personally put in. I noticed over the winter as I returned from one trip out of Seahouses on a not particularly warm day that one of the few people in Seahouses harbour that day was Billy; despite his years he was still there around the Glad Tidings office with a word for those arriving back from the islands.
He may have been at the head of a family business but I'm also sure that over the years his tours ensured that many many people took more of an interest in birds and nature or at least had the opportunity to get close to a spectacle that rarely fails to impress and amaze those that make the trip. How many of us who talk about inspiring others to take an interest can lay claim to sharing a truly incredible experience with over a million people?
I'm sure everyone reading will join me in sending condolences to the Shiel family on their sad loss.