TRIBUTES were paid today to Willie Hay, one of the most prominent leaders in the history of Scotland’s fishing industry, who has died at the age of 84.
Mr Hay, who was Honorary President of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, died yesterday.
The former skipper was president of the SFF from 1982 to 1993 - one of the industry’s most turbulent periods when the fleet was facing massive quota cuts and fleet restrictions and the reform of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy
Mr Hay, made an MBE in 1983 and a CBE in 1986 in recognition of his services to the fishing industry, was widely praised for his “steady leadership and ever-present humour” during his time in office.
A native of Portsoy on the Moray Firth coast, he first went to sea aged 15 in 1943, working on a fishing vessel in the Firth of Clyde involved in aiding the war effort, including ferrying troops and sailors to their warships.
After the war he was a deckhand working on fishing vessels and in 1956 he bought his first boat, the Golden Eagle, which fished out of Buckie and Aberdeen.
He first became a leading figure in the industry in 1975 when he was appointed chairman of the “blockade committee” co-coordinating a series of blockades of Scottish ports as part of the industry’s demand for a unilateral 100 mile fishing limit for the UK.
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Willie Hay was an outstanding fishing industry leader. He taught me a huge amount about the realities of the fishing industry when I was a young Member of Parliament for Banff and Buchan.
“I used to joke with Willie and other leaders of the industry of that era that they wrote my speeches for every fishing debate and, that being the case, Willie’s knowledge and humour shone through.
“I saw him earlier this year and he still retained that sense of fun, as well as the vision and passion for the Scottish fishing industry which was his life’s work. My condolences go to his family and many friends at this time.”
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, said: “Willie was a true gentleman who believed passionately in protecting the interests of Scottish fishermen. He will be sadly missed.”
Bob Allan, who was chief executive of the SFF during the period of Mr Hay’s presidency, said: “It was with great sadness that I learned that Willie had passed away. He had a big personality and was the type of man who once met you could never forget.
“He was a very effective leader who was equally at ease in large meetings with fishermen or holding top-level discussions with Government or European officials. He was held in huge respect by fishermen and Government ministers and the contribution he made to protecting the interests of the Scottish industry was quite simply immense.”