Obituary: Billy Barclay, farmer and councillor

Billy Barclay: Black Isle councillor and farmer who loved his community and knew it inside out
Billy Barclay: Black Isle councillor and farmer who loved his community and knew it inside out
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Born: 24 March, 1951, in Fortrose. Died: 23 October, 2013, in Fortrose, aged 62

Billy Barclay was a councillor who knew his community inside out: a man with a knowledge so intimate and extensive that it could only come from a lifetime living and working at the heart of the area he represented.

In part it was down to his affinity for his birthplace – until last year he had never left Scotland. The rest was the result of his desire to help others and solve their problems.

Supported by his family he ran his farming business in tandem with his council work for the Black Isle ward while setting up and running community initiatives for the local youngsters and those suffering from dementia.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a community issue on his doorstep that first sparked his interest in local politics when he fought for the future of Raddery School, then a charity-run residential establishment for troubled youngsters. After it was taken over by Highland Council, which continued its work and re-named it the Black Isle Education Centre, it was suggested he should stand for election.

Following his success on being voted in to serve Avoch and Fortrose, he established himself as a hard-working, hands-on representative – not averse to shovelling snow or clearing ditches himself – who got things done. As a result he was voted back twice more, representing the area for more than a decade.

He was born at Ordhill Farmhouse, Fortrose, where his father Bobby had become a farmer after being picked from a line of boys at the local poorhouse. Having been taken under the wing of the farmer, Bobby grew up there, became the tenant farmer and raised his own family there with his wife Lizzie. Billy Barclay was one of their three children. A bright child, he was educated at Avoch School and, though academically capable, chose not to go on to Fortrose Academy but to finish his schooling locally with his friends. He left at 15 and began work on the family farm, which was linked with another property, Boggiewell Farm. He also studied for a City and Guilds qualification at agricultural college in Inverness.

Running the mixed arable and livestock farm, he was a successful cattle farmer and a shareholder in Tore Grain Group where he won an award for the best malting barley.

He met Jennifer in 1967 and the couple were married in Inverness in 1969. They went on to have a daughter and three sons. They made the move from tenant farmers to proprietors more than 20 years ago when they bought Ordhill along with Boggiewell. Later they purchased a third farm along the road.

When he was persuaded to stand for Highland Council, following his rallying of the community over Raddery School, he was able to do so with the support of family, particularly two of his sons who are involved in running the farming business.

In May 2003 he was elected to represent Avoch and Fortrose as an independent councillor. Four years later he was returned with a resounding majority to serve the Black Isle ward and voted back again similarly in May 2012.

But farming never came second, and he successfully juggled both commitments. He particularly relished the opportunity to help people that his role as a councillor afforded. He served on the transport, environment and community services committee, took a keen interest in roads and transport issues and cared deeply about the people of the Black Isle.

Highland Council leader Drew Hendry said: “Billy was hard working, well liked and respected by all those on the council and in his community where he worked tirelessly on issues which were important to the people who came to see him.”

That respect was marked by postponement of a committee meeting in Dingwall and the curtailment of a full council meeting, to urgent business only, when colleagues learned of his death.

Depute Leader David Alston, a fellow Black Isle Councillor, said: “Billy cared deeply about the Black Isle and he will be remembered both for the great pride he took in farming its land and for his commitment to representing its people.”

However, his concern for locals went far beyond the work that he could do through the council. When there were complaints about youngsters hanging about the streets he said he would do something about it. Despite some local scepticism he came up with a solution – setting up Fortrose Youth Café.

He organised the premises, which were donated by a businessman, and ran the venture with his wife and a committee of volunteers, spending every Friday and Saturday night with the young people who were no longer on the streets. The café lasted for nine years until the couple switched their attention to assisting those with dementia and their families, helping to set up D-Caff dementia café in Fortrose Leisure Centre.

A man with no time for holidays, he was proud of the fact he had ventured out of Scotland only once – and only as far as Yorkshire – for a family wedding last year. He loved his own country and did not see the need to go anywhere else.

He is survived by his wife, their children Steven, Paula, Christopher and Mark, six grandchildren, his sisters Maimie and Caroline and his mother, whom he visited every day.

Billy Barclay’s funeral will take place today at 1pm at Avoch Congregartional Church.