The passing of a legend

by on Jun.17, 2011, under Family and friends, Farne Islands, North Sea, Northumberland

We’re sure that all of the readers of our blog will be saddened to hear of the passing away of Billy Shiel M.B.E., early this morning.  Billy was a good friend to NEWT and will be greatly missed.

In recent years, whenever we were in Seahouses with clients or just having a wander on our own, Billy would stop his car if he saw us to ask how we were getting on.  He’d always be keen to impart up to date information about the latest sightings around the islands and our clients always commented afterwards about how welcoming and helpful he was.

Martin had some long discussions with Billy when he was carrying out research for the Northeast Cetacean Project.  Perhaps the most controversial cetacean off Northumberland, in terms of it’s status and distribution, is Killer Whale, or Orca.  Billy was an ideal, and very willing,  interviewee.  When he began his answer, when asked if he’d ever seen a Killer Whale around the Farnes, with “Have I got a story to tell you…” Martin wondered if this would would be confirmation of the previously unsupported online claims that Killer Whales prey on Grey Seal pups around the Farne Islands during the winter.  However, the sentence continued with “…it was 4.30am, sometime in late June, 1948.”!

Tourism in Northumberland has lost a genuine legend and our thoughts are with Mrs Shiel and all of her family at this sad time.

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