What The Judges Said:
They say men can’t multi-task, but “they” have clearly never met Billy Muir, the winner of the inaugural TSB Community Partner Award.
Over the past five decades, Billy has juggled an astonishing 20 jobs in service to his local community, North Ronaldsay, the northernmost of Orkney’s islands. Arguably, his work has stopped the remote Scottish outpost from grinding to a halt.
Billy’s various roles have included fire fighter, shepherd, tour guide and airport worker. It’s all part of his deeply committed desire to keep life going for North Ronaldsay’s community of 50 residents.
He volunteers for most of his jobs, which also include airport baggage handler, electrician, builder, rubbish collector and looking after his own flock of rare sheep.
“I’ve never counted my jobs up to be honest,” Billy told us. “The community relies very heavily on the air service. To keep that going you need lots of tourists to use it as well as the island’s population to justify the flights.”
Aged 68, he has been the lighthouse keeper for some 47 years. He volunteers to take guided tours of the beacon, keeping fit by regularly scaling the 176 steps to the top.
“It’s one of the few in Scotland that’s open to the public, says Billy, “It’s the tallest land-based lighthouse in Britain.”
Billy’s roles also include also include being a member and previous chairman of the North Ronaldsay Trust and director at Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust.
His work with the trust included leading the team that raised £1.2 million to renovate and rebuild the attraction, which became automated in 1998.
I’ve spent most of my life in the lighthouse service and that means a lot to me,” Billy explained. “It’s something you dedicate yourself to doing as long as you’re able to. There is no retiring age now and that’s the reason I’ve clocked up so many years. It’s made me very happy. As long as I keep fit and healthy I’ve got no plans to retire.”
Billy, who has two daughters, is also a retained fire-fighter, on guard against fires at homes, farms, businesses and the airport.
“If you’re a willing hand you get lumbered with the job,” he said. “But we’re a very close-knit community and we rely on each other all the time to keep the island going. The sheep are a major part of that because it takes the whole island to round them up. “It’s not an easy task to round up 2,500 sheep on a shoreline. We’re like one big family.”
Billy’s wife Isobel, 76, joked: “He does a lot of work for the community when I would like him to be doing more work around here.”
But she added: “It’s worth it, I’ve often wondered where the island would be if he didn’t do all those jobs. He contributes so much to everything that goes on. It’s an ageing population and he’s one of the people that’s still strong and fit enough to do all this work.”
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