THE EXTRAORDINARY life of a popular and passionate pub landlord in Saddleworth who died suddenly is to be celebrated by a grieving community.
Billy Reilly, who ran the Diggle Hotel with his wife Angie, passed away on 20 February 2015, aged 61, from natural causes.
‘A celebration of Billy’s Life’ will take place on Wednesday, March 11 at the Sacred Heart, Uppermill, at 6pm followed by an event at the pub, both open to all.
A private funeral will also be held to send off the beloved landlord and hundreds are expected to pay their respects over the two events.
Jovial Billy, nicknamed ‘The Big Fella’ was born in County Offaly in Ireland on 30 October 1953 into a family of 14, who all moved to Manchester in 1967.
After leaving school aged 13, he worked in factories then the gas industry before becoming a doorman aged 17.
But he made his mark in the pub trade feet in the pub industry and spread his infectious personality across the community during spells at The Crown Pub Ancoats, The Unicorn in Lower Broughton, The Granby and The Cross Keys in Uppermill and lastly Diggle Hotel.
Away from his labours, he always had a friendly smile and kindly word, taking time out to share some of his marvellous personal sunshine with customers and friends.
A large part of his life was dedicated to tug of war, which saw him both coach and pull around the world in a team including five of his brothers.
The talented group clinched medals wherever they went, including golds at 47 County Championships, 2 World Club Championships, 3 National League Championships, 12 AAA Championships, 35 National Championships, 12 UK Championships, , 6 World Championships and 1 World Games Championship.
All this and more is captured in a nostalgic ‘This is your life’ book put together for Billy’s 50th birthday, including anecdotes, pictures and newspaper cuttings.
Angie, Billy’s partner of 32 years, will continue to run the Diggle Hotel, where a Book of Condolences is quickly filling with heart-felt tributes from locals.
David Park, a long-time friend and landlord of The Commercial Hotel, Uppermill, said: “Billy was a rare and wonderful character.
“He was loved by everyone who met him. He was immensely kind and generous and had an infectious personality with marvellous charm and wit.
“He loved Saddleworth and will be sadly missed by the whole community.”