Billy Reid: Dedicated local volunteer and advocate for the disabled, 1936 – 2020



Billy Reid was a popular, well-respected stalwart of the community and champion for the disabled who contributed significantly to his home village of Kyleakin over many decades.

He died on Sunday, after a period of illness — leaving behind a legacy of tireless service to the place where he lived for almost all of his 84 years.

Billy’s background reflected Kyleakin’s historical status as a meeting place of peoples.

His father William’s forebears were from Lossiemouth and had followed the herring fishing to settle in Skye at the turn of the 20th century. His mother Christina Nicolson was from Braes — the daughter of crofters who had agitated in the battle there in 1882.

He grew up amid the post-war buzz of a thriving village, completing his schooling in Portree before working locally prior to national service in 1954. Billy served for 14 months with the Camerons in Korea, aiding United Nations efforts to keep the fragile peace in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities, which had ended the previous year.

Stints in the Glasgow Central and Turnberry Hotels – then part of the British Transport Group – followed in the late 50s. But while his brother Calum’s career in education and academia would take him to Edinburgh, the far east and eventually Australia, Billy’s talents would be harnessed at home. He returned to spend the bulk of his working days with the General Post Office and its successor, British Telecom.

In 1965 he married Mary MacKenzie from Duntulm and as they raised their four children there was scarcely an aspect of local life which didn’t benefit from their involvement.

He served as chairman on the community council, on the local hall committee, helped organise the annual Kyleakin gala, was a Justice of the Peace in the district court, a trustee for charitable body Urras na Drochaid and a keen bowler for the village club.

A fleet-footed winger in his playing days, Billy was also a pivotal figure for Kyleakin Football Club over many years. He rarely missed a game, and in his final months had still been keen to know whether any competitive matches would be taking place this year.

Perhaps his greatest local achievement, however, came in helping to improve the facilities available to local people living with learning and physical disabilities.

Prior to 1981 and the formation of the Skye and Lochalsh Association for Disability – of which Billy would become chairman – services had been virtually non-existent. But the establishment of the Kyleakin Centre, based in the village’s old school, brought lasting and positive change.

That facility has since evolved to become Kyleakin Connections and the Nice Café, a project which does hugely valuable work to support independent living and to develop life skills for attenders like Billy and Mary’s eldest son Cameron, who has been part of the team there since the start.

Despite coming through major heart surgery in 1985, and after taking early retirement in 1992, Billy’s community efforts never slowed.

He was always on hand to offer wise counsel and could be a fountain of knowledge on a range of subjects — from sport to local history. He’ll be remembered for his level-headed authority, razor-sharp wit and his driven sense of duty to his family and community across many different spheres.

“Kyleakin has a lot to thank Billy Reid for,” wrote Lynne Kennedy when interviewing him for the Free Press some years ago. “He is someone who cares, is prepared to be involved and wants to make a difference.”

Sympathies are extended to Mary, Billy’s wife of 55 years; to Cameron, Christine, Malcolm and Mairi and their families which extend to seven grandchildren; and to his brother Calum in Edinburgh.