Bill Blackiston: Businessman, hotelier, soldier and charity skydiver

Bill Blackiston on the quay at Blakeney. Picture: Ian Burt

Bill Blackiston on the quay at Blakeney. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Soldier, fuel company director, hotelier and fund-raising daredevil pensioner Bill Blackiston has died aged 87.

Bill Blackiston doing his 13,000 ft skydive for the air ambulance charity to mark his 82nd birthday.

Bill Blackiston doing his 13,000 ft skydive for the air ambulance charity to mark his 82nd birthday. Picture: UK PARACHUTING. - Credit: UK PARACHUTING

The father of Norfolk celebrity chef Galton was well-known in his later life for twice doing charity skydives, in his 80s, raising more than £12,000 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

The Blakeney pensioner also had the honour of carrying the Olympic torch through Fakenham in 2012.

But his career and earlier life were equally colourful.

Mr Blackiston was born in Canada in 1928 and spent his early childhood in Argentina where he was taught to ride horses by the gaucho cattle hands.

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The family returned to England in 1937 where Bill completed his education and his parents ran the Spotted Dog pub at Penshurst in Sussex, creating an early 'gastro pub' - and starting a family tradition.

At school Bill excelled at sport playing for the hockey and rugby first teams - and at music, playing double bass in the school orchestra.

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Despite a firearms accident at school, Bill chose a military career enlisting as a regular soldier then proudly joining the first intake at Sandhurst after the war.

Mr Blackiston volunteered to serve with the UN forces in Korea, later rose to Captain, and when stationed at Weybourne met future wife Andy. He resigned his commission to be with her. They married in September 1959 and lived at Hainford.

In 'civvy street' he took a job first with Shell, then with William Corys rising to regional manager, then moving to Kent on further promotion to director level.

After retirement in 1983 the couple began an up-market B and B with fine dining, soon gaining a spot in the Good Food Guide - and able to turn for help to son Galton who was himself learning the business - before heading back to Norfolk in 1987 living at Blakeney and Cley.

Sailing on the family boat Mudhopper was a passion - along with supporting Norwich City with his sons, and travelling with Andy to Africa, to India and Australia

After she died in 2000 he channelled himself into fundraising for the air ambulance including skydives when aged 80 and 82.

In a tribute the family said: 'Bill was one in a million. He was a gentleman with integrity, and a sense of humour who led three very full careers, and was tremendously supportive of his family.'

He died peacefully at his home on June 2 just two days after his 87th birthday on May 31, leaving two sons Jamie and Galton and three stepsons Andrew, Nigel and Miles.

A funeral will take place at St Margaret's Church, Cley at 3pm on Friday June 19.

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