Packed pews in Selkirk Parish Church for the funeral of Billy Stark were a true testament to Billy’s commitment to his family and the community.
His death at the age of 83 leaves a void that will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill.
Billy was a poet and raconteur with a charming wit whose company was much sought after at dinners and Burns Suppers across the Borders.
Much of what he recited was his own work, capturing the spirit of the countryside and its pursuits which he so loved.
Selkirk Common Riding was dear to his heart and a rendering of one his songs on the subject was a fitting end to his funeral service. He was a keen supporter of both Incorporation of Fleshers and Hammermen, and in 2007 Selkirk Merchant Company honoured him with its annual award for community spirit.
Fishing and gardening were very much a feature of his spare time, and amongst his achievements was that of Borders Begonia Champion.
He brought out a DVD –Stark Choices, in aid of a cancer charity and Scott’s Selkirk festival – which contained three of his own compositions.
Billy once declared; “Reciting poetry is always something I’ve liked doing and hopefully it helps ensure this part of our heritage is not forgotten”.
Walking the hills and cycling the byeways brought Billy, his wife Betty and the family much enjoyment.
He played rugby, bowls and was a fine middle-distance runner. Stick dressing was another activity into which he put energy and enthusiasm.
At the memorial service the Reverend Margaret Steele properly described Billy as honest, modest and unassuming.
She also stated: “His love of the mither tongue came through in all his writings and his desire to preserve it for future generations was aided and abetted by Ian Landles. The DVD Stark Choices means there is a record kept for posterity.
Mr Landles, Billy’s counterpart in Hawick, told me : “Hei was a superbly entertainin reciter whae brought pleasure ti countless numbers o folk, but abune a’ hei was a gem o a man, devoted ti his wife, Betty and family, and ti his beloved Selkirk, aye full o fun and a constant encouragement in a’ that I did. A’ll aye cherish his friendship. It was an honour ti ken um.”
Billy’s working life included time as a postman, a warehouseman at Gardiner’s Mill and a plater and bonder at Exacta Circuits.
The Rev Steele summed up: “Billy really valued friendships and loved to speak to people – he knew exactly what to say to anyone. He didn’t have any enemies and he didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone. There is a huge hole in each of our lives, yet he lives on in our lives and our loves.” BB