Souters mourn the passing of popular engineer and singer Billy Fleming

Although trained as an electrical engineer, Billy Fleming’s skills and eye for detail were incredibly wide-ranging.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 12:31 pm
Billy Fleming at work on a machine at the mill.

A Souter born and bred, Mr Fleming died in the BGH’s Margaret Kerr Unit on Monday, July 19, after several years of ill-health. He was 82.

The son of William Fleming, a Selkirk slater, and his wife Catherine (nee Kimber), who hailed from Galashiels, Billy Fleming was born in Viewfield Hospital on Christmas Day, 1938.

He attended Philiphaugh Primary School and Selkirk High School, where he excelled at technical studies.

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Billy Fleming.

Leaving school at the age of 15, he began an apprenticeship under Adam Dryden at Heather Mills, where he was to remain for the rest of his working life.

Friend and work colleague Brian Cassidy, the production manager at Whinfield Mill, said: “He was a highly-skilled engineer. Everything had to be just right, and the high standards he set himself rubbed off on all those around him.”

Billy undertook his National Service with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, being stationed first at Berwick and then Glencorse Barracks, before being posted to Malaya.

Billy met his future wife Irene Robertson, employed as a weaver at the town’s Roberts Mill, at a dance in the town’s Volunteer Hall (the ‘Gala Palais’). They were married on October 5, 1963, at the Lawson Memorial Church.

The couple had two children, Grant, who was born in 1969 and who sadly died in 2019, and Morag, born in 1972, who during her father’s illness shared caring duties with her mother and has provided wonderful support, along with other close family and friends.

A skilful second row forward, Billy was a member of the Selkirk Youth Club side who won the Border Semi-Junior League title in 1956. That team was captained by his life-long friend Jim Newlands.

Although Billy followed Jim up to Philiphaugh, his senior career was over almost before it started. He sustained a serious injury in his very first match, being taken to hospital by ambulance suffering from fluid on the lung. He never played again, but over the years remained a keen Selkirk supporter.

As youngsters Billy and Jim would enjoy summer holidays together at Dunbar, and the pair shared many common interests, and indeed their lives would turn out to follow very similar paths.

Each took the role of best man at the other’s wedding, both qualified as engineers, and both became staunch members of the Selkirk Incorporation of Hammermen. Heartbreakingly, Jim passed away just five days following Billy’s own death.

A keen supporter of the Common Riding, Billy was also an excellent singer, and sang for several years with the Hawick PSA choir.

The choir held an annual dinner at the Thorterdykes after its final concert, and in 1975 this coincided with Selkirk winning Hawick Sevens for the first time in the club’s history.

An avid hill walker, Billy’s other interests included keeping budgerigars, as well as attending to all the repairs and improvement work carried out at the Buccleuch Road home where he and Irene spent all of their married life.

Billy is survived by his wife Irene, daughter Morag, and by seven grandchildren and twin great-grandchildren, while another is awaited. Deepest condolences are extended to the family.

Billy’s funeral service was held at the Borders Crematorium, Melrose, on Friday, July 30.