Obituary: Billy Anderson, community activist, 60

Billy Anderson
Billy Anderson
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Billy Anderson, a long-standing community activist in Muirhouse, has died aged 60.

William Nelson Anderson, known to everyone as Billy, was a popular figure in North Edinburgh community circles and most recently was best known for his work in Muirhouse Millennium Centre’s cafe.

Born on February 2, 1952, the youngest of five children, Billy’s family life was shattered when his mother died when he was only 12.

Billy later spent five years as a Hare Krishna monk, but also found himself homeless and sleeping on the streets of London.

Fellow Edinburgh community activist Dave Pickering said: “He talked of sleeping under London Bridge looking up at the stars – it’s a romantic image, but it masks the ever-present danger and misery of being alone, hungry and homeless in London. These must sometimes have been desperate days, and the fact that he survived the ordeal with his sanity – and even sense of humour – intact says a lot about Billy.”

Billy moved to Edinburgh in the early 1980s and quickly became a familiar figure in Muirhouse. Mr Pickering said: “Billy was the guy who only planned to stop in Muirhouse for a wee while and ended up staying 30 years, and he certainly made his mark over that time. While he’d lost touch with his real-life family, Billy managed to create himself a new one as he became part of the Muirhouse community.”

He was involved in a host of community activities. He was a member of the local tenants’ group and went on to become an executive committee member of the Edinburgh Tenants Federation.

Friends said he was motivated by a passion for social justice and a concern for people, especially the vulnerable. Billy also took the opportunity to participate in training courses in North Edinburgh – he was an enthusiastic and forthright contributor at courses run by Pilton Partnership and Granton Information Centre.

In recent years Billy was perhaps best known for his involvement in Muirhouse Millennium Centre – he was part of the original steering group and he stuck with the centre all the way through.

Mr Pickering says: “The cafe was his kingdom. The Millennium Centre was like a second home for Billy; it was a huge part of his life.”

Billy died on August 6.

Inverleith ward councillor and former Lord Provost Lesley Hinds was among those who paid tribute at his funeral. She said: “Billy was an activist who worked hard for his area. He was always there in the background but when it mattered his voice would be heard, Billy came to Muirhouse as a visitor and ended up staying for 30 years. Billy has left his mark in Muirhouse, North Edinburgh and Edinburgh.”

Another friend said: “The people of Muirhouse have lost a hard-working and dedicated volunteer.”

He is survived by sisters Sheila and Isobel.