TRIBUTES have been paid following the death of a former chairman of Northumbrian Water and vice-chancellor of Durham University.

Professor Sir Frederick (Fred) Holliday, CBE, died in hospital in Aberdeen, on Monday, after a long illness, aged 80.

He is survived by his wife Lady Philippa, daughter Helen and son Richard.

Born on September 22, 1935, Sir Fred, as he affectionately became known, was a noted marine biologist and naturalist who began his career in his native Aberdeenshire, in the 1950s.

He rose to prominence early in his career as the youngest university principal, when he took over at Stirling University during student unrest in the 1970s.

But his handling of the situation caught the eye of senior figures at Durham University, where he was appointed vice-chancellor in 1980, combining academic and business careers.

He became a director of oil giant Shell among several corporate appointments, and from 1993 to 2006 chaired Northumbrian Water Ltd, during which time he also became a prominent figure in a number of North-East business and arts activities, while based in the region.

But he was also an avid naturalist, serving as president of the British Trust for Ornithology and the Freshwater Biological Association.

Following news of his death, a Durham University spokesman said: “It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Sir Fred Holliday.

“In his role as vice-chancellor and warden Sir Fred made a tremendous contribution to the life and work of Durham University, and made many lasting friendships with colleagues.

“We have been in touch with his family and offer our deepest condolences to them at this sad time.”

Heidi Mottram, Northumbrian Water’s chief executive officer, said: “His distinguished academic and business career, and unwavering passion for looking after the environment and wildlife, established him as an extraordinary leader and authoritative voice within the water industry, and beyond.

“It was very fitting that Sir Fred’s last public appointment as NWG’s chairman was at a milestone occasion for one of the most exciting wildlife projects ever in the North-East, the reintroduction of red kites.

“It is now even more poignant that the last two of these birds of prey released in our region were named after Sir Fred and his wife, Lady Philippa.

“Our thoughts are with Lady Philippa and Sir Fred’s family and friends at this very sad time.

“We will all remember him with a great deal of affection and respect.”

Sir Fred was grandfather of three boys and two girls, and also leaves a sister, Myrtle.

A service of remembrance will be held in the chapel at William Black Funeral Director’s, 1a Latch Road, Brechin, Angus, at 1.30pm, on Wednesday, followed by a funeral service at Parkgrove Crematorium, Friockheim, also Angus, at 2.30pm. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Water Aid.