- Grew up in Belfast through worst excesses of ‘the Troubles’.
- After 10 years in construction business studied theology at Queens University Belfast and entered Presbyterian ministry where, among other posts and after ordination, served in a church on loyalist Shankill Road.
- After further six years in two churches in Portadown area successfully applied for the post as Director of Christian Community Development Project – The 174 Trust – located in a Nationalist/Republican area of North Belfast that suffered disproportionately during the conflict.
THE 174 TRUST: Bill has been in post as Director/CEO for more than twenty-three years – taking up his current role a few weeks after the historic Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. The 174 Trust – and Bill in particular – is committed to ‘Building Peace and Promoting Reconciliation’ (he is both passionate about peace and realistic about reconciliation) through a number of projects, encourage dialogue and celebrate cultural diversity within the North Belfast community. In this way we continue to make a difference in the lives of all the people in this part of a divided and, sadly, still troubled city.
In February 2005, Bill was a recipient of the Harry McKillop Irish Spirit Award – established by Ross Perot “to support and recognize individual efforts in community based projects which seek to promote inter community relationships and peace in Ireland” – during a ceremony at Queen’s University Belfast.
A regular visitor to the USA, Bill has participated in the AMBIT Community Leadership Program and International Visitor Program in Washington D.C. in recent years – meeting President Bush during the St Patrick’s Day Celebrations at the White House on March 17, 2005. He was an invited guest to the White House again in March 2018 and participated in number of events on Capitol Hill celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday/ Belfast Peace Agreement.
Bill has delivered lectures at the University of St Thomas, Houston, Texas: ‘Reflections on N.Ireland: Steps Towards Reconciliation and Peace’, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame; DePaul University (Chicago); St John Fisher College (Rochester NY) and elsewhere on ‘Peace-building in N. Ireland’.
February 2008 Bill organised and led an ecumenical clergy group to Washington DC for a week-long trip to visit faith-based mercy ministry/social justice projects.
Named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List of 2012 Bill – for ‘Services to the community of North Belfast’ – received his O.B.E. from her majesty in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in March.
In recognition of his efforts directed towards peacebuilding, promoting tolerance and mutual understanding he has served three terms as part of the Lord Mayor’s Interfaith Chaplaincy Team.
May 2014 saw the fulfilment of a 14-year vision with the completion of the £3.5m refurbishment of the historic Presbyterian church at the top of the New Lodge Road – home of the 174 Trust – now the award-winning Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts – the creative hub for North Belfast.
In July 2015 Bill was awarded an honorary doctorate – Doctor of Laws (LLD) – for ‘distinguished service to the community’ by the Ulster University and was the keynote speaker at the Graduation Ceremony in the Waterfront Convention Centre.
January 2020 Bill was the guest preacher at an Interfaith Service in New York to mark MLK Jr. Day.