THE red and white city of Sunderland is all set to turn blue and yellow tonight, in a tribute to one of its favourite business sons, John Hays, who died suddenly last week.
Mr Hays, 71, collapsed while at work at the offices of his Hays Travel business, in the city centre, which he founded and co-owned with his wife, Irene Hays. The company’s familiar colours are blue and yellow.
The Hays made national headlines last year, when they saved thousands of jobs across the UK after the collapse of the Thomas Cook, by buying all 555 high street shops owned by the tour operator, in a deal worth just over £6million. Hays Travel employs just over 7,000 people.
Following Mr Hays’ death, an online book of condolences has been opened here: https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/article/17730/Book-of-condolence
Alongside that, the city council has announced it will light up landmarks across Wearside tonight and tomorrow night, as a mark of respect.
A council spokeswoman said it was a tribute to a local man who stayed loyal to his hometown all his life and kept his business in Sunderland rather than allowing it to move elsewhere.
Sunderland Council leader Graeme Miller said: “It’s fitting that we look to a visible tribute, and with a book of condolences there is the opportunity to mark his passing in words.
“John was always deeply loyal and committed to Sunderland and the North East region, and we thank him for that. I know many other people feel the same, and he was loved and admired by many people in the city and beyond.”
In 2016, the city council awarded Mr Hays the Freedom of the City as recognition for his services to the community.
As well as launching Hays Travel, he also set up the Hays Travel Foundation, which supports young people to achieve their potential. Their blue and orange colours are a familiar sight in Sunderland city centre where it has its HQ, and in hundreds of high streets.
The Northern Spire bridge, Fulwell Mill, Seaburn Lighthouse, Hylton Castle, Beacon of Light and Keel Square, outside the company’s HQ, are all being lit to mark his passing.
Lights go on at dusk on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 November until dawn the following morning. The funeral for Mr Hays is due to take place on Wednesday.