Tributes have been paid to a former Tayside police chief constable and charity boss following his death aged 76.
Bill Spence died at home in Kellas with his family by his side after a short battle with bowel cancer.
He was diagnosed with the disease in January when he was told that his illness was inoperable – he didn’t receive chemotherapy but had surgery to help make him more comfortable.
Daughter Shona McLeod described her dad as a strong, kind, gentle man who she never saw get angry.
She said: “Dad’s condition deteriorated rapidly but we were lucky that he was able to die at home surrounded by his family.
“He believed it was a privilege to serve with the police. He was very proud of his police career which grew out of his love to serve.
“He gained the Queen’s Scout medal which he always said was one of his most important achievements, alongside receiving the honour of Order of the Knight’s of St John.”
Mr Spence grew up in Ellon, Aberdeenshire and left school with no qualifications.
He had been a Queen’s Scout and after school he studied at night college then with the Open University before going to Strathclyde University to study law.
His police career began with Renfrew and Greenock Police in Paisley, but took him to Rothesay, operations with Interpol, and even India, before he ended up in Tayside.
Bill’s first role for the local division came in 1988 when he was appointed deputy chief constable, before securing the top job in 1990.
During his tenure the crime rate reduced annually and he helped to oversee and introduce some incredible technology which enhanced detection.
He was one of the far-sighted officers who saw the potential of DNA testing and helped to launch the Dundee labs, which were the first in Scotland.
Following his retirement in 2000 Bill was heavily involved in charity work and also founded the St John Scotland’s team of first responders in Angus in the late 2000’s.
Bill helped to spearhead the charity’s efforts to set up defibrillators in public sites around Dundee and Angus, and he became the face of the project.
A spokeswoman for St John Scotland said: “Bill Spence was the driving force behind much of St John Scotland’s activity in Angus and Dundee over the past two decades. He was instrumental in setting up a number of projects which continue to benefit the people and communities of the area to this day.
“Having learned of the difficulties many local cancer patients face when trying to get to their treatments, Bill began discussions with the Scottish Ambulance Service about the possibility of St John Scotland starting a patient transport service across the region.
“Beginning with a small group of drivers using their own cars to test the viability of the service, the patient transport scheme was launched in 2008 and began helping those who may otherwise struggle to get to hospital for chemo and radiotherapy.
“Following an initial successful period, and thanks to a legacy donated by a local woman who had been inspired by the service, a dedicated vehicle was able to be purchased.
“A few years later, the service was expanded to also help renal patients who needed to get to dialysis treatment three days a week.
“Throughout, Bill was instrumental in ensuring patient transport ran smoothly, always keeping patients’ needs foremost. He also played a large part in recruiting the teams of volunteer drivers, many of whom fondly recall being ‘persuaded’ into volunteering by Bill, whom they had known professionally or personally.
“Such was the strength of good feeling towards him that many, once nudged, remained loyal, contributing many hours of volunteering and helping countless people.
“With the successful patient transport service up and running, Bill turned his attention to another need in the area.
“He set up a group of first responders, who would be trained to support the Scottish Ambulance Service to respond to emergencies across Angus.
“The scheme would mean that people in life threatening situations like cardiac arrest could be attended to by a local, trained volunteer as quickly as possible.
“As well as organising the new groups, Bill served as a first responder himself, attending many incidents and no doubt saving lives.
“Having had much experience throughout his police career in attending cardiac arrest incidents, Bill was well aware of the life-threatening nature of cardiac arrest, and the need for quick action.
“This led to the seeds of another project with St John Scotland across Angus and Dundee – the provision of Public Access Defibrillators which could be deployed to help save the life of anyone who should suffer a cardiac arrest.
“Beginning in 2016 with the purchase of a first defibrillator for Carnoustie, Bill worked with communities across the area, from rural villages to urban areas of Dundee, to promote these life-saving machines.
“He remained intensely involved until the last few months of his life, always passionate about keeping the community’s needs foremost. The scheme grew from one defibrillator in Carnoustie, to 47 across Angus and Dundee by 2020.
“Bill was passionate about encouraging local support for the work of St John Scotland, and organised a number of activities to raise the charity’s profile and bring in vital public donations.
“He established the Fiddler’s Rally, held at Dundee’s Caird Hall each year, which was always a popular event and helped raise much needed funds.
“For many years he also arranged for St John Scotland to have a stall at the Glamis Extravaganza, promoting CPR training and offering tombolas and games to draw people in. Always setting an example to the other volunteers, Bill would arrive first to set up, and man the stall the whole weekend – come rain or shine.”
Lord Provost Ian Borthwick paid tribute to the former chief saying Bill was “a genuinely good man”.
He said: “He always gave his best and I am sorry to hear the news. When I had matters to raise regarding my own ward he was always interested in finding a resolution and it was clear he cared about the people of Dundee and was very knowledgeable and held the city in a high regard.
“My condolences go to his wife and family, he was a genuinely good man.”
Bill was honorary vice-president of the Tayside Branch of the Retired Police Officers Association Scotland.
Speaking yesterday, Matt Hamilton, vice-president and secretary of the branch, said: “Yesterday was a very sad day not only for the family of Bill Spence but also for his many friends, ex-colleagues and fellow police officers here in Tayside and across Scotland. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences are with
“Bill was a highly respected chief constable who had a great strength of character, an incisive mind and a political awareness that ensured Tayside police was during his tenure respected as one of the most innovative forces in Scotland.”
Mr Spence is survived by his wife Hazel, daughters Shona and Maureen and four grandchildren.