BILL Barr, who died on November 8, transformed his family’s small Ayrshire building firm into one of the UK’s largest privately-owned construction companies.

And he was a colossus in sport and business throughout the county.

During his 34 years at the helm, the Barr organisation built everything from motorways to whisky distilleries, schools to water treatment works – mostly in Scotland but including more than 100 retail supermarkets and some 35 rugby and football stadia throughout Britain.

W & J Barr & Sons was established as a joinery and masonry business by his grand-father and grand-uncle in Barrhill in the late 19th century and when Bill and his brothers took charge in 1969 it had eight employees.

Together they developed the firm, initially in civil engineering contracting and later expanding into building and property development.

At a time when most of his competitors were subcontracting all but their core contracting activities, Bill believed in retaining control of as much of his business activity as possible.

Subcontracting, he maintained, is for people who haven’t got the guts to do it themselves.

Consequently, in parallel with contracting, the business developed 14 of its own quarries in Scotland, established a steelwork fabrication factory, and went into the readymix concrete distribution and crane hire businesses.

He also believed his clients were best served if Barr also did the design, and the firm came to specialise in design-and-build services.

The firm’s reputation for sports stadia stemmed from Bill’s passion for sport, in particular for football.

He chaired Ayr United FC from 1994 to 2003, over one of its most successful periods.

In 2002, the team, then in the Scottish First Division (the second tier) reached the Scottish League Cup final (beaten by Rangers) and the semi-final of the Scottish Cup (beaten by Celtic).

Bill was a member of the council of the Scottish Football Association and vice-president of the Scottish Football League.

He helped found the British Ice Hockey Superleague and established the Ayr Scottish Eagles, Grand Slam winners in 1997-8.

Barr’s design-and-build stadiums sprung up on a host of professional football grounds, including Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers training grounds, Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Hibernian.

Southampton’s 36,000 St Mary’s Stadium was completed in 2001 although planners blocked his hopes of building one for Ayr.

Bill was awarded an OBE in 1992 for services to the construction industry.

He is survived by his wife, Marlean, three children and one granddaughter.