THE ISLES of Scilly Council is without a leader following the death of its chairman Mike Hicks.
Aged 78, he died in his sleep at St Mary's Hospital following a worsening of his condition which had seen him receiving treatment at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.
A born and bred Scillonian, whose family's island roots spanned generations, he was also well known in Penzance.
After a spell in the Army he became a career seafarer, running a pleasure boat in the islands. Educated at the islands' Carn Thomas school, he married his childhood sweetheart Jocelyn Trenear and together they had five children, eight grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Mr Hicks's eldest son, master mariner and lifeboatman Stephen, followed in his father's seafaring footsteps and, like brothers Fraser and Alec, runs a pleasure boat in Scilly.
"Dad was always a strong character," he told The Cornishman.
"He was a major part of the family. We have lost a leading family figure.
"He always guided us through life. He was a good father, always doing his best even if we didn't always agree with him.
"He did his best for us and we always knew that."
Mike Hicks was a member of the Boatmen's Association and, like his father before him, held a contract with Trinity House to service the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, taking lighthouse-keepers to and from it. For years the family company Hicks and Son also held the off-island postal contract.
In the 1960s he played a prominent role in the recovery of treasure from the 1707 shipwreck off the Gilstone of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell's flagship HMS Association.
He was also a member of the famed diving unit of Penzance diver and restaurateur Roland Morris, involved in the diving operations on the wreck of HMS Colossus.
Mr Hicks, in his earlier days a black-bearded figure with a sailor's rolling gait, exchanged the sea for St Mary's Town Hall when he was elected to the islands' council in 1985.
He served for 28 years, holding the position of chairman twice in 1996-97 and again in 2010.
Two years ago the man, whose boat ferried the press around the islands in pursuit of the Queen on her 1967 visit welcomed Her Majesty himself to St Mary's.
He was a director of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, rising to the chairmanship, at times chairman of the council's housing and sea fisheries committees, represented the islands on the old Devon and Cornwall Police Authority and was a trustee of both the Edward MacDonald Trust and the Pilot Widows' Trust.
He was known as a popular figure in the islands: approachable and affable, even-tempered and straightforward.
His council deputy, vice-chairman Amanda Martin, said it was with tremendous sadness that the authority had to announce his death.
"Recently he was in discussion with Penzance Town Council and Cornwall Council to try to secure funding for our sea link," she said.
"He was a devoted family man and very proud of his Scillonian roots.
"His presence within the Council of the Isles of Scilly will be greatly missed."
Scilly's MP Andrew George called him a "larger-than-life character", adding: "He is irreplaceable."
Steamship Company chairman Andrew May said: "It came as a great shock to us all. He was a man of great stature who commanded great respect in the community. He made a difference as a Steamship director and chairman, councillor and chairman and in his work elsewhere. He leaves an impressive and enduring legacy."