King of Hay Richard Booth dies, aged 80

King of Hay Richard Booth dies, aged 80

Tributes have been paid to Richard Booth, after the self-styled King of Hay died aged 80. 

Booth, who turned Hay-on-Wye into a second-hand bookshop capital, died at home in Cusop in the early hours of Tuesday 20th August. 

The bookseller opened his first bookshop in Hay in 1961, in the market town's old fire station. Booth declared himself 'King of Hay' and proclaimed Hay an independent kingdom in a publicity stunt on April Fool's Day in 1977 and kept his own shop until making the decision to sell in 2008. He was made an MBE in 2004 and served as chairman of the Welsh Booksellers Association as well as life president of the International Organisation of Book Towns. 

Hay Festival director Peter Florence told The Bookseller: "Richard was a maverick, full of mischief and delight, who had an idea of genius about how to diversify a rural economy with secondhand book dealing and made a life of it. He inspired generations of bookdealers and browsers. There are many people in Hay who are here because of him. We all owe him the easygoing, happy spirit of the town.

"There was a time in the 70s and 80s when he was a tremendously charismatic, visionary entrepreneur who had great fun. He was a book man, and he loved a good deal, but I always thought he wasn't really in it for money; he was in it for the craic, for the party and the good times. And everybody treasures that image of him now."

Anne Brichto, owner of Addyman Books, said: "We are all still in shock and for me it seems a huge loss. His vision for this town has shaped many lives - my children were born because I moved to Hay and met my bookselling partner. 

"We built a throne of black books yesterday to commemorate him and ran a competition asking people to guess how many books it took. The town is planning a remembrance/celebration of his life on 12th September which was his birthday. The whole town will be at his funeral next week and I think the bookshops will close over that period as a sign of respect."

Booth is survived by his third wife Hope Stuart, a former freelance photographer.