Ben Gavin, former Port of Waterford Chairman and a past Mayor of Tramore, died on Thursday morning after a period of illness.

Aged 51, Mr Gavin, of Pine Grove, Tramore, chaired the Port Company for more than a decade from January 1999 until earlier this year.

During that time he helped guide the former Harbour Board – having been a commissioner since late ’91 – into a modern state utility.

Under his chairmanship, the Port developed the Belview container terminal, and the company’s financial position improved immeasurably.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of his tenure was the securing of Tall Ships’ Races 2005 and Waterford’s successful hosting of that memorable event, which is to return to the city in 2011. One of those he worked most closely with on the Tall Ships front was Nicky Fewer, who died in March aged 60.

Ben also chaired the Irish Ports Association for an unprecedented two successive terms, and brought its annual conference to Waterford.

His other interests included media work, presenting both ‘Credo’, the weekly religious programme, and ‘Business Brief’ on WLRfm.

As well as his business career and various community interests, Ben was also heavily involved in politics. Originally a member of the Progressive Democrats, he won a seat on Tramore Town Council in 1999 and 2004 after switching to Fianna Fáil. He served as Mayor in 2002-’03 and was selected to run as a candidate in this summer’s local elections, but withdrew due to his ailing health.

The Mayor of Tramore, Paddy O’Callaghan said yesterday that Ben was “a great friend and colleague” and extended his and the Town Council’s deepest sympathy to the grieving Gavin family.

Ben is survived by his loving wife Breda and children Aoife, Shane and Jenna, his parents Maurice and Nuala, brother Philip, sisters Gaye and Maria, and extended family.

His removal will take place tomorrow (Saturday) to the Holy Cross Church, Tramore for Requiem Mass at 11.30am, with funeral afterwards to St Declan’s Cemetery, Riverstown.