William Duff in 1999. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Bill Duff, who served as Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s trusted financial expert during the early development of the emirate, passed away on Friday at his residence in Jumeirah. He was 92.

Duff died of natural causes at 4.30pm on Friday. He is survived by his wife, Irenka, two daughters, Diana and Sheila, and four grandchildren.

“The good thing was he passed away peacefully,” Sheila Duff-Earles, Duff’s youngest daughter, told Gulf News.

“He was an excellent father. He was a fair man. He totally dedicated his life to working with the Arabs here — he treated Arabs as if they were his family,” she added.

Prior to coming to Dubai in 1960, Duff, an Oxford-educated classical Arabic speaker, was a financial expert who worked in banking in Kuwait in the 1950s. The British Arabist met Shaikh Rashid, the then Dubai ruler, in 1959 and was appointed as his financial adviser in 1960.

Duff set up the Dubai Department of Finance and the Dubai Customs. He was also a founder member of the Seamens Mission and also instrumental in the establishment of Dubai Ports World and Jebel Ali Free Zone.

He established the first British curriculum kindergarten, primary and secondary school, the Dubai English Speaking School, and was the founding member of the Christian Cemetery Committee and the Dubai Electricity Co, which is now the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority.

In 2002, the British Business Group honoured Duff for his promotion of the close relations between the UK and Dubai.

During his career Duff worked to engineer the building blocks of the vision Shaikh Rashid and his sons and further represented the interests of the British community in Dubai for more than 35 years.

“He was very committed to Dubai and very much a significant part of the growth of the emirate in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s,” said Francis Matthew, Editor-at-Large of Gulf News.

“He was very straightforward, very honourable, and very transparent,” he added.

Friends who knew Duff said he would be remembered for his strength of character and integrity.

“He was a good friend, very upright, and very principled. He’ll be remembered as one of the people closest to Shaikh Rashid and instrumental in building the nation and the growth of Dubai under Shaikh Rashid’s rule,” said James Hancock, Executive Director of GMCClinics and family friend of Duff for almost 40 years.

For Gerald Lawless, President and Group CEO of Jumeirah Group who first met Duff in 1978, Duff was an example to all.

“All I can say is, in every opportunity that I met him, he was a real gentleman, a great example of the expatriates who lived in Dubai and contributed to this nation. He loved Dubai. His generation contributed so much and was a big part of the fabric of Dubai for so long,” Lawless told Gulf News.

Those who wish to pay their respects may go to the family home in Jumeirah next to the Union House on Thursday, February 20, between 4.30pm and 8pm.

Funeral plans have yet to be finalised but his daughters say their father will be buried in Dubai, which he has always considered his first home.