TRIBUTES were paid last night to George Donald’s “exceptional” contribution to the Doric mirth and mayhem of the comedy revue Scotland the What?.
Donald died after a long illness at his Perth home, aged 79.
William “Buff” Hardie, the sole survivor of the trio who brought the distinctive humour of the North-east to a global audience – Steve Robertson died in 2011 – said: “George was a vital part of the show’s chemistry.
“His talent was exceptional. As well as being a gifted pianist, he was a wonderfully sympathetic accompanist.
“It was in setting songs to his own accompaniment that I thought he demonstrated a fantastic and very unusual talent.”
Hardie, who wrote the lyrics while Donald wrote the music, added: “He made it look so effortless. He was incredibly versatile.
“I remember we were once described by a critic as ‘couthy and classy’ and you don’t have look far to see where the class came from. George was just a terrific performer with a feel for the theatrical.”
Following the announcement of Donald’s death yesterday, the flag above Aberdeen’s Town House was flown at half mast in tribute.
The trio were granted the freedom of the city in 2008 for service to the arts, the Doric language, the culture of the North-east and “above all, for makin’ a’body laugh”.
Councillor George Adam, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, said: “Scotland the What? were wonderful ambassadors.”
Graeme Roberts, board chairman of Aberdeen Performing Arts which runs His Majesty’s Theatre – the revue’s spiritual home – said: “They have been uniquely entwined in the heart-strings of His Majesty’s, since the days when they wrote, composed, produced and directed the 1968 student show, giving them the idea of putting on a show of their own.
“George’s music and lyrics will live on forever as part of a North-east legend.”
Jane Spiers, APAs’ chief executive, added: “I was privileged to know George not just as a great performer and musician with Scotland the What? but in an earlier life as an inspirational teacher at Perth Academy who captivated a class of 14-year-olds with his passion for German literature, language and music.
“He was a first-class teacher and I owe so much to him as a positive influence and role model in my life.”
The three comedians first got together as part of the Aberdeen Revue Group after being involved in Aberdeen University student shows.
The trio first appeared under the banner of Scotland the What? at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1969 where they attracted rave reviews before taking their distinctive Doric humour around the world.
They gave their final performance, The Final Fling, at His Majesty’s Theatre on 25 November, 1995 – the same year they were awarded MBEs. They received honorary degrees from Aberdeen University in 1994.
Donald is survived by wife Isabelle, children Stephen, Marianne and Claire and six grandchildren. Mr Hardie added: “He will be sadly missed. I am mourning the death of a very, very good friend. ”