George Anderson Duffus, businessman, entertainer and broadcaster
Born: 1 June, 1944, in Dundee
Died: 7 February, 2002, in Dundee, aged 57
GEORGE Duffus entered show business by way of the folk-club circuit along with such notable contemporaries as Bill Barclay, Barbara Dickson and Billy Connolly. Possessed of a fine singing voice and some ability on the guitar, he decided a decade later in the Seventies that his talents lay in comedy. This aptitude for switching disciplines stayed with him all of his professional life.
His knowledge of Scotland’s geography, combined with a keen ear for voices, produced a talent for imitation and mimicry across accents and dialects, with a particular mastery of the patois of rural Aberdeenshire.
Parallel to a thriving stage and television career as singer, comedian, pantomime dame, quizmaster, compere, after-dinner speaker, Burns expert, recording artist and motivational guru, George’s liking for his "day job" as property insurance broker and financial adviser puzzled many. He built up successful practices from bases in Dundee, Aberdeen, Elgin and Queensferry, both on his own and in partnership, and was founder and chairman of Wave 102 radio station in Dundee.
His successful show-business career came through dedication and personal effort. While natural talent played its part - he was to be found in schoolboy shows at Greenock Academy and Morgan Academy, Dundee - he was renowned for the time and old-fashioned hard work he put into preparation. He had a phenomenal memory and that knack of never forgetting a face or name even a decade later. His easy social grace made all those he met feel special. That same memory enthralled fellow Burns lovers, when each January he would hold the floor at events, quoting Burns by the yard, equally at home reciting Tam o Shanter or proposing the Immortal Memory.
Yet it remains a cruel fact of show-business life that he never quite achieved the breakthrough which his talents deserved, in spite of hosting events from North America to Hong Kong.
He transferred easily from stage to television to top table. His diary was an annual round of Burns, cruises, motivational speeches, pantomime and after-dinner speaking, from which he made sure that there was time for charitable work. North Fife Rotary Club made him an honorary Rotarian for his work for cystic fibrosis and the blind.
He finally turned to entertainment full-time at the relatively late age of 39, taking the decision to sell his insurance brokerage interests and feeling secure enough to move to a ten-roomed villa overlooking the Tay at Wormit in Fife. Years later, with a growing portfolio of entertainment bookings and heading towards 20 seasons of pantomime, he took up the reins of business again.
This penchant for moving around had been bred from boyhood, with the textile interests of his father, Harry, taking the family from Dundee to Blairgowrie, London, Greenock and Glenrothes. No-one needed to teach George Duffus about the ability to handle the management of change, for his whole life successfully reflected it. He could transfer from a cabaret floor telling jokes to after-dinner speaking with ease.
He never seemed to switch off. He caught that audience ability to create genuine amusement from a fund of stories and one-liners that seemed to continue without limit, a genuinely accomplished and funny man. He wrote all his own material, yet remained modest about his creative abilities, describing himself as merely someone who collected and retold stories. Those who saw him in action remember an entertainer whose material was always funny and never offensive, a view echoed by his wife, Ann, the unwitting butt of much of his humour.
For many years he had his own programme, It’s George, on Grampian TV, also appearing regularly in Shammy Dab and presenting Grampian’s Hogmanay show, notching up more than 200 appearances on the Aberdeen-based station.
He was a proud ambassador for his native Dundee, and loved his native city with a fervour second only to that for his family. He is survived by his wife, Ann, and children, Lynne and Lesley, and also by his father, Harry.