The night Hearts players pushed Pilmar home in a trolley '“ Brian Wilson

Pilmar Smith, Hearts vice-chairman from the Wallace Mercer era, was that rarest of creatures, a socialist bookie. He also enjoyed a warm relationship with the players.

Pilmar Smith, a socialist bookie and former Hearts chairman, was a man who knew the odds (Picture: Neil Hanna)

John Colqhoun’s story at Pilmar’s funeral this week helped explain why. He was delegated to lead a pre-season tour of California with the instruction to keep a close eye on the club’s prime asset, Craig Levein, who was injured but fit enough to socialise.

The team soon alighted upon the Mucky Duck in Santa Monica, run by a gentleman from the Raploch. Pilmar fulfilled his duty of care, said John, “if matching us drink for drink meant taking care”.

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“When it was going home time, Pilmar still kept Craig in his eyeline. However, it was from the vantage point of a supermarket shopping trolley that Walter Kidd and Sandy Clark had dumped Pilmar in to push him up a very steep hill back to the Holiday Inn,” he added.

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Pilmar Smith

All eyes around the pool were on Pilmar next day when he took a call from his chairman. “Yes, Wallace,” Pilmar reported, “I never let Craig out my sight and everything is marvellous here.”

Pilmar was a lifelong Labour activist and spent 12 years as an excellent chairman of Lothian Buses – itself a monument to the epic resistance of a Labour council to privatisation when most succumbed to the clutches of Stagecoach et al.

He was proud that East Lothian continues to be represented by a Labour MP, MSP and Labour-run council, which he attributed to ignoring the advice from head office to get rid of a branch structure and operate at constituency level.

Anyone listening to a man who knew the odds?