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.
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”.
“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.
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?