Scott Wilson on his 20 years as the Voice of Hearts and what he said to Rangers fans in response to non-stop sectarian chanting

So, I’m saying to the Voice of Hearts as he kicks back into retirement, you just ripped off your three brothers, didn’t you? “Bang on,” comes the reply. “I’m Scott Wilson - plagiarist!”

Tynecastle’s announcer these past 20 years and always his dream job, Wilson followed his eldest sibling Billy into goalkeeping. Billy made it all the way to Grimsby Town while our man had to be content with Edinburgh’s amateur scene. “I remember a Scottish Cup semi-final for Tollcross in 1986 … how could I forget it because up the road at Dens Park Hearts were losing the league. I had a radio in my wee glove-bag and think we may have contrived a few corners against ourselves so the Jambos in our team could check the score. Ach well, that result … it was character-forming!”

Brother Jack became an electrical engineer and young Wilson would watch him at work to pick up tips. “Our mum was always worried I would blow myself up. The bedroom was a deathtrap of bare wires hanging out of sockets. But to go out on the road as a DJ I managed to construct my own rig with traffic lights - classic.”

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Then there’s Tom. To Scotland’s rave generation he’s the legendary Wilson and Scott doesn’t dispute this. “The godfather of tartan techno,” he says, “and it was him who put me in front of a microphone for the first time. From the same bedroom in Burdiehouse he produced a show for the pirate station Radio Caroline South. The copper cable was hooked up to a tree in the garden. The GPO tracking van was always on the prowl and his mates would keep shotty at either end of our street. I idolised Tom and when I was 12 and my voice broke he let me read the news.”

But becoming MC Tynie, the “Make some noise!” guy, that was all down to him. “My first Hearts game was aged three, versus Dundee United,” says Wilson, now 60. “My first heroes were Donald Ford and Jim Cruickshank. My favourite Tynecastle memories are of games with Tom, him a vending machine engineer by this point and me being thrown around in the back of his van battering down to the stadium, parking up at the gospel hall and us racing to the turnstiles, never quite making a kickoff. The announcer back then was Larry Cowan who effectively operated out of a garden shed in the old enclosure. He was very unshowy and just played records. I think he was primarily there for safety messages. Still, it seemed like great fun. I really wanted to be that voice.”

We’re chatting via Zoom, Wilson in his man cave in East Calder where the dad-of-two lives with his wife Gill, and it’s a den celebrating the twin passions of Hearts and pop music with gold discs decking the walls alongside posters of David Bowie and the Clash. There’s Bruce Springsteen in Lego form, a smaller version of the cow sculpture that sits atop The Horn, the Perthshire milk bar that’s a favourite stopover for north-travelling football fans, and a customised bass guitar, maroon and white and etched “HMFC”.

If you’re of a certain age and grew up in Edinburgh and love your music, the conversation is a ghost tour round hops and shops long gone but not forgotten - and your correspondent has to be careful that a shared devotion to the blue-eyed soul of Hall & Oates doesn’t dominate it (though Scott, I maintain that Abandoned Luncheonette is their solid gold classic album and I get the last word, see?).

Wilson worked Saturdays at the Sweet Inspiration record store and played in a punk band called The Neutral whose moment of sweet inspiration was clambering to seventh on the bill for a gig at the Astoria, only to have the slot cruelly snatched from them. “The promoters told us: ‘Sorry, but we’re replacing you with a band from Glasgow.’ ‘Who?’ we said. ‘Johnny and the Self-Abusers.’ At the show we sulked up the back and critiqued our rivals: ‘They’re shite … aye they’re shite.’ Johnny and the Self-Abusers changed their name to Simple Minds and promptly disappeared … ”

Scott Wilson, just retired as the Voice of Hearts, in his man-cave celebrating his twin loves of pop music and the football team down Gorgie way. Pic: Lisa FergusonScott Wilson, just retired as the Voice of Hearts, in his man-cave celebrating his twin loves of pop music and the football team down Gorgie way. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Scott Wilson, just retired as the Voice of Hearts, in his man-cave celebrating his twin loves of pop music and the football team down Gorgie way. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

While the musical Wilson boys continued to support their team - “We left the 7-0 game after Hibs’ fifth goal … another character-forming afternoon” - Scott followed Tom into deejaying round the pubs and then onto radio, where the former remained true to classic pop and the latter discovered EDM (electronic dance music - come on, keep up).

“I couldn’t get into techno - ‘Boom-boom pish’ I called it - and he couldn’t understand why I’d want to see Bruce Springsteen 17 or 18 times. [There’s an interlude here while Scott and I reminisce about being in the same queue, camped outside the Playhouse overnight, for tickets to see the Boss in 1981]. “Tom was a brilliant mixer of records,” Wilson continues, “whereas I could segue from Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ into the Communards’ ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ and that was that. He was quite shy and you wouldn’t have asked him to stand up and talk in a hall 1,000-strong whereas I’d be fine. I was more of a personality jock but the banter between us was great.”

Same, for Wilson, with the banter between Hibs and Hearts. At the microphone he’d revel in it and before every derby down Gorgie way always played “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Sparks’ “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us”.

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It’s the fixture he’ll miss the most, for the ribaldry as much as anything, and he laughed as loud as any Hibby when in 2012 his opposite number at Easter Road, Willie Docherty, responded to the Jambos’ tax problems by spinning the Beatles’ “Taxman”. “That was very funny but Willie, who was a great announcer and remains a good friend, was sacked for it. Humourless Hibs!”

Wilson’s story is instructive for anyone who suffers multiple career setbacks. Electrical engineer by day, just like brother Jack, he’d been “desperate” to join Tom at Radio Forth but first had to suffer 11 rejections. “The last letter back went: ‘Thank you for the latest in your series of demo tapes but sadly we’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t have a future in radio. Good luck in whatever you do.’” He went round the country, Northsound and Clyde, before Forth changed their tune about him. At first he played hard to get - “For all the buggers’ knockbacks” - but eventually relented, bringing some “Good morning, Vietnam!” schtick to the breakfast show.

At Hearts, John Robertson became Wilson’s new goalscoring hero. En route to the 1998 Scottish Cup final, he and Tom were voxpopped by a camera crew about the club’s prospects, and after so many disappointments in the competition, never mind Dens and the yo-yo years, Wilson ventured, more in hope than expectation: “2-1 to us.” They were interviewed as just another pair of long-suffering fans, not local celebrity DJs, and the clip made it onto a celebratory DVD.

Wilson had been an announcer for baseball and ice hockey and was the caller for the Scottish Claymores’ gridiron games when then Hearts supremo Chris Robinson, who liked his style, attempted to lure him to Tynecastle. “He said he was revamping ‘game day’. I didn’t want the job because I was very happy sitting in the Gorgie stand with my son Chris and shouting at referees, which was my penchant.

“I agreed to five games on the proviso they’d train up someone else. The first was in August 2002, a derby, Mark de Vries’ debut, 5-1 to Hearts. The announcer before me [Mark McKenzie] used to play ‘Shout’ by Lulu after every goal. He was a good guy but you can develop a pathological hatred of a tune if you hear it ad nauseum. I decided to cut up five songs for their hooks, not thinking I’d end up burning them all in the first match. Everyone was thrilled by the victory and I was able to bask in reflected glory with some fans crediting it to the new guy at the microphone. Obviously that was nonsense!”

The team kept winning, the letters from fans saying they liked Wilson’s patter kept coming and, enjoying himself too much, he agreed to make the post permanent. If he’s not the longest-serving announcer in the SPFL he’s definitely the best-known with his tricks copied by others. “For [Romanov era poster-boy] Saulius Mikoliunas I cut up and sped up Peter Gabriel’s ‘Biko’ so the chorus sounded like ‘Miko’ and that became his goal tune. Everyone does that sort of thing now but back then it was a wee bit different.”

Over two decades, featuring two more Scottish Cup triumphs, he developed other signatures, such as always opening up broadcasts with Propaganda’s “Duel” (“Eye to eye stand winners and losers … ”). He championed local bands on the rise, hoping they get the big break that eluded The Neutral (“Have you heard the Vistas? They’re Hibbies from Penicuik but really good, as are The Snuts, straight outta Armadale”). And then there were the little subliminal gags.

“When Jimmy Calderwood brought one of his teams to Tynecastle I played REM’s ‘Orange Crush’. When Leigh Griffiths was huckled in Tesco it was ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ by the Smiths [the player was later cleared of shoplifting]. The average football-goer is a hairy-arsed 37-year-old male who might not have picked up on these subtle choices. Maybe the troglodytes would, when Celtic visited, wanted me to play ‘Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves’ but I’d never have done that - it’s disrespectful. I remember, though, Rangers coming to Tynecastle in the wake of the SFA vowing to clamp down on sectarian chanting and their fans defiantly singing the complete repertoire for the entire 90 minutes. At the final whistle, after the official attendance, I signed off: ‘Wherever you’re headed, be it home or back to the 17th century, thank you very much and have a safe journey.’”

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Two of the Wilson boys are no longer with us - Jack and Tom, who died in 2004. A musical subculture mourned. “He’d been suffering from laryngitis, gone to New York and come back with gastroenteritis. He was a workaholic so I told him to take it easy. When we next spoke he said he’s just had a pie supper and was feeling better. But the following day his girlfriend had to take him to the Western General where he suffered a massive coronary. The only consolation was it didn’t happen in the street with no one around to help. He was in a hospital but sadly they couldn’t save him. I was on air at Forth when I got the call. I had to continue broadcasting for 40 minutes until cover arrived. That was a blur. I was in a complete daze.

“Tom was my hero. His famous show on Forth was Steppin’ Out and I always plugged it at Tynecastle. When I DJ I still get asked to play his big hit ‘Techno Cat’. You know, I still don’t get his music. But when I’d see posters for [dance club] Resurrection and him at the top of the bill at 3am it would be a reminder of massive and important he was because you’d never know it being in his company from him being so humble. I was incredibly proud of him.”

You read that right. Wilson still spins the decks. And why not? Him and me and the fortunate among you grew up with the greatest of soundtracks. He’s got a wedding gig on 21 May when Hearts try to lift the cup again, so if they’re successful, the open-top bus could well pass the venue just as he’s about to delve into the “dangerous box”. Where he keeps his rave? “Ha, not quite. There nothing dangerous at all in there, just Barry White and Billy Ocean and stuff guaranteed to get folk of all ages dancing.”

Maybe his choices would make the godfather of tartan techno chuckle but what would be Tom’s verdict on Wilson having been MC Tynie for all those years? “He was chuffed when I got the gig because he knew I’d fancied it from back when we were boys. But he’s probably been saying for a while now: ‘About bloody time you gave it up. Make way for someone new with fresh ideas.’” And he’s right!



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