Hearts have paid tribute to Pilmar Smith, the club’s former vice-chairman, who has died aged 87.
A lifelong Hearts supporter, Smith was on the board at Tynecastle for 13 years, working alongside flamboyant chairman Wallace Mercer during the heady days of the 1980s when the pair helped revive the club who were languishing in the First Division and mired financially.
Their appointment of Alex MacDonald as manager was a major catalyst for change and Hearts quickly returned to the top flight.
Within three seasons they came agonisingly close to being crowned champions, only to be denied on the final day of the season.
Ann Budge, the Hearts owner and chief executive, said: “It was a privilege to meet such a genuine, caring man, who only ever wanted to do what was best for our club. “I will miss his sage advice and unwavering support. It was an honour and a pleasure to know him.”
Educated at Tynecastle High, next door to the ground, Hearts were in Smith’s blood. He was a more than useful player and was offered a trial by Wolves but declined in the hope Hearts would come in for him. “It never happened and Smith played for junior clubs Haddington Athletic and Loanhead Mayflower. He worked as a miner, an electrician and a bookmaker’s clerk before eventually opening betting shops of his own.
His other great passion was the Labour Party which put him at odds – politically at least – with Mercer but the pair bonded over the business of football and Hearts were the beneficiaries. “If much of the 1970s were spent in Hibs’ shadow, the 1980s proved a prosperous time for Hearts who emerged as the capital’s leading club and challenged Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Dundee United at the top end of the table.
Smith was also largely responsible for the revival of the Hearts service of remembrance at the war memorial at Haymarket.
George Foulkes, former Hearts chairman, said: “His contribution to Heart of Midlothian was massive and he was a friend to so many of the Hearts players right up to the present day. “He will be really greatly missed by so many people whose lives he touched.”