A LEGENDARY snooker figure known to Capital fans as the man behind the Marco’s Leisure Centre has died.
The name of Bert DeMarco has long been a byword for the sport and at one time he even coached a 14-year-old prodigy from South Queensferry named Stephen Hendry.
Bert, who himself was once the country’s highest ranked professional player, died at the age of 87 after a short illness at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
A five-time winner of the Scottish Amateur trophy and two-time Open winner, Bert opened his first club, The Angle Club, in Morningside Road in 1975.
He followed this three years later with Slateford Road’s Snooker and Squash Centre before Marco’s Leisure Centre, in Grove Street, opened in 1980.
His son, Bert jnr, said: “If you were anybody in Scottish snooker then you headed to that club. My father even coached Stephen Hendry when he was just 14.
“What he loved more than anything was instilling in the young the same love of the game he had. He gave so much back to the sport. As a family, we can never forget my father’s legacy.”
Speaking of his time with Hendry, Bert once told the Evening News: “Stephen’s father, Gordon, used to bring Stephen in and we’d play a few frames, but there was little I could teach him.
“Gordon actually offered me the chance to manage Stephen, but I’ve no regrets about saying no.”
Edinburgh born and bred, Bert was originally christened Luigi Umberto DeMarco in Leith in 1935. His love of the game blossomed in 1939 after his father, Umberto Luigi DeMarco, opened Edinburgh’s first snooker club in Granton.
In 1942, he signed up to the RAF as a mechanic and truck driver and spent the next four years stationed in Africa, Italy and Palestine.
After the war he returned to Edinburgh and married Maria Paoli in 1947. The pair had three children, Bert jnr, Ramon and Don.
Bert began playing as an amateur and rose to the top of the ranks before turning professional in the 1970s.
Bert jnr said: “He was the greatest Scottish player of his generation. We took his love for the game and made it into a successful commercial enterprise. Everything we have today we owe to him.”
In 1999, the family snapped up the nine-acre Chesser site where the Corn Exchange stands and turned it into Edinburgh’s leading gig venue.
The complex also boasts a bowling alley, sports bar and five-a-side football facilities.
In 2008, Bert followed, closing his much-loved Grove Street snooker hall and relocating to the World of Snooker.
Following the move, Bert donated ten full-size snooker tables – which can cost up £4500 each – to local schools and youth groups.
A member of the East of Scotland Snooker Association, Bert served as honorary chairman for 25 years.
Current secretary Ken Baird said: “He was a colossus of the game. There is not a role in snooker which he didn’t fulfil at some stage.
“Bert will be greatly missed. We will be looking to honour him in some way.”