Tributes paid to Hearts legend Pilmar Smith who was to get lifetime achievement award

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A Hearts legend and Labour stalwart has died at the age of 87 - just days before he was to receive a surprise lifetime achievement award from the football club.

Pilmar Smith was Vice Chairman of Hearts during the Wallace Mercer era, and was also director of Lothian Buses for 12 years.

His close friend of 30 years, former Jambos chairman George Foulkes, said he was "devastated" to hear of his death from Pilmar's niece, Lesley Croan, adding: "He was a legend in football and was one of the greatest stalwarts in politics, and one of the best friends anyone could have."

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And Lord Foulkes said it is a "tragic irony" that Pilmar was due to receive a surprise lifetime achievement award at a Hall of Fame dinner taking place on Saturday.

Pilmar Smith at Gordon's Trattoria, Royal Mile. Pic: Neil Hanna

Pilmar Smith at Gordon's Trattoria, Royal Mile. Pic: Neil Hanna

A spokesman for the club confirmed that Pilmer will be honoured in some form at the weekend event.

Lord Foulkes, who knew Pilmar through his connection to Hearts and to politics, regularly attended games with Pilmar who often phoned Craig Levein to give advice.

The last Hearts match the pair went to was at Parkhead in early November, with their last home game together at the Edinburgh derby a few days before.

Born in Eidnburgh in 1931, he attended Tynecastle School and followed a family tradition of Jambos supporters.

HEARTS DIRECTORS L TO R DOUGLAS PARK, WALLACE MERCER AND PILMAR SMITH

HEARTS DIRECTORS L TO R DOUGLAS PARK, WALLACE MERCER AND PILMAR SMITH

He was a fine footballer himself, playing down the right wing for juvenile side Merchiston Thistle.

Hearts chairman and chief executive, Ann Budge, said that Pilmar was among the many legends that she has been lucky enough to meet through the club, adding: "Pilmar was one such legend and one I came to know and to hugely respect. 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."

As well as football, Pilmar had a distinguished career characterised by hard work and sound principles.

He was a time-served electrician and worked in the coalmines, where he developed an interest in politics and became a staunch Union man and Labour supporter - and he was chair of the East Lothian Labour party.

With a strong interest in greyhound racing in the 1960s, Pilmar also worked as a bookmakers' clerk, eventually opening two of his own bookies in Dalry and Balerno.

The 87-year-old also joined the board of Lothian Buses in 1992 and became chairman five years later.

In his time there he brought in the night bus service, introduced the airport bus and brought in hundreds of new vehicles - and dealt with the threat of a workers' strike over pay.

Lord Foulkes said that Pilmar's trade union links helped to bridge the links between workers and senior management, resolving the strike issue.

He said his friend had been battling lymphatic cancer but that the impact of this appeared to have been accelerated by a heart problem.

Pilmar Smith died at his home in North Berwick this morning.

Several of Mr Foulkes' Twitter followers have responded with messages of sympathy, after he shared the sad news yesterday.

Lord Foulkes added: "It took about half an hour to walk down the high street in North Berwick because everyone knew him.

"He will be greatly missed by so many people whose lives he touched."

He also said that another Hearts legend, former player Stephen Colquhoun, had been visiting and helping Pilmar of late, and that he had been "like a son to him."

Wallace Mercer's son, Iain, also Tweeted: "I was deeply saddened to learn this morning (Tue) about the passing of Pilmar Smith.

"He was a fond and loyal supporter of my dad serving as his Vice Chairman for the best part of 13 years. But, moreover, he was a thoroughly kind and decent man. #Hearts have lost one of their finest."