‘A great Hearts man’ – Pilmar Smith tribute after former director passes away

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Gary Mackay has paid tribute to Pilmar Smith, a dyed-in-the-wool Hearts supporter who took immense pride from his 13 years as a director at Tynecastle.

Smith, whose roles in Gorgie between 1981 and 1994 included serving as former chairman Wallace Mercer’s trusty right-hand man, passed away at his North Berwick home yesterday morning following a battle with illness. He was 87.

Hearts director Pilmar Smith, left, looks on as Gary Mackay shakes hands with chairman Wallace Mercer after extending his contract in 1987

Hearts director Pilmar Smith, left, looks on as Gary Mackay shakes hands with chairman Wallace Mercer after extending his contract in 1987

Smith’s tenure on Hearts’ board spanned the bulk of Mackay’s lengthy playing career, and the club’s record appearance holder described the ex-director as an exuberant presence who helped foster a sense of togetherness as the club mounted a strong resurgence in the 1980s. “Pilmar was a great Hearts man,” Mackay told the Evening News.

“He was at the club for the majority of my career and he took great pride in being a Heart of Midlothian board member. He was a good ambassador for the club but I think the main thing about him was that he was a great person for bringing everyone together, from the manager, to the players, to the board. He was also good at getting people to keep things in perspective. After how things had gone for the club in the 70s, Pilmar was a hugely important person during the reinvigoration of the club in the 1980s.”

Smith, a former electrician and bookmaker who would latterly go on to become chairman of Lothian Buses after leaving Hearts, enjoyed ingratiating himself with the players upon becoming a director and thrived on representing the club he loved. “He was great conduit between the players and the boardroom, and he prided himself on that, being the go-between,” said Mackay. “Wallace negotiated the deals, certainly in my case, but I think Pilmar had already told him what the deal would be because he knew what Hearts could offer and he knew what I was looking for. He basically set the deals up and he prided himself on being part of that. I’m sure it wasn’t just me he did that with, he did it with the other players as well. He was probably closer to guys like Craig Levein and John Colquhoun, but I had a close relationship with him during our time together at the club.”

Mackay, who joined Hearts shortly before Smith arrived and left a few years after the director departed, sensed he was in the company of a man in his element while helping run his boyhood club. “He was a massive Hearts supporter,” continued the former midfielder. “He stayed at Murieston just off Dalry Road, so he was a local man. He did well for himself, made himself a few quid and he wore the blazer and tie he got for being a board member with massive pride. It was nice for him that he was able to do that. He was a bubbly gentleman but I think Hearts brought out a lot of that positivity because he had such a love for the football club. He enjoyed life and I think he got massive enjoyment from Heart of Midlothian Football Club, both as a supporter before, then as a director and then as a supporter again thereafter.”

Despite being stricken by illness, Smith was able to get along to Tynecastle recently at a time when his beloved club sat top of the Scottish Premiership. “I’m told he was at a game a few weeks ago so his love and desire to go to the football never left him even during the period of ill health that has sadly taken his life,” said Mackay.