Everyone at Heart of Midlothian FC was deeply saddened to learn of the death this morning of former Hearts’ Board Director and Vice Chairman, Pilmar Smith.
Pilmar (his mother’s family name) was born in Edinburgh in 1931. His father was a staunch Hearts’ supporter and Pilmar followed in this family tradition, remaining a committed and passionate fan throughout his life.
Pilmar attended Tynecastle School and was a fine footballer, playing on the right-wing for the juvenile side, Merchiston Thistle, and then the junior clubs Haddington Athletic and Loanhead Mayflower. As a result, he was friendly with many of the great local players after the War, including Davie Mackay, who was one of his good pals.
Pilmar was offered a trial by Wolverhampton Wanderers but he held back from accepting as it was rumoured that Tommy Walker wanted to sign him for Hearts. When this did not materialise, while disappointed, Pilmar decided that even if he would never play for Hearts, he would never stop supporting them….and he never did.
As well as being an accomplished footballer and a committed fan, Pilmar had a distinguished career characterised by hard work and sound principles. He was a time-served electrician, who worked in the coalmines, where he developed an interest in politics. Pilmar was always a staunch Union man and Labour supporter.
He also had a strong interest in greyhound racing, which he learned about during the ‘60s, when he worked as a bookmakers’ clerk, touring the tracks and ultimately owning some dogs himself. This interest led to Pilmar eventually having 2 bookmakers’ shops, one of which was in Dalry and the other in Balerno. Through these business interests, he sponsored Hearts for many years.
He held some original shares in the Club and when the capital was expanded in 1980, Pilmar became one of the major shareholders. Recognising his business acumen, he was appointed to the Board of Directors by Wallace Mercer in 1982, after which he worked tirelessly for Hearts. Essentially, he acted as “a bridge” between the ordinary fans and the Club officials. While he had the same hopes and aspirations as the man on the terracing, he was able to enhance the Clubs’ relationships with businessmen, with the media and with politicians. Pilmar was also behind a vibrant youth policy, harnessing his long friendship with Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, while also supporting the work of Alex MacDonald who was signing senior players in an effort to revive the fortunes of the team.
In 1992, he was appointed Vice-Chairman, stepping down in June 1994 following a change of ownership.
As we reflect on the centenary of the Armistice and the recent memorial walk (from the Hearts’ War Memorial at Haymarket to Tynecastle Park), which was undertaken by players, officials, dignitaries and thousands of supporters, we should also remember that Pilmar was the man behind the revival of the annual Heart of Midlothian Service of Remembrance.
Hearts has had no finer ambassador and he will be sorely missed.
Ann Budge, Chairman and Chief Executive stated: “One of the most rewarding aspects of my involvement in Hearts, has been the opportunity it has presented for me to meet some of the major legends associated with this great Club, whether players, managers, ordinary supporters or former directors. 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.”