Obituary: Old-style entertainer will be a great miss from the airwaves
One of Shetland’s best-known radio broadcasters, Gordon “Hank” Smith, died, aged 77, this week, 30 years after his first Country Jukebox show on BBC Radio Shetland.
Mr Smith was involved in public entertainment most of his life, singing and playing guitar on stage and record, forming a comedy and musical double-act with fiddler Allan Anderson and working on both sides of the radio microphone from when Radio Shetland started in 1977 until earlier this year.
Although born at Seafield in Lerwick, he spent his childhood and youth in Edinburgh where his family had moved. He returned in 1960 at the age of 28 by which time he was a talented musician, having been involved in various bands and coming close to getting a big break in the music business.
He started at Kay’s grocery in Lerwick and went on to work in many Lerwick shops including Black’s bakery, where he was manager. In later life he switched to music shops including The Music Box, Viking Vision and Bolt’s.
He was known throughout Shetland as compere of the once hugely popular Miss Islesburgh beauty contest for young women, staged every year until falling victim to political correctness in the mid-1980s.
He played with many of the Shetland greats including Aly Bain and Peerie Willie Johnson. Recordings were released at various times during his life and the last of several gospel-inflected albums he made together with Janet Leask is to be released in the near future.
Country music was one of his great passions and he was able to share it with listeners around Shetland when Country Jukebox started on Radio Shetland in October 1979.
Other shows followed over the years including Da Merry Boys’ Bandwagon with sidekick Allan Anderson and his last series, The Fifty Plus Club, which mixed nostalgic reminiscence with classy music from the 1940s onwards.
A slick presenter and skilled disc-jockey, Gordon “Hank” was also one of the station’s most trusted pair of hands at the controls, “driving” the station’s studio desk for other presenters’ music programmes, particularly the weekly request programme Give Us A Tune. Paying tribute to his decades of service, former station boss Mary Blance remembered his humour and geniality. She said: “I can’t imagine a Radio Shetland without Gordon ‘Hank’ Smith.”
Away from the world of entertainment, he held strong views on local and national affairs which were aired regularly in letters to The Shetland Times. He had a deep dislike of politicians, including councillors who he berated regularly in his letters for indulging in “white elephants” such as Mareel and Smyril Line. He also had it in for Britain’s royal family, once describing them as “our leading benefit claimants”.
In January last year he suffered a huge blow with the death of his wife Isobel. They had been extremely close, renowned for always holding hands as they walked around town together. It was a loss he never recovered from.
He had been in hospital for some weeks before he died. His funeral is tomorrow at 2pm with a service by the Rev. Alan Catterall at the Lerwick Methodist Church on the Hillhead. He is survived by his sister Netta and family.