He was one of the men who created a fictional village called Auchterturra and brought laughter to people all over the world.
But now, William “Buff” Hardie, a pivotal member of the renowned Scotland the What? trio, has left the stage for the last time at the age of 89.
The Aberdonian, who formed the trio with his friends Steve Robertson and George Donald, was taken into hospital on November 21, where he tested positive for Covid-19 and was diagnosed with pneumonia, and died in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
He was the last surviving member of the comedy revue act who had no idea of the impact they would have when they travelled to the Edinburgh Festival in 1969 for what they imagined would be their farewell performance.
In his “real” job, Mr Hardie, who advanced from a childhood in Aberdeen to graduating from Cambridge University, expressed his desire to help others and for many years, he was the secretary of the former Grampian Health Board which, among other things, helped design the current Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
However, his life was transformed when the Scotland the What? show earned glowing reviews from the critics, was lapped by by an international audience, and they subsequently became successful performers whenever they unveiled their latest work at their spiritual home, His Majesty’s Theatre, in Aberdeen.
Mr Hardie told the Press and Journal last month about how the trio, who initially described themselves as “three semi-literate Scots taking an irreverent look at their country’s institutions”, were as surprised as anybody else when the burst into the spotlight.
He said: “We performed at the Fringe in a small church hall with an hour-long show and our pitch was: ‘Three men, two chairs, one piano – and the promise that you won’t leave without laughing. One of the first people who saw us was Neville Garden, who had just sat through four hours of Wagner at the Usher Hall and was ready to laugh at anything – which he did.
“The next day, his crit in the paper declared he had just seen ‘the funniest show in the festival’ and the whole thing took off. We never looked back.”
Thereafter, the group devised a new series of sketches and musical numbers every two years, which they unveiled to packed audiences at HMT, before taking their routines on tour around Scotland and to other parts of the world, while enjoying TV prominence.
And although their last hurrah was in November 1995, they subsequently received the Freedom of Aberdeen from the city council for “their services to the fine arts, the Doric language and North East of Scotland culture; promotion of the City and, above all, for makin’ a’body laugh.”
The conferral took place in April 2008 at HMT and since then, only Scotland football star Denis Law had been given similar recognition.
Mr Hardie, who was one of life’s natural raconteurs, was among the crowds who watched Australian cricketing legend, Don Bradman, score a century at Mannofield in the Granite City in 1948.
And his 80th birthday celebrations were held in the Bradman Suite at the same venue.
He recalled last month how he had been interested in showbusiness from an early age, but had been advised against making a career of it by his father.
Yet he persevered and relished his career on stage and entertaining the public, even as different honours were bestowed on STW?.
As he said: “We were there when Alex Ferguson got the Freedom of the City in 1999 and we did a cabaret on the night and it was a wonderful occasion for people like myself who had grown up going to Pittodrie and enjoying the Dons’ success.
“We had no idea that we would become so popular, it was remarkable. We were given the Freedom of Aberdeen, we were made MBEs and we received an honorary degree from Aberdeen University.
“I think of it as being honoured by Town, Gown and Crown”.
Aberdeen Lord Provost Barney Crockett said: “This is terribly sad news.
“Buff Hardie had a fantastic sense of humour, but also a great depth of knowledge about Aberdeen and the north-east and that is why so many of us loved Scotland the What?
“These characters were from his imagination, but they were real and we knew people like that.
“It used to be one of the highlights whenever STW had a new show at the HMT, but success never went to his head.
“He was a fantastic character.”
Mr Hardie is survived by his wife, Margaret, son John, daughter Katharine and five grandchildren.