George Duffus

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George Duffus (1 June 1944–7 February 2002) was an entertainer, broadcaster and after-dinner speaker who hosted his own show on Radio Tay in the early 1980s, It's George for Grampian Television, and was chairman of Dundee's Wave 102. Outside of broadcasting he had a broad range of talents including singer, comedian, pantomime dame, quizmaster, compere, after-dinner speaker, Burns expert, recording artist and motivational guru.

Early life

Born in Dundee, Duffus began life in the Hawkhill area of the city, but his early years were marked by a series of moves, with the textile interests of his father, Harry, taking the family from Dundee to Blairgowrie, London, Greenock and Glenrothes. In Greenock he was a contemporary of the singer Peter Morrison. They both attended Scottish Schoolboys Association camps together and developed an appetite for performing by providing the evening entertainment put on by each tent at the camps.

At the age of 15 the family moved back to Dundee where he finished his schooling at Morgan Academy. He was a talented athlete who was capped twice for Scotland; was the Scottish Schools Triple Jump Champion; beat the High Jump champion; was Dundee Schools champion at Triple Jump, High Jump and 800 yards and regularly brought home many trophies from Highland Games everywhere. He left Morgan Academy in 1963 having given a great deal to the life of the school in sport, music, acting and humour.

Entertainer

After leaving school Duffus begun singing in the Underworld Café on the Perth Road, from where he started a folk club there and ‘made a turn’ on the bookings. With a fine singing voice and some ability on the guitar, he appeared regularly on the folk-club circuit along with notable contemporaries such as Bill Barclay, Barbara Dickson and Billy Connolly. He also starred for many years in shows with the Downfield Musical Society.

In 1968 he entered the Golden Ladder Talent Competition and, realising that the competition was full of singers, managed to win by adding comedy to his act. It was then that he realised his true talents lay in comedy.

At the same time, Duffus became the youngest ever Insurance Inspector in Scotland at 21. A Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute, he went into business with a friend, Gavin Cargill (from Waid Academy) whom George had met whilst competing in athletics for Scotland. They formed a successful company called Waid Morgan in 1973. Duffus built-up successful practices from bases in Dundee, Aberdeen, Elgin and Queensferry, both on his own and in partnership.[1]

Yet he continued to entertain, most notably in 1977 when he put on a show for 300 prisoners at Peterhead Prison, alongside other performers.[2]

Radio Tay

Duffus landed a job with Radio Tay when it launched in 1980. He presented a Sunday lunchtime show, George Duffus Entertains?, between 12 and 2pm until around 1982? Bill Torrance took over the same slot for many years from around 1984?

Grampian TV

The following year, Grampian Television gave him his own six-week show, It’s George, and regularly hosted the station's Hogmanay show.

Over the years he made more than 200 appearances on the Aberdeen-based station. These included regular appearances on Shammy Dab with Andy Cameron, The Big Break, the quiz show Random Choice, Funny You Should Say That, and Grampian's contribution to ITV's Telethon

Full-time entertainer

In 1983, Duffus sold his insurance brokerage interests to become a full-time entertainer at the relatively late age of 39. The money he made from the sale of his business interests allowed him to move to a ten-roomed villa overlooking the River Tay at Wormit in Fife, where he was also owner of the Pickletillum Inn.

He wrote all his own material, yet remained modest about his creative abilities, describing himself as merely someone who collected and retold stories. His knowledge of Scotland’s geography, combined with a keen ear for voices, produced a talent for imitation and mimicry across accents and dialects, with a particular mastery of the patois of rural Aberdeenshire.[3]

Mr Duffus was also a much sought after speaker on the after-dinner circuit and gladly performed at many charity fundraisers.

Later business interests

A proud ambassador for his native Dundee, Duffus was instrumental in setting up Dundee's Wave 102 station, of which he was chairman.

Latterly, he worked in the property services division of solicitors and estate agents Thorntons WS in Dundee.

Charity work

North Fife Rotary Club made him an honorary Rotarian for his work for cystic fibrosis and the blind.

Death

George Duffus was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in January 2002 and died a few weeks later, on 7th February in Dundee's Ninewells Hospital, at the age of 57. He was survived by his wife of 35 years, Ann (whom he married in 1967), and his two children Lynne and Lesley. Lynne Duffus (born 1973) had her own career as a broadcaster and became presenter of the mid-morning show on Tay FM in June 2016.

1200 people, including many stars from Scottish entertainment, attended his funeral service in St Andrews Parish Church, Dundee.

References

  1. 'Entertainer George Duffus dies', FIfe Today, 14 February 2002.
  2. George Duffus tribute, duffus.com.
  3. 'Obituary: George Duffus', Scotsman, 14 February 2002.