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Fond tributes paid to former shoe repairer whose shop was a Highland institution

By Val Sweeney

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Tributes have been paid to the late Jim Smith.
Tributes have been paid to the late Jim Smith.

Tributes have been paid following the death of a charitable former shoe repairer described as a legend in his craft.

Jim Smith ran his business for many years from a wooden hut in Merkinch – which was regarded as an institution in the city.

He was also a community stalwart and keen fundraiser for worthy causes.

He died aged 80 in Aden House Care Home in Inverness – the same place he was born in 1940 when it was a maternity unit.

Mr Smith, who lived in Farr, leaves a son and daughter, Yvonne and John, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and a brother, John.

His death has sparked fond tributes and memories of his shop in Lochalsh Road.

Former Highland councillor Peter Corbett recalled he would carry out all kinds of repairs to footwear including football boots for the local Clachnacuddin team.

"His shoe repair shop was one of the few of its type left in Inverness," Mr Corbett said.

"It was always the place to go to.

"People then started buying shoes and throwing them away rather than getting them repaired."

Although Mr Smith lived in Farr, Mr Corbett said he was very much a part of the Merkinch community and a member of the area’s traders’ association.

"He was in Merkinch a long time," he said.

"He did a lot of fundraising for various groups in Merkinch."

He added: "He was a bit of a straight talker.

"I found he was very helpful to me – not just as a councillor, but I was also commercial manager for Clach for many years."

Merkinch community councillor Liz Young described him as legendary in the neighbourhood with a heart of gold.

"My youngest son was a footballer, and if there were any problems with his football boots, Jim would sort it," she said.

"Nothing was a bother.

"He was a craftsman. We will never see the likes of him again. He was amazing.

"I know if shoes were not collected in the shop for a long time, he would give them to poor people."

Community council chairwoman Dell McClurg recalled he would repair tap dance shoes.

"Walking into his shop was like a blast from the past," she said.

"It was an institution."

Although Mr Smith grew up in Farr, he and his first wife Maureen, later moved to Ascot where they lived on a farm.

He also had a part-time job with polo ponies and later became a taxi fleet operator in Bracknell.

Following the break-up of his marriage, Mr Smith moved back to the Highlands with his second wife Sylvia in 1986 and set up his shoe repair business.

His daughter Yvonne, who lives in the south of England, still retains her family links with the Inverness area.

She said people still spoke about her father’s shop and recalled having their shoes repaired.

"He did a lot for charity," she said.

"He liked watching horse racing and football and was a season ticket-holder at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

"He would go to games and stand there with his bucket collecting for charity."

There was also a sense of sadness among the community in Farr.

Farmer Alasdair Forbes said after Mr Smith’s wife Sylvia passed away in 2004, he had worked tirelessly for Macmillan Cancer Support.

"He was a member of the small group that first met to raise funds to build a new hall in Farr, back in the early 1990s, and was a generous sponsor of the St Andrew’s bonfire and fireworks night that was held in Farr for 24 years," he said.

"He never forgot his early years at Farr School and undertook several fundraising events for it, including treasure hunts and bingo nights."

His funeral, which takes place tomorrow at William T Fraser and Son, will be live-streamed.

People are invited to give donations for Macmillan Cancer Support nurses.

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