Born: October 19, 1944;

Died: February 11, 2021.

IAN Black made a striking impression on his soon-to-be best friend, John Duffy, that day in 1963 at the Honeywell offices in Motherwell. “Blackie, who was also a junior clerk, was wearing the regulation suit, shirt and tie – but no shoes and socks,” says Duffy, grinning. “He was in his bare feet. And he went home in his bare feet.

“Blackie liked to be unconventional. He liked to go his own way in life, and he would continue to do so.”

Blackie, as he was known to all his friends and his wife Leslie, was a paid-up hippy back then, and retained that countercultural essence right through his life, regardless of the career path he took, whether as a magazine publisher, a writer of joke books, a businessman or a theatre producer.

“But what struck me about Blackie was he was always positive,” says Duffy. “And great fun to be around. He was informed, a voracious reader who could speed-read and devour books, particularly science fiction. But, most importantly, Blackie liked people – and they liked him.”

Blackie, the son of a steelworker and a housewife mum, grew up in Motherwell with his sister Fiona listening to Bob Dylan’s protest songs. He joined the CND movement and became a peace marcher, as well as a fervent nationalist.

In the early seventies, having surrendered to socks and footwear, the long-haired sci-fi fan moved to Glasgow to work for a firm of solicitors, where he was soon joined by the future actor and musician, Dave Anderson. Blackie, however, still retained a rebellious streak. “He taught me how to swindle a few bob from the stamp money,” said Anderson. “He was also full of fun, and never stopped telling gags. “And not all of them,” he added with a laugh, “were funny.”

Bored with office life and socks, Blackie and Duffy took off on an adventure to London where they lived in a desperate bedsit in Notting Hill Gate, through the wall from future playwright and best friend, Tom McGrath.

And when Blackie and Duffy moved back to Glasgow in 1972, Blackie became involved with McGrath in setting up avant-garde arts venue, The Third Eye Centre. Blackie’s easy way with people helped attract talent such as John Byrne and Whoopi Goldberg

He also helped produce the up-and-coming comedian Billy Connolly’s Great Northern Welly Boot Show. “He once punched me smack on the head,” Blackie revealed some years later. “A great amount of drink had been taken that night at a party, so perhaps I must have deserved it.” He laughed: “Or perhaps not.”

Blackie and Duffy’s lives remained interconnected. Duffy bought a flat in Glasgow’s Sanda Street and Blackie bought the one below. The flats became a regular party venue for visiting young actors, such as Pierce Brosnan and Rupert Everett, and upcoming Scots stars Kenny Ireland, Alex Norton, John Bett and Bill Paterson.

When Duffy came up with the idea of starting a recruitment business, who better to have as a business partner than his entirely honest best pal, who was bursting with energy (Blackie was an insomniac, his brain refused to shut down) and positivity. The business was successful and ran for several years, and the duo opened offices in Dublin and Limerick.

Meanwhile, in 1973, Blackie married Leslie Blair and the couple had three daughters. His love for the arts, however, had never abated and he went on to create the arts magazine Culture City, while working as a theatre critic with The Herald and the Evening Times.

But he had another great passion in his life: he had become a lieutenant in the Tartan Army. “He once left me behind on holiday in San Francisco to fly down to Mexico to see Scotland play,” recalls Leslie.

“Another time, after a game in Spain, he missed his flight but managed to sneak onto another one. After getting on board, Blackie realised it was packed full, so he persuaded a small boy to hide in the overhead locker until the stewardess completed the head count.”

She smiles at the memory. “Blackie never thought for a moment he wouldn’t get away with it. He always considered himself lucky.”

He wasn’t always. He once wrote a play, Tales Of The Tartan Army, which ran at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre and toured Scotland. His costs were too high, however, and Blackie lost the shirt off his back and his holiday home on the coast. (All the cast were paid in full).

Yet he bounced back, coming up with the idea for little joke books, writing the likes of The Ultimate Weegie Joke Book and The Unofficial Tartan Army Songbook.

He knew that his works weren’t classics of literature. When once asked about his Christmas stocking-fillers, he smiled and said: “They’re *****,” adding with pride, “but they’re Scottish *****.”

Not just Scottish. He went south, to Newcastle, to Liverpool and Manchester, resulting in the likes of Greatest Geordie One-Liners.

In recent years, Blackie became an integral part of Glasgow’s Oran Mor theatre venue, where he shared crosswords with Dave Anderson and helped organise plays. It’s fair to say he loved every play he saw (“Wonderful.” “Incredible.”), his unalloyed enthusiasm denying him a place in the pantheon of great theatre critics.

Sadly, his incredible energy was to prove to be his liver’s undoing. Blackie loved a whisky, and he became reliant upon a glass or two to help him sleep. Then the habit escalated. “He gave up drinking four years ago, stopped suddenly, but that was the wrong thing to do,” says Leslie. “His body couldn’t cope.”

He was seriously ill for some time, but this unconventional, shoe-rejecting, deeply-caring jokester who wore Bob Dylan hats in the winter and retina-blitzing bandanas in the summer, hid it well. Not surprisingly, when his time came, the man who had launched (at least) a thousand quips, raged defiantly against the dying of the light.

“He’d had far too much fun in this world to let it go,” says Leslie Black. “He loved life too much.”

Ian Black is also survived by his three daughters, Lucy, Robin and Kate, and his sister Fiona.