WHETHER it came to sophisticated cabarets, working men's clubs or a tour in the USSR, the late Dollar magician John Shearer was equally at ease.

One of Scotland's most highly skilled conjurers, the local man sadly passed away at the Orchard Care Home in Tullibody at the age of 85 this month.

With a smiling, outgoing personality and a humorous approach to magic, the Bonnybridge-born man went onto a successful career in entertainment that lasted more than 60 years, gaining international renown.

His abilities were recognised with a gold medal by The Magic Circle, he was the first professional Brit to tour the Soviet Union and he was also made an honorary member of the Inner Magic Circle in London.

As a youngster, he became aware of his dexterity when he joined his parents in card games at their Denny home. John later joked that he could cheat without them knowing - adding that as a future magician he considered it bad practice, but good practise.

In his early years he would carry a suitcase full of props to concert parties, local galas, church halls and hospitals, he also played the interval spot at Falkirk's Roxy Theatre.

During the day he worked as a car mechanic, although he quickly realised the salary would not be enough for a vehicle of his own. Therefore he became a travelling salesman - a job that came with a motor, allowing him to take his magic further afield with the props now in the boot.

In the mid 50s, he met his wife Eleanor and in 1960, they got married with John continuing to juggle two jobs and family life.

They moved to Dollar a few years later – the children are now married and flew out the nest, but she remains there.

After quitting his day job to go full time, he was working six days a week around the north of England and in the Midlands, quickly learning what worked and dropping some acts to introduce others.

One new trick was Dippy the Duck, a wooden prop which he manipulated, causing its beak to dip into a pack of cards and bring out the one previously selected by a member of the audience. He would often put a blindfold over its painted eyes to demonstrate to the audience that it could not see.

John gained lots of exposure when he supported Sydney Devine during a tour of Ireland. He also played at Belfast's Grove Theatre with Dickie Valentine.

He became close friends with Brice Forsyth, Max Bygraves and Dickie Valentine, while American star Guy Mitchell, who found it tiresome staying in hotels, would reside at his Dollar home during part of his UK tours.

In the early 60s, he performed at a number of Russian clubs in Glasgow as well as aboard Russian cruise ships which berthed in Grangemouth.

This led to cultural exchange group the Silk Thread Club inviting him to perform in Soviet Russia in 1965 – he dropped the jokes and created a visual act with Eleanor being introduced as stage assistant.

John later went on to do numerous overseas tours, performing across the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Thanks to his popularity, he received ongoing offers from agents and entertained guests on cruises for 15 years.

Following 64 years in the magic business, his last professional appearance was in 2008. Looking back, he would remark: “It’s been a great life. Travelling the world and cruising the oceans with world famous acts and meeting all the nice folks who made up the audiences.

“Often, I just couldn’t believe my luck - all that happening to a fellow from Denny with a wooden duck that was blindfolded.”

John is survived by wife Eleanor, their children Keith and Gull as well as five grandchildren.