When she interviewed him in 2012, Herald writer Michele Hewitson described Ewen Gilmour as “a hard worker disguised, fairly effectively, as a slacker.” The legendary comedian’s persona as a denim-clad, motorbike-mad Westie was not entirely invented — he kept his treasured Triumph Bonneville America inside the house — but Gilmour was many things.
After Gilmour passed away in early October 2014, ex Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey argued that “while he may have looked like a crazy, wild Westie, he was terribly focused.” Gilmour spent three years as a Waitakere councillor, and worked as a youth, police and family court co-ordinator, where his humour proved an effective ice-breaker. “He was pitch-perfect”, Harvey told the NZ Herald. “He knew exactly what the problems in the community were — he got it.”
The ex car wrecker, radiator repairman and stonemason first became a TV fixture in the mid 90s. Comedy veteran Paul Horan remembers Gilmour's terror before auditioning to join 1993 comedy quest A Bit After Ten. "I got him to put his bits of paper on the floor to free him up. He did a great take. I've never met anyone who wanted to make it more."
Gilmour went on to appear on the Pulp Comedy stage. In 1997 Gilmour was the debut winner of the Billy T Award for comedians, and used some of the prize-money to travel to the UK. Thanks to the range of comedy he was exposed to, Gilmour “came back with skills I don’t know if I would have gotten here”. In 2003 he was nominated for Best Entertainment/Comedy Performance in that year's television awards, for a Gilmour Pulp Comedy special.
Aside from many TV appearances on comedy shows and specials, Gilmour brought his love of automobiles to vehicles driven badly clip show Road Madness, and a slot on weekend show Powerbuilt Tools Motorsport. Gilmour showed little fear in his screen endeavours. He encountered Machu Picchu and Peruvian drug-dealers for this episode of Intrepid Journeys, competed on Celebrity Treasure Island, and presented the German episode of series Here to Stay (Gilmour's great-grandfather arrived in Puhoi from Bohemia, in the 1860s). After twice joining a group of entertainers who performed for peacekeepers in East Timor, he hosted documentary Project Timor - A Job Well Done, alongside Te Radar. In 2005 Gilmour drove his Triumph on stage while competing in the first season of Dancing with the Stars.
A certified marriage celebrant and 'cultural ambassador' for Waitakere, Gilmour threatened to quit comedy in 2001, disillusioned with the business and the loneliness of being on the road. He didn’t. In 2007 he resigned from his job as a Waitakere city councillor to spend more time with wife Cathy, who had had a brain tumour removed the previous year. She died in February 2011. Gilmour talked openly about the loss in one of his final comedy tours.
On 3 October 2014 Ewen Gilmour died in his sleep, in his Port Waikato home. He was 51. The previous night he'd been filming at Mediaworks' Auckland studio for an episode of comedy series After Hours (the next day he was due to appear at a charity show in Whangarei). Argues After Hours producer Jon Bridges: "He just walked out there, charmed everyone with his beauty, smashed the gig and then walked off the show of his life basically. It was the perfect comedian's exit." A year later, much of the material from Gilmour's final gig went to air as part of Ewen Gilmour - Westie Legend. The documentary also included memories from many of the comedians who had known him.
Updated on 12 August 2020
Ewen Gilmour website (broken link). Accessed 3 October 2014
Michele Hewitson, ‘Michele Hewitson Interview: Ewen Gilmour' - The NZ Herald, 24 March 2012
Megan Pilbrow, 'Ewen Gilmour's last gig set to air' - TV Guide, 2 October 2015
Morgan Tait, Sophie Ryan, Anna Leask, ‘Comedian Ewen Gilmour dies suddenly at home' - The NZ Herald, 3 October 2014
Northern Advocate, NZ Herald staff, 'Comedian Ewen Gilmour mourned' - The Northern Advocate, 3 October 2015
‘Winning the Billy T award' (Video interview) Stuff website. Loaded 25 April 2013. Accessed 2 October 2015
Unknown Writer, ‘Wife of comedian loses cancer battle’ - Auckland Now, 21 February 2011
Road Madness website. Accessed 2 October 2014