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BBC obituary broadcast: Stanley Robertson

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GUEST, topsie 04 Sep 09 - 11:33 AM
Vic Smith 04 Sep 09 - 11:35 AM
Marje 04 Sep 09 - 12:26 PM
GUEST, topsie 05 Sep 09 - 05:08 AM
GUEST, topsie 06 Sep 09 - 03:45 PM
SylviaN 06 Sep 09 - 03:50 PM
Folkiedave 06 Sep 09 - 04:19 PM
Diva 07 Sep 09 - 11:06 AM
dick greenhaus 11 Sep 09 - 12:31 PM
Folkiedave 11 Sep 09 - 04:54 PM
dick greenhaus 11 Sep 09 - 05:20 PM
Folkiedave 11 Sep 09 - 05:28 PM
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Subject: Stanley Robertson
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 11:33 AM

I have just been listening to BBC Radio 4's 'Last Words' programme, which included an obituary of Stanley Robertson - singer, storyteller, traveller. When it comes on 'Listen Again' it will be worth a listen.


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 11:35 AM

Lovely tributes from Sheila Stewart and from Sam Lee and wonderful to hear Stanley's singing and speaking voice again.


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: Marje
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 12:26 PM

It's on Listen Again already, and it comes about 18 minutes into the programme (after Simon Dee). Well worth a listen, especially for the snippets of song, and the things Stanley has to say about ballad singing.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 05:08 AM

Here's a link


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 03:45 PM

The repeat of the program is on air now - Stanley Robertson's bit any minute now.


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: SylviaN
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 03:50 PM

Listening to it now.


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 04:19 PM

There was also an excellent tribute paid to Stanley at Whitby Folk Week.


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: Diva
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 11:06 AM

The tribute to Stanley at Whitby was one of the highlights of a cracking week. Heard the BBC prog last night and it was very fitting.


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 12:31 PM

STANLEY ROBERTSON
Sep 3rd 2009


Stanley Robertson, the last of Scotland's Traveller storytellers, died
on August 2nd, aged 69

THE fish-hooses of old Aberdeen were dark, reeking places, and the work
was scabby. But it was all Stanley Robertson could get. At 15 he
started, 48 hours a week chopping up fish in some poky hole, getting
shocks from the finning machine, steeping his skinned, sore hands in
brine or pickle-juice. The smell was so scunnering it made him want to
puke up, and the lassies on the next bench thought it a great joke to
throw fish eyes in his face. When he finally caught the bus home to his
dinner, still with his wellies on, croaked after hauling wooden boxes
of haddock or hanging kipper kilns in the roof, other passengers would
say "What a horrible smell of fish!" and change their seats.

But they were characters who worked there. An old woman in a shawl,
who would bandage anyone's stinging fingers; a lad who did Elvis
impressions; the foul-mouthed fish-wives, who treated each other like
cat's dirt whenever one was out of earshot. And, not least, Stanley
himself.

Mr Robertson spent 47 years filleting fish for a living. With his
bland face and steady ways, he might have tried to sell you insurance.
Out of his apron he wore a suit and a flat cap, always neat. He could
slice a lemon sole to perfection. But inside his head, in thousands of
tales and ballads handed down for five centuries, lived kings, witches,
demons and mermaids. There were knights riding to battle, lovelorn
maidens combing their long hair, ghosts shouting "Boo!" from their
coffins, giants thrashing with huge clubs through the woods and nimble,
virtuous Jack, preparing to outwit them all. Under Mr Robertson's
modest cover was the best storyteller in Scotland.

He was a Traveller, one of that mysterious band who were neither true
Romanies, nor settled citizens, but roamed the roads of north-eastern
Scotland in tents and carts. That meant he was despised as a "tinkie"
at school and sometimes cut dead in the fish-hoose, though the girls
also pestered him to tell their fortunes (he made them up) and to "read
rubbish tae them aboot their tea cups". Since 1945 or so his family,
weary of a life of gathering flax or hawking rabbit skins, had settled,
with their 13 children, in an Aberdeen tenement. But a time would still
come every year when Mr Robertson knew in his bones that it was time to
go away:

They would go up the Old Road at Lumphanan, a green drove road peopled
with spirits and with a venerable oak tree, Auld Craobhie, who had to
be greeted each time they passed. ("We ca' them the guid folk," Mr
Robertson said, "for they can dee ye an awful lot of damage.") There
they would camp, light a "glimmer", or a fire, sing songs and tell
stories, with each teller throwing on a piece of peat as they began.
Here five-year-old Stanley first heard the grim and grisly song of the
little dove, the "wee doo":

The language was a mixture of Scots, Doric, Gaelic and Cant, or
Traveller dialect; he called it "one ancient tongue", and passed it on
as a kindness, not for money. The ballads came from his cousin Lizzie,
his grandparents and an aunt, Jeannie Robertson, a singer whose least
phrase could "pit shivers doun yer spine". As he could.

THE DANCING TREES
From his Aunt Maggie he learned to pass "through the eye of the skull"
into a zone where fairies and warlocks were real, and even scaldies, or
non-Travellers, could believe. Mother Nature taught him much of the
rest. Favourite among his Jack tales (told at Harvard and the
Smithsonian, as well as all over the Grampians) was one where, at the
50-year solstice, all the trees of the Old Road danced. As they pulled
up their roots, piles of jewels and treasure were uncovered. Canny Jack
picked up a few sparkling pieces; but the Laird of the Black Airt
stuffed his pockets, and was crushed by the trees as they returned.

His performances, always in his cap, arms pumping with enthusiasm or
voice sinking to a solemn whisper, were for adults or children; the
morals of his stories were ageless, and age-indifferent. But his
special feel for disappearing worlds and words led him also to collect
playground songs, for rope-skipping, ball-throwing, clapping or simply
choosing:

It was hard to believe, though it was true, that the fish-hoose in
which he earned his crust was equally endangered. Late in his life, to
his huge surprise, he was made a master of Aberdeen University for
keeping old traditions alive. Alongside his tales of the road, of
ghoulies and elves and the Laird o' Drum, riding out to see "a
weel-faur'd maid/A'shearin' her father's barley", the scholars also
recorded his memories of kippers hoisted on tinter-sticks, fish baskets
swirled in water, one herring every second dropped into the splitting
machine--all that his busy, careful hands were doing, while his head
was in Fairyland.


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 04:54 PM

Dick would you be kind enough to tell us who wrote that?


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 05:20 PM

It was an article in, of all places, The Economist. Here's a link:
Robertson Obit


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Subject: RE: Stanley Robertson
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 05:28 PM

Ta!!


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