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Robert Henry Robinson 1927–2011

Robert Robinson
Robert Henry Robinson, [Bob] (1927–2011), writer and broadcaster, was born on 17 December 1927 at 13 Moss Lane, Orrell Park, Liverpool, the only child of Ernest Redfern Robinson (1887–1961), accountant, and his wife, Johanna, née Hogan (b. 1893), daughter of Joseph Hogan, blacksmith. At the time of his birth registration his parents lived at 251 Stanley Road, Liverpool, but the family moved to Malden, Surrey, and Robinson was educated at Raynes Park grammar school. After national service in the West African Army Service Corps, based in Nigeria, he went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English. At Oxford he was in his element: he edited Isis magazine, acted, mixed with a lively and ambitious group, among them Robin Day and Shirley Catlin (later Shirley Williams, the politician), and edited Poetry from Oxford (1951).

Moss Lane, Orrell Park
After he graduated in 1951 Robinson's first job in journalism required him to make up readers' letters for a London-based weekly offshoot of the Sheffield Telegraph. He was soon writing about television for the Sunday Chronicle, then about film and theatre for the Sunday Graphic, once asking Rita Hayworth to jog his memory as to which husband belonged to which child. He became radio critic of the Sunday Times in 1956, the same year his first novel was published, Landscape with Dead Dons, an ingenious comic detective story set in Oxford. On 26 August 1958 he married Josephine Mary (Josée) Richard (b. 1929), an actress whom he had met at Oxford, and daughter of Paul Richard, merchant. After their marriage they moved into a Queen Anne house in Cheyne Row, Chelsea, where they lived for the rest of their married life. They had a son and two daughters.

Kenneth Tynan 
At the Sunday Times, Robinson became editor of ‘Atticus’ and in 1962 a columnist. His broadcasting career had begun with an appearance during the newspaper strike of 1955 but the first regular programme was Picture Parade in 1959. He did some interviews for Panorama and made short films with the director John Schlesinger for the arts programme Monitor. From 1961 he presented Points of View, a snappy filler featuring viewers' letters, in which Robinson's distinctive wit first came to a large audience. He hosted BBC3, the Saturday satire show in which Kenneth Tynan uttered the word ‘f**k’ for the first time on television.

Robinson was by the late 1960s one of the most familiar faces on BBC Television, presenting several weekly programmes. In 1967 he began a seventeen-year run as chair of the BBC1 quiz Ask the Family and twenty-one years as chair of the BBC2 panel game Call My Bluff, joined by The Fifties on BBC1 in 1969. He was on our screens again on BBC2, from 1973–80 in The Book Programme, and Stop the Week (1974–92). 

He was ‘the last great gentleman broadcaster’, as Laurie Taylor called him (Daily Mail, 5 Aug 2010). Certainly there will be few in future who, when a technical delay holds up a recording, will recite the whole first page of Chaucer's prologue to the Canterbury Tales, accent and all, or sign off with the formality of Robinson's ‘I bid you goodbye’. He died of pneumonia and heart disease at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, on 12 August 2011, and was buried in Gunnersbury cemetery. He was survived by his wife, Josée, and their three children.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Will Wyatt
R. Robinson, Skip all that (1996)
W. Wyatt, The fun factory: a life in the BBC (2003) Pin It