Funeral for a friend

Some of us called him “Rockin’ Robbo”; he got that name when he was working in Downtown.  “The wee man with the glasses. “ had other names.  But he was more a jazzer than a rocker. A husband and father first, a journo and a drummer after that and a great figure in Northern Ireland broadcast news.  And he was buried today.

Paul Robinson started in Armagh as a trainee reporter before going to the Newsletter and the Belfast Telegraph.  We worked together in Downtown – he a news man, me a DJ.  Even though it was a small place, music and news were kept separate, but Robbo brought the two together doing music news on a programme Ivan Martin and I worked on.

But he was a serious and brave journalist. Davy Lynass – probably his friend for longer than anyone – spoke at the funeral and told a tale of Robbo being out on a story and his car being hi-jacked by the IRA.  Paul was left standing in a field with one of the IRA men and told to stand still and wait. After a few minutes fidgeting and hopping around from one foot to another he broke the science “Hey, mate – any chance I can have a fag?”
The coffin arrived at the church to the sound of an Irish lament played on Uillean pipes.  I can’t say how many people were in the church.  It probably held upwards of 400.  I arrived early, but not early enough and stood with at least 50 others outside in the cold Bangor sea wind.

This generation of senior broadcasters and journalists who have reported so much horror and seen so much change are a tight bunch.  Whether BBC, UTV or the news papers, we are a big tight family.  We all know each other – most of us have worked with each other at some time or another.  I was almost always on the non-news side – for a while I did both.  We are all friends.

People cried.  People who are house hold names, who verbally pummel politicians and leave them looking foolish and inadequate every day, walked away shaking with emotion.  And there were politicians there too, shaken and sad.

The service ended with to Don Henley’s IGY radiating from the speakers out side the church. Hundreds of people spilled out of the church, shaking hands, supporting each other, many laughing.  Which was right – apart from drumming on every surface, smoking a fag every chance he could Robbo laughed – he laughed a lot and we lauhed today with him.

LATE UPDATE: Just remembered this – Stevie Wonder played Wembly 1980 ish and NME reviewed the gig with the headline “Stevie Wonder Plays a Blinder” – Paul was so angry he reported it to the NUJ. Just a good guy.

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