Robert was probably the most easily recognisable character in Bolton-le-Sands, often to be seen walking his beloved greyhound, Star around the village, or waiting to catch the 555 bus to go off on another of his very frequent travels. As someone who had lived his whole life in the village, he was the definitive authority on the village’s history, and always happy to share his stories either in person or in his writings.
A Service of Thanksgiving for Robert’s life, followed by the burial, was held at Christ Church United Reformed Church, where he worshipped faithfully for so many years, on Thursday 22nd December. The church was full, and the service was led by The Rev. Dr. Irene John, and started very seasonally with ‘Away In A Manger’. The Scripture Readings were Psalm 23, ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, and a selection of verses from John 14. In the Eulogy, Rev. Dr. John recalled Robert’s early days in Bolton-le-Sands, where he was the only boy in the class of the small school which his mother ran. She reminded the congregation of Robert’s great Christian faith, and his service to the church as Treasurer for many years. Robert’s career was in accountancy, he he brought meticulous detail to all he did, including his great love of travelling and writing about his travels. Often accompanied by his dog and a camera, and using public transport, Robert would venture far and wide, recording in great detail all he had seen and experienced. His best known publication is probably the book of ‘Walks From the 555’ – recording so many walks and places of interest on the route between Lancaster and Keswick. But, with his interest in photography, he has also produced photo guides to many areas around Morecambe Bay, including Grange and Cartmel. Just before the pandemic struck, Robert had written a book about the Lancaster Canal, and led a number of local walks – always well attended – in which he explained how the course of the canal had changed the geography and the history of Bolton-le-Sands.
Robert was often in demand as a speaker, with so many tales to tell of his travels, and his visits to many of the stately homes of Scotland. He was a regular member of the village’s Men’s Group, and a regular contributor to ‘The Messenger’. He reported on the events at Christ Church, and wrote many interesting reflections of his own. His articles always arrived on time, and, he was so meticulous, the never needed editing! He often included photographs which he had taken to illustrate his points. He also contributed articles about the progress of the Thwaite Brow Conservation Project, in which he was involved, and about Carnforth Coke Ovens – a feature of the canal about which most of us knew very little, but Robert’s enthusiasm for the history and ecology of these projects shone through. Dr. John described Robert as a ‘Gentle Man’ – he was, indeed, a true gentleman, and his presence around the village, and his great knowledge of all things connected with it, will be much missed.
After the Eulogy, the hymn ‘Abide With Me’ was sung before the final prayers and commendation. As a very appropriate farewell, we sang ‘The Happy Wanderer’ – “with gusto” as requested by Robert – the last verse of which aptly sums up Robert’s great love of travel and exploration – and his great Christian faith :
‘Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky.