Michael John Robbins (1942-1951)

An obituary from Tom Everett

Robbie, as he was known universally in later life was born in Bristol on 23rd September 1931.

Early in the war his family home in Wick Road, Brislington, was damaged by enemy action, so when he was successful in passing the QEH entrance exam in 1942 he was accepted as a boarder. Very few boys were accepted as boarders at that time owing to the lack of air raid shelter space in the school building. Other boys who, like me, passed the entrance exam were classified as "postponed boarders", to be accommodated after the war ended.

In the school he eventually joined the arts sixth form, taking French and English as his main subjects. He played for school teams at both rugby and cricket and occasionally umpired. On one such occasion he dozed off momentarily and was awoken by a vociferous appeal. He saw the batsman standing in front of his stumps and promptly raised his finger. The batsman trudged off muttering to himself. At the tea interval, Michael was approached by the headmaster, E P Gillett, who commented "that was a strange decision of yours, Robbins".  Michael responded "he was right in front of his stumps, sir". Gillett replied "but he had just been dropped on the boundary!"

In his last year at school he served as School Captain and left to take a BA degree at Bristol University. Thereafter he served as a sergeant in the Royal Education Corps, mostly in Singapore, for his National Service. On demobilisation he returned to Bristol University for his PGCE, as he was to become a schoolteacher.

He met and eventually married Shirley Swift a former Red Maid. I was pleased to be his best man at his wedding, which turned out to be a great party after the ceremony.

His first teaching post was in Swindon, where Joanna, his second child was born. She has been a successful businesswoman, still working part time. His first child was Peter, born in Bristol. He is now a professor at Oxford University. Michael and Shirley had a third child, Jonathan, who died in infancy.

After Swindon, the family moved to North Walsham in Norfolk where Michael became head of French in the local secondary school. Although he was always saying that he "hated kids" he enjoyed teaching and soon became a pillar of the local community. He had inherited his father's love of angling and enjoyed it to the full, in Norfolk and on holidays in Scotland and New Zealand. He worked hard improving the local rivers and wrote and published a book on the subject.

Sadly his marriage to Shirley ended in divorce, but they remained friends and he would telephone her occasionally for a chat right up to the end of his life.

In later life he said as an angler his greatest catch was Audrey, another schoolteacher, who he married in 1978. Michael and Audrey had a very happy marriage and would have celebrated their Ruby Wedding in November 2018.

When they met, Audrey was not an angler, but she took up the sport to such a degree that she eventually became a better angler than her husband.

As the years passed Michael became a father/stepfather in law to Sian, Jan and Karl and a grandfather - Grandpa or Grandpa Robbie - to seven grandchildren - Aidan, Lizzie, Luke, TJ, Sam, Jake and Evie.

At his very well attended funeral his coffin was decorated photographically to look like the banks of a stream and was topped by his fishing box and the sign "Gone Fishing".

After the ceremony we filed out to the strains of Bing Crosby, singing Gone Fishing."