Wearside Echoes: Local historian remembered

HISTORY MAN: Alan C Robinson (left),  author of History of Marsden Grotto.
HISTORY MAN: Alan C Robinson (left), author of History of Marsden Grotto.
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A FORMER Wearside headteacher with a life-long love of history and writing has died at the age of 88.

Alan Robinson, a regular correspondent to the Echo and author of a book on the origins of Marsden Grotto and village, passed away last month.

“He became interested in the Grotto because his grandfather, William Robinson, ran the pub at the end of the 19th Century, when it was little more than a cave,” said his nephew, Alistair Robinson.

“William worked at Whitburn Colliery, which was run by the Harton Coal Company. The coal company also owned the Grotto and William switched, quite happily, from pit to pub.”

Alan, the son of district and county councillor George Robinson MBE, was one of seven brothers. Born in Whitburn in 1924, he served with the RAF in North Africa and Italy during World War Two.

A poem he wrote when he was in North Africa was read out at his funeral. After the war he trained as a teacher and worked at Whitburn Secondary Modern School, Ford Boys’ School and Whitburn Juniors before switching to West Boldon Juniors.

“He was headteacher at West Boldon Junior School from 1963, when it opened, until his retirement in 1980,” said Alistair, a former Echo journalist who now lectures in journalism at Sunderland University.

“While he was there, he won a swimming pool in a schools competition. But West Boldon already had one, so he donated it to Whitburn Juniors.”

Alan’s interests outside education included sailing. He ran a Sea Scouts group for many years, and also a youth club at the Purple Onion, opposite Souter Lighthouse at Whitburn.

Local Labour Party politics proved a great draw for him too, as it did for many of his family.

“His father, George, was on Boldon Urban District Council and served with Durham County Council too,” says Alistair.

“My dad, Septimus, the seventh son (hence the name), was the most politically active, being a councillor for just about his entire adult life and ending up a deputy lord lieutenant of Tyne and Wear.

“He was mayor of South Tyneside during the Queen’s Jubilee year of 1977 and another of the brothers, Walter, was also mayor of South Tyneside.

“Alan spent time as a councillor too, but for Sunderland Rural District Council rather than South Tyneside.”

Alan, the second youngest and last surviving of George’s sons, moved to St Ives, Cornwall, on his retirement, but later returned to the North East to live at the Bents Cottages in Whitburn.

He leaves a widow, Joy, three children – Elaine, Cameron and Catherine – and three grandchildren.

“He was a fascinating bloke and a real character,” says Alistair.

“He had strong opinions and enjoyed voicing them – including in the letters pages of the Echo. His death is the end of an era, you could say, with him being the last of the seven brothers.”