Many of the people in Birmingham and Aberdeen who knew Bob as the gentle, quiet, good-humoured, elderly songwriter, poet and singer might have been surprised to learn of his background as a fighter and revolutionary.
Bob joined the Communist Party as a very young man in Aberdeen, fought against Fascism as Political Commissar with the British Battalion of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, continued that fight by joining the British Army at the outbreak of World War II and was on active service for the entire duration, after the war went to the Soviet Union where he studied economics at university in Moscow, spent the next part of his life working as an engineer in Birmingham until his retirement when he returned to his native Aberdeen.
Shortly before he died, Bob was travelling from Aberdeen to Birmingham for a few days and decided to break his journey at our house in Edinburgh. He stayed for 4 days and spent most of them talking. I got the impression that he knew his time was limited and he wanted to pass on some of his experiences and share some of what he'd learned.
From his song, "The Rebel Core" -
"For Freedom is a hardy plant, the more you tramp it down
The sweeter it will flower again in countryside and town
Its seeds are scattered on the wind and multiply their kind
That's why no matter where you go bold rebels there you'll find"
Bob lived his life in the service of what he believed. It was a great privilege to know him.
So far as I am aware, the only existing recording of Bob is his contribution to "The Singing Campbells", originally released on Topic Records, now available from Ossian Records.
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©Dick Gaughan February 2001. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, material or electronic, without the written permission of the author.
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