I particularly like the assessment of Robert Robinson which appeared in a Guardian obituary, “possibly the last of the radio and TV presenters and quizmasters to have come from the literary and literate tradition rather than the glib, spuriously matey banalities of telly showbiz”.[Dennis Barker]. Whilst I think Jeremy Paxman carries on such a tradition the description nonetheless accurately reflects how Robinson belonged to a different age in broadcasting. I found his presentation stimulating, but many found it starched, condescending and pseudo-patrician.
Although Oxford-educated his origins were relatively humble, being born to a bookkeeper, Ernest Redfern Robinson, and his wife Johanna (née Hogan) on 17th December 1927. The family lived at 251 Stanley Road L5, presumably in flat over the shop premises which were the ground floor. In the early 1930’s, while Robert was still a toddler, the family moved to the London suburb of Malden where he grew up and attended Raynes Park Grammar School. He did return to Liverpool in 1944 when he and his mother moved in with relatives to avoid the flying bombs which were then being launched against the capital. During this time they lived with his Aunt Lil, and her husband Jim Crilly, whose home was at 11 Spring Grove L12. In his autobiography Robinson wrote that he came to Liverpool with a colourful impression of the city built upon his mother's recollections of her early life. He found the reality less appealing and quite drab, “A prickle of disaffection for the city began to stir, I noticed its unfavourable aspects and didn’t feel at home”.
After Oxford Robinson went into journalism and by 1955 had begun his television career. His television work included fronting popular programmes such as Points of View, Ask The Family, Call My Bluff and BBC 3. It was in the last of these that he led a discussion in which Kenneth Tynan first used the word f*** on British television. Robinson’s verdict on this was that it “was an easy way to make history”. On radio he had a brief stint as a presenter on Today, and much longer associations with Stop The Week, and Brain of Britain. Not everyone’s cup of tea, Private Eye referred to him as ‘Smuggins’ .
Robinson married the actress Josephine Richard, whom he met at Oxford. they had three children, one of whom, Lucy Robinson is an actress who has appeared in many films and TV series. He died on 12th August 2011 after a long period of ill health.
The Robinson's home when Robert was born in 1927.
The Wikipedia entry gives a brief account of his career but the Guardian obituary is a much better read. There is plenty to find on YouTube and if you click here you can see an episode of Ask The Family which gives due prominence to his awful comb-over hairstyle. His autobiography, Skip All That [Century 1996] is not surprisingly a very well-written, amusing work but there is relatively little about his time in Liverpool.
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