Our tribute to Mr Lincolnshire

Words by:
Judy Theobald
Featured in:
April 2011

David Robinson’s work has appeared in every issue of Lincolnshire Life, including an astonishing 567 Poachings pages, but his talents have benefited many other county organisations too.
David Robinson’s name was already familiar to me when I took over as editor of Lincolnshire Life in 1999. His name cropped up all over the place from book covers and magazine articles to talks in local village halls and broadcasts on national radio. His topic was always Lincolnshire, his native county, which he has explored, researched and investigated at every level, and, it would seem, over every square inch.

His love of Lincolnshire dates back to his childhood. He was born in Croft Street, Horncastle, in August, 1927. He attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in the town and then went to Nottingham University from which he graduated with an honours degree in geography. He gained his MSc with a thesis on the coastal evolution of north-east Lincolnshire. After university he returned to the county, teaching in schools in Immingham and Grimsby before becoming tutor organiser for the WEA in South Lindsey.

During these early teaching days he founded a magazine, ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher’, filled with stories and articles about his native county. Unfortunately, the company which printed the Poacher went out of business and its publication was brought to a premature end. However, in 1961, when freelance Grimsby journalist Roy Faiers founded ‘Lincolnshire Life’ magazine, he approached David and asked him to become involved with this new publication. On the early editions of the magazine, the masthead read: ‘Lincolnshire Life, incorporating The Lincolnshire Poacher’.

David’s involvement was to be far more than this addition to the title. He produced a regular feature, ‘Poachings’, a hotchpotch of county news, history, dialect, anniversaries, memories, snippets and gleanings about life in Lincolnshire. It was through this feature, and his role as editorial consultant to the magazine, that I first worked with him.

There seemed to be no subject on which he could not provide information whether it was the correct method for harvesting samphire, the lineage of the county’s aristocracy, blow-by-blow accounts of every historic battle fought on Lincolnshire land or where the bricks came from to construct county buildings.

To illustrate the Poachings page and other articles in the magazine, David delved into his collection of 10,000 Lincolnshire postcards enabling them to be enjoyed by a wider public. These, along with his extensive collection of county books, are all stored in the study of his Louth home, a cavernous room lined with packed shelves which extend from floor to ceiling on every wall. Every available surface is piled with magazines, papers, rock samples and manuscripts, on the desk the telephone sits surrounded by ‘work in progress’, but despite this apparent randomness, David can always put his hand on exactly what he’s looking for.

Many of the books on his shelves are those he’s written himself. The list is extensive and continues to grow. His latest, ‘Adam and Eve and the story of Louth Carpets’, was published at the end of 2010. Other titles focus on the county’s towns and features – ‘The Book of the Lincolnshire Seaside’, ‘The Book of the Lincolnshire Wolds’ and ‘William Brown and the Louth Panorama’ being just a few of the many. It’s hardly surprising that when I was working for the magazine, the words, ‘Ask David’, became the office mantra. I can’t remember him ever not knowing the answer.

Articles submitted to him for perusal and correction were always returned marked in his red schoolmaster’s pen; education has played a significant part of his professional life. David has also been closely involved with many county organisations in many capacities – chairman, honorary secretary, vice chairman, president, advisor of such bodies as the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, the Sir Joseph Banks Society, the Louth Naturalists’ Antiquarians’ and Literary Society, and the Heritage Trust for Lincolnshire. He was also the driving force behind the refurbishment and re-opening of the Louth Museum.

David Start, director of the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire, said: “He is always very generous with his knowledge and very well known for it. I was sitting in one of his talks once when the man next to me said, ‘You do realise that’s Mr Lincolnshire.’ Of course, I did know but I didn’t let on. It doesn’t matter what topic he’s covering, if David gives a talk you’ll always fill a hall.”

In addition to his research, talks and writing, he has a lifelong commitment to the Methodist church where he has served as a local preacher and on many committees including as a Council Member of ‘Churches Together in Louth and District’.

It was journalism, as well as his services to the community in Lincolnshire, which earned him the award of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997.

Although he is now retiring from Lincolnshire Life, I’m sure his voice will continue to be heard around the county which has been his home, his life and his passion for as long as he, and we, can remember.

When does the bedstraw hawk moth fly
And where does the bittern book?
In which of our county’s ancient woods
Does the bird’s nest orchid bloom?
And when is the season of the year
When the salty samphire grows?
Forget all those shelves of reference books,
It’s simple – David knows.

Which town always made the finest bricks?
Who marched with the Lincolnshire rising?
Who knows how the wolds and fens were formed?
The answer’s not surprising.
For here is a man whose birthplace
Is the source of his lifetime’s joy.
From its rocks to its seas and its open skies
He has studied it man and boy.

And the pleasure he gains from this study
Is not one he keeps to himself.
He has passed on his knowledge to thousands
Through his books on the library shelf,
And the people he’s taught down the decades
And the broadcasts he makes every year
Have let the whole world know what Lincolnshire is
And just how it came to be here.

You’ll find him on archaeological digs
In town, village, parish to city.
He changes the way that we look at ourselves
Through his work on all types of committee.
And yes, if you need to know who did what when,
Or why the north-easterly blows,
Or where does the natterjack toad have his haunt:
Remember this well: David knows.

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