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Obituaries: Vic Robertson, farming journalist

By 20th June 2022July 27th, 2023No Comments

Vic Robertson, who died recently, was an old school journalist who always delivered his copy on time to his employers.

His words were accurate and, unless he was writing an opinion piece allowing him to skewer his target, he always wrote articles that were balanced and fair, leaving the readers to make up their own minds. He was perfectly described as a journalist with pride in his work.

Some of Vic’s best work came when he was farming editor for The Scotsman at a time European Union Common Agricultural Policies were at their most convoluted and obscure.

While colleagues on the press bench would scratch their heads in despair as some Brussels-based bureaucrat talked about “green pounds”, “Monetary Compensatory Allowances” and other inventions of the Common Agricultural Policy, Vic, with a cigarette to hand, would furiously type away. He could, a colleague used to note enviously, “separate the wheat from the chaff”.

Making these attributes all the more remarkable was the fact Vic did not come from an agricultural background.

He was born and brought up in Aberdeen and after attending Aberdeen Grammar School he studied pharmacy at Robert Gordon’s College in order to become a chemist. He started work in the laboratory at the Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, but the journalistic bug bit him, and he joined a regional paper in the South West of Scotland to learn the trade of a local reporter.

After a couple of years in this part of the world, he successfully applied for a post on the farming desk at the Press and Journal in Aberdeen. Once there, he continued his apprenticeship in the farming world by reporting on bull sales and agricultural shows.

It was during this spell of his life that he met Judy, who was a rising star in the media world. They married in 1968 and moved South, where Vic became the England NFU press person, and thereafter did public relations for a major food company.

Although he was well equipped for the PR roles, being both personable and knowledgeable, he took the road back North when the post of agricultural editor of The Scotsman came up.

Following separation from Judy, Vic became single parent to their son Martin. Despite the unusual work patterns of his job, Vic was a loving and caring father, not only seeing Martin growing up but also through the impact of a major road traffic accident in 1989 and into academia, latterly as an associate professor at Edinburgh Napier University.

After more than a decade at the farm news desk, Vic was tempted back into the world of PR with the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) in its role promoting red meat produced in the UK.

Having met Gloria in 1981 while at the Scotsman, their initial long-distance relationship flourished when Vic moved back down South to MLC and she became his partner for the rest of his life.

Although very comfortable in all sorts of media-based employment, Vic’s real strengths were as a frontline reporter and not as a publicist. Thereafter, he worked as a freelance journalist until his retirement in 2010.

Confirming the high regard in which he was held in the profession, Vic was elected chairman of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists in 1996 and after his term of office he continued to be a strong supporter of the organisation.

In similar fashion to many reporters with their irregular work schedules, Vic did not have many outside interests, although he was a lifelong jazz aficionado and an enthusiastic trumpet player. In fact, he could coax a tune out of any of his eclectic range of brass instruments. However, in deference to his neighbours, he confined his practising to agreed hours.

Another legacy from his youth, possibly linked to being facially similar to the late Peter Sellers, was a repertoire of voices emanating from radio’s The Goon Show. He was also known for a very good impersonation of Sean Connery.

In his earlier days, Vic was a keen motorcyclist, enjoying “going out for a blast”. He always qualified that statement with a comment that his blasts were not to be compared in speed terms to those of hellraising youths.

Vic Robertson was a good reporter and he was a most companionable friend.

This article first appreared on The Scotsman, written by Guild member Andrew Arbuckle