By Duncan Harley and Fred Wilkinson on behalf of the Aberdeen Voice team.
Aberdeen Voice’s ‘poetry mannie in residence’ Bob Smith, who passed away on March 5.
Bob Smith has passed away at age 74. He signed himself “Bob Smith © – The Poetry Mannie” and told us all that Doric wirds are mair expressive, than onything else ye micht hear.
In true Bob style he kept his last illness very quiet saying only that he was unable to write at the present.
His daughter Kerry later got in touch regarding his passing. He died at home.
To the best of our knowledge, his last published piece, The Wireless appeared in the February 2015 edition Leopard Magazine. A fitting tribute to the man’s talent, the poem reflects on past times when he was a loon.
Jimmy Shand, Sports Report and that Prince Charles favourite the Goon Show all get a mention.
This extract tells of Dick Barton Special Agent plus ace detective Paul Temple, famous sleuth and amateur private detective:
“The Wireless ah the memories
O listenin fin I wis a loon
On dark winters nichts roon the fire
Oor Ecko radio it sure wis a boon
There wis Dick Barton Special Agent
Fa took on aa the baddies
It fair sharpened the imagination
O fowk like us as laddies
Paul Temple an ace dectective
As weel as yon PC49
Solvin aa the nations crimes
Their adventures I likit fine ……… “
Robert Smith was born and brought up on a farm in Skene, Aberdeenshire and educated at Garlogie Primary School and at Skene School. He only took up writing poetry after he retired.
Married to Linda, Bob’s daughter Kerry lives in Dubai. His son Steven sadly pre-deceased him in early 2014.
Bob worked for many years at Aberdeen Journals before taking early retirement to pursue his other interests which included the buying and selling of antiques, playing golf and passionately following the Dons. He proclaimed himself as their number one fan.
A deep love of the North East of Scotland, it’s landscape, it’s people, it’s traditions and it’s natural heritage are recurrent themes in Bob’s written work. Such passion would be expressed not only by celebrating such treasures, but also by questioning, satirising and pouring scorn on any figure or process which threatened or detracted from that which he held dear.
Bob reserved his hard hitting political comments for those whom he felt deserved them. Donald Trump, Sir Ian Wood and a good few Aberdeen councillors often got a good bashing both in the form of his letters to the local papers and his poetry, which was usually in the Doric.
Bob was widely published. A search for “Bob Smith” in the Aberdeen Voice search box will return around 100 of Bob’s Doric poems. There are of course many more.
When the man was asked if he knew of a poem in the Doric to use at a friend’s mums funeral, he replied in the negative but said he would immediately pen one. It was duly read out by a grieving grandson last November in an Aberdeen church to an audience of relatives. Bob of course was unrepentantly shy regarding his contribution to the ceremony, only saying that he was glad to help.
It would be comforting to think that this unpublished piece might become a classic. The Catto family have a cherished copy and if asked would no doubt share freely.
Alongside his weekly Aberdeen Voice column his Doric poems featured in Leopard Magazine and his take on the Turra Coo featured in the Scottish Review.
The Bonnie Dunes o Menie, stuff about Fitba and the Spikkin o Doric all came under his wry scrutiny.
Smithy’s Scribblins aboot the naitural warld included lines such as:
“Foo lang afore ess prophecy becomes a reality? And Weel the wye we’re gobblin up the Earth’s resources, maybe seener than ye bliddy think.
“The fowk fa war native tae America lang afore the supposed civilised warld visited their shores kent fine foo tae live alangside naitur.”
His take on Trump was less forgiving. But apart from a ribald comment or ten, Bob was content just to criticise the man thus:
The Donald’s bocht a golf resort
Doon on the Ayrshire coast
A’ll get ti host The Open
Wull noo be his prood boast
Thirty Five million he did spen
He got Turnberry fer a snip
Es o coorse micht mean
Interest in Menie taks a dip
Jist cast yer myn back
Fin winfairms he did detest
The mannie made a vow
In Scotland he’d nae mair invest
Fit ti mak o ess U-turn
As he cums crawlin back
Bein economical wi the truth
The chiel still his the knack
Hud on a wee meenitie tho’
It micht nae be plain sailin
The spectre o affshore winfairms
Cwid yet hae Trumpie wailin
Marine Scotland it his reported
Aboot a site jist oot at sea
Far ye cwid plunk win turbines
They’d be richt in Donald’s ee
Fergus Ewing says ess plans
Fer noo are aff the radar
Yet fair refused ti rule oot
Returnin ti them later
If a winfairm cam ti pass
Wid The Donald then renege?
Or wid he maybe in a rage
Blaw up yon Ailsa Craig
At Doonbeg he’d ti stop some wark
Did he nae hae richt permission?
He can tho’ noo gyaang ahead
Maybe efter a new submission?
Micht Donald hae fresh concerns
A snail in Ireland is protectit
Bi speecial environmental laws
An ess canna be correctit
Trump says he’s gyaan ti wark
Wi environmentalists an sic fowk
If he’d deen aat ower in Menie
He micht nae bin classed a gowk
Noo ere’s nae doot the mannie
Oot the news he winna bide
Wull we next aa be hearin
The bugger’s bocht the River Clyde …
He wrote about many folk and commented wildly according to his well held views. Bob knew how to make those wee moments special.
In not so far off December 2013 he referenced some prophetic words by a Native American tribal leader by the name of Chief Seattle.
“A’ll leave the last wird tae a Native American tribal leader, Chief Seattle, fa said awa back in 1854:-
Humankind has not woven the web of life, We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves, All things are bound together.
All things connect.”
One of his most heartfelt classics is Spikkin Doric published in the Voice some years ago, the piece reflects on the banning of the native tongue of the north east during the difficult days when locals were encouraged to speak the queens English and stand to attention when listening to the national anthem. Bob would have none if it.
A’ve ayewis spak the Doric
Sin a wis jist a loon
A dialect still weel loo’d
Fae the Spey tae Bervie toon
Fin a wis at the local skweel
In classrooms it wis banned
Ye were threatened wi the scud
Fit wid hae wairmed yer hand
Bit eence oot in the playgrun
It flowed oot o yer moo
An wi yer freens an neipers
Doric wisna thocht taboo
We canna lit iss language dee
It’s pairt an paircel o oor lan
The Doric an the North east
They aye gyang han in han
A’m loathe tak in fit a’m hearin
Young fowk canna say “ch” as in loch
Fit’s the warld cumin tae
If ye canna git yer tongue aroon roch?
Doric wirds are mair expressive
Than onything else ye micht hear
Thunk hivvens fowk still spik it
In kwintra placies like New Deer
The braw wird “dreich” a like
Instead o jist sayin “dull”
Or maybe gyaan “heelster-gowdie”
As ye tummle doon a hull
Robbie Shepherd he still spiks it
An a Doric sang he’ll sing
Sin the days o “The Garlogie Fower”
Iss chiel’s bin the Doric “king”
Lits aa fecht fer the Doric
Hae it taacht in aa the skweels
Instead o aa the lah-de-dahs
Thinkin the Doric is fer feels
© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie
Fred, the Voice Team and I could of course go on. Robert is a man well missed by all who knew him. Well met and well written Bob, we miss you.
Comments are of course very welcome.
- See comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.