Broadcaster, writer and Doric doyen Robbie Shepherd has died at the age of 87.
Mr Shepherd, one of the best-known voices in the north-east, died last night.
To friends, he described himself as “just a loon from Dunecht”.
But for thousands across the north-east, Mr Shepherd was a well-kent face – and voice – both on television, radio and traditional Scottish events – including many Highland Games.
Often described as a “national treasure”, Mr Shepherd is survived by his wife Esma, son Gordon and grandchildren.
P&J Doric columnist filed last piece just two weeks ago
As well as presenting Take the Floor for 35 years, Mr Shepherd also presented episodes of The Beechgrove Garden and sheepdog trials programmes on BBC Radio Scotland.
He wrote several books including Let’s Have a Ceilidh: Essential Guide to Scottish Dancing, which was published in 1992.
A life member of the Braemar Royal Highland Society, he was a commentator at many of the events on Grampian’s Highland Games circuit including the Braemar Gathering, the Lonach Gathering and Oldmeldrum Sports.
Often he paired up with long-time friend Robert Lovie.
In April 1993, he began writing a Doric column for The Press and Journal. When his column was cancelled at one point, there was outcry from readers and it was duly reinstated – with Mr Shepherd writing his last piece just two weeks ago, on July 15.
He was presented with several honours for his work from Scottish Music and Scottish Country Dance organisations, including an MBE in 2001.
In 2021 he and wife Esma, who lived in Bridge of Don for 50 years, celebrated 60 years of marriage. The couple met on a bus, and at the time Mr Shepherd was an accountant.
When Mr Shepherd’s career began as a musician, his instrument was the mouth organ or “moothie” and he later moved onto compering and producing variety shows at theatres across the region before moving into broadcasting.
‘One of the very best’
Mr Shepherd has had two pieces of traditional music penned in his honour.
Close friend and fellow broadcaster and compere Mr Lovie led the tributes today, remembering his “coothie charm” and vast knowledge.
“So many hearts will be sad and down to hear the news of Robbie’s passing,” he said.
“His loving family, hundreds of friends and colleagues and his thousands of fans around the country who loved and adored his character, his voice, his coothie charm and encyclopedic knowledge of Scottish music, song culture and of course his beloved Doric language.
“For decades we have known Robbie as the voice of the north-east, he was the brilliant anchor of Scottish music on the BBC for four decades, an entertainer, writer, compere and brilliant commentator at dozens of highland games across the north of Scotland.
“Yet he was always the first to say ‘I’m jist a loon fae Dunecht.’
“Robbie was always there to promote and encourage Scottish talent and in particular young talent. As his own amazing career and popularity took off through the 70s, 80s and 90s Robbie never forgot his roots and dedicated so much of his busy life in broadcasting to promote his native Doric language.
‘Robbie Shepherd’s a legend’
“He was constantly proud to use the Doric he was brought up with and never changed his dialect in writing or broadcasting and there is no doubt it was his special trademark.
“I have so often heard folk say ‘Aye Robbie Shepherd’s a legend’ and though in his own modest style he would never have claimed that title, I can safely say from my own north-east heart today that we have lost a man who was indeed a legend in his lifetime and his massive contribution to so many areas of life, including, culture, music, charity and language across Scotland and the north east and as dear friendship to so many folk will be so very sadly missed for many years to come.”
Gary Innes, who took over Take the Floor – the BBC Radio Scotland programme started by Mr Shepherd – described him as “one of the very best”.
He said: “After 35 years on the longest running radio show, him stepping down was a big thing.
“I was very fortunate to be asked to take over, and he was so helpful and warm to me.
“He was always so humble.
“When I joked, and said I didn’t know if I could fill his boots, he said ‘ach ken Gary, I am only a size five.”
Mr Innes, a box player with traditional music group Manran as well as the presenter of the show with Jennifer Cruickshank, continued: “Robbie was synonymous with the programme and no one would call it by its name – it was always ‘Robbie’s Show’.”
The BBC are planning a Take The Floor special in tribute to Mr Shepherd this weekend.