Aberdeen ‘AA man’, mechanic, computer enthusiast and Royal Patron of Amaranth Grand Court of Scotland, Bob Anderson has died aged 74.
The Automobile Association patrolman, who was once invited ‘back to the house’ for tea by Lady Aberdeen, was formally called Robert but was better known as Bob.
Born on October 2 1947, he was the only child of Joan John – who for many years he believed was his sister – and grew up with his Nin and Dad in South Wales.
Amy and Alexander Anderson, Bob’s maternal grandparents, raised him in the mining community of Tredegar.
Idolising his granddad, when he discovered that he’d actually never known his real father, he changed his name from Gary John to Robert Gary Anderson.
Not wanting her son to go down the pits, Joan was delighted when Bob left Pengam Grammar School for an office job at the mine instead.
But the fact he was regularly up and down the mineshaft was a secret he kept.
“There would have been hell to pay if she’d ever found out,” said Bob’s daughter Amy.
However, this tendency, according to family, to both be a stickler for the rules and someone who equally had no qualms breaking them, was Bob to a tee.
Serving his country
At 19 he joined the Royal Air Force.
Despite signing up for six years service, he was medically discharged before his time was up.
“It sounds more dramatic than it was – although it did cause serious harm.
“But he fell out of a Vulcan aeroplane… which was on the ground, fixing a camera.”
His safety harness came away dropping Bob 15ft to the ground, fracturing his skull.
Though his time in the Air Force was cut short it had already offered him more than just engineering and mechanical opportunities.
During a spell at RAF Cosford he first set eyes on Dorothy Cheyne – an Aberdonian quine who subsequently moved to Leuchars.
When Bob was discharged he moved to be near Dot.
Starting a family
Despite some family reservations, the young couple married in Aberdeen registry office on October 25 1967.
When Dot became pregnant with the first of their two daughters she too left the RAF.
A new life awaited with Bob working as barman at Summerhill Lodge.
However, a tax rebate enabled their return to South Wales.
With work secured in a battery factory, Bob returned with a van to pick up Dot and six-month-old Sian.
The next decade was spent in Wales where their family grew to include second daughter Amy.
Becoming a union man
Bob began working for Islwyn Borough Council Buses.
Although he didn’t like the shift patterns, he did like the job itself.
He also became involved with the trade union movement.
Subsequently, a dispute happened which saw some fellow bus workers lose their jobs while other kept theirs.
As the union representative for the bus company he rallied the workforce.
Amy added: “My dad just believed it was terribly unfair. He held the great honour of being the first rep to get the buses out on strike.”
This union connection perhaps also goes some way to explain why their local welsh MP and former leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, ended up babysitting for Sian and Amy!
Time for change
But as much as he loved his life in Wales, raising his young family in such a rural location worried Bob.
With little opportunity to find employment, Bob and Dot decided it was time to try Aberdeen.
At first they lived with Dot’s parents in Mastrick before securing a home of their own on Sheddocksley Drive where they lived from then on.
A brief stint on the rigs made Bob increasingly frustrated by the unpredictable nature of the fog and its impact on getting to and from work.
So just two days after deciding offshore wasn’t for him he began working for the Automobile Association, or AA as it’s better known.
The ‘AA man’
For 20 years he put expert mechanical knowledge to good use fixing cars across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Deeside.
“In fact,” said Amy, “there was one time he had his head under the bonnet of a car on Deeside.
“An older lady driving a car, who was wearing a headscarf, stopped to ask if he was okay.
“Too busy to really look up he said that he was, to which she told him to ‘come up to the house for something warm’ when you’re done.
“It was only when she drove away he realised he had been talking to Lady Aberdeen.
“And he did indeed go to the house where she cooked him bacon and egg before he went on his way.”
All or nothing
Bob was an engineer at heart.
With a love of taking things apart to see how they worked, when he applied himself to something, he would dive right in.
“My dad would research something until he became an expert.
“He was into model boats. But not just buy-them-off-the-shelf models, the kind where he would design it, source the materials, work out every angle and then build them.
“Many Sunday mornings were spent at the boating pond at Duthie Park so he could test them out.”
But it didn’t have to be models.
When his daughters returned from the fair with a goldfish, an aquarium was constructed.
And when he became interested in photography the upstairs cupboard was commandeered for a dark room.
So it seems inevitable then, that when computers gained popularity Bob became an expert in those too.
When ill health forced early retirement from the AA, after a time Bob started his own business repairing and setting up Apple computers.
Amy said: “My dad taught us to code; he was the first on the street to own a ZX Spectrum.
“When he passed away there was almost a museum of computers through the ages for my mum to dispose of. ”
Mac Aberdeen was a passion for Bob, but not a huge source of income.
Before he eventually properly retired he devoted part of his time to CB radio – where his handle was AA Man – model trains and being part of the Masonic and Amaranth Grand Court of Scotland.
As a young man his father-in-law had nominated his entry to the local masonic lodge.
His parents-in-law had also been involved with a similar organisation known as the Amaranth.
When his grandmother died in 1988 Bob’s involvement heightened.
He was voted in for a one-year term as Grand Patron of the Amaranth Grand Court of Scotland.
“But we just knew him as Chief Poo-bah!” said Amy.
He remained a member of Aberdeen Lodge 164.
A series of strokes, a heart attack and a fall took their toll on Bob.
The man with a sharp mind and a quick tongue at times retreated from the world outside.
After a spell at Woodend Hospital, he became a resident of Kingswells Care Home two months ago and passed away on November 17.
His funeral took place at Aberdeen Crematorium where a Welsh male voice choir singing Men of Harlech was played.