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Obituary: Charles Robertson, Banchory vet and River Dee Radio presenter, 78

Charles Robertson, retired Banchory vet and River Dee Radio DJ.
Charles Robertson, retired Banchory vet and River Dee Radio DJ.

Banchory vet, River Dee Radio presenter and former tennis club chairman Charles Robertson has died aged 78.

Born on March 22 1944 in Partickhill, Glasgow, to vet James Robertson and his wife Ishbel, he was one of four children for the Highland couple. Charles and his family moved to Ayr before he started school.

A young Charles Robertson, who lived in Ayr around this time.

Following in his dad’s footsteps

He attended Ayr Academy and had aspirations to join the merchant navy on leaving education.

Let down by his need to wear glasses, thereby not qualifying for a place on a merchant sea vessel, he settled instead for the school of veterinary medicine at Glasgow University.

It was a fortuitous move as Charles suffered terrible seasickness – and would ultimately find his vocation on studying to be a vet.

Love and marriage

While at university he met Jordanhill student teacher Christine Brown from Clarkston in Glasgow.

In 1967, the same year Christine graduated, the pair were engaged and Charles moved to Banchory to work alongside established vet Forbes Grant.

Charles and Christine married on July 4 1968 in Giffnock before Christine moved to Banchory. Their house in Dalvenie Road would remain Charles’ home for the rest of his life. He never moved again.

Charles Robertson and his bride Christine in 1968.

One year to the day after their wedding, their first child Catriona was born, followed by Shona in 1972 and Neil in 1975.

All Creatures Great and Small

Tagging along with their dad on his countryside visits to farms, Charles’ children described their upbringing as “pretty idyllic”.

“When we were young we’d often accompany dad out on his visits to farms like Smith Bogentassie and Farquharson Balnaboth. When I was young, I really did see parallels between our life and All Creatures Great and Small,” said Neil.

Charles Robertson, on the job, in the countryside around Banchory.

“Dad was like James Herriot, the younger, well-meaning vet, who arrived in a part of the world that, while only a couple of hours from his home, still occasionally reminded him he was an incomer.

“And like Herriot – who Charles’ dad taught at Glasgow University – he was not immune to the odd hilarious misunderstanding that would occasionally see him face down in manure or enduring a running battle with an orangutan which kept pulling a syringe from its posterior.”

Navigating change

By the late 1980s Grant and Robertson had expanded to two practices, one in Banchory, one in Westhill. Then in the early 1990s with Forbes having retired and Charles serving Banchory and its surrounding communities for 25 years, he made the decision to sell the practice.

In doing so he focused on an area of veterinary medicine he had been expanding within the practice becoming the official veterinary surgeon for the meat hygiene service.

The role meant travelling round abattoirs making sure animals were healthy and conditions met with the needed high standards, before food was produced.

Glasgow University graduate Charles Robertson.

During this period of his career Charles also lectured at Glasgow University, training young vets in the ways of meat hygiene.

He maintained a special bond with his former university students and alumni, organising the 55th reunion of his veterinary medicine cohort in October, just days before he suffered a stroke.

In 2001 Charles’ wife Christine passed away. A difficult time, he found comfort in his faith, as a long time member and elder of Banchory St Ternan East church. Latterly he helped run Messy Church and was also a lay preacher and member of the Kirk Session.

Love of competition

Over the years tennis played a huge part in Charles’ life. He was a past chairman of  Banchory Lawn Tennis Club and was still playing as often as he could. However, this wasn’t the only way he exercised his competitive spirit.

He was a member of Banchory Golf Club and subscribed to a magazine called Competitor’s Companion, which listed every product currently running competitions.

Christine and Charles Robertson with their daughters Catriona and Shona, and baby son Neil.

“If you came round our house in the 1990s you may have wondered why there were nine cans of chocolate pudding, six of mackerel paste and four litres of advocaat. That would be why,” added Neil.

“The crazy thing is that it worked though. I reckon he averaged an overseas holiday for him and mum every couple of years. Our kitchen was completely decked out.”

Radio presenter

More recently Charles was known for being the voice of Chuck’s Choice – a Saturday morning show on River Dee community radio.

Showcasing his love for 1950s and 1960s music, it was a culmination of many years  recording his favourite songs and building up an encyclopaedic knowledge of the bands he liked to emulate in his youth.

DJ Chuck on air for River Dee Radio.

Before any of his other hobbies, was Charles’ love for his family. Following Christine’s death he found love and companionship again with Bridget Mary-Clare. And time with his three children and as grandpa or papa to his six grandchildren was his biggest joy.

‘Devoted to us’

“We asked the grandchildren – here and in Australia – what their memories of dad were. And they all said the same thing,” explained Catriona.

“They said he always had time for them. Whether it was huge long Facetime calls or buying them something really specific, like a fancy cheese or The Beano, because he knew they loved that… he was absolutely devoted to us and our kids.”

Grandpa Chick, or papa as he was also known, with his six grandchildren.

Keeping in touch with everyone he met, wherever he was, was also a strength of Charles’. His stories from his encounters and adventures will be cherished by his family.

Family tributes

A celebration of Charles’ life took place at his church on November 16. Neil shared a tribute to his dad, his quirks and some of the stories he would tell.

He said: “I simply can’t get my head around the concept of a world where Charles was good at DIY. A world where our door handles all worked by pulling them down rather than up. Or where our light switches being in the on position meant they were actually on.”

Bridget Mary-Clare with partner Charles Robertson.

Neil went on to describe the account of Charles being vet to royal corgis who were accompanied by Princess Anne, the Queen or the Queen Mother, depending on when he told the story.

“Or where legendary pop group The Tremelos arrived to play at Butlins in Ayr where Charles worked as a student. They were lacking a rhythm guitarist, but fortunately Chuck stepped in and the show went on.”

Described as an enormous loss to those who knew him, Charles died on November 8, age 78.