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Christmas Without You: Robert Thompson, Aberdeen lorry driver who lived a simple life

From a difficult start in life Robert found joy in the company of family and in the pleasure of a pint.

Robert Thompson passed away on Christmas day two years ago,
Robert Thompson passed away on Christmas day two years ago,

There’s no easy time to lose a loved one but when a death occurs over the festive period it can be particularly difficult.

As part of our Christmas Without You series we have offered loved ones a chance to pay tribute to those no longer with them.

Dianne Gardiner lost her dad, Robert Thompson, two years ago on Christmas Day.

Tragic beginning to life

Robert Thompson was born on March 21 1947 in Aberdeen.

One of five children of Margaret and Angus Thompson, his mother died when he was just two-and-a-half. Unable to provide for his family Angus sought help.

While one of his boys was fostered in England, Robert, Angus and George were sent to live in Skene children’s home. Iris was eventually able to bring her brothers home to Kincorth when she was 17.

Their father, who went to England for work, remarried and never did return to live in Aberdeen.

Robert started his schooling at Kirkton of Skene then moved to Kincorth Academy.

Finding love

From a hard start in life Robert didn’t settle in school and his older siblings, assuming the role of parents, found him hard to handle at times.

When it was time to leave education he began training as a joiner but was lured away by the attractive pay packets of the fish houses.

Around the age of 19 Robert met Anne Davidson at the Beach Ballroom. A retail worker from Aberdeen, he and Anne tied the knot when they were both 21, on September 22 1967. Robert’s brother Angus, and his late wife Jessie, were best man and bridesmaid.

Sadly Iris, who had sacrificed so much to raise her brothers, died of cancer in her 30s.

Canada calling

A decision was made shortly into married life that they should emigrate to Canada. Several members of Anne’s family were already out there.

Settling near Toronto, Robert picked up his joinery skills again, working with his brothers-in-law. Anne found a job in a super-mall. After just six months “the pair of home birds” wanted to return to Scotland.

Robert Thompson of Aberdeen

They flew into Glasgow but by the time they got to Dundee, Robert wondered if they had made a mistake.

Nevertheless, they made it back to Northfield where the lived with Anne’s father.

A simple way to live

In 1969 daughter Dianne came along. Robert was working as a long-distance lorry driver, which became his lifelong career, and Anne returned to retail.

They moved into their own home as soon as they could, eventually settling in Ash Hill Drive. Robert drove for Munro’s Haulage as well as Brands of Dundee and found himself a happy routine.

“My dad lived quite a simple life. He worked, enjoyed a drink at the local pub – Murdo’s Bar – and got pleasure from an occasional holiday,” said Dianne.

In 1979 Robert and Anne parted ways. Robert moved to Ashgrove Place enjoying weekend visits from his daughter.

New start

In his new season of life, still driving articulated lorries for Asco and the Post Office, Robert got a second chance of love with Sheila Duthie. She would go on to be his partner of 40 years and they moved to King Street.

With two daughters of her own, their families blended together.

In 1996 Dianne, a business development manager, met Raymond Gardiner. In 2000 the couple married.

Robert Thompson of Aberdeen with his family in happier times.
Robert Thompson with his partner Sheila, daughter Dianne and son-in-law Raymond.

“Dad was a very proud father of the bride. In later years he and Raymond would meet to have a dram together. And he just adored my daughter Eva, and she loved her grandad.

“With the kind of start in life my dad had, he was never a hard man, but he wasn’t overly affectionate. However, it gave me a lot of joy to see him having a second chance with Eva. He was so much more present without the pressures of work.

“I loved to watch him helping her colour in. It was endearing.”

Eva also inherited her grandad’s sparkly blue eyes.

Quietly generous

As the years went on Sheila and Robert enjoyed holidays together and spending time with their family. Careful with his money – sometimes walking for miles on holiday to find the cheapest pint – he also had a generous streak.

“I think my dad had a sense of pride that I could stand on my own two feet. We paid for our own wedding but that night he gave us a cheque. He was quietly generous. Certainly wouldn’t have showed off about it.”

Robert continued to enjoy a pint, which in later years was usually at the Northern Bar on King Street. When at home he enjoyed watching American detective shows, Ice Road Truckers and to enjoy a cigarette.

Though always encouraged to cut back “it did no good.”

Cancer diagnosis

In 2021 a sore back, initially thought to be muscular, was cancer which had started in his lungs and moved to his spine.

“He was reluctant to get help and for me that was just heart breaking,” said Dianne. “He didn’t even want to tell Sheila he was dying.”

In December 2021 he was admitted to Roxburghe House and passed away with Dianne holding his hand on Christmas morning.

Special moments together

Reflecting on those difficult days Dianne can now derive some joy from having that time with her dad.

“When he did eventually agree to some treatment I went with him. I relished that time, and I’m grateful for the care he got.

“He would allow a wee cuddle and let me tuck a blanket round him for warmth.

“The conversation was limited but we played his favourite Mull of Kintyre by Wings. I look back now and I’m really grateful for that time.”

a candle will be lit in memory of Robert Thompson of Aberdeen.
A candle will burn this Christmas in memory of Robert. Image: Shutterstock

Now, two years on Robert will be remembered by the family on December 25.

“We’ll go and visit his final resting place in Newhills Cemetery and we’ll light a candle that will burn all day. We have some of his personal effects which we cherish as well. He’ll very much be here with us,” Dianne added.

‘Thank you dad for the good times’

A celebration of Robert’s life took place on January 21 2021. Well attended by his 25 nieces and nephews – for whom he was simply Uncle Bob or Robbie, Dianne described it a “hard day, for so many reasons”.

A piper played Highland Cathedral and Amazing Grace which “he would have just loved”.

“Of course I will be thinking of him on Christmas day. If I’m honest I feel my dad had a sad start to his life and it wasn’t a nice way to go either. I’m just grateful for all the happiness, and for how contended he was,  in between.”

You can read the family’s announcement of his death here.