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Allan Robb

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Nicky Campbell Nicky Campbell | 13:39 UK time, Friday, 2 July 2010

allan_robb_226x170.jpgThe former 5 live presenter Allan Robb has died at the age of 49.

I met Allan when we were 5 years old. We went to the same schools, and then we went to university together, where we shared rooms and then flats. We were both at Northsound Radio in Aberdeen together, then later at Radio 1, then at 5 live. Our careers went in tandem. He was my oldest friend, and he was my closest friend. He was my best man, and I'm godfather to his son, and I can't believe he's not with us any more.

Allan was a fantastic journalist: he had a very quick and agile mind, and he asked questions which people could not hide from. He was as much at home interviewing Nelson Mandela as....well, anyone, really. He did some great stuff from Northern Ireland at the time of the Good Friday agreement, and from Sydney at the dawning of the new millennium. When Allan was working on Newsbeat on Radio 1, he interviewed the then-Prime Minister, John Major. Spitting Image was on at the time, and John Major was portrayed as an utterly grey man who was obsessed with eating peas. There was a lull in the interview, and the only thing Allan could think to say was, "do you like eating peas?" John Major clearly didn't know what Allan was talking about and said, "I like a variety of vegetables...but peas I am relatively neutral about." Which was classic Allan, as well as classic John Major.

He was perfect for 5 live. He understood where we were coming from. He had a certain contrariness: he was brilliant at taking the other position for the sake of it, of making you question your own prejudices.

He was great company: he was a dynamic personality with a risqué sense of humour, and he could make you laugh until you were crying. He was rather more formal on the radio than in person, and I think that was a great strength. This rod of steel went into his backbone when he went on the air. He had a rather endearing old-fashioned view of Being On The BBC, which came from his sense of awe at what we do. I remember walking up Oxford Street in London with him once, and he pointed at Broadcasting House and said "we work there. We work there, for the BBC". And he never forgot that. There was never one moment when he didn't think, "I'm a journalist for the BBC, and I'm doing the most amazing job in the world, and it's a fantastic privilege."

His MS had become more and more debilitating, but his humour always shone through. I was in hospital with him fairly recently, when his health took a bad turn. In the chaos of an emergency situation, this plate of what can only be described as mush was delivered to him. It must have been sitting around for hours. The doctor was in the middle of speaking to him, and Allan looked up and said to the nurses, "excuse me -- I ordered the lobster".

The Allan I will remember is a wonderfully eccentric, fiercely intelligent, amazingly loyal friend. He was at his happiest when with his 12-year-old son, Jamie. I will cherish so many memories of Allan: the years when we were kids, the years we were teenagers, when we were running amok, when we were being bad, when we were being appalling, when we were being good. But I will cherish the memory of the happy father with his son more than anything.

For me, it's one of the saddest days of my life. He was my greatest friend and he was a great broadcaster and professional, and I'll really miss him so much.

Nicky Campbell presents 5 live breakfast every weekday morning

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  • Comment number 1.

    What a loving and sensitive piece about a broadcaster many of us miss.

  • Comment number 2.

    A very moving tribute.

  • Comment number 3.

    Nicky, I understand how you feel. Allan Robb was a gem. Dare I say it Mr C you have grown into yourself? This is a beautiful tribute.

  • Comment number 4.

    Echo the comments above. A loving and moving tribute.

  • Comment number 5.

    The first voice i heard on five live was Allan Robb after switching from another radio station, he was simply a gem and will be sorely missed, best wishes go to his family and to his good friend Nicky Campbell.

  • Comment number 6.

    A wonderful warm and loving tribute to a consumate professional from his dear friend which I am sure is echoed by all of the listeners who learned, laughed and loved Allan Robb too.

  • Comment number 7.

    Whilst I accept the sentiments and have sympathy with Nikki, I have issues about the reporting of the news item:
    It states with inference that he was a sufferer of MS - MS is not regarded as a fatal condition, therefore what did he actually die of ?
    I raise this as the spouse of an MS sufferer who does not want a misconstruction to be applied to MS, merely a simpathetic clarifacation of the circumstances.

  • Comment number 8.

    Terrible & distressing news. Like many I'm sure, I loved listening to Allan on 5Live. He had so many qualities, his observational quick witted quips, his ability to adeptly go from a sensitive news story to something light hearted and vice versa. More than anything, I thought his genuine warmth and humility always shone through in his broadcasting. To me, he epitomised what 5Live was always about. The station has been blessed with many broadcasters of the highest order over the years... and he was the best of the lot. My sincere sympathies to his family and colleagues at 5Live, especially Nicky. I've spent the day remembering some of their handovers from Nicky's show to the midday news and managing a laugh & a smile. I'm sure that's what he'd have wanted. Rest In Peace Allan.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nicely done Nicky - your friend sounds like a truly nice guy. I'm sorry for your loss.


  • Comment number 10.

    Extremely sad news just goes to show how short and fickle life can be.

  • Comment number 11.

    Like Darcy72 at comment 7, I also would like to know what caused the passing of this gentleman.

    I have been dealing with the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis for the past 18 years and do not consider the condition to be fatal.

    Some clarification would be appreciated.

  • Comment number 12.

    7 and 11, is this really necessary on a dedicated column to someone's memory?

  • Comment number 13.

    A very moving tribute from Nicky, I was at the same school and also suffer from M.S, a misunderstood condition.

  • Comment number 14.

    Regarding comments 7 and 11; Jaquiline Du Pre, Ronnie Lane, J.K Rowling's mum and many others M.S can be fatal, sadly you can pass away because of medical complications caused by the condition.

  • Comment number 15.

    Very nice piece Nicky, such sad news.

  • Comment number 16.

    Nicky, very well written. I heard about this over the weekend; and am so shocked and sorry. I must say, I was thinking about trying to find you, but I'm just off a call with Nicol, who pointed me at this blog.

    Nowadays I'm practising law at Grant Smith's in Aberdeen; and my email address is on the web site. If there is anything I might do, please let me know.

  • Comment number 17.

    I always enjoyed listening to Allan and I am very sorry to hear of his passing. As you say Nicky he was an engaging broadcaster and I am sorry for your loss too and am pleased that I paused here to read this lovely tribute.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thank you all for your lovely words about Allan. I am his sister and I think it is important to let you know that whilst Allan did indeed suffer from MS, he died because he contracted an acute infection and his body was just weak to handle it. He was the most wonderful brother we had a life full of love and laughter.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm sorry that I'm late to this; been having trouble signing in.

    First of all Patsy. I am so sorry that you have lost your brother. You and the rest of your family must be devastated and you are all in my thoughts. Whilst Allan is alive in your hearts and minds he will continue to live through you.

    Mr Campbell, what a beautiful tribute to your friend, heartfelt but without being maudlin. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Listening to the clips that were played last week of Allen at his broadcasting best made me realise just how much I miss his voice at lunchtimes. Measured and calm, he was always informative, a consummate professional when interviewing someone, amazingly descriptive and you could always feel a sense of fun within on the lighter pieces. May you rest in peace Allan.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Nicky

    This is Jon Trowsdale.

    Thank you for a beautifully written and very moving tribute to your friend Allan. I have fond memories of the scrapes the pair of you used to get into when we all worked together at Northsound.

    Like a certain Indian restaurant in Aberdeen. Best not say any more, in case the BBC libel lawyers come after after me.

    Your piece said it all. It's all so very sad.

    With kindest regards


  • Comment number 21.

    Well, Mr Campbell, I for one was moved to tears by your tribute to Allan Robb. The touching knowing-ness of your piece is heart rending. It is very gratifying in these days of 'personality' to know that someone so loved and admired by us, the ordinary public, took his loyalty to the BBC so seriously. Clearly Allan's loss is to his family and friends, but please be assured that we, the ordinary folk, will feel it almost as much. For those of us housebound or unable to get about, the BBC and particularly 5 live, are seen as friends, advisors, and good company on a cold dark night. Bless you Allan Robb for warming our lives when so often the 'real world' want's to make them colder and less human. Goodnight friend.

  • Comment number 22.

    Allan Robb, the original cheeky chappy. I have only just heared of his death and am sad and in a wee bit of shock. His photo still stands proud in my hallway, i smile at him and all my other GREAT UMC mates everyday. I would appreciate if you would give me a call sometime Nicky.


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